First TR Ever: A WDW Christmas trip, and the BEST Christmas gift I've ever received.

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by MeghanEmily, Dec 28, 2016.

  1. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
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    Thank you! Yes, he did so well! He definitely knows me. I think all the castle proposals are fantastic, but we wanted something different and more intimate and he totally delivered. :) And thank you — I hardly ever paint my nails but I had a feeling this might be a special occasion. :lovestruc

    Thank you! And congrats to you and yours as well then! Will be keeping an eye out for your TR, too.

    Thank you! And thanks for reading.

    Thanks, we felt it was pretty special. :) Glad you're enjoying following! I take way too many photos, but I love looking back on them all.

    Thanks, what a kind thing to say. We're definitely enjoying the post-engagement period! Everything's very exciting.

    Thank you! And thanks for following — more to come soon.

    Thank you for the well-wishes! More to come soon!
     
  2. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
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    Day 3: Animal Kingdom, Blisters, and Changes of Plans — PART 2

    When we got back to AK that evening I had booked a FP for the safari and hoped to time it just before sunset since I’d heard the animals are often active and the ambience is nice. But when we got there things had obviously gotten backed up during the day because the FP line itself was about 30-35 minutes (standby was 80). There went my window. By the time we did the safari it was after sunset and it was dark. Lemme join the many people who think the night time safari is LAME. I love taking photos of the animals and I couldn’t get a single decent shot even with a pretty good camera and a decent understanding of how to take night photos. Most of the animals were difficult to see or not active. Another disappointment there, seeing as I had hoped for two great safaris in one day and got none, but we still had our dinner to look forward to.

    Next up N had a FP for Everest (which I love but can no longer ride. He loves it, too.) Even cooler, however, was that when we’d entered the park earlier a couple had stopped us and gave us their unused rider swap FP ticket. They said they couldn’t use it, were celebrating their 3rd wedding anniversary, and were waiting at the gate for someone special to give it to. They saw our buttons and knew that was us. How kind and cool! (If you’re reading this, thank you for your generosity!) So N got to ride Everest twice in a row with no wait. While he did that, I got to go check out the new projections shown on the Tree of Life: Amazing. Hands down my favourite thing about the park being open later.
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    N met me and watched a couple shows with me. We did a little shopping and bought some binoculars for my 7 year old cousin, and then checked in at Tiffins!

    I had been debating between Tiffins and Jiko for where to use two credits on our dining plan and went with Tiffins since it was so new and intriguing and would give us more time in the park. (Jiko will probably be next trip.) We had an excellent meal with some different things than we were used to, and I found them helpful and accommodating with food allergies. I even asked about food dye in one of the mocktails and our server went out back and read the ingredient labels on all the bottles of all the components. He got a good tip. Didn’t hurt that right before we left N spilled a full glass of water all over the table and floor and they had it cleaned up before you could say “Welcome travellers!”
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    Leaving the restaurant N could really tell how bad his blisters had gotten, but it was an otherwise amazing experience. We had taken our time through dinner and were the last to leave the restaurant. Turns out (at just after 9pm) we were actually pretty much the last to leave the whole park. I’ve never closed out a park like that before (AK is definitely the easiest!!) but it felt amazing to wander out of a completely empty park! When we got to the busses a driver from a random bus hopped out and asked us where we were going, then changed his sign and took us directly to AKL Jambo House. We joked about our “chartered bus” for the rest of the night. Once we got home, N nursed his blisters and I watched a couple rounds of the Duffy bedtime story on the TV before drowsily hitting the hay.
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    Steps for Day 3: 21826
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2017
  3. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
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    Day 4: Losing my Frog, the Taxi to Nowhere,
    and Dinin' with the Fishes - PART 1

    Good morning, Boma! I was beginning to believe that all the best days begin with a Boma breakfast, and of course, it didn't disappoint. Like the last time, we had the earliest possible seating at 7:30am, and I highly recommend it! The restaurant was almost empty, all the food was fresh, and service quick and reliable to get us park touring quickly. This experience was even better than the first because we had the most wonderful and friendly server! I wish I'd written down her name to put in a good word for her. She'd been serving at WDW for years and years, first at [maybe?] 50s Prime Time, and then here. She was super helpful and very allergy-aware (her daughter was gluten free), so she offered to get me the recipe for the famous bread pudding from the kitchen and we debated how best to modify it. With our combined expertise I think we came up with a great plan, and I can't wait to try it and see how it compares to N's new breakfast favourite. When she heard about our engagement, she launched into a hilarious and sweet story about an engagement she caused to happen at a table she had served.

    Already feeling the good vibes, we continued on that wave to Magic Kingdom for a few morning FPs I had booked, before planning to move to Epcot for dinner that night. Because N is braver and has a tougher brain than me, I'd booked him a solo FP for Space Mountain while I met Tiana and Rapunzel.
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    (Dude in the middle though!)

