Epcot is the most adult park of all the Disney parks. It’s the last park we are doing before leaving for Fort Lauderdale tomorrow to board our cruise ship, the Seabourn Odyssey for the Central American cruise.
But we first had to stop at the Premium Outlet Centre next to our hotel to get something warm. After yesterday’s unexpected cold weather I needed something much warmer than what I’d brought. Especially since we were going to stay at Epcot till late tonight to watch the fireworks and laser show. Mission accomplished, we made our way to Epcot and arrived there at 11:30am. We had the whole day here but hubby said that we just had to do the “must do” rides which were Soarin’, Mission Space, and if possible Spaceship Earth. And also try to catch the 360-degree cinema at the China Pavilion. I thought that since the park closed at 9 pm we would have plenty of time but it wasn’t to be – the waiting times for the popular rides just ate away at our available time. Just like yesterday at the Magic Kingdom. But the rides we had to do were worth whatever the waiting times were because they were really unique.
The park was crawling with people and although Mickey and his gang were in the Magic Kingdom, there were still a lot of kids here. And we thought it was an “adult park”. We made our way towards the ride called Soarin’ and the sign outside said that the waiting time was 80 minutes. We thought…that’s a long wait but we had no choice. If we wanted to ride it we had to wait in line.
So I decided to use the time blogging. I finished one post and started this one. At this point of writing the post, we had been in line already 2 hours and 2 minutes!! What happened to 80 minutes??? So something was seriously wrong when they “miscalculate” the waiting time. We realised later that the reason they couldn’t accurately tell us the waiting time was most probably due to the “fast-pass” system. The “fast pass” was free and basically it was a booking to do the ride at a given time. Which could be a few hours after you arrive.
So the waiting times for any ride where fast passes were issued had to take into account your queue being “cut” by people who had been issued fast-passes. Hubby had downloaded an iPhone app which provided the waiting times for all the four Disney parks in real time and these were more accurate than the waiting times displayed at the parks. We found that the real waiting time was more like double whatever was the time displayed. And so we resigned ourselves to waiting. It was part of the Disney experience I guess. It was indivisible.
We did wonder, however, if the situation would change if Disney implemented some kind of pre-booking system the way they did with restaurants for example. So you booked your rides when you bought the tickets either online or wherever. Without bookings you joined the queue. In Universal Studios you could buy fast track passes and you could bypass the long queues so we wondered why they didn’t implement the same system at Epcot.
There was relaxing music in the background which at this time had given way to a more dramatic movie score. Our “stand-by” lane has gotten narrower and also more dramatic. And colder! It seems that the kids had been very well-behaved during all this waiting. No complaining or crying. But I could see that they had gotten restless and a little more agitated now, which was to be expected.
When we arrived at the “departure gate” we were stopped and some of the fast pass holders were “boarded” past us. They were in another separate lane. We heard the attendant telling a guest that there were two theatres with a capacity of 87 people in each. So a total of 174 people experienced the ride at any particular time.
At 2:30 pm, 2 1/2 hours after we started queuing, we were let into the theatre. It had a large screen with a very strange curved shaped. There were rows of seats with a kind of canopy above our heads. Everything looked very high tech. We were asked to put all our belongings in a basket under our seat and people with slippers were asked to remove them. The ride is a simulation of us soaring on a hang glider to LA.
The lights were turned off and we took off! The was a sudden forward surge when our seats actually take off and move towards the screen. Then it’s an amazing gliding experience over various picturesque scenery starting with the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a 4-D experience of a different kind – we smelled the pine trees as we glided over a river and later over snow-covered mountains. We soared over an orchard and we could smell the oranges! It was really quite amazing. I swear I could smell the sea as we went over it. I expected too feel a micro spray of water as we passed some waterfalls and swooped down towards the sea but there was none. Not in this high tech set-up I guess.
I couldn’t begin to describe all the scenes we saw, let’s just leave some for your imagination and future experience! The ride ended appropriately in Fantasia with a burst of fireworks! We were right in the middle of it. At the end, the lights were turned off again and our seats retracted back to its original position..The ride took all of five minutes but it was truly a meaningful five minutes and well worth the wait. If the wait wasn’t that long, we would have gone again!
It was almost 3pm and we had to decide between a late lunch or the next ride – the much awaited “Mission Space”. The ride simulated astronaut training for the first mission to Mars and is probably the most unique ride in the world. You basically experience what the astronauts feel when they take off and go into space. The G-force 3 sensation experienced during take off is accomplished basically by spinning you in the special chamber. Don’t worry you’re not alone! Each chamber takes a team of four and you are assigned roles: Navigator, Pilot, Commander and Engineer, with roles to play during the mission to Mars! Just imagine the experience. Just imagine: we are normally in the gravitational state of G-force 1 where the gravitational pull is equivalent to 960 metres per second then we accelerate at the rate of 2880 metres per second at G-force 3! That is the sensation we feel in this ride! For a moment, when we suddenly return to G-force 1 we get the feeling of weightlessness at G-force 0! Mind you, I am trying to describe the sensation felt as best as I can as explained by my hubby!
