Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Disney 2008: Chapter 3 - Crystal Palace

Ah, the necessary requirement for enjoying a trip to Disney with a young child: a nap! And this is where things started to fall apart on this trip. We were running later than I intended, according to my loose mental schedule. We didn't get back to the hotel until after 2 PM (was aiming more for 1-1:30), and for all that being late, I don't feel like we did much. Just Pirates (taking 20 minutes total there didn't help), Big Thunder (nearly an hour), and the carousel, plus lunch. No Peter Pan (it was closed, waaahhh), no it's a small world, no Winnie the Pooh, nothing. By the time we get Luke all tucked in, it is 2:15. We were also trying something new: napping with him in the same room. The previous night, we had slept all in the same room, but he was in bed and asleep alone in the room before we came in. Trying to all lay down together at the same time? Yeah, really not working. He wanted to play, he wanted to talk, he wanted to share his stuffed animals since we didn't have any (and how can you possibly nap without a lovey?), which was very sweet, but really honey, you need to lay down right now and sleep! We didn't get him settled down until close to 3, which means he hadn't even been asleep for 90 minutes when we had to wake him up, otherwise we'd miss our 5 PM dinner reservations at The Crystal Palace.

Now, I told DH that I would just cancel and we would let him sleep, but DH wouldn't hear of it. It was the first time we had managed to make reservations at The Crystal Palace in at least 5 years, and he knew I really did not want to cancel. I, however, was willing to do so, for everyone's sake and sanity, because I knew he would be intolerably grumpy if we woke him up. DH disagreed. "He'll be fine. Once he remembers that he gets to ride Buzz Lightyear after we eat, he'll perk right up." Um, not, but we didn't know that until we woke him, and by then, it was too late. Joy. So we wake the child up and pack him up in the car, still sleepy and rubbing his eyes, force feeding him a snack and juice on the way to the park. Note to self: No more dinner reservations as long as naps are on the schedule. Lunch reservations, and only at the park where we will be spending the morning (see next chapter).

Did I mention that it was now raining? Yeah. Now, I generally don't mind doing rides and such in the rain, but the thought of getting soaked (it was pouring) on the way to the park, just to freeze while eating dinner in an air conditioned restaurant did not appeal to me. But with no rain coats (I hate ponchos) and the umbrellas useless in the strong wind, we had little choice. By the time we hoofed it down Main Street, the covered porch for The Crystal Palace was *packed* beyond all reason. There had also been a massive influx of people due to the Pirate and Princess Party scheduled for that evening. People had been waiting nearly an hour, Luke was tired and cranky, there were more bodies than floor space, it was still pouring rain.... such a great evening. Now, I am still accustomed to the old "priority seating" system, where you were told to arrive 10-15 minutes *before* your seating time, which is what we did. So I check in at the window, they pull up our reservation, and they say "okay, you should be seated 10-15 minutes AFTER your reservation time." Excuse me? We ended up waiting for about 20 minutes, but I still was not happy. That was information I feel should have been relayed to me when I made the reservation, so we wouldn't have busted our rears getting there early.

Then dinner itself turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. I don't ever recall being disappointed in the food before. I think maybe we usually eat lunch? Either that, or they have seriously changed the kinds of things they offer. For those who don't know, The Crystal Palace is a buffet restaurant. Everything was a little too "hoity toity" for my personal tastes, and almost everything had either chilies of some kind (not everyone likes spicy!!) or cilantro (which I despise). I was not impressed with the choices, generally speaking. I mainly got rotisserie chicken and garlic mashed potatoes, which was very good, but I could have gotten the same thing (half a roasted chicken and, okay, plain mashed potatoes) at the Starlight Cafe for less than 1/4 the price. Admittedly, you don't get to meet Pooh and friends at the Starlight, so I can justify some of the price, but not all of it. Even the desserts were just so-so. DH and Mom seemed to do better with the main buffet choices than I did. And I did find one spectacular item on the buffet: Cream of Potato soup. Oh my heavens, it was beyond divine! I don't even want to know how much butter and cream there was in it, but it was very very WOW. Luke, OTOH, ate virtually nothing, even from the kid's buffet (the mac & cheese was disgusting, BTW). A couple of bites of pizza, chicken, and mashed potatoes, and that was it.

