Vacation Highlight Pictures

Walt Disney World

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest - 01

The lines were always long for Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.  Unfortunately, the yeti never performed in "A mode," but it instead had a little bit of real animatronic movement and the illusion of even more movement with the strobe lights.  The yeti itself was okay, but the ride as a whole is much better when the yeti is behaving at its full, aggressive potential.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Expedition Everest - 02

Racing down the main drop on Expedition Everest.  We were actually assigned to sit in row two, but somebody in row one was scared and insisted on switching rows with us.  Otherwise, we usually sit near the rear of the train.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - duck

Is this science gone mad or a lesson in physics?  The answer is a lesson in light waves known as "refraction."

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Studio Backlot Tour - 01 Disney's Hollywood Studios - Studio Backlot Tour - 02

Some people just cannot stay seated.  For some reason this guy was standing up during the entire Catastrophe Canyon part of the Studio Backlot Tour from the earthquake to the flash flood.  What's worse is that the cast member at the front of the tram (the one who used to narrate the ride but now just faces backwards and makes sure that everybody behaves) never said a word for him to sit down.  It's like she was asleep or something up there.  I believe that's the back of the second or third car, which should have been clearly visible to the cast member sitting at the front of the tram.

If any official Disney people want to have a chat with said cast member about why this safety hazard was overlooked, these two pictures were taken on Friday, July 24, 2009 at 5:46 pm.

As far as the Backlot Tour, I really do not like the new automated spiel.  They need to re-do the woman's voice and at least make her a little bit more serious sounding.  The same is true for the voice actress who did the part for Catastrophe Canyon.  They both sounded like those lame voice-overs that they used to do in the old Walt Disney World souvenir videos.  Or better yet, they could just go back to having a real cast member do the spiel and at least bring back a little more charm to the ride.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Fantasmic! crowds

Fantasmic! was incredibly popular and quite busy for every showing.  This is the end of the line for the second showing of the evening about an hour before the start of the show.  The second showing is usually less busy than the first one, but as we can see here, the people are lined up halfway down Sunset Boulevard.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - The Great Movie Ride - 01 Disney's Hollywood Studios - The Great Movie Ride - 02 Disney's Hollywood Studios - The Great Movie Ride - 03

Pretty much every time we visited The Great Movie Ride during our trip only the gangster side (second group of cars) was running.  Most of the time the line was short anyway so it wasn't a big deal.  But finally, on our day of departure, the Movie Ride had a long line and they were using the cowboy side.  It was great to finally see that part of the ride again and to also have a good cast member / actor playing the part of the evil cowboy.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - 01 Disney's Hollywood Studios - Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - 02 Disney's Hollywood Studios - Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - 03 Disney's Hollywood Studios - Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - 04 Disney's Hollywood Studios - Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - 05

On this trip, nearly every showing of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular was jam packed and required waiting outside in line.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Ariel is deciding whether or not to marinate Flounder before dinner.  Like Indy Jones, Voyage of the Little Mermaid was very busy for nearly every show, even late at night.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - New York Street

New York Street was deserted at night.  Everybody was in line for Fantasmic!

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Sounds Dangerous closed

Once again, Sounds Dangerous Starring Drew Carey was not open.  I can almost sense some kind of refurbishment or demolition in its future.

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Star Tours

For the most part, Star Tours had a short line throughout the trip.  The only times it seemed to be busy were during the middle of the day or just after the Indy Jones stunt show ended.

One evening we were in the Star Tours line queue taking pictures and some twelve-year-old or so kid laughed at me, saying something like "You should have gotten a FastPass!"  Well, kid, with less than a five-minute wait for this ride, you're better off just keeping that FastPass as a souvenir.  I pointed out that it wasn't worth it using FastPass when the stand-by line was less than ten minutes, especially with the line going directly to simulator pods.  That kid was in a different simulator and got onto the ride about a minute before we did.  Whoop-de-do.  His mom took flash pictures in the line queue, anyway.  Amateurs!

Epcot

Epcot - American Adventure

Ben Franklin and Mark Twain offer their words of wisdom during The American Adventure.  This show does not get the attention or respect that it deserves.

Epcot - O Canada!

The current version of O Canada! with Martin Short is an outstanding show.  Sadly, we saw it during the middle of the day and had a pretty empty theater.  A lot of people either overlook them or are just not interested in the various World Showcase shows.

Epcot - China

Reflections of China is pretty good, but I prefer"O Canada! over this show.  The scenery and design of the China pavilion is fantastic.

Epcot - IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

The fireworks and fire effects for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth are top-notch and nothing short of spectacular.  The singing and actual reflections of earth bring the show to a screeching halt, just like the "false ending" after the second session of fireworks.

Epcot - Living with the Land - 01

It's rare these days for Living with the Land to have an actual line.  People only go on that slow-moving, air conditioned, educational ride when they're bored or if they're waiting for their FastPass for Soarin' to become active.

Epcot - Living with the Land - 02

They taught the Brussels sprouts how to fly.  Terror of the skies!

