This was our first trip using our DVC points since joining last Spring. At the time I bought into DVC I already had cash reservations for June, August, & October trips, which I held onto and made those trips at non-DVC resorts. I also had a reservation for Dixie Landings for early December, which I canceled when I booked this trip. Our friends Sheila & Colin (we met them when the boys were on the same little league team 2 years ago) had never been to WDW during the holiday season, so we booked a 1 bedroom unit and invited them to join us. We also decided to make this a Food & Fun trip. Being a FL resident, I always buy either a FL Resident Seasonal or an Annual Pass - which means I was never eligible for Food & Fun because I never bought a package which included park passes. However, one of the DVC member benefits is we can buy Food & Fun without having to buy park passes! In light of the changes to the F&F program for 1998, I knew that 1997 would be my last chance to try F&F (the 1998 changes stink IMHO). We bought it primarily for the recreation, knowing that it would be impossible for us to spend the whole "Food" part. At the end of this trip report I'll try to remember to summarize the things we were most happy we did, along with any things we regret having tried. I'll also recap the total spent on the Food and the Fun portions of the trip.
DAY 1 - SATURDAY 12/20/97:
Chris & I hit the road from Ft Myers around 7 am. We were staying outside WDW tonight, and starting the "real" vacation tomorrow. Sheila & Colin were driving to her parents' house in Sebring, where they would spend the night before joining us early tomorrow morning. The parents had also agreed to keep her dog during the vacation. We arrived at the Comfort Inn Main Gate at 10, and were able to get our room. It was your basic cheap motel, but I had gotten a coupon out of our Sunday paper & got the room for $25. I figured we could stand it for one night, and it was only a mile outside WDW. After tossing the suitcase in the room, we drove over to Belz Outlets at the end of International Drive. Surprisingly, traffic on I-4 was not too bad. Considering this was the Saturday before Christmas, I really expected things to be worse than normal. First stop was the Character Warehouse, because I'd read on the message boards that DVC shirts were on sale there. Sure enough, I found several on the side wall. Most were large or extra large (I need small or maybe medium), but I did find a medium one in navy blue with long sleeves & the OKW logo embroidered on it for $7.99 (regularly $30 or $34). I also bought a yellow short sleeve henley with the characters coming out of the buttoned area for $12.99 (regularly $34 or $30). Next we walked across the parking lot to the other mall & found the Character Premiere. This store had much of the same merchandise, plus a little more non-clothing items. The merchandise seemed less crowded together, and shopping was more pleasant. I had asked at CW if I could return one of my shirts at CP if I found something I liked better, and was told that I could. I didn't end up finding anything in my size that I liked better, so I just kept what I had. I'd promised Chris we could look for the sandals he wanted after I did my shopping, so we ended up at Foot Locker where he bought a pair of rubber Nike sandals for $29.99 and a pair of Nike socks to complete the look.
We left Belz, and I was planning to stop by Williamsburg Realty to say hi to Judy Yeary, but discovered there was not an exit from the west bound side of I-4, so I abandoned that plan as the car headed to WDW. We parked at Pleasure Island, and hopped on the bus to Coronado Springs (no wait). CS's Christmas tree was very pretty, and was in a large ceramic pot. I took a picture of it, looking up to include some of the beautiful tile in the domed ceiling above the tree. Chris was pretty hungry by then (as usual), so we went to the Pepper Market for lunch. We had eaten here in August while staying at All Star Music, and I stayed at CS with a friend for 5 days in October & ate here a few times then, so we knew it was a good place. We shared the chicken caesar salad, and Chris also had a slice of pizza - total cost $9.92 including tax & automatic gratuity.
