Travel@HamHamFarm - The World, Here We Come!
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The Bahamas, USA (East Coast), Canada 2013
(20 Sep 2013 - 15 Oct 2013)

 

Day 10

Orlando - Disney's Animal Kingdom Park (29 Sep 2013)

 

 




Good Morning Orlando!
Rise and Shine, the weather is fine!

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Finally we had a chance to visit T.G.I. Fridays aka TGIF, the onsite restaurant that’s connected to the hotel building. We missed breakfast here as we had 2 hectic mornings previously since we wanted to reach the Universal Studios theme parks as early as possible.

Vance: So here we are finally for some American Breakfast!

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We had the breakfast buffet @ US$7.99++ per person excluding taxes and gratuity (Beverage are included in the buffet). Not exactly cheap for the variety (including toast, pancakes, cereals, scrambled eggs, bacons, fruits) but somehow satisfactory.

Vance: The decor is pretty good actually. Somehow it gave me a very "Hard Rock Cafe" feeling.


Orlando aka "The Theme Park Capital of the World”, is world famous for numerous theme parks. Universal Studios alone is sectioned into 3 (Universal's Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida & Wet ‘n Wild Water Park). Walt Disney World on its own has 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios & Disney's Animal Kingdom) and 2 water parks (Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Disney's Blizzard Beach)! In fact, we spent almost 1/3 of this trip in Orlando. Imagine the number of days to be spent in Orlando if you intend to cover all theme parks?!

Vance: Of course there are those who visits only Orlando when they visit USA East Coast. We would very much like to do that, but only if we could return so very often! There are so many other interesting cities to cover!

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We’re left Holiday Inn & Suites Across from Universal Orlando on a cab to Disney’s Art of Animation (AOA) Resort. Damage was US$45 for a short 15 mins ride (20 km) excluding gratuity. Unfortunately, shared ride van services (that we took from the Orlando Airport to Universal Studios) does not exist between Universal Studios Orlando Resorts and Walt Disney World (Since they are competitors, strictly to say). They make it really “difficult” for visitors to cross between Universal Studios Orlando Resorts and Walt Disney World :(

Vance: And Disney seems to be better "integrated" in terms of Hotels, Transport System, (with Magic Band) Streamlining Park Access and Payments. For myself (as of end 2013), visiting both parks back-to-back I would think the experience Disney provided is really up 1-2 notches of that of Universal Studios. [More about Magic Bands later in this post]


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Walt Disney World, here we come! This is our 3rd Disney vacation (We visited Tokyo Disneyland + Tokyo DisneySea in 2008 and Disneyland Park + California Adventure Park, Anaheim in 2012) and it will be the longest Disney Vacation for HHF as there’s total of 6 different parks located in Walt Disney World alone! Due to time constraints, we will not be visiting the water parks (i.e. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park).

Vance: Four parks is still A LOT to cover! :)


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Be surrounded in the artistry, enchantment and magic of Disney and Pixar movies here at the AOA resort hotel. If you are a huge fan of these 4 classics (Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid), this is the Disney hotel to choose. Huge check-in area with lovely sketches of the 4 movies. We arrived at 9.30am and were delighted to find out that we can actually check into Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (Since the official check-in time is 4pm).

Vance: Warning: this hotel is _like a theme park_ itself. It is really very well done, the various themes are well deck out (we have another blog post just on this hotel next) and it is pretty self contained, with pools, enough F&B outlets and gift shops for kids to stay around here for a day or two!


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This young lady (Laura) facilitated our check-in and she was really professional and patient, meticulously explaining the use of Magic Bands (in the box) to us in details. So what exactly is this thing called MagicBand?


Disney’s MagicBand

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Unlock the Disney Magic with these MagicBands. The bands are literally colourful wristbands (similar to plastic wristwatch, without the watch face) issued by Walt Disney World.

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Vance: They are made of very good soft (rubbery) plastic materials, no problems wearing it the whole day!

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This all-in-one device allows guests to :-
(1) Enter parks (with valid them park admission);
(2) Unlock hotel room doors (If you are staying in Walt Disney World’s Hotels);
(3) Check-in at FastPass* (FP) location à Select your FP options before your Disney trip via FP+. So, what’s Disney’s FP+? Basically it’s securing your FP in advance. Best of all, if your plans change, you can now update the new selections any time via the app. Select up to 3 FP for attractions and entertainment each day at one theme park. We seriously think that the idea of securing FP before the visit is a great idea! At least we don’t have to “run" all over the theme park in order to maximise the FPs. The downside is that if you are visiting more than 1 park per day (aka park hopper), you wouldn’t be able to select FP on the same day for both parks, i.e. if you’ve already used your 3 FP in the first park, there will be no more FP issued for the 2nd park that you are visiting on the same day (Definitely an area for Disney to improve further);
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Pay for all meals and shopping when you’re in Walt Disney World, simply with a tap (That also means that you probably wouldn’t be tracking your purchases since no physical $$$ are involved, so do keep track of your purchases before your budget blows); and
(5) Link your photos taken by Disney crew to the MagicBand