    I had great interactions with both princesses (much better than my highly disappointing calling-it-in interaction with Rapunzel on my last trip). Tiana was a highlight. She saw my button and asked me where my Frog was!? I assured her that he had just gone off on his own to Space Mountain, to which she responded that she and Naveen liked to have their own adventures sometimes, too. This led to some great banter about independent women and working hard for what you want. Yay, girl power! I love princesses as much as the next, but the feminist in me loves these more meaty and empowering character interactions. I love that there were probably lots of little girls that morning who had a similar chat with Tiana and left inspired.
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    My chat with Rapunzel also turned to N's disappearance, and she compared it to how she had sent Pascal off on his own to pick flowers. I hate to post such grungy photos of myself, but I had such a lovely time and the princesses look so beautiful that I've kept the photos for the memories. It's vacation!
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    I can't remember if I went to meet N or if he came to me, but our next adventure was Pirates! I have a bad habit of trying to strategically pick FPs and then end up failing miserably and walking us all over the park, so we did a little of that this morning. I had also never been on the Magic Carpets before (always arguing I wasn't missing anything because they were just like Dumbo without the associated fame), so we decided to give them a shot in the spirit of sharing new experiences. We shared a carpet with another couple about our age and we all made a fun little go of it together. The only small scare came after the ride when N looked down and had somehow managed to lose his magic band in the water! Fortunately, a cast member saved the day with a long pinchy tool, and we went on our way.

    The rest of this morning is a bit of a blur in my head, but I'm quite sure it involved the sharing of a dole whip. Strangely, out of all the ridiculous chemicals in dole whip, none of them cross paths with my allergies. Score!

    We had a FP for Splash next, but it was much cooler than earlier in the trip...so of course we decided to go anyway! I'm not usually one for public displays of affection, but I knew N would love having this photo as a cute keepsake, so I surprised him with the idea...(we're in the back.) Sorry to the folks in our log who may not have wanted this in their photo, but I think it's cute. ...Also, it mostly just meant I was screaming directly into his face. Oops.
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    We had planned to do lunch at MK, but knowing we'd be back the next day and seeing the crowd level rising, we decided to grab a popcorn to share, hop on the train to the front of the park, and make an impromptu trip back to the Lodge. (We can't manage a single day without an afternoon break, it seems!)

    Our lunch was at the Mara at AKL, which was quite good but nothing special. I'm sure we would have been more impressed if we'd gone with something a little more exotic, but we both ate burgers. While there though we had the craziest experience, which just reinforced my theory that "people are at their best and worst on vacation." We were paying for our meals with a lovely cast member, when all of a sudden an angry woman came up to her and started verbally attacking her because someone had brought their dog on-leash into the restaurant. I assume it was a service animal since I don't believe pets are generally allowed in WDW hotels, but I'm not sure. When the cast member explained that the dog was actually allowed in the restaurant and pretty much everywhere on the public areas of the property, the woman became even more out of control and started yelling at her about how "That's disgusting!" and how dogs poop and vomit, etc. N had wanted to tell her that kids do the same thing, but I think it's for the best he kept that to himself. When the CM directed her to her manager that took the wind out of her empty-threat-sails, and she stormed off. We sympathized with the CM, who whispered something about the lady needing "a chill pill." I commented that it was called the "ANIMAL Kingdom Lodge," and had she not noticed that? We laughed about it and were on our way.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
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  5. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
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    Day 4: Losing my Frog, the Taxi to Nowhere,
    and Dinin' with the Fishes - PART 2


    While eating our burgers from our giraffe-frequented balcony...
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    ...I remembered that we had been talking about trying to get to Typhoon Lagoon and figured we'd have enough time for a short visit before our dinner at Epcot if we took a cab. The stakes were even higher on this because I have a personal preference for TL over Blizzard Beach, and on our last trip the former was closed for refurb, so BB was our only option. It was a priority this time, and was only open until Christmas Eve before its refurb. We got changed, checked the hours again on the app, and went down to get a cab. The door guy asked us where we were going, and so did the cab driver. At no point did anyone tell us the waterpark was closed until we'd racked up a $20 cab ride and arrived at an empty park. When the guard at the park told us it was closed and it wouldn't open again until the next morning, the cab driver agreed, "Yes, the waterpark is closed." Would have been great to have known that! So he turned around and drove us back to our hotel again, another $20. It was hot in the vehicle and I was beginning to get carsick by this point, so when we got back I lay on the bed and lamented our luck. On the upside, the time to rest didn't hurt us any, and we were refreshed and ready to go for our dinner reservation at Epcot.

    (Squeezed in a quick photopass moment at the AKL Christmas tree...)
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    I can't seem to recall whether we squeezed in the Finding Nemo ride before or after our dinner. My notes make me inclined to believe it was after? Either way, it happened. This was pretty convenient, however, since our dinner was at the Coral Reef Restaurant.

