Sue Disney World adventures, final chapter

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Disney_005 I don't know if I'm just tired, or if I'm suffering from happiness withdrawal, but I have that strung-out, party's-over thing going on since I got back from Orlando an hour or so ago. Anyway, to round out my Disney postings, here's a wrap of last night.

First we went to a reception at The Living Seas in Epcot, where I got to commune with the manatees, rays, and a disembodied head named Bob who was a crackup in a very strange way (the actor's head was in a glass-encased globe sitting on top of a box filled with gadgets--I never could figure out how they did that!). Another highlight was Turtle Talk with Crush, where an animated sea turtle on a screen gave us a great "hey, dude" experience. It was another one of those, "how do they do that?" moments to see the animation pick out specific people in the crowd to interact with. He also had some fun with the meeting planner organizations represented and really tailored the show to us. Cracked me up completely with his So-Cal lingo. (I never saw Finding Nemo, which I gather the character of Crush comes from, but I think I'll rent it just to see Crush again!)

Then we watched the dedication for Soarin', the latest Disney World attraction. It was, I hate to say it, pretty magical to see the skydivers soar down in huge zig-zags, streaming different colors of smoke against the clouds just as the sunset began to stain the sky with colors of its own. (Note to Disney: just as you made your ponchos clear so people can find their family members when it rains, you might want to consider changing the color of the umbrellas you provide. When we all unfurled our umbrellas while waiting for the dedication, the sea of black, even enlivened with Mickey images, looked a little funereal to me.)

The ride itself is a blast--you really do feel like you're flying over the various landscapes. And I don't think I imagined the scent of orange in the air as we wafted over some orange groves. I loved the Test Track ride too, where you get to pretend you're a crash test dummy--we did that one twice. Good speed and G-force at the end.

Anyway, the night ended with a rocking Barenaked Ladies concert--I couldn't believe how many of their songs I knew--and some spectacular fireworks. I was so jazzed up it took me forever to fall asleep.

There were celebs all over the place, too. Especially John Corbett, who played Carrieā€™s ex-flame Aidan on Sex and the City. I swear, I think the guy was following us--he was everywhere! I either must be getting old or I need to watch more TV, because I didn't recognize most of the American Idols, pop stars, and other celebs people were spotting.

But the real stars, to me and my group of meetings magazine editors at least, were Disney marketing's Terry Brinkoetter and Amie Gorrell, who went so far out of their way to take care of us that they must have gone to Pluto and back several times over the past two days--and I'm not talking about the cartoon dog, either.

They were so unfailingly hospitable and fun, and I hope the company realizes just what gems they have in these folks. There was much I loved about Disney World, and getting to hang with Terry, Amie, and an intern who also is conveniently named Amy (and whose last name is escaping my brain at the moment--sorry!) was among the highest of the highlights. My experience over the past two days showed me that the place really isn't all about the rides and the spectacular shows and the cool meeting space and the gorgeous hotels, though it certainly has all that in spades. It's Terry, and Amie, and Amy, and Dennis, and Laurie, and all the others who went way out of their way to make our time there, well, magical. I can only imagine what they could do for a meeting...

P.S. I forgot to mention that we got a sneak peek at the guest room update they're starting at the Contemporary Resort. I've never seen the current rooms, but the model of the renovated rooms was all earth tones, warmth, casual yet elegant--I would love to have a room like that to retreat to after the day's sessions were over. The sinks are also very cool, and if there's a hidden Mickey in the room, we couldn't find it!

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