*FastPass (FP) is a Disney system that allows one to bypass long wait time by obtaining a ticket first and return to the attraction later (bypassing the queues) on the allocated time in the FP ticket. More here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/fast-pass/

So how do you actually the MagicBand? Just touch the MagicBand against the sensors (located at the counters/ride/F&B/shop). It’s just that easy and simple to use! In addition to touching the MagicBand to the sensors, guests are required to scan any of their fingers to enter the parks or enter a customisable PIN code to uniquely identify oneself when making purchases, making it more secure since MagicBands are tie to the Hotel room secured by credit cards. This process helps to ensure that only guests have access to the entitlements linked to the MagicBands. The best part is that MagicBands are waterproof; they do not require batteries or have an on/off switch (So it’s actually 24/7 operationally ready). Since the tickets, FPs etc are all embedded in this device, there’s no more fumbling through bags and pockets to find the tickets, money or credit card since you just need to do a simple “Mickey-to-Mickey” touch.

The convenience of the MagicBand is a double-edged sword. All your information is stored on the system, meaning that Disney can now track and collect consumer behaviours; Use the information to customise marketing towards your likes (aka Data mining), whether you like it or not. The good news is that though MagicBands are still in their testing phrase, they seem to be working well for most people (including us). We didn’t encounter any problems when using our MagicBands (But we could see that some Disney staff that we met seemed to be quite worried that our MagicBands may not work).

Currently, MagicBands are offered to Walt Disney World annual pass holders and guests staying at Walt Disney World Resorts for testing. If proven successful, they would be rolled out to other Disneyland. The MagicBands were complimentary for our visit and we do get to keep them for our next visit to Walt Disney World Resort. We certainly hope that they remain complimentary since Disney can easily recover the production cost from somewhere else :P

Tips : Do remember to customise your MagicBand with your name and favourite colour (at least 5 days before the visit). Otherwise, non-customised MagicBand would be issued to you (The standard issue is grey, which is indeed dull for most… Haha!) The MagicBand is two different-sized bands in one and can be fitted to fit each guest perfectly. For those with a small wrist like me (or for the kids), peel the MagicBand by pushing the inner band away from the outer band so that the MagicBand can comfortably sit on your wrist.

Vance: (Teasing Fiona) For fat wrist (like mine) they fit just fine (?!)
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The Little Mermaid Room

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Opening the hotel room with our MagicBands J

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Vance: _Actual_ scores of the "Under the Sea" sound track is printed on the table! (Ok, at least the first 2 pages are clearly visible :P)

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The Little Mermaid Room that we stayed in was absolutely gorgeous (though it was the furthest area from the main lobby). Further reviews of the AOA Hotel will be covered in Day 11. So stay tuned.






 
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Finally on our way to Disney's Animal Kingdom Park now! We're on the bus from AOA to Disney's Animal Kingdom Park. The bus was empty as we were actually quite "late" since we need to transfer from Universal Studios to Walt Disney World.

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Doing the Mickey-to-Mickey touch with the MagicBands at the entrance of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park J

Photos for this remaining blog entry are arranged according to their respective themes.


 Discovery Island

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Met Russell and Dug (Carl’s dog) from the movie (UP)! Reminded us of the romantic (but sad) story between Carl and Ellie. Their story never failed to melt my heart whenever I watch this clip (though I've watched it countless time *sob*)



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We had Ribs & Chicken Combo for lunch at the Flame Tree Barbecue and an unexpected visitor joined us for lunch!

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He/she reminded me of the unofficial popcorns sweepers of Tokyo Disneyland back in 2008 J

[Throwback!]




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Look carefully at this artificial tree, this is “The Tree of Life”, the icon of Disney's Animal Kingdom that measures 44m tall and by 15m wide. This gigantic tree’s bark is carefully craved with various plant life and creatures. Pretty cool isn't it?


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If you’re crazy (like me) over the characters from the Hundred Acre Wood, do meet Pooh and Tigger here at Discovery Island, like what we did!


Africa
 
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Our Disney’s FastPass #1 were utilised on Kilimanjaro Safaris : Go on a 18-mins expedition on board an open-air safari vehicle which takes you on an exciting journey through an African-style savanna. See cheetahs, giraffes, elephants, zebras, crocodiles, lions etc roam freely. It’s something like being on the Tram Safari Experience in Singapore’s renowned zoo (Night Safari), except that Kilimanjaro Safaris is conducted in broad daylight. The Safari vehicle only stop for a few moments throughout the ride so make sure you have your cameras ready at all times. This is a ride you don't want to miss when visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom. 