    I know Coral Reef has gotten a lot of mixed reviews in past (though I think the inconsistency with the food has been ironed out a bit recently, and our last few meals here have been delicious,) but this was one of the best meals of our last trip (N's favourite, hands down, always the lover of sea life...) and we were both looking forward to it. I had, in fact, been expecting he might propose on this trip and had figured he would have done it here. We requested it, and while weren't seated directly against the tank like our last trip, we were on the lowest level with a great view.

    Chef Nathan was awesome! He came out to discuss my allergies, and agreed to modify the mahi mahi dish so I could eat it, as well as offering me a list of off-menu safe desserts. (We also thought we had a cool connection since he and N share a first name.) I had the same octopus appetizer as our last trip, and it was so fresh-tasting. N tried shrimp and grits for the first time (Come on, guys, we're from the North...) All in all, a lovely meal.
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    After dinner we had the rest of the evening ahead of us, but we were both zonked. I had one errand left to run: picking up a beautiful scarf I'd seen earlier in the Morroco pavilion for my grandmother for Christmas, since she was headed on a trip to the real Morocco in the New Year. After this we returned to AKL for another important mission...caricatures.

    Many trips ago while at the World with my mom, I saw a caricature at Animal Kingdom I wanted to have done. For ages after that I didn't see that caricature anywhere when I went back to WDW, so I felt I missed my chance. Then on our last trip I saw it again on a caricature booth, and while I didn't get it done that time around, I took a photo of it for reference. This time I came armed with the photo and a plan to have N and I drawn like this:

    There was more of a line for caricatures than we were hoping for when we got there, so waiting for our turn ate up most of the rest of our early night, but it was important to me to finally have it done. This is what the artist drew for us (N requested a gorilla rather than a lion,) and while it looks quite different from the original, I'm really pleased to finally BE a giraffe! She did a great job.
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    Sleep soon followed, as we anticipated a crazy sleep-deprived day the next day...

    Steps for day 4: 20376
     
  6. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
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    Hey DISers! Lemme use this opportunity to thank everyone who had congrats and well wishes for me and N! We're both still basking in the glow a bit. You guys are awesome for following along my wordy TR while I try to deal with the post-WDW depression! On that note: another update!


    Day 5: Sleep is Overrated and Other Christmas Stuff - Part 1

    So day 5 was our last full Disney day before we made the switch the Universal Studios the following evening, and we'd planned it as a Magic Kingdom day. In planning it this way I thought it would be a tripple whammy: We had tickets to the last Christmas part of the season that night, the park was estimated to be less busy during the day because of early closing for MVMCP that night, and there were also morning EMH at 7:00am...but that meant I was being more than a little crazy...in planning to do a MK day from 7:00am to midnight!!

    After our "early night" the night before hadn't ended up being so very early at all, we made the decision before bed to forgo morning magic hours in order to get some sleep (our breakfast reservation wasn't until around 9:30) and be able to make it through the party that night. I even set our morning alarm for late, and we hit the hay...

    But the morning of day 5 I had a super-early-accidental-wake-up around 6:10am (so much for sleeping in!) In that moment I had the crazy thought that if I stayed up and woke N, we could get ready as fast as possible and still make EMH...so I woke him, told him what time it was, and asked him what he thought we should do. In response I got some kind of half-asleep-grunted version of "Whatever you want to do..." ...so off we went! We were out the door 15 minutes later.

    As we were speed-walking to the bus stop I noticed it was already almost 6:30, and that if we didn't catch a bus soon, or if we just missed one, then we may have wasted all our speedy-getting-ready-energy for nothing. When we were in viewing distance of the bus stop we noticed that there was a MK bus just about to pull out! We sprinted to catch it and made it to the park just before 7am to catch the end of the welcome show. (I'm not sure I knew they did this for EMH? I've only done morning EMH at MK a handful of times I guess. Is this a regular thing, guys?)

    I could tell on the bus that N was sleepy and still a little unsure about our early morning adventure, especially after the bus sprint. I apologized to him, and told him I hoped he'd find it worth it. I think by the time we got to breakfast and had already done a bunch of our priorities, he was feeling much better about the whole thing! (Either that, or he was faking it for me by that point because he knows I like to be right. He's a good boy.)

    (This is morning, not night time. That's how early I made the poor boy get up.)
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    We went straight to Peter Pan first. I had a FP later that day, but I wanted to see the new queue line (which I always miss since I always use FP.) It was kinda neat, and I'm glad we could go through it with such a short wait and use our FP for something else later.

    After that we made a bee-line for Winnie the Pooh! This may seem like a silly priority for some (though I've noticed its wait times seemed to jump a lot since the introduction of 7DMT...possibly since the rides are so close and people go straight from one to the other?) but this was special to us since it was N's first ride at Disney! Last trip we did Fantasyland first thing on our first day, and that just ended up being where we started. This time? Still adorable. Cute moment for us.

    Then we knocked off the Little Mermaid ride....