After lunch we took the bus to MGM to renew our passes (which had expired mid-December). I decided to make mine an annual pass, but left Chris' as a FL resident seasonal. Because of the renewal rates, and MKC discount on the AP, total cost was $355.10. We'll add on Pleasure Island next time we go. I was pleased to learn that the renewed passes would not start until we actually used them to enter a park - which would not be until January since we were using our "free" park passes (from DVC) this trip. We rode the boat to Boardwalk to see their tree, which turned out to be not really worth a trip. It was nothing special. We stopped in the candy store at the Boardwalk where Chris was excited to buy some Mega Warheads candy. For those of you past adolescence, this is candy that is disgustingly awful for the first minute & then becomes good tasting. The point is to survive the awful/sour part without taking it out of your mouth until you get to the good/sweet part. Sounds strange to me, but he likes it, and it was his money. We walked around to the Beach Club, passing several groups of lunatics on surrey bikes. They had absolutely no regard for their own or anyone else's safety, and were careening down the hills screaming for people to get out of their way. A little further on we came upon a family who couldn't pedal all the way up the hill - Dad had to get off & push them the rest of the way! The Beach Club had a beautiful tree, with lots of toys that brought back childhood memories. The train was pretty good size, and it was fun to stand there & watch it awhile. We went out front & waited for the bus to Downtown Disney, and got off at the Marketplace. Chris decided to go ice skating (a rare treat for a FL kid) at $9.50 for 1.5 hours. It was pretty warm, so they had a guy with a squeegie on a long stick pushing water off the ice. The people who fell got pretty wet. While Chris was skating, I did some shopping.
My first stop was at the DVC information stand. There was a video display about Vero Beach, and I decided to go check it out. The video was controlled by a ship's wheel, and a young child was standing there playing with the wheel, so I waited behind him (hoping he'd leave). He stayed & spun the wheel, then spun it some more, then his sister came over & joined him - grabbing at the wheel, and then they started to make a move as if they were going to bang on the wheel with the side of their fists. At this point I spoke up & said "hey, don't do that" & they ran off. I then stepped up & began watching the topics I was interested in, when their mother came up to me and said "you didn't push my kids out of here, did you?" I assured her I had not touched her kids. I also told her I had waited to see this display because I am a paying customer (I own points at Vero although I have never been there) & they were just fooling around. She commented that they would only have been there a little while longer - like I should stand around twiddling my thumbs while her brats played on a piece of equipment that is not intended for them! Frankly, if she had been keeping an eye on her little kids, she should have called them back to her when I arrived, and she certainly should have seen that I had not touched them. Anyway, I was determined not to let this moron sour my day, so I turned my back to her & went back to the video. I headed to World of Disney where I bought a gold Mickey Mouse charm for a friend at work. He's a real Disney nut & when I asked if he wanted me to bring him anything from WDW that is what he asked for. It was actually a charm, but it is the same size as his tie tack & he's now wearing it on a small rope chain. Next stop was the new Ghiradelli store, where I was pleased to see them handing out a free sample like they do in the San Francisco location. Lots of people were eating ice cream sundaes, which run from $4.50 - $5.95 mostly. They also sell frozen chocolate-dipped bananas. Next was the Lego store. The lego creatures they've built are absolutely amazing - and definitely worth a look. I took a peek at the McDonalds - not real happy to see that here, then went back to check on Chris. He had enough skating after an hour, so we headed back to the Lego store so he could look around a little. We took a couple pictures of him with the lego creations. We walked over to the West Side next, which Chris had not seen before. We stopped at the magnet store, and spent awhile in the Virgin Megastore. We listened to some CD's & he was impressed with the store's size. By now it was around 4:30, and I was a little tired. We went across to Wolfgang Puck Express & bought a Chicken Caesar Sandwich on sourdough bread to go for $6.31 including tax. We drove back to the Comfort Inn, and spread out Chris' socks near the heater. The socks got soaked while ice skating.
We rested a bit, then ate our sandwich while watching the news. We decided to visit Old Town, just down highway 192 near Celebration. It was pretty crowded, and there were classic cars on display. Evidently this car show had been canceled due to bad weather the two previous weekends. There was also live music, but the crowd was kind of questionable. It seemed like everyone was walking around with a can of beer & a cigarette in their hands. For those people who claim Pleasure Island is no place for kids because of the public drinking (I am not one of those people) - I wonder what their reaction would be to this place! We wandered around, dodging the smoke from the cigarettes, and sat to watch people on the roller coaster. The coaster costs $3 per person per ride, and is basically like the Barnstormer only longer. There was no way I'd pay $6 for us to ride a ride, and Chris is a chicken on anything with a hill, so we were happy to just sit & watch. After awhile, we started walking again. We stopped in the general store, and bought 4 10-ounce Pepsi's for $.25 each. They were glass bottles, so we had to be careful with them. The Kandlestix store was selling everything at 50% off, so I bought a pretty carved candle for the living room for $11.77. It was tough deciding which one to get, and Chris enjoyed watching the girl make them while I made up my mind and then stood in the long line to check out. After that we left Old Town, got Chris a snack at TCBY yogurt on 192, and returned to Comfort Inn. We watched a little skating on tv, put in a 5:30 wake up call request, and went to bed.
