Blogsam and Jetsam

Flotsam is the part of the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on the water. Jetsam is cargo or parts of a ship that are deliberately thrown overboard, as to lighten the ship in an emergency, and that subsequently either sinks or is washed ashore. This is my personal blog version of the above. Loot freely.

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Location: The Hinterlands, Upstate NY

I'm annoyed that the world is going crazier faster than it used to be. But it's interesting to watch.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Disney One -- Transportation

So as if you didn't already know I was insane we went and proved it--took the Whole Family (yes, all seven of us including Mother and Brother in Law) to the Land of Mouse a couple weeks back. Thought I'd share....


So usually I do the whole chronological-events travelogue thing but this time I think I'll try something different. This time we'll do it by CATEGORIES. You know, like "food at Disney" "the rooms at Disney" "The Magic Kingdom"...that sort of thing. Why? Because it might be easier to read and it will definitely be easier to write.

We'll start with "Disney Transportation: To, Within and From"

TO Disney

Getting to Disney wasn't as easy as I'd hoped it would be. When we took The Big Two in 2003, we had a car and driver meet us at baggage claim to drive us to the Contemporary so of course I wanted to do that again. It seemed even more important since our group had grown to seven, one of whom was a special-needs adult. So of course when I called to set up the trip I specifically ASKED for a driver and was told "I can put you on Disney's Magic Express." Nope, that's not what I wanted. I tried to explain that we would be happy to pay extra for the car and driver and got told "we don't offer that service any longer but we DO offer the Magic Express Transportation Option." (Yes you could hear those capital letters clear through.)

Well fine...give us that then. I was thinking that "Magic Express" meant "vans" and that therefore "party of seven" meant "will end up getting our own van to ourselves anyhow." Not that I had a lot of choice in the matter. So I agreed to the "Transportation Option" and we received some bright yellow luggage tags so that our bags could go straight from the plane to the hotel...we were warned that our checked things might not show up to the hotel till 3 or 4 hours after we did but that we were NOT required to be in our rooms to receive them. I was still thinking "panel van" and also "how many people could be coming from ALBANY?" so I thought our luggage would likely travel with us after all. Remember those thoughts.

Meanwhile, remembering our rotten layovers the last time we flew to Orlando, we had decided to go with a nonstop flight this time. Turned out that the only airline offering nonstop service from Albany to Orlando was Southwestern....who didn't have assigned seats. Yup, you read that correctly--that airline doesn't assign seats. Used to be that you lined up at the gate like a bus and that everyone was clustered around the jetway for a good hour prior to fly-time but now they've got an "improved" system wherein they assign you to either group A, B, or C and then assign you a number from 1 to about 60 depending on when you printed up your boarding pass. Group A boards first (and gets all the really choice seats) while groups B and C go second and third. We were numbers 1-7 in boarding Group B out of Albany so we ended up sitting as a nice group in the very back of the plane going out.

Surprisingly we had a "fun" flight crew. By that I mean they didn't take themselves too seriously at all -- the woman doing the voice-over for the safety demonstration said things like "in case of a sudden drop in cabin pressure, insert twenty-five cents and a mask will drop down...." and "if you are seated next to a child or someone who is just ACTING like a child, be sure to adjust your own mask first before deciding whether or not to help the person next to you." She also said things like "if you have any connecting flights...we don't care because we're done for the day" and "Iadies and gentlemen, please notice that my boyfri---I mean the captain---has turned on...." Everyone was in a good mood and it was fun.

Didn't stay that way though. Only after landing and walking down the jetway did I realize that the next part of our journey involved tickets. Yup, we were supposed to go to the first level of the "A" side of the terminal and find the Disney Welcome Center so that we could obtain our Magic Express seating. About the time I was making that realization my brother-in-law (remember? He's Special Needs, Autistic Flavor) realized that he could have all sorts of fun by acting out---and by "acting out" I mean grimacing, making weird noises and squeezing his head between his hands. The exact sort of thing that gets a lot of stares and drives his mother's blood pressure straight up into the stratosphere taking the tension level of the entire party with it.

BIL acted up on the walk to the tram, on the tram itself and afterwards as well. MIL responded with anger and threats to turn around and take him right back home again. They entered into their usual dysfunctional dyad while the rest of us were discovering that "Magic Express" meant big ol' Greyhound bus repainted. Not thrilling.

Even less thrilling was when we got to sit on the bus while it waited for two other flights to come in. We decided then and there we were taking a taxi BACK to the airport.

Eventually the bus had enough people and we drove the half-hour to our resort...and they DID have video screens showing us all the latest new Disney rides but of course our resort was the LAST on the route. However we did finally get there and get ourselves unloaded and checked in..."The Hotel" will be its own category eventually.

WITHIN Disney:

Transportation consists primarily of the monorail and a huge part of why we were in the Contemporary was because the monorail goes right THROUGH the hotel. Last time even though we went during a traditionally busier time of year the monorail wasn't very crowded at the hotel stops and our kids were able to ride in the front a couple of times then actually declined the offer a couple more times.

This time the monorails were quite crowded. The first couple rides we couldn't figure out why...but it eventually became obvious. Scooters.