    ...Side note rant: Nothing makes me angrier at Disney [except maybe slow-walking groups that span the whole walkway,] than people who don't follow simple rules. Do people think that somehow they're so important on vacation that they're above the rules the rest of us abide by?? As long as you're English-speaking (like this offending group), there's no excuse. The worst offence of all in my book is people who take flash photos in dark rides and ruin the experience for everyone else! We had a family of those on this ride, and if our clam shells weren't so inconveniently spaced I definitely would have asked them to turn the flash off. I totally commit to the suspension of disbelief thing at Disney and every camera flash jolts you back to reality. Come on, guys. And also, flash makes those photos look terrible anyway. End rant.

    After this we went over to Dumbo and just missed a group being let on to the ride. Which was fine. We waited...and were rewarded! We were the only ones on the next ride! I have a great iPhone video now where I'm filming this and yelling "WE'RE THE ONLY ONES ON THE RIDE! THE ONLY ONES!"

    (THE ONLY ONES!!)
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    Next I convinced N to do Space Mountain again since I knew he was itching to, even though he didn't want to leave me on my own. I got a popcorn and chowed down. Managed just fine! From there we did Buzz, and I was thrilled to FINALLY get my Galactic Hero status. I was sad there wasn't a button for it anymore, but they gave me a certificate instead. Totally deserved.
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    We got in Haunted Mansion (a big fave, especially for N. Even more so since the last trip we dashed in during a nighttime downpour to ride it during the rain and they let us stay on another ride until the skies cleared.) Then It's a Small World (I'm sorry, I know it's terrible, but I HATE this ride. I know I shouldn't. Sorry.) And then Pirates.

    Photos were taken on the way back from Fantasyland...
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    Would just like to point out that this was all before 9:30am!! Yay EMH! N was convinced at this point. (Would this prove to be a bad idea by the time the party rolled around that night? Soon to be discovered...)

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  7. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
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    Day 5: Sleep is Overrated and Other Christmas Stuff - Part 2

    I love characters, and I LOVE breakfast. Best meal of the day. Why not roll them into one!? So along with Tusker House earlier in the trip, I decided to book Crystal Palace for this day (a new experience for N.) I know some people book an early breakfast to get into the park early and get photos, which is awesome when there aren't early EMH. I, however, like to book a late breakfast either way (even though it feels an hour later for us and we're always starving by then) so I can do park things early before the crowds arrive, and then go in for breakfast as soon as it starts picking up (but without having to get up extra early for breakfast to do it.) This breakfast was for 9:30, and the park was only just starting to get busy. It was delish (my allergy food was, at least.) N enjoyed it too, but he noticed a common theme at CP: a million different options for carbs. So. many. pastries.
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    My mom had gotten me an assortment of Winnie the Pooh socks for Christmas and I chose my Eeyore socks for that day (my favourite character of the bunch.) The real Eeyore was appropriately pleased, (as pleased as a depressed donkey can be in the morning.)
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    After breakfast we still had a bit of time before the end of our first FP window (Mine Train!) and we wanted some time for our stomachs to settle (since I'm a wimp with a less-than-steel-stomach), so we did Monster's Inc. We both like this little show, which I think is totally underrated, and we seemed to have an especially good audience with enthusiastic/funny audience participants. One woman told the monsters that her family had left her (gotten split up and sat further back in the theatre) and they were shocked, saying "At Christmas?!" Really cute.

    We got on 7DMT next, and it didn't bother me as much as I remember it doing our last trip. As you all probably know, it's faster than Big Thunder, but smoother, and has the rocking motion in the cars. Big Thunder is usually the most intense ride I can handle with my brain condition, but I really wanted to try 7DMT last time since it would be new to me...I did, and I got a headache/dizzy, but I thought it was fun enough and short enough to do it again this time. Glad I did! This time I didn't have any real symptoms at all. I know people complain it's short, but I really like this ride. (Wouldn't wait 180 minutes for it or anything though.) I don't think it deserves the hype it still has, but the animatronics are awesome, and some of the drops are actually kind of intense for wimps like me. Fun!
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    At this point we had a FP coming up for Big Thunder, but had some time to kill. We walked over there and N FINALLY tried a Mickey sandwich.

    Background info: my mom and I are totally pro-sandwich over chocolate-dipped Mickey bar, and I wanted N to join our side. Verdict? He likes them both. I feel like he told me the sandwich was better to placate me, but I don't think he has a preference. What about you guys? Sandwich or bar? Begin debating!

    We did our Big Thunder FP, and then I still had our PP FP to change from earlier. There wasn't much available at this point for immediate riding, and I wanted something we could squeeze in close to our BOG lunch, so we picked Little Mermaid again and took the train over to Fantasyland.