Epcot - Soarin'

Soarin' continues to be an incredibly popular ride.  Even on a slow day this ride will have at least a 45-minute wait.

Epcot - Test Track

On one of the days Test Track was experiencing problems, and it had a delayed opening.  It was strange to walk by and see the three doors closed.

Sadly, it's becoming more and more rare to have a good, solid ride on Test Track with everything working from the in-car audio and video to all of the video monitors throughout the ride.  Most of my rides on the Track had at least something broken, whether it was one thing or another.  It stinks for the people riding it for the first time and not realizing what a great ride it is when everything works correctly.  Perhaps it's fitting having General Motors as the sponsor considering all of the quality control issues that plague the ride.

Epcot - Wonders of Life

And speaking of sad things, it always disappoints me whenever I walk past the old Wonders of Life pavilion.  It was great going in there back when Body Wars was the only thrill ride in Epcot, and Cranium Command was one of the funniest shows at Walt Disney World.  Perhaps some day in the future we'll see new life again in the gold dome.

Brazil tour group problem - 01 Brazil tour group problem - 02 Brazil tour group problem - 03 Brazil tour group problem - 04 Brazil tour group problem - 05

I know that days in the parks can be hot and tiring, but that doesn't mean that you can take over an area and designate it as a napping place!  This is quite rude and a nuisance to the other park guests.  If you're that tired then take a break and go back to the hotel.  Disney needs to stop this kind of behavior in the parks.

I will go out of my way and compliment the other Brazilian tour groups that I saw on this past trip.  For the most part, a lot of the teenagers were polite, followed the park rules and minded their own business.  A few of them even asked me nicely if I could take their picture, which I gladly did.  The current Brazilian tour groups have gotten the message that the loud, intolerable behavior is not welcome in central Florida, and these groups were significantly better than the tour groups that infected the parks back in the mid and late 1990s.

I'll still change my path if I see a group of them about to go on a ride or into a restaurant (I just don't like being behind large groups no matter who they are), but otherwise it was fine being around them this time.  Watch out for when the tour guides get in line at the FastPass distribution spots.  They'll take 10 minutes to get a whole stack of passes.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom - Cinderella Castle

The world famous Cinderella Castle looks spectacular at sunset.

Magic Kingdom - Crystal Palace

Along with the Crystal Palace.

Magic Kingdom - it's a small world

The hula girls are still doing their dance on it's a small world after all of these years.

Magic Kingdom - Splash Mountain - 01

Racing down the main drop on Splash Mountain.  It took a few tries to finally get the combinations right on my camera for this awesome shot.

Magic Kingdom - Splash Mountain - 02

These brave people were wearing ponchos while riding Splash Mountain.  Gee, wearing ponchos in the middle of the summer on a water ride where mainly the front row gets a little bit wet.  That sounds about right.

Magic Kingdom - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Good times were had by all on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Both Thunder and Splash were quite popular all the way through park closing.

Magic Kingdom - Enchanted Tiki Room - 01 Magic Kingdom - Enchanted Tiki Room - 02

The Enchanted Tiki Room - Under New Management was a refuge from the crowds and summertime heat and humidity.

Magic Kingdom - Tomorrowland - 01 Magic Kingdom - Tomorrowland - 02

This time down there Tomorrowland was almost more amusing from a distance than it was inside of the futuristic land.  But the land of the future that never was still looks outstanding at night.

Resorts & Miscellaneous

monorail yellow

For the most part the Disney monorails were as fun and cool as always.  Nobody seemed concerned or even talked about the fatal incident that occurred just a few weeks ago.  Either the news services kept the story low or most people had enough common sense to see that the monorails have a nearly perfect operating system and what happened could almost be classified as a freak incident.

There were a couple of times when the monorails were unusually slow moving for one reason or another.  The monorail yellow in the picture above took an incredibly long time to arrive at the TTC.  It was actually crawling as it approached the station.  It turned out that there was a loose emergency hatch in one of the cars that needed to be repaired before we could board the train.  Coincidentally, I did see a bunch of upper-level managers on the far side of the Epcot platform at the TTC making observations and comments before this monorail finally arrived.

Another incident was when we were on the monorail at the Magic Kingdom station and for some reason we kept waiting and waiting and waiting in the station.  The express trains were moving frequently but the local side kept sitting there with the doors open.  The monorail conductor finally said that a monorail ahead of us was experiencing technical difficulties and it would take a few moments to remove it from the line.  It took a few more moments before the problem was solved and we were on our way.  They didn't say exactly what happened to the other monorail, and looking around the car I saw that most people didn't care.  The people were tired and knew that the monorails were safe vehicles.

Another time we were waiting for the monorail to arrive in the Magic Kingdom station, and it finally did arrive, but it was crawling and going slower than normal.  "Why is it going so slow?" a kid (maybe 8 or 9 years old) asked his mother.  "Because they don't want it to crash," she replied.

Wow. Are people really that ignorant?

