Disneyland, Monday, September 10, 2007

Our last day at The Happiest Place on Earth was only a half day, and we wanted to make the most of those last few hours. We woke up, packed and checked out of our room, leaving our luggage at the desk as we went in search for breakfast.

We decided upon the La Brea Bakery Cafe, which was our first non-Disney stop for the entire trip since we arrived at the resort. We prefer table side service, and the meal here was good, and a little more reasonably priced than the Disney restaurants.

We had a relatively late start to our Early Entry into Disneyland (9:00 on this morning), and we thought we'd have the park virtually to ourselves. We thought wrong.

Unlike on Saturday, there were a large number of people who were lined up for Early Entry, but did not qualify. At least one out of every ten people in our line walked away without getting in early. As we got closer we found that about half of these unfortunates had a five day pass, and had already used the single early entry day it provides, and the other half were Disney hotel guests on their second early entry, but who had forgotten their hotel card.

We did not have a lot of things to do on our list, and so rather than rush from attraction to attraction, we merely walked about from one favorite location to another.

We jumped on the World Famous Jungle Cruise with the World Famous Jungle Cruise Skipper Andrew for one of only two rides for the day (the second being Indy).

A filming crew had set up on the bank of the river, shooting footage of the pirate band on the island, and then swinging around to shoot the (former) Disney Gallery.

Our real goal for our westward travels was Tom Sawyer's Island, in the hopes of finding Captain Jack Sparrow. We caught the first raft over, and at the advice of a friendly CM we went directly to the treasure at the back of the island. In a few moments, Captain Jack arrived, and the fun began. We had Captain Jack to ourselves for nearly a quarter of an hour, and he was incredibly funny, and had something amusing to say for just about everything we asked or talked about. The Photo-pass CM took dozens of photos with Jack and Elayne, as did I (I've spared you the entire set and only included a few here).

Elayne and I then had a handful of photos taken together with the good Captain, making a Captain Jack sandwich. It came as no surprise when Jack said he had a lot of requests for the sandwich photo. As other guests arrived we backed away and enjoyed watching Jack interact with guest after guest, not once breaking character. This CM is a marvel, and gave one of the best one on one performances we've ever seen.

After a light lunch in New Orleans Square, we slowly made our way back down Main Street and left the park. We picked up our luggage and caught the shuttle back to the airport, where we reentered the real, drab, harsh, cold, cruel world.

Even the most casual observer could tell from reading this trip report that Elayne and I had a great time at Disneyland. While the construction was omnipresent, it really had only a limited overall affect on our time spent at the resort. Now that a few days have passed since we returned home, I thought it would be fun to look back at the trip as a whole and highlight the hits and misses of our vacation.

Hits:

  • Disneyland and DCA (and the Grand Californian) looked great, even with the construction walls and closures all over the place. It was obvious that quality is IN at the resort, which is what keeps us coming back (contrast this with 2000 when Disneyland was in such sad shape we stayed away for five years). We can't wait to come back!
  • The landscaping at the resort was superb, and while we could have folded this point into the previous one, it was so outstanding that it deserved to be mentioned on its own.
  • The Jedi Training Academy was great fun to watch, and the variability of different performers and their interaction with the different kids each show make repeat performances as interesting and fun to watch as the first time. And while I'm at it, we were both thrilled to have the Tomorrowland Terrace back and playing an active part in this part of the park.
  • Likewise the Pirate Show was great fun, and while there is less variability than Jedi, we could easily watch this two times each visit.
  • Our meeting with Captain Jack Sparrow was one of the highlights of the trip, and underscores how well Disneyland can pull off high quality entertainment with top notch performers.
  • Cafe Orleans was our favorite place to eat at the resort with its combination of table side service, reasonably priced menu, and enough offerings to allow for multiple meals during the same trip without any repeats (except for the Pomme Frites, which we had every time).
  • The CMs: each and every one we encountered was cheerful and helpful, and excelled at making our stay as enjoyable as possible.

Near Hits:

  • It was great to see (and experience) the submarines operating in the lagoon again! We really appreciated the new electronic propulsion system, and the spiffy new interiors, plus the kick-butt exterior paint scheme. While we preferred the old fashioned 3D props in the attraction, we did like the new projection technology, but thought the Nemo theme inappropriate for Tomorrowland, and the plot line too thin. We hope the Imagineeers work on installing an alternative story to Nemo in the not too distant future.
  • Monsters, Inc. was a new attraction for us, and we thought the interior portion of the ride to be every bit as good as the Fantasyland dark rides across the Esplanade. Unfortunately Monsters suffers from an awful exterior, which we hope will be addressed by coming DCA improvements.
  • Tom Sawyer's Pirate Island (or what the heck ever it's called now) is such an improvement over what was here before that we had to mention it. Yes, the pirate theme is a little out of place here, but the island was just dead before they made these changes.
  • California Screamin': despite the ugly concrete queue and lack of any real theme, we enjoyed this roller coaster and rode it several times.

Misses:

  • The lack of Disneyland specific merchandise was discouraging -- so much so that for the first time ever we did not buy anything for ourselves on this trip (previous in-park purchases ranged between $500 and $1000 per trip -- virtually all of the artwork on the walls of our house are from Disneyland). Area specific merchandise would be even better, with pirate paraphernalia restricted to New Orleans Square, Buzz limited to Tomorrowland, and so on.
  • Critter Country. Other than skirting along its edge to get to the canoes, we avoided this land like the plague. Pooh isn't terrible, but it's just not enough of a draw to pull us in.

God Awful Crap:

  • The Year of a Million Dreams should be rechristened the Year of a Million Nothings, except that this also implies no adverse affect on the average park guest. We saw a total of two "dream squad" CMs during our entire 5 day stay, and saw no prizes awarded at any time. None of the other guests we talked with had seen prizes given away (even those that even knew what the promotion was about). And worst of all, this fantastic loser of a marketing scam gone awry was responsible for the closure of an attraction that hundreds (if not thousands) of families enjoyed each day just so one selected family could spend the night in the park. Yes, of course I'm talking about the Disney Gallery, and we are both still ticked off that this was the piss poor reason it was closed.

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