    We had done dinner at Be Our Guest last time, and N really enjoyed it. We couldn't fit it in this time so we settled for lunch instead. Everything was pretty good, but I could tell by his total lack of appetite that N was starting to lose steam at this point from our early morning. Solution? The afternoon break. But, of course. I hadn't planned to break that day, but we would both need it if we were going to get through the whole party that night.
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  8. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
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    Day 5: Sleep is Overrated and Other Christmas Stuff - Part 3

    You'll be shocked to hear that I took more photos during our afternoon break! I had taken lots of giraffe pictures, but not many of the resort itself. This was my chance. (...and of course, more giraffes, too. But you've already seen lots of them, and there'll be more later.)
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    After some photos and a bit of a rest, we were ready to hit the ground running again and make the most of the evening! I had booked dinner at Ohana that night based on great reviews, which was brand new for both of us. We took the first bus to arrive that would put us in that direction: it ended up being Epcot. Then we took the monorail (N's first time, and my first time in about a decade) to the TTC and to the Poly...
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    ...We were early for our reservation so we wandered and took some photos. I was beginning to think booking this dinner was a mistake...N fell madly in love with the resort and wants to stay here now! Totally not in the budget! But someday we'll make it happen, at least on a split stay, or renting elusive DVC points, or something.
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    Dinner. Woah. I would DEFINITELY come back here again with a group. For two, it was almost overwhelming how much food was presented to us. So much pressure! It was even worse because I have allergies, so they brought out two entire giant plates of appetizers prepared differently for each of us...

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    (Regular)
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    ...Everything was good, though I had been feeling a little ill that night (probably the long day taking its toll) and wasn't up to stuffing myself. I also felt a little iffy the whole evening about whether my allergies were being accommodated very well. I didn't feel like the chef and I totally understood each other, but I was so tired and everything they brought looked ok, so I didn't worry too much about it...until dessert...
    (This was supposed to be a "small piece" for just Nathan...)
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    ...Ohana has its signature dessert, which they brought to N (I was allergic, which was fine by me.) However, the chefs had prepared another little surprise for us! They had seen our buttons and gifted us with our first free desert of the trip! ...Crème brûlée! ...wait a minute...crème brûlée is made with cream...which is definitely dairy. Turns out the chef had remembered I was gluten free, but he'd totally forgotten about the dairy until after they made a big production of bringing it to the table and telling me all about how I could eat it, and I, embarrassed, quietly corrected them.
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    We felt terrible! They went to all the trouble, and then the chef felt so bad... ...so bad in fact, that he had his assistant bring out fruit and melted chocolate for a fondue-type dessert for me! ...it gets worse. Apparently she was bringing it out and had it almost to my table...when she realized she'd made it with the wrong kind of chocolate which had dairy in it. Oh no! She went back to the kitchen and started over again with different chocolate. Shoot! ...so you can imagine how badly I felt when I was too stuffed to eat it, and had to ask for a box to take the fruit with me.
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    I had something I wanted to pick up in the gift shop, so I asked N to wait for our DDP bill to come back and sign it while I bought my little cousin a gift. When he met me by the monorail a few minutes later, he had a look of horror and misery in his eyes. He had been totally stuffed before dessert, and then was given two desserts including his portion of the crème brûlée. He looked at me and told me that he'd felt so bad for the chef...that he ate my crème brûlée, too, so we wouldn't have to leave it there uneaten. I don't think I've ever seen him so full and miserable after a meal. Word of advice for Ohana: stuff yourself with caution.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2017
  9. thumper*

    thumper* Disney Dreamer

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    Congratulations on the engagement, how romantic. We love AKL we stayed there our last 2 times down there. I love your Characters how cute and original. That taxi ride...that's just nuts. Not only can I not wait to read the rest I'm excited to read your Disneymoon TR. Congratulations and may all your Disney Dreams come true.
     
  10. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

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    Thank you! AKL has definitely become a new favourite for us! I'm sure we'll be back again. I couldn't believe our bad luck with the cab ride! :mad: Oh well. Things happen I guess. It was pretty minor in the scheme of things. I'm already starting to plan and looking forward to the Disneymoon and its TR! Good to know I may have a reader or two already :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
  11. xlsm

    xlsm Snow White

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    I didn't realize I'd missed so much of your report!!

    First, you guys are adorable, and you looked cute with Tiana and Rapunzel!! Tiana is one of my favorite Disney princesses, and I agree about being drawn to the more powerful, independent types. It's what I loved so much about Moana.

    Your pictures of the AKL lobby are so pretty! I can't wait to stay there!! I'm nervous about room location, mainly for my mother-in-law's sake (I want to keep her in a good mood!). We have a 730 Boma reservation on our first park day, and I'm excited about that too.

    And i'm sorry about all the dessert mix ups at 'Ohana, but it's so sweet they brought out the special things you the two of you. They're always on top of things there. We've done two trips for the boys and my husbands birthdays, and they always get extra desserts. But nothing as cute as those creme brulee!

    I envy your pretty picture of the Poly tree...there were so many people in the way the day we were there. I love the flowers on it.
     
