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Saturday, March 20, 2021

Disney and Ritz trip with Grandpa Rick and Grandma Alice

This year for Spring break we decided we'd go to Orlando to give Disney a try. With the COVID pandemic still underway, most people are still not traveling and we've heard the Disney parks are much less crowded than average and they're limiting guests to 33% capacity. We got our vaccines recently and decided we'd go with Grandpa and Grandma and make the best of it while being as safe as possible. We drove down to the Ritz on Saturday, March 13th, 2021 and after checking in we spent some time at the pool.

We ate outdoors at the bar patio in the evening and then went to bed.

In the morning on Sunday, we got up fairly early and got ready for the day. Andrea got us some Disney themed masks and we drove to Hollywood Studios with Grandma and Grandpa. 

When we arrived, we snapped a group shot together and then rode the new train ride that is now in the theatre. 

There really weren't a ton of rides in the park and the lines were.... interesting. So people could be apart from each other, the lines were stretched and snaked all throughout the park. There were lines on the ground every few feet indicating where you should stand so you'd be apart from the other guests in line and for the most part people were fairly good about keeping a bit of distance from you in line. The unfortunate part about the lines in Hollywood Studios was the lack of shade. Some of the lines would stretch back and forth in the concrete in the sun and we were starting to bake while we waited. The park was supposed to be at 33% capacity, but in my opinion it felt like it was fully crowded because a lot of the attractions were closed. I guess Disney either couldn't figure out a way to modify the shows to keep the cast members apart and in masks, or they couldn't figure out a way to seat guests in the amphitheaters. As a result, those shows were not running and it seemed like all the guests were waiting in the lines.

We rode the Toy Story 3D shooter game, then a spinning ride, then the Slinky Dog rollercoaster. Before we got in line for the rollercoaster, we tried to eat and then realized that you needed to put your order in on the app and then wait for it. Andrea had the good idea of getting in line for the ride while we waited and once we were done on the rollercoaster, our food was ready.

Lunch was surprisingly tasty and we found a nice cool table inside. After lunch, we rode the Aerosmith rollercoaster twice to see if it would make us barf, and the kids absolutely loved it. No barf, lots of fun.

After Aerosmith, we met up with everyone else and went to the Star Wars area to experience the Rise of the Rebellion. It was a new ride in the park and was a pretty elaborate setup. The demand for the ride was so high that they required everyone to queue for it online via the app at 7am. I clicked on the link quickly at 7am that morning and apparently was too slow clicking through the subsequent screen to confirm our party and as a result we didn't get a spot. I was really bummed about it, but there was another opportunity at 1pm to queue and thankfully that time I'd been able to get us a spot. After the Aerosmith rollercoaster it was our turn and we got in the line which was relatively short. 

The ride had multiple phases and started off as we went through a Rebel base, walked past an X-Wing fighter that escorted us after we boarded a transport. The transport blasted us off in to outerspace and we were intercepted by Tie Fighters and a Star Destroyer. The Tie Fighters destroyed our escort and we were pulled in to the hangar of the Star Destroyer and were forced to exit the craft. The Empire troops were waiting for us and the rows of stormtroopers were very intimidating. 

We were taken down a hallway to an interrogation cell and then the Rebel troops broke us out and we jumped in to a cart which took us on a wild ride through the interior of the Star Destroyer until finally we got in to an escape pod and then flew back to the planet's surface. 

Overall, the ride was a pretty neat experience and it was pretty well put together and had some neat elements I'd never seen before in a Disney ride. After the Rise of the Rebellion, we went to the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run ride. Paige and I flew the ship while Andrea and Grandpa fired the lasers. Connor and Grandma did some engineering work, but they had inconsistent stories regarding their performance with their duties. We survived, but just barely and had a fairly low score. I definitely would like another crack at the ride.

Finally, at the end of the day we rode the Tower of Terror. Andrea and Grandma sat it out and both the kids were super excited for the ride and ultimately disappointed. After the Aerosmith rollercoaster, it was a bit of a let down.

When we left the park, everyone listed their "High, Medium, Low" for the day. I meant to do this for every park, but we didn't end up doing it at Epcot and Animal Kingdom.

H. Rise of Rebellion 
M. Aerosmith rollercoaster
L. getting hungry in morning

H. Toy Story shooting ride
M. Stormtroopers on rise of the rebellion
L. Slinky Ride getting sick

H. Aerosmith rollercoaster twice
M. Getting a Stitch backpack
L. Disappointed with tower of terror

H. Aerosmith rollercoaster. Slinky. Tower of terror rides
M. Eating
L. Lines

H. Flying Millennium Falcon
M. Aerosmith rollercoaster twice
L. Not getting 7am slot for rise of rebellion. Worrying we'd miss the ride.

