Our Escape from Reality 12/3-12/7 - Beach Club - Lots of Pics!
I love the Dis community, it’s such a great place to share our passion (obsession?) for Disney and what it means to our families! Here’s a report on our trip in early December. The trip was too short but a lot of fun!
Cast: Me , DH, and DD18. Our 27th anniversary was a couple weeks before the trip, and DD turned 18 a week and a half before, so we did have something to “celebrate”, but we made the trip mostly to take advantage of the military salute discount. DH is retired AF, so he received a free 5-day hopper for him, plus 5-day passes for DD & me for $99, plus $25 each to add park hopping. They also offered great room-only discounts, so we decided to splurge and stay at the Beach Club. We have always wanted to stay at an Epcot resort, so it was a great opportunity. A great roundtrip flight on AirTran, and we were all set!
Previous visits: Ft. Wilderness Campground with my family in 1977, a couple offsite trips in the early 80’s, then with our kids (DD has two older brothers, now 23 & 21) Dixie Landings 1997, Shades of Green 2000, Contemporary (thanks to SoG construction) 2003, SoG 2006. One quick trip with my mother and one son to AKL in 2002, I think, and a couple trips over the years escorting marching bands. Those are still fun, but with no flexibility to do things the “right” way!
I made just a couple ADR’s (we were not doing the Dining Plan, which is not a good deal for us the way we dine), one for the CP package on arrival day, and the other at CP for our MK day. I checked in online at the 10 day mark, with no problems.
On to the trip!
Thursday, December 3 – 8 am flight from Dayton (nonstop – the main reason we love AirTran to Orlando!). No problems with the flight. We were taking DME for the first time, and it worked out great. We landed at 10:15, were aboard a bus by 10:40, and departed MCO at 10:50. The bus stopped at POR first, then BW, then YC, so we did not pull in to BC until 11:50, but it was still easy, comfortable, and convenient, so we were not complaining!
We stepped off the bus ready to head to the online checkin desk, and we were intercepted by Scott, one of the BC greeters, before we entered the building. He asked our last name, then said “You did online checkin, right?” I just figured this was typical of deluxe resort treatment, so I had no suspicions about what was about to happen. Well, when we got to the desk, the woman started to pull up our packet, and from the office door beside us out popped three or four cheering workers holding a balloon bouquet and a certificate proclaiming we were the Family of the Day! Here’s a pic we were sent after returning home:
Incredible! After we got our packet, Scott let us know that we were being updgraded to concierge level! Since we had just reserved a standard room, we were floored. Scott escorted us through the lobby and up to the concierge level, showing us how we would have to use our room key in the elevator to access the floor. Our room was not yet ready, so we had checked our carryon bags with bell services and planned to head to Epcot for the afternoon. Our lunch ADR for Biergarten was not until 1:50, so we stopped in the concierge lounge for a snack to tide us over. Wow, what a treat! The afternoon snacks include things like pretzels, goldfish, Swedish fish, cookies, sodas, juices, and terrific homemade potato chips with a great southwestern-style dip. Here’s a pic:
We were still in shock, but after a quick snack for fortification, we were ready to head to Epcot. WALKING! Yes, one of the best features of BC, for us!
We had obtained the military salute park tickets at our local base ticket office before arrival, but we still had to activate them at the ticket office at the IG. That did not take too long, and soon we were strolling through the UK toward Future World. Here are our first pics in the parks:
Bless my DH, he lets me do the planning, but he has definitely absorbed much of the info, so the first thing he wanted to do was get a FP! He became quite the FP tactician this trip, in fact. So we walked to Soarin’ and grabbed a FP for later and then rode the Land, which was a walk-on.
After a stop for refreshment at Club Cool (again, DH’s suggestion – yay!), we decided to head to WS to catch our favorite live performers, Off Kilter. A couple pics and a link to a short video clip:
Off Kilter video
After that we strolled toward Germany for our lunch ADR. It was a gorgeous afternoon, warm and sunny, so we loved just soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the warmth. Here’s a pic as we walked:
I had wanted to possibly try the Kim Possible missions this trip, but we never really had a good opportunity, although we saw a LOT of families doing them. Maybe next time for us!
We checked in for our ADR 10 minutes early and waited about 20 minutes or so to be called. We just explored the Germany pavilion. I love the WS pavilions, there is so much detail in the architecture. A couple photos:
We were seated with two other couples and had a nice chat while we ate. I loved the food, especially the desserts. The cheesecake is so light, and the strudel was terrific. We also enjoyed the show:
Biergarten Show video 1
Biergarten Show video 2
After lunch we decided to catch the acrobats at China and made DD “endure” the movie. (She does not like those, gets very bored). These kids are so talented!
Chinese Acrobats video 1
Chinese Acrobats video 2
More great architectural details:
Oh, by the way, while we were waiting for the acrobats, DH turned into the FP runner once again and offered to go fetch some TT FP’s. Love that guy!
Maelstrom was a 30 minute wait, so we just wandered through the store and DD got to visit with her favorite troll:
Here she is when she was 11, which demonstrates that trolls age well!