DAY 2 - SUNDAY 12/21/97:
The wake up call came promptly at 5:30. I ended up overestimating how much time I'd need and we were ready to leave at 6:20. We weren't scheduled to meet Sheila & Colin until 7, but figured we'd hang around until they arrived. We checked out, and arrived at OKW at 6:50, and found that Sheila & Colin had arrived about 5 minutes ahead of us. We had to wait in a short line to check in, but got to the counter by 7. Our reservation was in order, including the food & fun part, so we paid for the food & fun and got our I.D. cards. Chris & I got the free passes, and Sheila/Colin used their Fl Resident Seasonals. There was a problem with our Jolly Holidays tickets, and finally at 7:30 the CM at the desk said she'd figure it out without keeping us there, and have everything ready for us when we finished breakfast. We moved over to Olivia's for a 7:30 priority seating at the character breakfast. The characters were good, and the small restaurant was nice, but the food was really awful. The eggs were too salty, even for people who normally add salt to food, the potatoes were disgusting, and the waffle was like rubber. The hot chocolate was good, though. I definitely would not repeat a character breakfast here. After we got the check, I noticed an error, so the waitress had to redo the ticket. When it was redone, we got our 20% discount for the Disney Dining Experience card (this card can be purchased only by FL residents for $35-40 per year) & put it on Food & Fun. The total was $40.76, but the "available" F&F balance was our original amount minus the $40.76 and minus the original check that was voided! Back to the front desk, where the CM told me that the system was not allowing our Jolly Holidays tickets to be printed using both DDE and F&F. When I made the reservations I specifically asked if I could use both, and of course they assured me I could. To make a long story short, our choice now was to either use DDE to get 35% off but have to pay cash, or pay full price but put it on F&F. The 35% discount amounted to over $80, but we knew there was no way we'd use up our F&F money without this dinner show being charged there, so we opted to skip the discount and pay full price using F&F - $236 for the 4 of us. I was also assured that the breakfast correction would appear later in the day.
After that somewhat questionable start, we were pleased to walk right onto the MK bus, and arrived at the MK at 8:55. They had sections of Main Street blocked off in preparation for taping segments of the Christmas show for tv, but we didn't bother with any of that. As per our usual MK routine, Sheila headed to Splash Mountain, Sue & Colin headed to Big Thunder, and Chris headed to the Big Thunder exit to wait for us. We rode Big Thunder once, then took the train from Frontierland to Toon Town. Chris said he was going to ride Barnstormer, but chickened out at the last minute (he rode it once before, and now says he's going to ride it in January - we'll see). Colin & I had ridden 5 times in a row without getting off last August, so we decided we'd have to break that record while waiting for Sheila to arrive from Splash Mountain. We ended up doing it 10 times in a row before Sheila arrived, and Colin was starting to suffer from a headache by then. He looked pretty pale for awhile, but Sheila gave him some tylenol or something in soon he was back to normal. We headed to Tomorrowland, where Chris rode the Grand Prix Raceway & the rest of us rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. Just as we came back into the station Chris arrived & joined us for another time around. After this we left the MK & took the boat to Wilderness Lodge to rent water sprites. Almost immediately, Colin's boat ran out of gas & he had to wait while the lake patrol came & filled up his tank. The boys loved driving the sprites, and although they only go 8-10 mph it's a lot of fun. When the hour was up, we returned the boats & were glad not to have to pay the $72.08 it would have cost if it weren't for F&F!
