Today was to be 'the of best of days' in that we spent over 12 fun filled hours in Epcot, but today was also 'the worst of days' in that my back pain started from the initial queuing to get in and got progressively worse throughout the day.
Deep blue skies without a cloud in sight greeted us as we left the villa at a very reasonable 9am as the park was not opening until 10 am today.
Continuing the original Dickensian opening, Karen insisted that I retuned the radio this morning before we set off. Some radio stations here have already switched over to non-stop Christmas music. Now I love everything about Christmas and was quite happy with this, but it was starting to drive Karen potty. I
t wasn’t so much the music as the lack of variety. The American take on Christmas is very much stuck in an idealised version set in the sixties. They don’t seem to recognise any music later than that. Even Neil commented that we haven’t heard Slade once!
We talked about the fact that Americans probably do try to recreate a Sixties Christmas in everything they do with it as well, whereas we Brits probably think of Christmas in more of a Dickensian way.
Soon we were parked up after paying the exorbitant $25 parking fee, near the front but the furthest possible point away sideways. Karen and I used the tickets on our Apple Watches to get in, whilst Neil used his phone.
Neil’s day had started on the stroke of 7am when he been on the Disney app to get our places in the new virtual queuing system for the Ratatouille ride. We were in boarding group 54 with an estimated ride time of 1.35pm. This is a new queueing system Disney are trialling for new rides as they fear being overrun with people causing queues lasting several hours.
There are still loads of construction work being carried out near the entrance to Epcot and so after a 20-minute hold in the park for the official opening (at which point my back started aching) we then had a very long walk around it to our first planned ride of the day which was ‘Frozen’.
We were amongst the first to arrive and yet it was already a 75-minute wait.
This was due to two reasons: the first is that every day is now early opening day for Hotel Guests meaning they are allowed in 30 minutes earlier than us poor people staying elsewhere off Disney property. Of course, these guests take full advantage of this and why wouldn’t they. The second reason is that Disney has now introduced an additional fee that you can pay on top of your £100+ daily admission ticket to bypass the standby queues and go in what is called the Lightning Lane for each ride. This replaced the free Fastpass system which we always used.
We had read that up to 93% of the capacity of a ride was to be reserved for those who paid the extra. A clever marketing ploy to get more income. To complicate the system further, the top 2 rides in each park are not included in the Lightning Lane scheme. Instead for these you must pay a further flat fee of up to $15 for each ride. This was our first experience of being in a park since these schemes had been introduced. I understood Disney’s reasoning but was not happy.
I hope you digested all that as there may be questions later.
The gist of that was that I refused to join the long queue for ‘Frozen’. This is ride I have now done many times and I was weary of standing too long so early to try and manage my back pain through the day. So, I said I would happily sit in the sun and wait. However, Karen & Neil also decided it wasn’t worth the wait either, so we walked back to Test Track and walked straight onto this using the Single Rider queue.
Crossing the park, we went to ride Soarin. The queue was about 20 minutes but moved quickly. We all love this ride, but I just wish it was much longer. Whilst in ‘The Land’ building we also rode Living with the Land which was being decorated up for Christmas as we went through and then a new film called Planet which Neil told us to watch carefully as it detailed apparently how our generation had ruined the Planet for him.
From here we criss-crossed back to Mission Space. I cannot cope with spinning rides and so gave it a miss. I enjoyed my rest in the sun whilst Karen & Neil rode this. The weather was still stunning.
We were then allowed a stop for drinks although the queue at Starbucks was very slow moving which didn’t annoy Neil at all.
Finally, it was time to make our way to France as our boarding group was called for Ratatouille. The theming even outside the ride was brilliant and this continued in the queuing area inside. As everywhere in Disney, masks inside were mandatory even for the smallest of children who could walk. Everyone complied with no complaints.
The new ride was fantastic. It is trackless and you basically follow the rat through the kitchen. It is all in 3D and the use of technology is amazing. I’m sure that in the vehicles you don’t travel very far but it certainly feels like it. We all came off the ride beaming. Well done Disney.
Even though the crowd calendar showed Epcot to be a 4/10 it seemed awfully busy with people everywhere. The parks capacity is 110,000 and I would love to have known the actual attendance today.
We then slowly made our way around the rest of the world. As it was the Food & Drink festival, we looked at all of the extra countries stalls and stopped at Brazil where Karen & Neil had some lager, and we bought some delicious hot Cheese Bread Balls to share. Another stop was in the America land where Karen & I both had a lobster roll whilst Neil had this enormous funnel cake concoction.
We wandered around the shops in Japan and Germany before heading to Norway on a mercy mission. Over in California, we had news that Ellie’s travel companion Henning the Troll had just run away to join a troll cult (either that or he been left on a ride). So, we had been asked to liberate his twin brother as a replacing who was languishing in the Norwegian shop. Strangely his twin had similar features to many other trolls so we arranged an identity parade and sent Ellie a picture so she could identify him for us to purchase. If you thought this was all rather strange you should try standing in the shop doing it!
Whilst waiting for Ellie's respon, Karen decided to have her traditional Mickey ice cream she has every trip.
A quick dash into Mexico had us walking onto the Donald Duck ride before a long walk back to Spaceship Earth. The walk took longer than the wait. In fact, the ride was also much longer as it broke down for 5 minutes once we were on it. The ride was fine but needs an update which had been planned but now postponed due to the pandemic. One thing that had done was add LED lights to the outside of the sphere that is Spaceship Earth. These provided a great additional light show that we loved.
We were now hungry and being boring we headed back to the World Showcase to get Fish & Chips in the UK land. They were just about acceptable. The clear skies meant that as it was now dark meant the temperature started to drop and we were glad we had brought fleeces with us. We sat for a while until Neil was keen to get a prime position for the new night-time show set over the Lake.
Our position chosen to be under the most enormous Christmas Tree giving us a prime view onto the all the barges in the Lake. The show didn’t start for 1 hour, but the very best positions were already taken. I was very sore and stiff by now and the wait did me no favours. It would have been more bearable if I could have sat on a wall or something, but we only had a fence to lean on.
Just before it started Neil said the show had received poor reviews which cheered me up even more after waiting so long.
The reviews were wrong, very wrong. It was a magnificent spectacle of water, light, music and fireworks. We loved it. It used latest generation of everything and made me wonder how they achieved some of the effects. Truly another wow time and I have to say worth the pain I was in to see it. I am not capable of the words to describe it.
The slow long walk back to car saw Karen surpass 24000 steps for the day with a distance of over 9 miles and it certainly felt like it.
Overall though it was actually just another best of days.