Saturday, February 09, 2008

Ew, He's Eating It!

Animal Kingdom is my favorite of all the Walt Disney World parks. And, of course, Kilimanjaro Safari is a must-see attraction for me every time we go.

Since hubby and I don't have children yet, we get a big kick out of the excitement from little ones around us. This is especially true for attractions that we've seen so many times that we can mouth the lines along with the cast members/recordings.

On our most recent trip, we decided to not use our cameras on the safari. We can never seem to get good pictures anyway, and we end up missing most of the sites while trying to get our cameras to focus.

Naturally, this was the trip that we saw all of the animals, very active, and very close. (Tip: try to ride the safari on a cool day, preferably after a little drizzle). We saw everything! Normally there are several animals that we can't see at all, or just barely through the leaves. On this trip, not only were the animals out in abundance, but if we'd have had our cameras out, we probably would have gotten award winning shots.

On several occasions, we've had the experience of giraffes walking in front of our safari truck. This time, we had an ancoli cattle separate from the... herd?... and amble gently towards our truck... and stayed right beside us (about 3 feet away, I kid you not) throughout most of their area.

We had a wonderful driver who, not only seemed to truly enjoy his job, but actually sped up in the areas where there were no animals so that he could actually stop, or come to a crawl for a few seconds when there were good pictures to be taken. Again, if only we'd had our cameras...

But the best part about this safari was when we got to the White Rhinos. As we rounded the corner and the Rhinos came into view, the driver began his narration and slowed a bit. The rest of us noticed a blast of water spraying into the ground. After a few seconds, all the adults began chuckling quietly and then a young, but loud voice behind me shouted "Look! He's takin' a whiz!".

Naturally, all the adults cracked up, and even the driver had difficulty keeping a straight face. A few seconds later and we heard "He's still doin' it!". Finally the stream stopped and the truck proceeded on it's path.

When we were directly across from the rhinos, we noticed another rhino... uh... fertilizing the plains. The same voice behind me piped up with "Now he's taking a dump!". I'd say that if there weren't sides on the truck, half the safari goers would have been on the ground laughing by now.

Soon the rhino finished doing his business, and proceeded to turn around and stick its snout in its own dirt. And guess what? "Ewwwww! He's eating it!". Bwahahaha!

Right after that our driver decided that it was time for the next group of animals.

I wonder why?

p.s. I know that picture is of a black rhino- I couldn't get a good shot of the white rhinos on our second safari.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Minor Irritations

Hubby and I just got back from a trip to Walt Disney World (got home about 11:30pm Friday). While any vacation to the World is awesome, we did have a few issues that really took the shine off of our trip. Some were very minor and can't really be helped. some are a indicative of a bigger problem, and I plan to send a formal complaint to the complaint department.

The worst problem for my husband was the complete and utter lack of Haunted Mansion t-shirts and other merchandise. He's already sent a formal complaint about this, but as I'm trying to get over a cold, I'm waiting till my brain is fully functional before addressing my complaints. At most, we were able to find- 1 HM keychain. 1 history of HM (which we already had). 1 HM comic book (two comics by Roman Dirge, so I'm quite excited about that), 1 pack of non-functional HM playing cards (seriously, you can't even shuffle them, and we only found them at the Emporium... minutes after employees there told us there was no HM stuff). 1 washcloth with the hitchhiking ghosts amongst other attractions printed on it, 1 freezy mug with hitchhiking ghosts as one of four attractions printed on it. A handful of lanyard pins that I didn't even like.

The worst problem for me was the utter lack of knowledge all cast members displayed when questioned about merchandise. The girl running Madame Leota's Cart informed us that there may be a shop in Pleasure Island carrying HM merchandise (she may have been right, but that's a seriously vague statement). Cast members in the emporium were either completely baffled by the question "do you have any HM merchandise?", uncaring when stating that they didn't (even though it turns out they did), or immediately became guarded as if they knew something that they couldn't tell us. Scary. The information desk at Downtown Disney couldn't find any T-shirts, or really anything other than the keychain and pins. Another Cast Member there became rather guarded when we asked about T-shirts- again as if there was something that he couldn't tell us. The worst part, however, was when we called the merchandise hotline. These people are supposed to be able to find anything- and yet the woman that answered the phone insisted that all of the Haunted Mansion stuff was in Madame Leota's Cart and that there were plenty of T-shirts. Yes. There were plenty of T-shirts. For Nightmare Before Christmas. Grrrr.

Of course, as always, there were very few t-shirts that actually fit me now that Disney has switched over to using Misses sizes. Sure, I could get the ugly generic shirts. Or I could buy only sweatshirts. Or maybe... just maybe, I won't buy any at all. What is with Disney not wanting us to buy merchandise? Particularly t-shirts.

My main gripe (not the worst problem, just the one I complained about constantly) was seeing Nescafe everywhere. I understand that Nestle sponsors WDW, but must the patrons be punished for that? Not only could I not get a decent cup of coffee anywhere without a great deal of effort (aside from World Showcase, each park has about 1 shop that you can get real coffee in... and there's always a line), but I couldn't get decent iced tea (it was Nestea), or decent hot chocolate. WTF? I understand the important role sponsors play in the operation of the WDW parks- but for Pete's sake. I'm not sure that I want to go back for a while. While the quality of the burgers and such remained high, they're now using pre-packaged cakes and fruit cups that just do not equal the quality of what Disney used to offer. There are fewer reasons to go back.

When all you have to look forward to is the hotel and the rides.... why would you want to drive 1000 miles each way? At this point, we'll probably only head back every two or three years, instead of yearly.

Don't get me wrong, I love the parks. I love the rides, I love the hotels. But I go for the whole experience, and this new thing of offering the same things (merchandise and food) everywhere is taking all of the fun out of shopping and dining. What's the point of going on a yearly basis? We spent less than 1/3 of what we usually spend on souvenirs, and about 1/2 on food that we usually spend (we skipped the table service restaurants, and once we realized that the desserts were the same everywhere, we stopped ordering those as well). Granted, that's good for us, but I fail to see how it benefits Walt Disney World. Anyone?

Ok, I've just changed my mind. Can I go back tomorrow?