We also stopped to listen to the hilarious Sigrid at Norway as part of the Christmas around the world:
We then rode the boat in Mexico and caught the end of the Three Wise Men’s performance in front of the pavilion:
It was 4:20 or so by this time, so we had to think about getting to our 5:00 CP show. There was a Friendship boat almost to the dock near Mexico, so we hopped on that to ride to Germany. Normally these boats are not the most efficient way to go, but they’re always a nice relaxing break, and this time it did save us some time compared to walking.
The line for standby for the CP was pretty long, but we walked right in the CP package line. The person at the entrance said we needed to put the stickers we had been given at dinner on, so we did that and found some good seats. Here is a pic of DH & DD waiting for the show. It also shows the sticker on DH’s shirt:
We LOVED the CP. Steven Curtis Chapman was the narrator, and he did a wonderful job. We were very impressed how they blend the talents – the Voices of Liberty anchor the vocals, backed up by the CM choir, and supplemented by the high school choirs. And the orchestra was terrific as well – loved the herald trumpeters! Some pics and a short clip from the Hallelujah Chorus:
Candlelight Processional video
After CP, we decided to head to the BC to see our room, do a little unpacking, and grab some snacks. ON our way we stopped to listen to Mo Rockin’:
We LOVED the easy walk from the IG! When we got to the BC we used our magic gold KTTW in the elevator to head up to the fifth floor, where the lovely ladies at the Concierge desk gave us our room number. It was a little hike down the hall, but a great room. Here’s a pic of the balloon bouquet we had received on arrival:
And the view of the front of the resort from our balcony:
After unpacking a bit (our luggage was in our room, as expected), we headed to the lounge and enjoyed a couple beers (really enjoyed the Yuengling), as well as some great hot appetizers and other snacks. With a large late lunch this day, it served as our dinner quite well!
We headed back to Epcot around 7 and used our FPs for Soarin’, then Test Track. We even had time for MS, which was a walkon. Then we grabbed a snack and went to the CP viewing area for Illuminations. We arrived at Showcase Plaza around 9:10 for the 9:30 show, and found a spot in the middle of the crowd. We talked to the CM who was checking tickets at the entrance, and he said that all CP package holders could use this area, and that could be as many as 3000 people! But he said the most they had had so far was about 750.
We enjoyed the view from here. Yes, everyone stood up, but in the middle of the pack we still had a great view, especially since they did not let anyone up right by the fence. That really helped, since that area slopes slightly upward. We also really enjoyed the holiday tag on the end of the usual show, with “Let There Be Peace on Earth”. A quick video from the show:
We strolled back to the BC after the show and were sound asleep shortly thereafter. A great first day!
More to come...rain, fun, a mini-TGM meet, MVMCP, the JoBros, and more!
DAY 2 - Rain, rain, rain - but still fun!
We are morning people, we just can’t help it. Especially my DH, who is up at 5:30 every day for a walk before work. “Sleeping in” to him is 7. Even my DD, as a teenager, has trouble sleeping late on ANY vacation, because she wants to soak up every possible drop of the experience. So rope drop is never an issue for us. We had AK planned for today – it was green, and we really enjoy that park. EE was open on our last visit, and it has become one of our favorite attractions. The one show we had not seen was Nemo, so we wanted to make sure to see it this trip.
The only glitch was that it was supposed to rain. A lot. Not that it would stop us, by any means. We just don ponchos and press on, appreciating the sparse crowds that bad weather usually generates. I was just concerned that it might affect the attendance at our planned TGM meet at the AK parade that afternoon. But we knew we’d have a good day anyway. We were at Disney World!
We enjoyed our first breakfast at the CL right at 7. It was terrific, with muffins, bagels, cereal, fruit, teas, coffees, hard boiled eggs, sweet rolls, and probably some other items I forgot. Here are a couple pics:
Since we were early, we wandered around the lobby before heading out for the AK bus, to look at the wonderful holiday decorations. The focal point is an amazing gingerbread carousel:
There are also a small gingerbread castle, with Belle on one side and Snow White on the other:
And another small house with Chip & Dale:
There are also two trees decorated with beach-themed ornaments that are worth a closer look:
It’s also very busy, with resort guests coming and going, visitors coming to see the carousel, and those dining at Cape May. I do wish we had had more time to properly explore the resort, but I guess that means we’ll just have to stay there again sometime!
We were at the bus stop by 8:00, with only a few other families waiting for the AK bus. It arrived shortly (after its first stop at YC), and we were at the AK by 8:15. A couple pictures of the huge tree in front of the AK gates:
We were at the turnstiles by 8:25 and had a wonderful conversation with an older CM there. He has worked at AK for 6 years and loves it. He works 15-20 hours a week, just enough to get out of the house (and out of his wife’s hair, he said!). He gave us lots of info about the history of the park, and it made the time waiting pass quickly. Talking to CMs is one of my favorite things to do at the parks. They often seem happy to have people to talk to who are genuinely interested in them, and we always learn a lot.
When the gates opened we joined the rest of the crowd headed to rope drop and enjoyed the welcome show, which was very cute:
After that is was off to EE! We rode first, then got FP’s for later. We realized at that point that probably due to the weather, it was still a walkon, so we rode it twice more before heading to the Safari. That was also still a walkon, and it was one of the best we have been on in many visits. It was only sprinkling at this point, many of the animals were out, and our guide, Greg, was great. I remember when the AK first opened, and the safari guides were actually from Africa and were totally committed to their roles. On visits since then, we seem to often have some guides who just go through the motions. But not Greg. He was extremely knowledgeable about all the animals and made it very clear that he loved his job. It was quite refreshing!