We had lunch at the Whispering Canyon Cafe, which has wonderful nachos called Rancher Rick's Chix. The kids each got a milkshake, and each mom/son shared an order of those nachos. It was plenty of food, and came to $21.21 including tax & tip. We picked up bikes at Wilderness Lodge & rode over to Fort Wilderness. This is something I do frequently, but this was the first time I rented a bike while wearing long jeans & it was a real pain pedaling! We rode through some of the loops where the new Log Cabin Homes are - a definite improvement on the outside at least. We had brought bike locks from home, so we locked the bikes up at the kennel & went inside to register for our 2:30 horseback trail ride. None of us had ever done this before, although I had reservations for this in 1980. Unfortunately my friend & I showed up at the wrong location & missed our reservation! The ride lasted about 45 minutes, the horses just walked along, and the CM's working took the time to chat with the group. I think there were 15 of us, mostly families with kids. My horse kept pausing to eat the trees along the path, and the CM warned me that if I kept letting him eat they were going to make me clean up after him when he "recycled" what he had eaten. I was really glad when the ride ended, and I will never do it again because I must have been allergic to the horses or something. I spent most of the ride holding the reins with one hand while fishing out a kleenex, blowing my nose & putting away a nasty wet kleenex with the other hand. I could barely breathe, yet once I was off the darn horse I began to breathe easier in about 20 minutes. I never did care for the horse smell, either - I'm definitely not farm material! In any event, the F&F paid for the trail ride, which otherwise would have cost $92 for the 4 of us. We rode our bikes back to WL & returned them, letting F&F pay that $42.40 as well. From WL we took the boat to MK, then switched to the OKW bus.
Our room was ready - #3023, which is a 1 bedroom. There was a door connecting to the studio next door, which would make a great 2 bedroom location. All my requests were met (top floor, water view, entrance to bathroom from living room). This building was only 2 stories, so we got top floor without having to climb 3 flights of stairs. I also suspected we'd be able to see the fireworks from Illuminations - but more on that later. Sheila & Colin were impressed with the room, having never stayed at OKW before. Their last stay at WDW was at All Star Music, which is nothing compared to a 1 bedroom at OKW! Everything appeared to be in working order, and the carpet was new (and much prettier than the old carpet). Overall, I was thrilled to be "home".
After cleaning up a bit, and changing into more festive clothes, we took the bus to MK & then walked to the Contemporary. We had drinks at the California Grill Lounge, and got a table right at the window. The view of MK with all the lights was really pretty. I got a kahlua & milk, Sheila had a kahlua & cream, and the boys had virgin drinks (daquiri & pina colada). Total check was $17.07. The boys checked out the observation deck, but it was too early for fireworks. We headed downstairs for our 8:00 Jolly Holiday show, and were seated 2-3 tables back from the main stage. Our tablemates were a very nice family from Baton Rouge, LA - Joe, Kathryn & their 4 boys aged 10-15. Those kids were the most polite, well-behaved young men I'd ever seen, and I told Joe how impressed I was with his family. It turns out they arrived today (staying at Wilderness Lodge in a Jr Suite) and the kids didn't know where they were going until they got to Orlando! All 10 of us enjoyed the dinner, and thought the food was good. Joe & I (mostly Joe) pretty much finished up the bottle of white wine, and they brought us another one - which surprised me because I'd read you got 1 bottle of white & 1 bottle of red per table. Sheila drank from the red bottle, so we ended up getting 3 bottles of wine at our table. The show was good, and filled me with the Christmas spirit (or was it the wine??) - but Chris later said he thought it was dull. The family in the show was a little hokey, but you come to expect some of that at Disney. When the cast sang Let It Snow, and it actually started snowing in the ballroom, that was pretty special. After the show, we stopped to see the picture the photographer had taken, but it was pretty awful. I hope we really didn't look that bad in real life! The show ended around 10, and Disney had arranged big Mears buses to take us back to the resorts. Unfortunately, the Mears bus makes a single stop - at the Hospitality House - so we walked back to the room. When crossing the bridge we saw some of the high Illuminations fireworks (Illuminations was at 10:30).