Vance: I forgot I'm in Disneyland in a while (and in some wilderness), while I'm on this ride! Its better than I had expected :)


Asia

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Our next Disney FastPass #2 was utilised on Expedition Everest : Board a high-speed train and zip through the misty unknown (aka Yeti, the abominable snowman). As usual, the fearless man (aka Vance) took this ride alone as rollercoasters aren’t really my cup of tea :P

Vance: Actually hor, this ride is not that thrilling as it looks... but you will see people screaming like crazy, which I guess _is_ the fun part of taking any rides :)


Camp Minnie-Mickey

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Festival of the Lion King
, a 30-mins “Broadway-similar” show. Join the inhabitants of the Pride Lands for a grand celebration of The Lion King with songs from the movie in an air-conditioned stadium seating. Disney presented a delightful tribal celebration of songs, dances and acrobatics that used huge moving stages and floats. First-rated singers and dancers worn exotic animal-theme costumes that portrayed the various characters from the movie.
Tips : Arrive 30–40 mins before show time if you want good front seats. Understand that Festival of the Lion King would be closing for refurbishment in Jan 2014 for 6 months.

Vance: The show is pretty good lah, the aircon is the best! (Very hot mah!)


DinoLand U.S.A

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Vance: This tee is "love at first sight"! I brought it back! Only regrets is that I didn't got that Dinosaur Grabber back! Fiona complained that its too bulky!

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Our last Disney’s FastPass #3 were utilised for Finding Nemo - The Musical : “Sea” this exciting, original stage show that brings Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo to life right before your eyes through merging puppetry with live performances! The musical captures the heart, humor, characters and story from the Disney·Pixar animated film Finding Nemo and adapts them into a mesmerising 30-mins Broadway-style musical stage show. Great performers and the use of extremely colourful costumes and props, not to be missed while you're in Disney's Animal Kingdom! The movie was nicely condensed into this musical form with wonderful puppetry. We were totally amazed by this Broadway quality production and we thoroughly enjoyed the show! Definitely our favourite musical show at Disney's Animal Kingdom!

Vance: Yes, very enjoyable, anyone visiting Animal Kingdom must catch this! (Even if you are not a fan of the adorable "Finding Nemo")

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Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade

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This is a daytime Disney parade where Mickey and all the other Disney characters travel through the streets of the park in colorful safari vehicles, complete with dancers, stilt walkers and puppets. Spectators are selected randomly to participate in the parade.


We left Disney's Animal Kingdom for Downtown Disney (Disney's version of Universal CityWalk).


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We had dinner at Planet Hollywood, a distinctive building that you can see it even from miles away.

Vance: Its really shaped like a planet!

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Drinks : Spiderman (Strawberry, banana, vanilla ice-cream with a swirl of chocolate) and Transformers  (Mango, raspberry, orange and banana)...Surprisingly, the die-hard transformer fan didn’t quite like the transformer drink! :D

Vance: I like Vanilla more mah....

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Appetizer & Mains : Parmesan Spinach Dip (Creamy parmesan cheese dip with spinach and mushrooms served with tortilla chips) and the Classic Burger.
   
Food was satisfactory, slightly overly priced but you do get very huge portions. The music was so incredibly loud in this Planet Hollywood that we couldn't really hear each other across the table. Hence, it's not a good place to go if you want to have a good conversation over dinner.

Vance: But the demo is pretty impressive. Great place for Movie Buffs to hang out!

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The other interesting themed restaurant located in Disney Downtown would be T-REX, a dinosaur-themed dining amid prehistoric creatures and periodic meteor shower that rains every 20 mins.

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However the queue was way too long for us to wait, hence we decided to dine at Planet Hollywood.

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Located in T-REX restaurant is Build-A-Dino (instead of Build-A-Bear) where one can make your very own Friendosaur. The Build-A-Dino is only available in the States (for now).


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We visited
world’s largest Disney store - World Of Disney Store. This place is really huge but we didn't really like it as it's way too messy, crowded and chaotic. But we have to agree that this is one excellent place that sells all the theme park stuff (in one place instead of in several parks) and you don't have to pay any admission to enter.

Vance: Its huge really, we (almost) got lost (and lose each other) here!

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We visited the Lego Imagination Center and Vance picked up his belated birthday gift (Mindstorms EV3) that came with a complimentary gift, the 40079 Mini VW T1 Camper Van (since it was such an expensive toy @ US$350 before taxes)! :P

Vance: Thanks Wifey for the Gift and its almost S$200 discount if it had to be purchased in Singapore! :)

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Bad news for my hamsters, Vance is going to build something similar to catch my hamsters!
[To : RoRo & FiFi, you guys better start training up before this hamster-catching robot is completed!]

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What a long and tiring day! Looking forward to tomorrow where we will visit Epcot, which features the Future World and World Showcase! J


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Travel@HamHamFarm - The World, Here We Come!