After we finished the safari it was about 9:55 (yes, we rode EE three times AND the Safari in less than an hour!), so we decided to hoof it over to catch the 10:00 FotLK show. We made it to our seats just as the show was starting. We LOVE this show, the music, dancing, color, pageantry, and energy are terrific. A couple short video clips:
Festival of the Lion King video 1
Festival of the Lion King video 2
After the show, the rain was getting steadier. Still not a downpour, but enough to warrant pulling my poncho on. We decided to explore Dinoland a bit, so we headed that way. On the walk over we noticed a few of the many details that we love about this park:
Then it was time for Dinosaur. My DD is willing to ride anything, but that doesn’t mean her eyes stay open! This is a pretty intense attraction, but we enjoy it. The line was about 15 minutes, maybe because the indoor nature made it a great escape from the elements.
After Dinosaur, it was about 11:20, so we decided to get in line for the 11:45Nemo show. We got good seats, about halfway up in the middle of the theater. We loved the creativity of this show. It’s one of those things you have to see to truly appreciate. A few pics and video clips, none of which do the performers justice:
Nemo video 1
Nemo video 2
Our plan for the afternoon here was to get lunch at Flame Tree, but with the steady rain (and my DD’s reluctance to wear a poncho, so she was getting a bit chilled), we decided to take a longer lunch break at RFC. We actually have a family tradition of a meal at RFC every trip, but we had planned to forego that this trip to enjoy more time in the park. I guess it was destined that we continue the family tradition! We only had to wait about 10 minutes and enjoyed a wonderful meal. I got my favorite, the China Island Chicken Salad, which I had not had for years. Our server was terrific. We had been wearing our “Happy Anniversary” buttons and DD her “Happy Birthday” buttons, and received many friendly congrats from CMs everywhere, which was all we expected. Our server made a big deal about DDs button and even brought her a birthday sundae after lunch:
Yes, she shared it with her dad and me! Here is a pic of DD by the elephant behind RFC:
We headed back into the park to It’s Tough to be a Bug (DD passed on that – hates the creepy crawly stuff - and shopped instead), then over to use our EE FPs. I think the wait was about 15 minutes, so they were certainly not desperately needed, but using them also brought us one of the funnier CM interactions this visit. We approached the FP entrance, and DH pulled out the FPs from the morning. Deadpan, the CM glanced at them and said, “Sorry, these are from Friday.” DH (and I admit it, DD and I as well) were taken aback. My mind was scrambling – was there a problem with the machines? Did he mean they were past the time? But then it hit me. I said, “But today IS Friday.” The CM smiled and waved us through! I guess it was one of those “had to be there” kinda things, but we got a kick out of it. Someone making the most of a slow, rainy day, you just have to appreciate that!
After our fourth journey to visit the Yeti that day, we decided to take a spin (literally) on Primeval Whirl, a fun little ride. Deceptively turbulent, though – on one spin I smacked my head against the side of the car pretty good (to the amusement of DD and DH, who were tightly packed on the other side of the car!).
We headed toward the Dawa Bar to meet with some friends from TGM, at which I would not have been surprised if no one showed up, considering the weather! We were hoping to watch the parade from our tables (and it would have been a perfect view!), but that was eventually canceled because of the rain. So we were happy to arrive at the bar to see a couple friends enjoying a libation there. We all sat and got some drinks of our own. We had a wonderful chat about all things Disney and otherwise. It was great way to spend some time on a rainy afternoon, to say the least!
We headed out of the park about 4 to catch the bus to BC to dry out, have some snacks, and decide whether to go to DHS for OL and Fantasmic later. The bus came quickly, but this was the only bus we had the entire visit that stopped at more than just YC and BC – it was Swan, Dolphin, YC, then BC, and was heading to BW after our stop. I guess with the low crowds in the afternoon they consolidate the routes. It still did not take too long, and soon we were in dry clothes and shoes and enjoying again the amazing snacks in the concierge lounge. From 5-7 they have hot appetizers (wonderful things like chicken skewers, duck quesadillas, bacon-wrapped scallops…you get the picture), plus beer and wine and plenty of other goodies. Not enough for a usual full dinner, but again today we had had a late and large lunch, so it was just what we needed. I could get used to this!
We enjoy Fantasmic quite a bit, so we decided to brave the showers and head to DHS. We caught a boat relatively quickly (this time – that was certainly not always the case!) and as we entered the turnstile, the CM warned us that the Osborne Lights would not be turned on that night because of the weather. That surprised us a bit, but she said it had to do with the effects or something. Oh well, we were there, so we headed on in to the park. It was about 7 by this time, and we planned to ride a few rides and try to go to the 8:00 Fantasmic. We thought we had heard the fireworks from the first F!, but it turns out they had done just a partial show before canceling. We headed to ToT and enjoyed a great ride on a dark and rainy night. I highly recommend riding this at night – it’s awesome!