  12. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
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    Day 5: Sleep is Overrated and Other Christmas Stuff - Part 4

    I think we probably both felt like rolling over and going to sleep then, but we had a party to attend! I figured it would be crazy trying to get in right around 7 at the party's official start time, but the lines moved quickly. Once we got inside I wasn't sure what to do first. I had a loose touring plan in mind ahead of time, but we decided not to push too hard and just go with the flow. It felt soo crowded, especially around Main Street, which makes sense since it was the last party and totally sold out.
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    We started by watching A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas, simply because it was about to begin when we walked by. I think N enjoyed this even more than I did. The dancers and singers were super tight, which is important to me since I did my degree in music and have a fair bit of amateur theatre experience. And the story was cute. I had seen it a few years ago and couldn't tell if anything had changed or not, but still a great show.
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    I wanted to catch the whole Frozen-Elsa-Lights-Up-The-Castle-In-Ice thing, but didn't want to get stuck in the crowds just yet, so we watched from a little out of the way.
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    Then we made our way over to Frontierland to try to catch part of the early parade in case I was too tired later to make it through the late parade, but crowds were so crazy we didn't really see much and decided to leave before it was over. Instead we did a couple favourite rides again with short wait times: Big Thunder, Pirates...and I know there were more of them, but even when we went to make our notes the next morning we couldn't remember.
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    I was really intent on having a good place for both Holiday Wishes and the late parade that we could keep for both so we could enjoy them and I could try to get some decent photos. (For the record, fireworks photos turned out marginally ok without a tripod or anything. Parade photos were all TERRIBLE. Oh well. My camera is pretty useless at night with a moving target compared to other/better SLRs.) I forget when we sat down, but it was probably about a half hour before Wishes.
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    After the fireworks we had something like 45 minutes to kill before the parade, and I wanted to keep our front-row-viewing spot on Main Street. At this point the whole street was already packed and all the spots were taken. We were both falling asleep fast, and I knew this could be a problem to stay awake that long, let alone enjoy the parade. (This is the point where EMH were no longer worth it. It was always going to be a toss-up. Now we knew.)

    Then, just when we needed it most...! We met nice strangers! This is something I love about vacation, especially at Disney, and that makes me feel like I've gone back in time a bit to an idyllic kinder time before social media, and when parents felt comfortable letting their kids play in the neighborhood, etc. The man beside us (and his wife when she returned from getting food) chatted us up for almost 45 minutes. They told us they were from North Carolina (originally Georgia) and were on a trip testing out Disney for the first time and figuring things out before bringing their two kids. He was going back to seminary school, I think to do his Masters? Maybe PhD? She stayed at home with their kids. They asked us about our engagement and about my Disney knowledge. We had a great chat! I don't think we even got their names...so if you're reading this, thanks for the good conversation, and we'd love to get in touch again!

    The only other issue at this point was that, while we were chatting with the nice couple...I could feel my body betraying me. Ok, so backup here: this fall/winter I had gotten three different cold/flu viruses, one after the other, in the span of 2 months. I was just getting better from the last one before our trip, when I noticed I was starting to get a scratchy throat again...I refused to give in to getting sick again, so I fought it off and took great care of myself, and it was starting to clear up again and not get any worse by the time we left for Disney a few days later. Well apparently our crazy long/tired day was just too much for my body and it gave up the fight. By the time the parade started I had a roaring sore throat (a good 6-7 days after it had all started,) and I would continue to have a terrible cold for the rest of the trip and through till we got home again with family, lasting past New Years.

    On the upside, the parade was just as wonderful as I remembered it being. I was glad N had a front-row seat to experience it for his first time.
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    Once it was over, we dodged the crowds for a bit to shop in the Emporium, but we were so tired at that point that we didn't have the energy to cram anything else in, and we hit the buses. It was time for a legitimate full night's sleep, before we embarked on our last few Disney adventures (which turned out to be some of the best ever!!) and continued on to Universal.

    I'm glad N got to experience his first MVMCP, but I don't think I'd necessarily buy tickets again, at least not for a party likely to sell out. I remember going to a party about 4 years ago with my mom, and it was also the last party of the season and totally sold out, yet I don't remember it feeling nearly so crowded and congested. Maybe we just spent less time on Main Street that night or something, or maybe they've serrrriously increased the cap on the tickets they sell now, but I remember it feeling a lot more exclusive and it being easier to see and do things. I still like the parties, but with them getting more and more expensive, I don't know whether I'll go to another any time soon.

    Steps for day 5: 27283
     
  13. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2016
    Messages:
    47
    Thanks!! Yeah, I've been dumping massive updates on here whenever I get the chance while it's still fresh in my brain, but it doesn't make it very reader-friendly! :upsidedow

    Our room at AKL was a bit of a hike from the lobby even though we requested that it be close to the lobby, so that was a bit frustrating, but we didn't end up minding it too much. And I'm sure she'll love Boma! There's so much variety that anyone can find something.
     
  14. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2016
    Messages:
    47
    Day 6: A "Magical Moment" to End All
    "Magical Moments" and Transfer Time - PART 1

    ...Okay, so when I last left you we were seriously sleepy, I was quickly becoming sick as a dog, and we were off to sleep with visions of sugarplums, a few last-minute Disney adventures, and some Universal fun on the way...