By "scooters" I mean those not-so-little motorized go-carts with bicycle handlebars:

http://www.mobilityexpress.com/items.cfm?cat=scooters

One of the BIGGEST differences (and yes I use that adjective precisely) between our visit in 2003 and our visit this year was the explosion in scooter use. We saw those things EVERYWHERE (I've even attached a photo I took of one at Epcot--see?)







The reason the monorails were so crowded is because ONE scooter occupies the standing room that three or four humans could occupy...and the reason they were moving so slowly is because each scooter had to wait for a Cast Member to put a corrugated metal ramp up to the monorail door to enter or exit.

Our family grew to hate those damned scooters. Sure Disney requires a lot of walking; that's just part OF it. Used to be that the choice was either "get myself in reasonable enough shape to DO the walking or rent a small folding wheelchair and make sure I've got a traveling companion who doesn't mind pushing me when it gets to be too much." Not any more---now anyone with a "mobility issue" can go zipping around using fossil fuel to run over small children. (Okay nobody on a scooter actually ran over a child but I did see a couple kids take glancing blows from those maroon menaces.)

To my daugter's and my eye the biggest "mobility issue" was "BMI past 40." Dammit those are the very people who should be walking! (I should know; after losing four pounds at Disney my own BMI is still 30.9.) The second biggest "mobility issue" was "my arthritis" and yes I understand that the scooters make it possible for Grandma or Grandpa to actually go see Disney World with their family members (and therefore retain more control over the pursestrings) but one would think that Grandma or Grandpa would have inspired enough good will among his or her relatives to have at least ONE of them willing to push a wheelchair, wouldn't you? Nope, saw it more than once on the monorail: the motorized old person was entirely on his or her own while the remaining family members just barged on or off as they pleased and let the Disney staff deal with their loved one.

The entire family remembers walking in the Magic Kingdom from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland and being outpaced by a trio of large individuals on their matching rented-in-Orlando scooters---one of us was even witty enough to comment "Look--it's Hell's Fat Angels" but tasetful enough to do so AFTER they'd passed.

Since it isn't technically "transportation" I won't get into how the motorized-scooter set thought/insisted that their "disabilities" should get them all sorts of benefits and special seating at the attractions/rides. I'll aslo save the particularly obnoxious family on the monorail for the "Disney Patrons" section.

Transportation FROM Disney:

Since we, particularly BIL, were far less than thrilled with "Disney's Magical Express" I called to arrange cab service for the return trip to the Orlando airport. Our hotel concierge was kind enough to transfer me to the Yellow Cab company but not kind enough to tell me I needed to cancel my "Magical Express" reservations---I did that just to be safe and was damned glad I did when I found out that yes indeed that was a necessary step to prevent being charged Iforgethowmuch for no-show.

So fine, I called Southwest airlines to find out how far in advance we really needed to be at the airport and was told "An hour and---no, wait. Orlando? On a Friday? Better make it two hours." Made all the arrangements backwards from there. Our van arrived on time in front of the lobby--fellow who answered his cellphone in a language none of us recognized and who had the velcro on his windshield for the EasyPass tolls but no actual module. We concluded from his average cruising speed of eighty that he'd likely lost his EasyPass privileges for speeding through tollbooths. His credit-card reader didn't work so we ended up exhausing the reserve cash to pay 64.50 for the ride and he ended up getting a bigger tip than I'd intended but at least we GOT there.

Once there we discovered that neither check-in nor security had taken as long as we'd feared so we had over an hour to wait at the gate...and exceptionally lousy "general seating" boarding passes. I thought "yeah, but the plane still can't be THAT crowded; how many people are going from Orlando to ALBANY?" I thought wrong: the plane had originated in Fort Lauderdale and was more than 1/3 full when it pulled into our gate.

By the time we got on the plane everybody had done the same thing: taken window or aisle seats leaving just the middle open even if they were traveling as a group. Our stewardesses started getting nasty when people were still milling about looking for seats five minutes past the time we were supposed to have pulled out and of course NONE of our family got to sit together. BIL got stashed in a back corner, Middle Duckling got a window seat three rows from the back and two groups of two were kind enough to change from Window/Aisle to Window/middle so that Youngest could sit on the aisle and Eldest could sit on the aisle in the row across and behind her to keep an eye on her. HBF got stuck between two little old ladies traveling together; they reluctantly let him have the aisle seat when it became obvious they'd have to talk over him. I was between a chatty slightly dotty old woman on the aisle and a quiet voluntarily bald man my own age who wore nice gold jewelry and mostly played with his Blackberry. MIL, having the luck of the gods, ended up with fifth-row aisle.

That flight crew was NOT cheery; they practically threw the peanut packs at us. But hey, we eventually got back to Albany. Once there I was surprised to discover no snow on the ground....drove back in the dark but at least it was totally -dry-. Two hours after we'd unlocked the front door and greeted the kitties I was surprised to discover snow on the deck---we timed our return trip entirely correctly for once.

So that was Disney Transportation and somewhat gloomy...the next installment will be "The Magic Kingdom" which is way happier.

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