DAY 3 - MONDAY 12/22/97:
Today we ate breakfast in the room. After getting our room keys yesterday we drove to Dixie Landings & picked up breakfast stuff at their food court. We had juice, milk, muffins & bagels. We arrived via bus at the Studios at 8:45. Sheila rode Tower of Terror for the first time - the rest of us cowards headed to Star Tours. We pretty much walked right on, and when we got off I told the boys they could get back in line & ride again if they wanted. Yesterday while on the Barnstormer Colin had spilled the beans that he'd gotten Chris a Flubber beanie for Christmas. Since we hadn't gotten anything for Colin, I figured I'd check the store at Star Tours since Colin is a big Star Wars fan. The boys got back in line, and I bought a talking Darth Vader key chain for Colin. I went back inside to wait on a bench for them, and talked to a guy from California who had heard that the MK had closed a couple of times yesterday. I'm glad we were out of the parks early if that was true. When the boys came off the ride, we headed for the Christmas tree, where Sheila was waiting. She enjoyed the TOT. The line at Great Movie Ride was pretty long, so we skipped it. Keep in mind that we come to WDW a lot, and have seen just about every attraction so skipping a "biggie" is no big deal. We did the Backstage Tour with a 5 minute wait. We were getting hungry, so we stopped at Sci Fi to change our priority seating from 11:30 to 10:30. We browsed Ellen's Buy the Book store (really comfy chairs) until 10:30, and then had lunch at Sci Fi. Again the kids each got a shake (Chris' cookies & cream was really good), Chris & I shared the chicken parmegian sandwich, Colin got the mini burgers & sheila had a salad. Cost was $26.96 with the 20% discount and adding tax/tip.
After lunch we took the bus to WL & rented more water sprites. Today all the water sprites were brand new. They were white, with higher sides & a spoiler on the rear. Most impressive was these boats go 20 mph! The boys kept their boats out for a full 2 hours, Sheila kept hers for 1 hour, then sat on the dock for an hour, and I kept mine for 1 hour and then switched to a canopy boat for an hour. I was tired of getting wet from the spray when hitting waves going into the wind. Luckily, F&F covered the $258.64 cost. It was a great time - probably the highlight of the boys' trip. We took the boat back to MK, then the bus to OKW. Sheila & Colin returned to the room to rest a bit (I think Sheila had a headache from her time on the water sprite). Chris & I got a canopy boat from OKW & rode over to Port Orleans & Dixie Landings. It was fun, and peaceful. F&F paid for the rental at the $15.90 DVC member rate. We barely had time to get back to the room to collect Colin & Sheila before we had to leave for the Studios.
We had what seemed like a long wait for the bus, but I don't think it was more than 10-15 minutes. We shopped a bit on Hollywood Boulevard, then went to our 4:50 priority seating at 50's Prime Time Cafe. Sheila & Colin had never eaten here before, so I asked the hostess to put us in a "fun" section - and she sure did. Our waitress went immediately into her "family" act, pulling up a chair & chatting with us like we were long lost cousins. Quickly we were reprimanded for our elbows on the table, and when she started explaining the day's specials she went over to another table & took the plate from a person to show it to us. The poor guest was in the process of putting a bite of food into her mouth when her plate disappeared so we could see what the special looked like! Someone at the next table got the Clean Plate award, and a few people in the room got the "airplane treatment". I ordered the Chicken Caesar Salad & a glass of wine, Chris had the kids burger, and Sheila & Colin shared the fried chicken. Colin also had a shake. The vegetable with the fried chicken was peas with a few pearl onions. Neither Sheila nor Colin likes peas, so they did not eat them. Sheila had put her crumpled up napkin over that part of her plate, so of course our "cousin" discovered it when he came to clear the plates. When she was questioned, Sheila explained that she did not like peas, so he told her she had to eat one pearl onion. She got the full airplane treatment, which took a while since she refused to open her mouth for awhile. Finally he got it in there, and stayed to make sure she actually ate it. After holding it in her mouth for awhile, I think she ate it - at least I didn't see her dispose of it any other way! For dessert we shared S'Mores. Actually Chris ate most of the S'mores while the rest of us tried to get our forks in for a few bites. Total check with 20% discount & after tax/tip was $39.54. After dinner we headed for New York Street to see the Osbourne lights. The lights were already on, and snow was being blown from the top of the buildings. We walked through all the lights, enjoying them. This was the 3rd year in a row for Chris & me, and they get a little bigger every year.