    So I was dumb to try to cram so much into the previous day, but I'm not totally crazy. I booked our breakfast reservation at Boma for a bit later that morning to get a little extra sleep. But the only downside was that the service and the freshness of the food at 8:45ish could never quite stand up to the 7:30 experience. Good to know. We still had a great meal all things considering, and then headed back to the room to pack. Once everything was packed up we left our bags with Bell Services—I had never done this before. So easy and convenient!—and left for some last-minute magic.

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    I had left this day pretty open in our plans to see what we wanted to do. Our only contraints were a lunch at T-Rex and a dinner back at Boma when we picked up our bags. Initially I'd wanted to try to get our missed Typhoon Lagoon experience in here somewhere, but we both ended up deciding that our disappointments from our Animal Kingdom outweighed that, so I booked us a FP that morning for the safari, and one for Nemo (my favourite live show of all time at WDW, which we'd also missed) for the afternoon. It seemed pretty busy to cram it all in that way with Disney Springs in the middle, but it was the only way that would work.

    When we got back to the Africa section, you'll never guess who we ran into again!!...

    In the words of the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor crew: "THAT GUY!"
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    He was in the middle of a show, but he recognized us walking by and did one of those "look me in the eye" motions where you point back and forth from your eyes to theirs, and then he raised up 10 fingers. *Shudders at the thought of 10 kids when I can't even keep track of myself.*

    Just after passing him by, the MOST MAGICAL THING happened. (Well, the second-most-magical thing of the whole trip if you're counting the whole proposal thing.) We were stopped by two strangers. Their names were Davis and Becky, and they rocked our worlds.

    We were on our way to the safari when a man in full safari gear (Davis) stops us and the following conversation happens:

    Davis: Are you going to the safari?
    Me: Yes...
    D: ...well...do you have fastpasses?
    Me: ...Yes... (beginning to get nervous that he's about to tell me the ride has broken down, or something terrible has happened...)
    D: ...Well, if you'd both be willing to give up your fastpasses...
    Me: (thinking) No way! Absolutely no way! This is my LAST chance on this trip to get a possibly decent safari, and it's like my favourite experience at WDW, and we almost missed it, NO WAY am I giving it up. I don't care how selfish I'm going to sound! (opens mouth to speak...)
    D: ...then you could come with us instead on a private hour-long safari in our truck where you can ask us anything you want: about the animals, about Disney, about our personal lives...
    Me: ...! ...what's the catch...?
    D: (laughs) There's no catch! We call it a "magical moment."
    Me: (looks at N, who's looking at me like we'd be crazy to say no.) Yeah! Absolutely!

    Turns out that when the guides from Wild Africa Trek have nobody booked on a tour they'll sometimes pick someone random and do a safari experience with them. We happened to be walking by at exactly the right moment and they saw our buttons. They thought it was awesome that they happened to pick some of the most animal-happy people possible, that N had even proposed at the Lodge, and that we had made a special morning trip back to AK on our very last day for nothing but the safari. And we thought it was awesome that they were so awesome.
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    I could write a trip report about the whole experience, but I'll try to keep it brief-ish. They took us kinda backstage-ish where the Wild Africa Trek people go to board a smaller safari truck, and we had an awesome private driver named Rene who took us around the savanna and stopped wherever Davis and Becky asked her to.
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    Davis was from Georgia, Becky from Delaware, and they both seemed to really love their jobs. They told us all about life working at Disney and living near Orlando, and they were a wealth of knowledge about the animals. When we were just getting settled and getting to know them I thought it would be an awkward hour with just the four of us because at first it was hard to think of questions for them, but once we got talking and taking photos the time absolutely flew!
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    No matter how many Disney trips I take, this will always be one of the best experiences I've ever had there, and it makes me excited to start saving up to try to do WAT on our honeymoon.
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    Last edited: Jan 17, 2017 at 9:05 PM
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  15. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2016
    Messages:
    47
    ATTENTION: we interrupt your regular programming to bring you...

    A spamming of photos from the free photo CD I received after our magical moment! When they take people out like this they give them a CD of some of their best photos taken of the animals on various treks, etc. For your enjoyment:

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  16. xlsm

    xlsm Snow White

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2013
    Messages:
    2,147
    OH, what an awesome special surprise!! I love that you had that Magical Moment on your proposal trip :lovestruc:lovestruc
     
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  17. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2016
    Messages:
    47
    It was the BEST surprise! :) We were very grateful!
     
  18. HumblePie

    HumblePie Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2013
    Messages:
    105
    Wow! That is amazing!
     
  19. Jenny Sanders

    Jenny Sanders DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,283
    What an AWESOME moment!!!!
     
  20. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2016
    Messages:
    47
    Yes, it was pretty awesome! Davis said it would shock us how many people say no when they ask them. Even after they explain that it's really just a cool free thing and they're not trying to sell them anything, etc. I can't imagine!
     