Around 7:40 they started letting people up into the F! theater, with the warning that the show might be shortened or canceled due to the weather. We decided to give it a shot, although we were not hopeful. Here are a couple pictures of the sparse crowd just a few minutes before show time:
Well, believe it or not, the show did go on. I would say when it started there were maybe 1000 people in the 7000-seat theater, and maybe another 1000 or so straggled in once they heard it was actually being performed. Here’s a video clip from the finale:
One benefit from the sparse crowd at F! was that when we approached the boat dock after leaving the park, we walked right on the boat, which was not even full. A lovely ride to the BC and we were soon enjoying the desserts and cordials of the Concierge Lounge before bed. A lovely day in spite of (heck, sometimes even because of) the weather!
Tomorrow..more rain in the morning, more DHS time, and our first sight of the MK!
Loving your report...thank you so much for sharing.
Day 3 - Rain, Studios, Castle, and more! (part 1)
DHS had been a tough park to find a good day to visit during our trip, especially before they added a few more Fantasmic shows to the week. Since we wanted a chance to ride TSM (I had ridden it on a band trip, but DH and DD had never had the opportunity) and our favorite, RnRC, we decided to brave an early EMH today.
We had breakfast right at 7, when the lounge opened, then walked down to the boat dock by 7:25 or so. Well, there were already quite a few people there, and the boat did not show up until 7:40. We probably should have just walked to the park, but we were in a “go with the flow” mood, so it was no big deal. In fact, we even made it into the park in time for rope drop. For those who might be wondering, the CM at the gate did ask to see our resort room keys (well, one of ours at least), since we had the military park tickets (which we could not add to our room keys ).
We decided not to join the TSM madness but peeled off with the much smaller crowd toward ToT and RnRC. We intended to get FPs and then ride RnRC, but they were having a delayed opening, so we just got a FP and headed over to ToT. (One note for those considering early EMH – you can get FPs, but the return window will be what it would be if the park opened at the regular time. Our return time was 9:45.) ToT was a very short wait, and a fun ride (although not as much fun as the night before in the rain!). We had a nice chat with a family behind us in line, which included a couple young girls who had never ridden and were, shall we say, apprehensive. They had a blast! We stopped by RnRC after riding ToT and discovered it had opened, so we hopped in line and rode after a short wait.
We headed toward the back of the park, noting that TSM was already a 40 minute wait as we passed on our way to Muppets and Star Tours. Both of these attractions could use an update, especially Star Tours, but there is something comforting about familiarity, too.
We had not been to Voyage of the Little Mermaid for many years, as DD’s brothers do not have a lot of patience for such attractions, so we decided to head that way. Especially since it was still sprinkling, so a totally indoor attraction held quite a bit of appeal. On the way, we grabbed TSM FPs when our window opened, at 9:50. The return time was already 2:15 – incredible.
We had a few minutes in the VoLM preshow area. I highly recommend taking some time to look around the room. There are some great little details, like these:
We enjoyed the show and then waited by the hat to see if they would perform the 10:30 High School Musical 3 show. My DD would be the first to admit that she is not one of those 18 year olds who is itching to be an adult. Especially on this trip, she enjoyed being a kid again, and that includes being a huge HSM fan! Well, they set the cones out and tried squeegeeing the walkways, but to no avail. They did bring some of the cast members out for a mini-meet-and-greet, but we pressed on, planning to come back for one of the next shows.
We were getting hungry, but it was not 11 yet, so we just took our time walking to Pizza Planet, stopping in a couple of the shops. DH is not usually a big fan of pizza, but DD and I are, and we find the pizzas at PP surprisingly good. Well, even DH decided to indulge, and we all enjoyed our lunch. I know some people complain, but we are almost always able to find something at Disney CS places that is quite tasty and, for theme park food at least, relatively reasonable. I really like that a salad is included in the pizza meal here.
After our early lunch we checked to see if they were showing the 11:30 HSM show. They tried again, since the rain had stopped, but it was still too wet. So we hustled over to the 11:30 showing of another show we had not seen in years but that DD was really looking forward to – Beauty and the Beast. We sorely missed Four for a Dollar, who used to perform as the preshow. We entered just as it was starting. I had forgotten how much fun this show is! A couple pics and a short video clip:
Beauty and the Beast video
After BatB, we used our RnRC FPs and got another set for later. Yes, it really is our favorite ride in the park! Then we gave the HSM show one more shot. After canceling the first 3 shows, they really did want the show to go on, as evidenced by their extensive efforts to dry the walkway:
A few pics I took while waiting for the show:
We chatted with a nice mom and two girls as we waited a few minutes, and soon we could see the float heading toward the hat. I have to admit, even DH enjoyed the high energy of the performers and the connection they had with the crowd. I hope they always have a show like this, whether it is HSM or whatever the next big thing is, because it’s just so darn fun! A few pics and video clips from the show:
HSM video 1
HSM video 2
HSM video 3
HSM video 4
After the show we still had about an hour and a half before our TSM FP return, so we did the Backlot Tour (which wins my vote for the “attraction MOST needing an update in all of WDW") and the Animation building, which was a lot of fun. Then it was on to TSM, which even with FPs was probably about a 15 minute wait. Yes, it’s a great deal of fun and very cool technology, but my DH was scratching his head about the level of hype this ride has. To be honest, I think it has a lot to do with the lack of other new attractions at DHS. Hopefully, maybe after the MK Fantasyland update is complete, some attention can be paid to DHS! Anyway, here are a couple pics from the TSM queue:
And from the Pixar area, another place where attention to detail is incredible:
We decided it was time for a break at BC, although we did catch a bit of the parade as we were leaving:
Here’s the Christmas tree outside of DHS:
And some local wildlife we spotted as we waited the few minutes for the boat to BC:
Here’s a pic of the Breathless, on which we took an unforgettable Illuminations cruise last visit, at the dock:
The kids play area of Stormalong Bay:
And the back entrance to BC. It’s such a lovely place to come “home” to!