It didn't help that I was being chastised (in the guise of trying to be helpful) by the woman sitting next to us. She was using Luke and me as an example while talking to the guy she was with (Mom and DH were getting food), but she was talking loudly enough for me to clearly hear her, so I put in my two cents. (Hey, if you are going to talk about me, I feel that gives me a right to participate in the conversation!) "See, look, that's all he is eating. Why would you spend that kind of money for a kid to only eat three bites?" Look sweetheart, first off, who are you to judge me and the way I choose to spend my money? Maybe I am filthy rich and the $100-ish that meal cost for the 4 of us is pocket change as far as I am concerned. You obviously don't have children, so you clearly don't realize that you get tired of eating fast food after a while, and it was worth the extra $13 to get to eat somewhere nice for a change. Besides, he normally eats plenty to justify the price. Just a couple of weeks ago for dinner, he ate his entire kids pizza, 1/3 of mine, 1/4 of DH's spaghetti, and 3 breadsticks. (No joke!) He was just tired and cranky, and he'd been hot earlier (which suppresses your appetite), and it was an off day. I did expect him to eat more, but he didn't, and that's okay. And did I mention that it is really none of your business? GGRRRR She was trying to sell me on the virtues of the dining plan (which I am well familiar with, thankyouverymuch), but this was not the way to go about it.

Thankfully, the characters started to come by about this point, so I could (try to) put it out of my mind. Eeyore was really the reason we were there, but we got to see Piglet and Tigger as well. Somehow we missed Pooh. Anyway, Piglet managed to get him the most engaged. He was most excited about Eeyore, but had no idea how to interact. Tigger, however, was amazing. Characters are frequently asked to give autographs these days, and they even take classes to make sure the signatures are somewhat consistent from one visit to the next. Guests are asked to provide nice large fat pens to facilitate. We had brought Luke's mini-Magnadoodle to keep him entertained (I left the fork in the photo for scale; that's a regular dinner fork, in my home pattern even!). Tigger picked up the teeny-tiny stick (it's about 4 inches long, and maybe 5 mm in diameter) on his Magnadoodle and signed it! That is, far and away, one of the most impressive character feats I have ever seen. Anyway, Luke got cranky after about 45 minutes, so DH took him on to the Buzz Lightyear ride while Mom and I ate a little more and paid for dinner. I even managed to leave my wallet on the table and have to go back for it. Are we having fun yet?

By the time we met up with the boys in Tomorrowland, Luke and DH had managed to ride Buzz Lightyear twice. It was raining lightly, and they were having announcements every 15 minutes or so about the Pirate and Princess Party starting at 7, so most guests were clearing out if they didn't have tickets. But not us! Given that there were so few people there (who weren't eating or over near Pirates of the Caribbean for the start of the party), Buzz Lightyear was virtually empty. I think we rode 5 or 6 times in 40 minutes, plus the two they had already done. DH kept saying "maybe we should go since they're about to close." Nope. We paid good money to stay until 7, Luke was finally in a good mood, and we had the ride practically to ourselves. We're staying! Sure enough, at 7 on the dot (just as we were getting off the ride for our final time), they stopped letting in guests without wristbands for the party. But that's fine. The rain was picking up, and it was time to head back and get some good sleep for day 2. We learned on the way out that there were still tickets available, but Luke was starting to crash, so as tempting as those couple of extra hours were, we left. Luke insisted on having his picture taken on the ferry ride back. It was pretty neat, though. We sat on the top deck; don't think I've done that before.

Turned out to be a good thing that we left. It was *pouring* down rain by the time we got back to the hotel. It was raining so hard, in fact, that DH and I thought we were going to have some alone-time together at Downtown Disney to do some shopping, but it just wasn't worth it in such a monsoon. I can only imagine all of the tired and wet little pirates and princesses running around, not to mention sodden parents, all getting crankier and crankier by the minute. It had the potential to be a blast, I have no doubt, but not on a wet and soggy night when we still had a day of parks and a baseball game to go on our trip.

Next time, Disney Hollywood Studios (so hard not to call it MGM) and a return to the Magic Kingdom.

Currently feeling: rainy

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