Lizzy told me we needed to be on a 6AM bus today. I asked her if she was kidding. She wasn’t kidding, but she also compromised a bit – we were on line to hop a bus by 6:40…infuriatingly, earlier than the drink station was available to get coffee for my coffee mug.
We also stopped at the front desk to pick up a new pair of sneakers I had delivered by Amazon. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on sneakers at Disney, but mine had clearly seen better days; it was time for a new set anyway.
Got to the park, and there was a bit of a kerfuffle with my bio opt-out. Lady said I had to go to Guest Services before I left, but let me in the park.
First stop? Pandora, the world of Avatar. There were two rides in this section. One was a simulated banshee ride, which was a solid ride. Like Avatar itself, the story required you to not-think about it too much. “We want to observe banshees in their native habitat! And we need riders to do it! Also, we know exactly where they’re going and how to ride them on autopilot! Seems…conflicting to me. But it’s a theme park ride, why am I getting hung up on this? Anyway, the 3D effect solved one issue, but exacerbated another. The fact that there is simulated motion that coincides with what you’re seeing means that there wasn’t that carsick feeling that’s common, but on the other hand, it was annoying that the depth-of-field functions made it impractical for me to look around beyond the thing I was “supposed to”. Other than that, it was a really well done attraction, as Beatrice said, “It’s worth the actual wait time”.
The second ride in the section we went on was the Na’vi River Journey. This ride was, in my opinion, the summary of Avatar and its Pandora world: on the one hand, it’s quite possibly the most beautiful boat-ride attraction we’ve been on yet. The lighting is immaculate, the sound design doesn’t have collision issues, it doesn’t rely on screens or video, colors are bright but not gaudy, and its one animatronic has some of the most fluid motion I’ve ever seen in an animatronic. What the Tiki Room was when it was first opened had to be the same feeling going through this thing; it was both stunning and impressive to look at. On the other hand…that’s all it was. “Pirates of the Caribbean” tells a story. “It’s a Small World” intends to give the rider the sense of some of the other cultures of the world. Nemo and Friends has the nostalgia element, as the rider sees all the characters from the movie. Na’vi river journey…has none of these things. We don’t see the main characters of the movie, there are no set pieces from where the movie took place, there’s none of the Na’vi civilization shown except the one animatronic who is doing some sort of ceremonial ritual that’s never explained. Like the movie itself, it’s a visual marvel, and little else. For a theme park ride, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ll again defer to Beatrice, who put it well: “I’d wait on line for Flight of Passage. I wouldn’t wait more than 20 minutes for this one.”
From there, we got breakfast, which was amusing in that the place we went to had coffee, a signature rum-based beverage, and three different food-things…and I got all of the things on the menu and I ate all of them. Some honeybees were enjoying the syrup, so I let them…sadly, it appeared that a few of them drowned in the container; I like to think that they were able to break free once the container landed in the trash can…but they were honeybees, so they needed the sugar more than I did. Beatrice was funny when she saw that I ate all the things; she was like: “…where do you put it all?”
Next up was Rafiki’s railway, which brought us to the Kilimanjaro safari. One of the handful of attractions that isn’t at all automated, this drive through the preserve enabled us to see lots of interesting animals. Yes, I wanted to pet them all, and no, I didn’t get to, but it was nice to be able to see the giraffes and the elephants and the rhinos, and so on.
After that, there was an indoor section where they had some reptiles and bugs in glass tanks. Notably, a Cast Member was there, talking to another tourist about what it’s like to feed the animals and how they’re trained and such. Like many things in Disney, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work involved in working with the animals effectively. It was interesting to hear how they figured out what to feed the animals and how to handle emergency situations and so forth.
Next up, the petting zoo! There’s a small petting zoo with animals to pet. Yay! I mean, I’m sure they weren’t going to let me pet the cheetahs or the wildebeests, but even if it’s just sheep and cows and goats, there are things to pet and I wanted to pet them.
Now, the animals didn’t seem terribly thrilled about getting pet. I mean, it would have been nice to have the interaction be mutual, but I can also understand the sheep having a “this is my life now” look after spending all morning being pet by hyperactive six year olds. On the flip side, there was a goat who liked to nibble on my pants…then tried to eat my mask.
But the story came from Lizzy; I will do my best to recount: “so, I was totally a parent. We went to a petting zoo and I was walking around with Joey, taking pictures of him petting the sheep. then I turned my back for one second to talk to a Cast Member, and I lost him!”
After that, there was a show where some kites were being flown from jetskis. It wasn’t a terribly long show, but it was amusing to see, particularly because one of the kites went off course and ended up on an empty section of the bleachers.
Food was an indoor restaurant. I will say that if I’m going to get a $20 burger, this was one that was worth it: huge and delicious.