I have to say it sounded exciting but when we got to the gate of the ride, it felt a little daunting when I saw that that they offered 2 levels of experience. Join the Orange team for the full, more intense experience or the Green team for a less intense experience. Of course hubby picked the Orange team and we walked towards the queue. I chickened out when I saw the warnings that the Orange experience might cause nausea etc and told hubby that perhaps the Green experience might be better. He was very pleased but we went back and changed our tickets for the Green team. The waiting times were very decent – 20 minutes for the Green team and 70 minutes for the Orange team.
I told hubby that after the Green experience he should go on the Orange experience and I’d wait for him. I thought, let’s see anyway, how much more intense it could get after we experienced the Green team. Then I’d decide if I wanted to go on the Orange experience.
Which wasn’t a bad idea. I felt confident about going on the Orange experience when we came out.
We were ushered into a waiting area where a video explained what we had to do then the doors opened and we went into our “spaceship”. There were four seats and metal storage boxes in front of us to store our belongings. Above it in front of us was a realistic and what looked like fully functional control panel with buttons, lights etc and looking straight ahead, a window through which we see space and experience our adventure. We pulled the safety harness from above our heads over our chest as instructed. Our roles were explained and we are told that we had to press certain buttons during the mission when we are told to. Hubby was “Navigator” and I was “Pilot”. The other two in our “team” were “Commander” and “Engineer”. This seems very serious I thought.
My palms were sweaty and we hadn’t even started….then it was all systems go. It was scary for me at first but it was exciting! We experience an amazing take-off sequence followed by separation, then we went into a short period of “hyper sleep” before being awakened to engage in an exciting sequence with meteors and a “manual” override to avoid a crash landing on Mars and finally making the landing! It was just 3 to 4 minutes of a very exciting high tech ride….”exciting” couldn’t begin to describe the experience we went through.
I felt I just had to do the Orange experience now and experience the G-force 3, weightlessness and everything else of the more intense experience. Hubby’s eyes beamed when I told him, “Lets do the Orange team now!”
When we came out, the waiting time for the ride had shortened to only 20 minutes. So we went through it again and I was glad we did! It must be the most amazing experience ever and the closest we would ever come to experiencing the real thing! I have to admit it was scary especially since there were very clear instructions to keep our eyes opened and to lean back and look straight ahead always, and not to even turn our heads left or right to look at others in the chamber because this would create disorientation and dizziness and cause nausea and even vomiting. Actually that was when I started feeling scared because I did all that during the first ride but there was no warning not to! But in this intense ride it WAS important because to simulate the G-force 3 sensation, the chamber would be spun like a centrifuge! I guess it’s like being spun in a washing machine. I followed the instructions to the letter and it was intense but an exhilarating experience. Nothing like anything I’ve ever been through before! My palms were wet as soon as we took off! Yes, it was indeed much more intense all round but no regrets. I would do it again!
I had seen some packets in front of us by the control panel but didn’t know what they were – later hubby told me that they were sickness bags! After the ride I did feel a little nauseous sensation but I kept telling myself I was fine and nothing happened. Just sensations. I’m glad we went on the ride before lunch!
This was THE event of the day. The other “must do” ride, “Spaceship Earth” was interesting as we went into trains that travelled very slowly in darkness inside the Epcot ball “through time” experiencing the history of communications. What was interesting was that a little cartoon of “our future” was created by the computer after we answered some simple questions about how we wanted to live our lives in the future. It was so cute!
We truly enjoyed our day, and night at Epcot and felt we had probably wasted our time in the other parks yesterday! The rest of the park in the international showcase was very interesting although we basically rushed through them. It was great moving around from one country’s pavilion to the next. The China Pavilion was probably the most interesting – from the Xian Terra Cotta warriors, the acrobat show to the 360 degree cinema in the China Pavilion. Great concept and great execution. We certainly learnt a lot and it made us really excited about going to China and see everything for ourselves.
The other pavilion I really enjoyed was the Norwegian Pavilion because I saw all the amazing Rosemaling furniture and other objects there. It was a pity that they didn’t sell anything painted or else I’d probably have bought a whole bundle.
We ate dinner at the Mexican Pavilion and although it was fast food, we had our fill.
It was getting a bit chilly and I was glad that I’d bought the fleece hoodie at the Premium Outlet or else I would have frozen! We found a spot to watch the finale for the evening – the fireworks and laser show called IllumiNations. It was a great way to end the night and although we didn’t get a perfect place to view the show from it was good enough. It was a great performance and later at the hotel, we realized that we both had ash from the fireworks in our hair! That can’t be good! I’m glad nothing burnt!
So that was our experience at Epcot. I guess our take from all this is that if you only had one day to spend in Orlando, you should go to Epcot! There truly is something for everybody there. It was the “wrong” time to go, we realized, because even though it was a Monday when we went, the school holidays had just started that weekend so the place was crowded! I guess the waits would be much shorter if it weren’t the school holidays but all told, it wasn’t too bad.