TO BE CONTINUED...
Day 3, part 2
We had a well-earned snack at the lounge and chilled in the room for a bit, although DD was not about to stay put for long. The weather was clearing up, so she and I decided to take a walk around the Boardwalk. It was absolutely lovely, with the late afternoon sun finally peeking out. We really enjoyed browsing the shops and taking some pics:
By the time we got back to the room, there was just time to relax a bit before a visit to the lounge for a couple beers and delicious hot appetizers before heading out for the evening. Our plan was to see the Osborne Lights, since they were not on last night, and then head to the MK for the first time this visit. We knew it would be crowded, but it was our only chance to see Spectro and Wishes.
A quick evening view of the back of the BC as we headed out to the boat dock:
Our luck with the boats seemed to have hit its limit, as we eyed the large group at the end of the dock waiting for the DHS boat. That was confirmed when a boat did arrive, but it was already full, so very few folks were able to board. We conceded and decided to walk. It really is a pleasant stroll, by the water, and probably takes about the same amount of time as the boat anyway.
There was a very large crowd entering the park, even though there was no Fantasmic scheduled. When we asked the CM at the turnstile, she confirmed that everyone was there for the OL! Once in the park it was not too bad, although the crowd thickened the closer we got to the lights. It was absolutely worth fighting the crowd, though – awesome! You know me by now, here are pics and a couple video clips:
Osborne Lights video 1
Osborne Lights video 2
As we left the park, we noticed this light on the sidewalk by the hat:
MK visit in the next post...
Day 3, part 3
As we expected, there was a very large crowd waiting for the TTC bus, but two pulled up at the same time, so we were on our way shortly. The bus driver was funny and friendly, which always makes for a pleasant transit.
I have to admit, even though the MK is not my favorite park (sacrilege to many, I know), the first view of Main Street and the castle is always a rush. DD was beside herself, to say the least. We strolled down Main Street , admired the castle, and took some pics, of course:
First attraction of the night for us was Philharmagic, for which we walked right into the next show. This was being refurbished the last time I was there on a band trip, so I was happy to experience it again. It’s by far my favorite of the 3D movies, and one of my favorite attractions in all of MK. A great way to start, for sure. We strolled around a bit before deciding to wait for Spectro and Wishes on the hub. We were not in a great parade-viewing spot, with quite a few people in front of us, but we really wanted to be there for Wishes. A pic of Mickey in front of the castle and a short video clip:
A video during the parade that shows the color change on the castle:
Castle Colors video
We just stayed where we were to wait for Wishes, which is always such a great show. We love when Tink flies over to the cheers of the crowd, and all the oohs and aahs throughout the show. More photos and a link:
After Wishes was over, we had planned to walk around Tomorrowland to ride anything that did not have too long a line, but there was a serious case of gridlock in that direction. So, flexible folks that we are, we headed toward Pirates and enjoyed a ride there with a short wait. There were very few people in all of Adventureland, in fact, so on a whim we decided to ride the Magic Carpets, something we would normally not even consider. But you know the feeling, which seems to most often hit in the evenings, when you get a little silly and a lot caught up in the atmosphere and the sense that you really are in a world that doesn’t care how old you are or how important your job is or what your neighbors think or anything else except that you are having fun with your family. Yeah, you know.
We decided to start heading out of the park, to beat the second Spectro crowd. Of course we had to stop in a shop or two, and as we approached Casey’s, we realized we were pretty hungry, especially DD, who did not enjoy the appetizers in the CL as much as DH and I did. So she got a hot dog and fries, and DH and I split an order of corndog nuggets. In keeping with the great night we were having, they were DELICIOUS. I can’t believe we had never eaten at Casey’s before, but I do believe we may have started a new family tradition.
The bus line was long, but we somehow all fit on the first bus that showed up, and soon we were tucked in our lovely little BC room, ready for a comfy night’s sleep. More MK tomorrow!
Hi Sue!! I just found your TR and am excited to read it as we are planning to go to WDW next year for Christmas! What are your opinions on the crowd levels? The weather? Would you recommend the dates you were there? And if so, why? I can't wait to hear more about your trip!! :goodvibes
The crowds when we were there were a bit heavier than we expected, probably due mostly to the promotions Disney was offering, notably free dining being extended. Also, the end of our trip coincided with the beginning of Pop Warner. We still had a blast, and as long as you have a plan to go to least crowded parks and use FPs judiciously, your waits are still minimal.
The Christmas decorations and events were awesome. The "ice" lights on the castle have to be seen to be appreciated! We loved Candlelight Processional and enjoyed MVMCP.
