Travel dates: May 12, 2012
Travel method: Bus (yawn)
Accommodations: Bus (yawn)
Ages Represented in Group: Adults
Disney Resort Experience Represented in Group: N/A
After a few years (!) away, my bride and I had an opportunity to get down to DLR/DCA for a one-day experience as school chaperones, so we couldn't very well pass that up! Plus, we were sans kids for once, so it was a bit of a "date day" in the parks!
Crowds were light in the morning at DLR - we did the counterclockwise route by going straight to Pirates and Mansion - both had 5-minute waits at best. We grabbed a FastPass for Indy before hitting the two attractions mentioned, then got back to Indy for maybe a 10-minute FastPass wait.
We grabbed my bride a FastPass for Thunder Mountain, then took in the Mark Twain, which she had never done and if I have, it was decades since I was last on it. We then split up so she could return to TMR while I hit the Tiki Room. I forgot that you could bring in your Dole Whips and such, so I lost a chance to experience one on this trip.
As chaperones, we had meal vouchers given to us and didn't really want to slug it out with the masses in the parks, so we walked over to Storytellers Cafe at the Grand Californian for a really good lunch - we both had their grilled chicken sandwich and a tasty dessert. Bravo!
Following that, we grabbed some "juice" for our phones in the Grand California lobby, which was necessary as we were needed shortly after at First Aid in DCA. I won't get into details about that except to say the staff there was very helpful.
As for DCA, the front half of the park remains walled up pending opening of Cars Land, and since it had been a while since being at the parks, we weren't prepared for the traffic patterns being what they are, but no big deal. We *did* make sure to hit the new Ariel attraction twice, which I'd say is the best of the newer dark attractions (Pooh, Monsters, etc)...speaking of the latter, we waited about 15 minutes to get on Monsters after cashing in FastPasses for Soarin'.
BTW, speaking of Cars Land, the backdrops you *can* see look positively EPIC.
With dinner beckoning and vouchers to use, we again decided to steer clear of the parks and make for the resorts...it bears noting that we *did* want to eat at Napa Rose or Blue Bayou (okay, one park diner), but having not made advance reservations, they were booked solid (we called all day in the hopes of a cancellation). We used a combination of the Railroad and Monorail to get us over to the DH, hoping we'd find something there (the vouchers weren't good along Downtown Disney). Lesson for noobs: Make fine dining reservations as far out (60 days, I believe) as possible.
After checking our options at the DH, we decided to look at the Tangaroa Terrace, but weren't impressed with touch-screen ordering and limited menu options, and with Steakhouse 55 booked, we then called ahead to make sure we could get in over at the PCH Grill at Paradise Pier Hotel before (more) walking.
Bad news there - Despite having a really friendly server at PCH Grill, we both found our New York Steaks to be rather flavorless and not prepared as we requested, plus the potatoes were lumpy. We would have complained if we were paying, but we just let it go. I'm not even sure the steaks were New York cuts as they certainly weren't as tender as the server bragged they would be.
The server team returned with a Mickey-shaped Happy Birthday chocolate brownie for my wife and sang to her - she was sporting a button for the occasion - but we were shocked to find there was no taste to the brownie whatsoever..and I mean No taste. Only the berry-flavored sauce on top had any flavor.
Have to say, between the dinner and dessert, we both left wondering if there was a certain monetary/lodging threshold one had to cross before one could experience really good Disney resort food - we can't speak for the DH, but we *did* have good food at Grand Californian, so maybe that's the threshold.
With a quick round of souvenir shopping at Paradise Pier Hotel and only a few hours left before we had to get back to the bus, we were torn between heading to DCA so my wife could ride CA Screamin' and so both of us could hit Toy Story Midway Mania...or should we try to get to Fantasyland (which we forgot about) to hit a few attractions before fireworks would close it down. We decided on the latter and by the time we got back, Fantasyland had *just* closed. Oh well - next time!
By this time, the crowds were fairly heavy, but we thought perhaps we could score a FastPass for Indy and maybe catch some other attractions nearby. Well, the FastPass had been discontinued by then and lines were upwards of 50 minutes at Indy and we thought the lines might be the same for Pirates and Mansion, but we saw there was almost no lines at the Jungle Cruise, so we hopped aboard and, like most lovers of the attraction, were more interested in the newest banter from our Guide. :-)
Following that, my wife suggested we hit the Tiki Room, so we did...one very nice touch was that the Cast Member on the PA had asked two little girls (sisters) to step up to "Wake up Jose'," so that was really cute and we all rewarded them with "Applause! Applause!"
The fireworks show was mere minutes away after that, but with us really keeping an eye on the time, we went down to the railroad side of Main Street and caught about five minutes of the show before exiting. Gotta say, the audio quality for the fireworks soundtrack was really impressive - good and loud and crystal-clear.
So, there you have it -one quick trip. Hope some of you enjoyed this and picked up something helpful for your upcoming trip. As always, the Cast Members were very nice and the parks remain clean as a whistle, not to mention the landscaping was SO impressive...just a few more reasons why I won't spend money on other amusement parks - it's Disneyland or nothing!