WDW resort boats - 01 WDW resort boats - 02

The little water sprites were pretty popular on this past trip.  We saw a bunch of people using them in Seven Seas Lagoon, Bay Lake, Crescent Lake (between Epcot and the Studios), and on Village Lake (Downtown Disney and Saratoga Springs).  In other words, pretty much everywhere.

WDW resort bus

For the most part the Disney buses were reliable, although there were a few times when it took more than 20 minutes for a bus to arrive at the stop.  If you have the time, take a bus out to a resort and have a quiet lunch or early dinner outside of the parks.  Some of the Disney resorts are vacation destinations themselves.

The Disney buses are also handy when it comes to park hopping, and there will be a bus to take you back to your car for at least an hour after the park closes.  For example, on two of the days we parked at Disney's Animal Kingdom in the morning and hopped over to the Magic Kingdom for the evening.  On those nights the MK closed at 11 pm and we didn't get to the DAK bus stop at the TTC until after midnight (resort buses go to the front gate of the MK while the other Disney buses drop you off at the TTC so you get the full experience of going to the Magic Kingdom).  The bus arrived and my brother and I had a private bus ride back to DAK (this happened twice) only to see that our car had the honor of being the very last one left in the DAK guest parking lot.  The parking lot trams only run for an hour or two after each park closes, so we had the pleasure of walking all the way back to the car (it's a nice walk at night).  As long as you're ready for conditions like that, the Disney buses can save you time and wear and tear on your car while you enjoy your vacation at WDW.

Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

Preparing to fire on a sailboat at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort.

Universal Orlando

Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure - Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls was quite busy and had a long line each day at IOA.  This is a great summertime ride as you most likely will get soaked on top of the fact that it's a fun log flume ride.  The worst part of the ride is the actual log itself.  Not too long ago they installed individual lap bars on the ride.  I'd guess and say that too many people were trying to climb out of the log before the final drop (there are still many signs telling you to stay seated and there are workers just before and at the top of the drop, making sure that you stay in the log), creating a safety hazard.  The problem is that now you're wedged into the log and it's much more difficult to get in and out of the seat.  By making the change, the ride is even less accessible now than it was before, and people like my father who have a walking condition and could go on the ride before can no longer go on it now.  Thanks, Universal.

Islands of Adventure - Dueling Dragons - fire dragon

Riding the Dueling Dragons is always fun except when they run only one coaster on each side, even during busy days.  The line queue through the castle is great and both fire and ice dragons are a blast, but it's quite frustrating when you have to wait five minutes between each cycle of coaster trains.  It's even worse as you try to squeeze in a second ride before the 30-minute part of the free locker rental expires and you have to pay to retrieve your stuff.

Islands of Adventure - Green Eggs and Ham

For a long time now Green Eggs and Ham has been more of a decoration rather than an actual eating location.

Islands of Adventure - Incredible Hulk Coaster

The front row on Incredible Hulk Coaster is best at night.  At least they ran multiple trains here and kept the line moving, unlike at Dueling Dragons.

Islands of Adventure - Jurassic Park River Adventure

A split-second before splashdown on Jurassic Park River Adventure.

Islands of Adventure - Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges

The people getting off Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges were completely soaked and just as happy being that way.  It was like they literally went swimming through the water.  Many people had to stop in the child swap area and wring out their shirts.  If you're hot and in dire need of some water, this ride can easily solve those problems.

Islands of Adventure - Captain America

Captain America shows his approval in Marvel Super Hero Island.

Islands of Adventure - careless people

Here at Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, some thoughtful park guest decided to leave their trash on the floor in the middle of one of the seating areas.  It was there before we arrived.  And as I sat there and observed, the trash continued to sit on the floor until after we left at least 45 minutes later.  There was an employee going around and taking empty trays from the trash cans, but he could care less about trash on the floor.  So the trash sat there and people just walked around it.

Another example for the classic battle of Disney versus Universal involves the tables in the eating areas.  Each time we sat at a table in a USF or IOA restaurant, it was always sticky and a mess (and we weren't sitting down just as people were leaving the table --- these tables had been vacant for a little while).  It didn't matter if this was for an early or late lunch in the park.  Every single table was a sticky mess.  At least Disney has workers who circulate in the eating areas and manage to wipe down many of the tables after the people leave, making it a little bit of a cleaner and better eating environment.  Universal just doesn't seem to care about little things like that.

Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida - Animal Actors on Location! - 01 Universal Studios Florida - Animal Actors on Location! - 02 Universal Studios Florida - Animal Actors on Location! - 03 Universal Studios Florida - Animal Actors on Location! - 04

Overall, Animal Actors on Location! was a pretty good show and the animals were entertaining, especially the orangutan.  The show felt like it was missing something since there were several props on the stage (like the waterslide by the waterfall) that were never used.  This was actually our first time seeing this show so we didn't know if it was unexpectedly cut short for some reason or if what we saw was in fact the entire show.  It could have also been where not all of the animals perform in each show.

Universal Studios Florida - sunset

Sunset across the lagoon.  Every day in Florida we saw afternoon thunderstorms.