If you have flexibility in choosing your dates, I would consider the week immediately after Thanksgiving. Reports seem to indicate that the crowds were very low then, and all the Christmas activities are available.
The weather just can't be predicted. Even in our short visit, it varied from cool and rainy to warm and sunny. The week after we left it made it into the mid-80's! So December in Florida an be anything from 40's and wet to 80's and sunny, no matter when you go during the month.
I will try to post our last two days today. Glad you are enjoying reading!
What an awesome upgrade surprise! I love all the pics of the BW area! The one with your daughter is beautiful!
Day 4, part 1 - JoBros and Kelly and flexibility
We tried to sleep in, really we did. Osborne Lights, Spectro, Wishes last night…a great night, but tiring. But it just wasn’t in us. We had an 11:45 ADR at Crystal Palace, because Sunday is usually a great day to visit MK, especially with Spectro and Wishes the night before. Not many of those, with lots of MVMCP party nights happenin’ this week. But there was a complication. Due to the lousy weather the past two days, the parade taping had been rescheduled. For today.
Our plan? Well, flexibility is the key. We had not planned to attend the MVMCP. Without small children, we did not think it was worth the expense. We just planned to stay in the MK from RD to late afternoon, and then go to DTD in the evening. Well, with the parade taping, we knew that as long as we avoided Main Street, we would be okay until the taping was over, when all the people who got in free were released to explore the park. Which meant the afternoon was going to be packed. We had also learned that military discounts were available for MVMCP tickets, bringing the expense down significantly (to about $38 per person). So our solution was to stay in the park until after lunch, then take a break at the resort, spend some time at DTD, and come back to MK in time for the castle lighting and MVMCP.
When we arrived at the MK gates at 8:15 or so, hundreds, maybe thousands, of folks were already in the park, smiling pretty and acting energetic for the cameras. And they were still arriving. But it was a pretty morning, and we knew we’d still have fun. A couple pics from our time waiting:
The welcome ceremony:
We were close to the front of the RD crowd, but only the left entrance was open to the general public (AKA the paying customers today). When we entered under the train station, all guests were being directed down the sidewalk on the left side of the street, and the narrow passage made for some serious gridlock. So we decided to hop on the train and avoid the masses. The train would not be stopping at Toon Town, since the area was not yet open, so we disembarked at Splash. The weather was on the cool side, so we saved Splash for later and grabbed a FP for Big Thunder and proceeded to ride it twice, with no wait. DH and DD heading out into the mine:
A beautiful heron on the docks near the exit:
And the empty (for now) streets of Fontierland:
We worked our way toward Fantasyland and had a lovely ride on Peter Pan, with about a 5 minute wait, before heading to Tomorrowland. On our way past the teacups, we were approached by a CM who was recruiting guests to participate in the parade taping. He had colored cloths in his hand, which we later learned were part of the “dance” the crowd was performing around the hub. We were tempted, but we really wanted to ride Space this morning, so we passed.
When we arrived in TL, Space was listed as a 40 minute wait, so we decided to ride some other rides until we could get another FP. We rode TTA, a family favorite, and cringed at the new announcer’s spiel but still enjoyed it. A pic of DH on TTA:
After TTA we battled Emperor Zurg (with about a 10 minute wait). By the time we arrived at Space after riding Buzz, the wait had dropped to 10 minutes for some reason, so we grabbed a FP for later and hopped in line. Considering how long the ride was closed for refurbishment, we really expected more changes than we noticed, but that’s not really a complaint, because we have always enjoyed the ride.
We walked the quiet little back walkway to Toontown and took some cute pics of DD at Minnie’s house, some of which were “reenactments” from years gone by. Here she is at 18:
And at age 8:
Another at 18:
And at 5:
We will miss the houses when they do the refurb.
A quick trip to pick up some hitchhiking ghosts at HM, and then it was time to think about heading to CP for lunch. As we passed the hub, this little show was going on:
Jonas Brothers video
Quite an exciting little sideshow! The crowd seemed to be having a blast, especially the teenage girls when the Jonas Brothers came out.
We signed in at Crystal Palace (with many others – the porch was much more crowded than the restaurant would prove to be) and did not have to wait too long for our buzzer to go off. We were soon seated and filling our first plates with salad. I had been to CP on a trip with a marching band in February, and I enjoyed the food, so I wanted DH and DD to try it as well. The selection is extensive enough to please just about anyone, and some dishes are more exotic than you would expect, which we enjoy. Pooh and friends are great and all, but even when the kids were little, we could take or leave characters at meals. We’re all about the food!
We had a good server, and the restaurant had just opened for lunch, so the crowd was just filling in. In fact, I noticed a few tables had not yet been cleared of their breakfast dishes, which was a bit off-putting, but not a big deal. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch, which included visits from Pooh:
Tigger giving DD a hug:
And finally Piglet:
The restaurant really is lovely, with Christmas garb on the entryway topiaries:
The gorgeous dome:
More to come!
Day 4, part 2 - party time!