  21. MeghanEmily

    MeghanEmily Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2016
    Messages:
    47
    Day 6: A "Magical Moment" to End All
    "Magical Moments" and Transfer Time - PART 2


    So last post we'd just finished our magical private safari! The only downside to this was that it meant we were cutting it closer than I wanted to for our lunch way over in Disney Springs, and since I knew we couldn't get a bus directly from AK and couldn't guarantee the busses would run on schedule, we ended up taking a cab. Oh well. Worth it.

    As far as Disney dining goes, or any dining for that matter, I'm not a huge Landry's fan. I loved Rainforest Cafe as a kid for the atmosphere, but now the restaurants tend to feel crowded and overstimulating, and the food is sometimes sub-par, especially for an allergy diner. Just my opinion though. On our last trip we did both Rainforest and T-Rex for N's benefit since he'd never been, and what do you know? He loved them both. This time I compromised and told him to pick one out of the two, and he picked T-Rex.
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    Our meal here was fine...
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    ...but I was more looking forward to an excuse to do a little shopping and to begin my new Tsum Tsum collection:
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    After the shops (and after stocking WAY up on allergy-friendly treats with extra snack credits at Erin McKenna's) we had a little extra time before we needed to get back to AK, so we decided to find the new bus terminal and take a bus to whichever moderate resort was closest and explore it. (It was a new random goal for us to explore the moderates, partly because N has never been to any, and partly because we figured we'd stay at one for our honeymoon.) Finding the bus terminal was no simple task! We kept being told to go find ___ landmark, and then turn right (or left? I already can't remember.) We'd go find it, and then see nothing, ask someone else, and they'd tell us the exact same thing but insert a different landmark in the blank. Finally we found it and hopped a bus to French Quarter.

    I had no intention of staying at French Quarter for our wedding even though I like it a lot (for a list of reasons I won't go into)...BUT I knew they had gelato for N, and gluten free beignets for me, and we could walk to Riverside and kill two birds with one stone...or two resorts with one bus ride. So that's exactly what we did.
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    When we finished at Riverside we didn't have to wait too long for an AK bus, and we were off to our Nemo FP. I'm glad we checked those resorts out because I enjoyed them, but it helped me narrow down our wedding pick to either Coronado Springs or Caribbean Beach, depending on what deals we can get, etc. On the bus to AK I called my mom and told her about our awesome safari!

    The Nemo show is one of my favourite things at Disney. The performance quality is SO stellar. I could rave all day, but I won't. If you haven't seen it and you have even the tiniest interest in live shows, please go. For me. And I know you absolutely don't need a FP for this show, but we weren't going to be using FP for anything else that day anyway, and I find sometimes you get better seats for taking pictures when you use FP here.

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    I was a little disappointed with my photos from this show. Some turned out ok for the quality of camera I was working with in such low light with moving targets and no tripod, etc, etc, but I'd gotten much better photos of the show on our last visit with my little Canon Powershot point-and-shoot camera. Like this one, for reference, which ended up being one of my favourite shots from the trip last time:
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    Now I'm definitely planning to bring the point-and-shoot along for our next (Disneymoon) trip.

    Next we bused back to AKL for our last Disney dinner which would be at Boma. We decided on dinner here because we were testing it out as a possible reception alternative for our small wedding. We arrived early for dinner, so we went outside to take photos and visit with the animals one last time. It ended up being really sweet, because 3-4 of the giraffes ended up coming out closer to us than they had the whole time we were there, almost as if saying goodbye and giving us one last awesome Disney experience.
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    We got in quickly for our reservation. While it wasn't N's favourite meal of the trip, we both agreed that it would probably be a good fit for the most people in our group. The oxtail stew was one of my favourite things here that was safe with my allergies. And at the end of the meal there weren't any desserts I could eat, so the chef (Chris, maybe?) made me something special. He brought it to the table and said "You're never too old for a Mickey sundae."
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    Ok, so new story. I decided to save some money and use Uber for our first time instead of a cab, but N was a little wary of it. He was like "Isn't it just taking a ride from a total stranger?" I explained what I had researched to him and why I thought it was safe and worth paying less than half the cab fare to Universal Studios, and he seemed to still be a little uncomfortable but mostly on board. We got our driver assigned to us in the app, and I was like "Look! Here's his picture. His name is Michael and he's got 5 stars!" He arrives, gets out to shake our hands, and the drive commences. Turns out he's a nice guy and a good driver...but he tells us he's 21 years old, and this is "only his second day!" I could see N almost burst out laughing and give me an I-told-you-so look in the back seat. The driver was following his GPS on his phone and got lost trying to find the front entrance of the hotel a few times, but otherwise we arrived unscathed.

    We checked in at Royal Pacific, managed to figure out the ticket and Express Pass machines with only a few hiccups, and set our alarms for nice and early for tomorrow morning's early entry.

    Steps for day 6: 20770
     

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