H. Slinky dog Rollercoaster
M. Star Wars rise of the rebellion 
L. Waiting on us to ride the rides she didn’t ride on

Monday was Epcot Day. Paige was super excited for Epcot and already had a plan in her head for what we'd be doing. She was determined to start the day with Crepes in France and so we headed over there first thing and started our loop through the various countries. 

The crepes were actually really tasty. We all got them except for Connor. Paige and I got ice cream on ours while Grandpa, Grandma and Andrea all got the strawberry puree. 

After crepes we looked at the rides on the app and the lines were super long. We decided to walk around the world area and as we went through the Japan area I decided to just get our Ramen noodles while we were in the area. Paige and I got Ramen and we got Chicken/Beef Teriyaki for Connor. Andrea and Connor ended up loving the Teriyaki and thought it was better than the Ramen. Grandma and Grandpa both got Ramen.

The last time we were at Epcot Paige loved the Mochi from Japan. I think it's not actually official Mochi since it's not made with ice cream, but we got a few packages of the rice cakes for Paige.

After finishing our walk around the world area we split up. Grandma and Grandpa hung out and looked at the flowers and we went to the Test Track.

After riding the Test Track we had a bit of a difficult decision. We hadn't really been at the park that long, but we were pretty uncomfortable. There wasn't much shade, we were getting super hot with our masks in the sun, and there really weren't any other rides we were very interested in. We'd have liked to ride "Soarin" but the line was stupidly long. We decided to ride the Spaceship Earth ride and then we left the park. After our experience at Epcot we were seriously considering a change of plans and were not sure if we wanted to go to Animal Kingdom or not. 

Tuesday we decided to take a day to relax at the resort. We walked around the resort area in the morning and were surprised it felt a bit cooler.

We ate at Uno's for lunch and while we were eating, Paige and I started talking about how the crazy swing ride nearby looked like fun. I looked it up online and decided we'd give it a try. Nobody else was interested, so while everyone finished up their lunch, Paige and I walked on over.

I'm not sure exactly how high you end up going, but it's a bit crazy. The Orlando Starflyer structure is 450 feet tall and you get pretty high up on it once the swing goes to the highest point. As it was going up I was a little uncomfortable, but once it started spinning I was pretty freaked out. It was a crazy feeling to be suspended up so high and you're flying around the structure at 45 mph. At one point on each rotation you go headlong in to the wind and it really hit you pretty hard and got you rocking. Paige was not scared or uncomfortable in the slightest, but I was holding on to her hand pretty hard.

After lunch we went back to the hotel and went to the JW Marriot next door and went on the lazy river. 

Wednesday was our last day in Orlando and after we woke up and got packed, we drove over to the Animal Kingdom. This time around we were a bit better prepared and I brought umbrellas with us in case we got stuck in lines that snaked through the sun.

We started off on the Dinosaur ride and then I went on the Everest rollercoaster with Grandpa and the kids. The kids loved it and wanted to go again. Since the line was relatively short we decided to let them go again, but I was feeling a bit dizzy after the ride. Thankfully Grandpa was game to ride again and he snapped a pic of the kids just before they set off on their second time around.

After Everest, we rode the Safari ride and then we went to the Avatar area of the park. I was determined to ride the Avatar Flight of Passage ride. The last time we'd been to the Animal Kingdom, the ride was new and the line was way too long. This time around the line showed that it was around and hour but thankfully it was a bit shorter when we waited. 

I snapped a pic of everyone right before we boarded the Avatar Flight of Passage ride with their 3d glasses. The ride was pretty awesome and was pretty similar to Soarin at Epcot, except you were strapped in to a weird contraption and the way you were positioned made you feel a bit more like you were flying. The contraption also had pressure points that would press on you at certain times to make you feel like you were falling or turning, so it helped to augment the feeling of movement during the ride.

Once we got done in Pandora we went to get my favorite Disney treat, the Pineapple whip. 

On the way out of the park we stopped off to watch the 3d Bug's Life video and then we got on the road and got home fairly early so we could get our teddy bear puppy from the pet sitter. It was great to be home and see her again!

Overall, the trip was awesome. We had a lot of laughs, got to spend some fun quality time with Grandma and Grandpa, and had an enjoyable Disney experience. We would have preferred the weather to be a bit cooler, but it was actually not so bad as long as you weren't standing around in the direct sun too long. Big thanks to Andrea for planning the trip and making our fun family time together a priority!

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