Captain James Cook. Noted Pacific explorer. Fellow of the Royal Society. Namesake of a restaurant that serves some of the finest pork fried rice around. No doubt it is this last accolade that brings his ancestors the most pride. It is also the quarry that almost left us stranded on a Polynesian island.
Whenever we visit Disney World, there are a few things that are part of our ‘must do’ list — the Hoop Dee Doo, fireworks from the beach, and Dole Whips to name a few. A recent addition to this list is a visit to Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian resort. They have some excellent pork fried rice and, from what I hear, a great Polynesian salad. With this in mind, we set out just before 7pm on a journey to sample these culinary delights.
Our plan for this expedition required us to take a boat to the Contemporary where we would transfer to the monorail for the ride to the Polynesian. A trip we have made many times before and, at first, seemed to go as planned.
Upon arriving at the Fort Wilderness Marina, we noted the huge line of people waiting for the boat to the Magic Kingdom. We snickered to ourselves about how we are glad we are not having to wait in that line. Ha ha, those poor unfortunate souls. The line for our boat to the Contemporary had but three people in it. Oh yeah. We got this.
As the hundreds of people going to the Magic Kingdom tried to squeeze into all available space on their boat, our launch to the Contemporary floated up to the pier with nary a soul on board. Well, nary a human soul that is. After docking, the skipper strolled over and pointed out that his vessel and the Wilderness Lodge dock (our next stop) were both infested with midges. For those unfamiliar with midges, I provide this brief entomological aside. Midges are small insects that swarm to bright colors and lights. They do not bite or sting, but are more than a little annoying.
Do you remember when Indiana Jones opened the tomb to the Well of Souls in his quest for the Ark of the Covenant? His trusty friend Sallah gazed into the abyss and asked, “Why does the floor move?” That is a close approximation to what the seats on this boat looked like from our vantage point. The front seats of the boat were literally crawling with thousands of these bugs. As we boarded, the skipper offered us towels to brush away the bugs on the white seats or we could instead sit on the brown seats where there were no bugs. Uh, yeah, we will do that thanks.
All, except for our oldest, were fortunate to have worn sweat shirts on this trip – that is a story for another time. We zipped them up over our heads like Tusken raiders in order to keep the bugs from flying into our faces and mouths on the trip to the Lodge.
All in all, it was not too bad. We lingered at the Wilderness Lodge dock a bit longer than most of the passengers would have liked, but soon enough we were at the Contemporary and disembarking. The first leg of our trip was over. It was all smooth sailing from here…or so we thought.
We now headed toward the monorail to travel to the Polynesian. Remember that mob of people on the Fort Wilderness dock that were waiting to go to the Magic Kingdom? Remember how we mocked them so? Yeah, well karma is a cruel bitch.
As we emerged at the top of the escalator to the monorail platform, we found what appeared to be the entire population of the Contemporary resort waiting to get to the Magic Kingdom. It took nearly 30 minutes as we waited for two trains to come and go before we got on and were finally on our way to the Polynesian.
All our travel challenges behind us, we arrived at Captain Cook’s and enjoyed our food. It was every bit as wonderful as we’d remembered and made all the better when considering the journey. We then walked to the Transportation and Ticket Center and watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the ferry dock. They were amazing. What a great way to end our night. And they lived happily…oh wait…we then had to get back to the Fort. No worries, we had it all planned out and what could possible go wrong?
Plan A was to board the ferry to the Magic Kingdom and take the boat back to Fort Wilderness. This is where things began to unravel. We strolled down to the ferry and told the cast member where we were heading. He politely informed us that the ferry is now running only one way, and not the way we needed to go. I thought about slipping him some Disney Dollars to see if I could convince him to allow four stowaways just this once, but didn’t want to be the catalyst of an ethics investigation within the property, so we moved to plan B.
Plan B, which we devised on the fly, was to take the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom and get on the boat back to Fort Wilderness. No worries. One door closes and we just look for a window. We returned to the Great Ceremonial house and saw that no one was waiting for the monorail. Awesome. It is all coming together now. I unzipped our bag in preparation for the security check and was greeted by a friendly cast member at the door. He informed us that the monorail was having issues and not operating at that time. I told him we were trying to get back to Fort Wilderness. He happily offered that our best route was to go to the Transportation and Ticket Center and take the ferry to the Magic Kingdom and then the boat back to the Fort. I began to wonder if this was some sort of joke that cast members like to play with campers. I informed him that his advice was no good and we then proceeded to plan C.
Plan C was the one I dreaded the most. It involved us traveling to the most wretched hive of scum and villainy on the entire Disney Property – Disney Springs. From there we could take a bus back to Fort Wilderness. To be absolutely clear, I haaaaaate Disney Springs. I do everything I can to avoid the area. But, alas, it appeared to be our only route on this evening. I hung my head and trudged to the bus stop cursing myself for mocking those Magic Kingdom boaters just a few hours before. But wait. What’s that?
Just as we reached the bus stop, an unanticipated Plan D rolled into view. Light shown down from the heavens. Choir voices sang in unison. A glorious red SUV speckled in beautiful white polka dots emerged from the shadows. In our haste we had completely forgotten about the wonderful new form of transportation offered by Disney. The Minnie Van!
We stopped in our tracks and bolted for the loading/unloading area of the Polynesian. It was here that we realized that while the new plan was ideal, we had no actual idea how to procure a Minnie Van. We loitered in the area looking as pitiful as we could for a few moments hoping a sympathetic cast member might volunteer some assistance, but no such help arrived. I began to wonder if word of our earlier mocking had gotten out and we were on some sort of transportation blacklist.
We headed inside to the bell station and asked for aid. The gentleman there was very helpful. After I installed the Lyft app on my phone, he set us up to be able to request service even though we were not staying at the Polynesian. We did not learn until later that the service is actually only available to guests of certain resorts unless a cast member sets you up. It was this small bit of pixie dust that saved our night.
We waited outside and tracked the location of our ride from the app. Within 5 minutes she had arrived and we were on our way. Not only was she able to take back roads to save time, she also got us closer to home than I expected. I figured that she would drop us at the Outpost and from there were would take a bus to our loop, but she asked what site we were at and dropped us off right outside our camper.
Our dinner adventure took more than 4 hours and put our Disney Transportation knowledge to the test, but, as they say, it is not the destinations but the journeys that matter the most. This one will definitely go into long-term memory.