After lunch, they were continuing to tape the actual parade, so we decided to head back to the resort for a break. We caught a view of Kelly Ripa serving as announcer on our way out:
We also bought our MVMCP tickets at Town Hall before leaving the park. A lovely CM from Japan was behind the desk. She was new, and her English was hard to understand, but she got the job done, after checking DH’s military ID. There was a bus waiting for us at the BC slot, so we were soon back at the Beach Club, where we finally got a chance to meet Teena, one of the greeters there who is incredibly kind and helpful to posters on the Resorts Board of Disboards:
We also had a little friend waiting in our room:
I had some work to do on my laptop this afternoon, but soon we were enjoying a snack at the lounge before waiting to catch a bus to DTD. A shot of the bus stops at BC:
And DD at DTD:
The DTD Christmas tree:
We went to the World of Disney and didn’t find much of interest. I have to say, for as large as it is, this store is often a disappointment, way too crowded and tough to navigate. But part of that is that we are not big shoppers. We bought an ornament, a picture frame, and a couple other small things and had them shipped to our room, a nice perc of CL. I was thinking they were delivered overnight so would be there before we packed up in the morning, but it turns out they do not arrive at the resort until late morning or early afternoon the next day. So we did have to put them in our carryon for the flight home, since we checked our bags in the morning, but that was not a big deal.
We really wanted to catch the castle lighting, so we caught a CR bus about 4:30. I have to give my DD credit, I was deciding the best way to get from DTD to MK, and she chimed in with the CR suggestion. Just when you think no one is paying attention…a couple pics from our walk from the CR:
Welcome to the party!
Our first order of business was to watch the castle lighting ceremony, “Cinderella’s Holiday Wish.” It was very cute, and the lighting itself was quite impressive! A video (sorry for the quality):
Cinderella's Holiday Wish video 1
A photo of the clock on the castle, always set for just before midnight:
It was about 6:30 by this time, and we had Space and Thunder FPs burning a hole in DH’s pocket from the morning, which we had to use before the party started at 7. We were up to the task! I snapped this pic of the new electronic game in the Space queue on our way past:
We walked over to BTMRR and enjoyed that ride in the dark. As we were leaving the ride, they were closing the FP entrance, so I am glad we hustled over to use them when we did.
It was still pretty warm, so we decided to brave Splash, which was a walkon, and we had a log to ourselves. DD found the “darker” parts of the ride a little too “dark” for her taste this time (I guess we hadn’t ridden it at night before), but we still had fun. A photo:
We could have stayed on for as many rides as we wanted, but DD emphatically declined, and we were getting hungry anyway.
We decided to have dinner at Pecos Bills, then watch the first parade nearby. We succumbed to the pull of the toppings bar and splurged on burgers, which tasted great. The restaurant was not overly crowded, so it was easy to get a table.
After dinner we staked out a spot on the stone wall planter in front of Pecos Bills and waited a few minutes for the parade to start. The parade was so fun! A few pics:
Even the pooper scoopers were appropriately costumed:
A couple short video clips:
Holiday parade video 1
Holiday parade video 2
After the parade we were definitely in a great holiday mood. We headed to Adventureland and had a great ride on Pirates. After exiting, we saw these two visiting with guests:
And stopped to watch an entertaining troupe of pirates:
We stopped to get some hot chocolate and cookies (both quite tasty, which was good, since DH called them our “$38 hot chocolate and cookies”!) before finding a spot near the hub for Holiday Wishes. A few photos:
We walked around a bit and considered going to a show or two, but other than popping into Cosmic Rays for a bit to watch some of the dance party (Pluto dancing to “Single Ladies” = priceless), we just decided to enjoy walking around and riding rides. We took a (literal) spin on the teacups after stopping to chat with Alice (sorry no pic, my flash battery died!).
We talked DH into riding Small World (he’s such a good sport!), then grabbed some more hot chocolate (making it ONLY $19 hot chocolate and cookies!) and enjoyed the Christmas decorations as we slowly worked our way out of the park. We stopped to listen to the Dapper Dans on the way out:
It had been a great day, but long, so we were running out of steam. Luckily, on this night the BC bus was waiting at the stop, and we were soon in our room, thinking about what we would do on our last day tomorrow.
Given the circumstances, primarily the parade taping, we were very glad we went to MVMCP. Would we go to the party if we did not have the military discount or even if we had been able to enjoy a lower crowd full day at the MK? Nope, probably not. As always with events and attractions at WDW, YMMV.
Tomorrow: Epcot, one more MK revisit, and back to reality, unfortunately!
Day 5 - Epcot, MK, and back to reality!
Our original plan was to spend our last morning and early afternoon at Epcot before our DME pickup at 4:30. We decided to do that but also to add a few hours in the middle of the day for a return trip to the MK. DD and I really wanted to see Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee, which we missed the day before because of our schedule change to avoid the parade crowds.
We did not really plan to make rope drop, since we had to pack, check out, and check our bags with the airline travel desk at the resort. Well, we did all that and were still at the IG by 8:40 or so. I know, we are unusual this way, but we just can’t help ourselves! A couple pics from our last walk to Epcot:
I had read on several message boards that at least some of the time entering through the IG meant being behind the front gate rope drop crowds, but that was not the case today. We entered and strolled through WS toward the rope. A pic of SE on the way:
We joined the crowd at the rope by the Innoventions Fountains, across from where the rest of the crowd was waiting. Here’s a pic of the welcome ceremony from that vantage point:
So DH was at the front of the RD crowd to get our Soarin’ FPs, while DD and I waited for him by the Living Seas, where we took these pics:
We thought the Nemo clamshell ride was very cute. It would not be worth a wait, but it’s a fun way to enter the pavilion, to be sure. We enjoyed checking out all the aquariums before entering the waiting area for Turtle Talk. For those who think this is just for young children, please give it a try. It’s extremely entertaining for all ages, and the technology begs the question, “How did they DO that?”!
I like how they have added a couple tanks to look at in the waiting area for the attraction. A photo of one of the rays and a short video:
After the Seas we walked toward the front gate to catch the monorail to MK. Of course I could not resist a shot of Spaceship Earth on the way:
Speaking of SE, the wait was very short, so we decided to hop aboard before leaving. I really enjoy this ride, especially with all the little enhancements they added during the last refurbishment. Here’s a portion of the fun video that was created on the screen in my car, based on my answers to the questions asked earlier:
Spaceship Earth video
A couple more photos as we left the park:
We were soon aboard the monorail to the TTC. Upon arrival they were directing everyone to the ferries, as they were having a problem with the MK monorail, so we boarded the next boat. A few pictures from the ferry:
As we entered the MK for the last time this visit, I took a photo of DD with some friends:
As well as the station from inside the park:
And DD in front of the window display for Princess Tiana:
The Move It, Shake It parade was just starting:
Move It, Shake It video
Finish to the final day coming right up!
Day 5, Part 2 - reality looms!
It was about 11:00 by now, and the first Tiana show was at 12:15, so we got some lunch at Columbia Harbor House, one of my favorite CS places in any of the parks. Even though the crowd was sparse this early, we took our lunches upstairs to enjoy the quiet. We sat by a window and thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
After talking to a couple CMs, we decided to wait for the show on the bridge in front of Splash, even though it meant we would miss the “procession” onto the boat. It was a great decision. While we waited, DH grabbed some FPs for BTMRR, and we enjoyed people-watching and talking with a couple families near us. Our view from the bridge:
We genuinely enjoyed the show. The showboat left the dock, and the songs began as it moved into place, stopping right in front of the bridge. Some pics and videos:
Tiana's Showboat Jubilee video 1
Tiana's Showboat Jubilee video 2
Tiana's Showboat Jubilee video 3
After the show was over, the boat moved on to travel around Tom Sawyer’s Island. We decided to wait near the dock to watch the “mini-parade” of characters when they returned. Here’s a short video clip:
Tiana's Showboat Jubilee video 4
I really hope they retain Tiana’s presence in the parks, either with this show or in another form. The music is infectious!
Our main goal in the MK had been met, so we rode BTMRR with our FPs and hopped on the train to enjoy a leisurely ride to the main gate. We said goodbye to the MK and boarded the monorail for the TTC. Where we sat. And sat some more. And moved out of the station 50 yards, only to sit some more. It was probably only about a 20 minute delay, but it felt like forever! Then when we did make it to the TTC, they said the arrival of the Epcot monorail would be delayed. We were not in any big rush, but we did want a little time in Epcot before we had to leave, so fortunately it was only a few minutes and we were on our way.
After arriving in Epcot, we headed toward Soarin’ to ride with our FPs from the morning. On the way we caught the always-entertaining Jammitors:
After our last trip over California on Soarin’, with our FPs from the morning, we made a quick stop in MouseGear, one of our favorite shops on property. When we left the store the D’Vine Voices were starting their show:
D'Vine Voices video
They were fine, but to be honest I would really prefer they brought back the Lights of Winter!
It was that dreaded time, time to leave the park. We did not feel too sorry for ourselves, though, since we had to stop at the concierge desk one more time, to pick up our package from yesterday and (of course) to grab a snack in the lounge before heading to the airport. We thanked everyone at the lounge and waited about 20 minutes for our DME bus. On the way to MCO the bus also stopped at CBR. We arrived just about two hours before our flight, and I could not resist one more photo op with DD at the airport:
Other than a change to the aircraft that meant our paid-for exit row seats were no longer exit row seats (I had to call the next day, but I did get a refund), the flight home was uneventful. DD and I waited for the luggage while DH braved the cold to get the van, and we made it home by 10:45, with that surreal feeling that reentering real life brings. You know, how you stand in your kitchen and think, "Was I REALLY in the Magic Kingdom this morning?!?"
Overall it was a great trip, WAY too short. I honestly think a perfect trip would be at least 10 days, just to have time to take longer breaks, swim, visit resorts, and still not feel we have missed time in the parks! We knew we would have a blast with the time we did have, though, and we also know we’ll be back sometime to catch things we missed on this visit.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip, and I would be happy to answer any questions anyone has!
Thanks for sharing Sue! I still get that magical feeling when I think of our
trip. We were at Fort Wilderness from 12/11-12/18. That was my first time to
WDW ever.... at 55... We loved the discounts we received for being retired
Military(Army). We enjoyed our trip so much we are headed bad next Dec.
Thanks for sharing your trip.
Great tr! You take some great pictures. I really liked the ones of your DD where you had older ones in the same spot for comparison - I think I might start that tradition this trip. :)
Thanks for taking the time to share with us. I only hope we get your magic for a CL upgrade at the Poly for our two day add-on! :)
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