Next we took the boat to Boardwalk, and stopped by the DVC office to show Sheila the size of the BW 1 bedroom in comparison with OKW. We were in luck - an open house was going on upstairs for the next 10 minutes or so (I had a message waiting for me at OKW to advise me of this, but I never checked the messages). We toured the Grand Villa first - very nice, but way too many points for me. It did have a great view. Next we went across the hall to the 1 bedroom and connecting studio. The 1 bedroom (and 2 bedroom) is a big disappointment relative to OKW. It just seems so tiny, yet it costs more points. Sure the location is great, but I'll stick with OKW when I need anything larger than a studio. The BW studio I was very pleased with. Having the sleep sofa instead of the 2nd bed is really nice & makes the room appear more spacious. The mini kitchen area was better than I'd expected, too. I've never stayed in a studio at OKW, so I can't compare it, but I hope it's at least as nice as BW. I'll be in a BW studio in March, and an OKW studio in June, which is something to look forward to. While we were touring the units, it must have rained, for when we came out the ground was all wet. We bought a snack at the bakery (for tomorrow's breakfast I think), and then walked to Epcot. Originally we were going to see Illuminations tonight, and then save tomorrow night (our last night) for Pleasure Island. We changed our minds, though, and decided to just enjoy Epcot without Illuminations tonight, & do Illuminations instead of Pleasure Island tomorrow. We also had priority seating for Spoodles tomorrow night, which Sheila really wasn't that excited about (I like it, but I've also got priority seating there in January, so going in December wasn't something I had to do), so we decided to search for a country to have dinner in tomorrow. We let the kids go off on their own to the Imagination pavilion, while the Mom's walked through the countries checking all the menus. We narrowed it down to Morocco, Japan or someplace else that I can't remember - and then settled on Morocco. We stopped at a World Key station & got a priority seating time for 6pm, then headed over to Imagination. We found the boys at Image Works, and discovered they'd already done Honey I Shrunk the Audience. We went downstairs & rode Journey Into Imagination, then let the boys return to Image Works while Sheila & I saw HISTA. It was her first time, and she screamed at the mice part. We retrieved the boys, and rode Spaceship Earth on the way out. We had the longest wait of the trip for our bus - about 20 minutes or so. It was 10:30 by the time the bus left, and Illuminations was just starting. I was hoping to have been back to the room by now so I could see if the fireworks were visible from the porch - but now it was too late. When we came into the room I noticed a LARGE, HAIRY spider inside by the corner of the front door. His body was the size of a quarter at least, and he had long thick hairy legs. Sheila kept an eye on him while I called the front desk, who said they'd sent the pest man right over. The pest man arrived in about 10 minutes, but during that time the spider climbed up the door & it looked like he crawled into the door closing mechanism box near the top of the door. Sheila continued watching the box for any sign of our hairy intruder. The pest man got some spray stuff & sprayed it in the box thinking the spider would crawl out, but it never moved. Finally the pest man got some tape & taped up the opening so the spider couldn't crawl back out. He said it was possible the spider might not be in there at all - he might have jumped off the door outside where Sheila couldn't see him, but I think that spider was so large we would have heard the thud from it landing! Finally, we were able to call it a night. There were a couple of DVC messages on the machine - one about the BW open house, and another inviting us to a complimentary continential breakfast to hear more about Vero & Hilton Head the next morning in Community Hall.
DAY 4 - TUESDAY 12/23/97:
We attended the continental breakfast at 8am. They got a lot more people than they evidently were expecting, and had to keep bringing out more chairs & food. Several guides were available to help those who were interested in adding on points today. There was some good information, but nothing that we didn't already know from the boards. At the end, each kid was given a small figurine - both Chris & Colin got one of the 101 dalmation parents. By the way, there was no sign of the spider for the rest of the trip. We took the bus to MK, arriving at 9:05. We rode Peter Pan, Small World, Haunted Mansion (just Sue & Chris - Sheila & Colin shopped). Colin ended up buying a military styled fanny pack, but it was a real pain to put in on or take it off, and of course Sheila was the one who ended up having to do it. Finally she got fed up & told him he was on his own, as her fingers were getting sore from hooking/unhooking the darn thing! We took the monorail to the Contemporary, where we had 10:30 priority seating at Chef Mickey's. The bacon/tomato omelet was wonderful, and we had a great meal & were very full when we walked out of there. Sue & the 2 boys rented water sprites from the Contemporary marina for a half hour, which would have been $54.06 without F&F. We rejoined Sheila, then rode in the front of the monorail to MK. The Mom's found a bench in Frontierland (across from the Shooting Gallery) at 12:30 to wait for the Christmas Parade. The boys were allowed to go to Tom Sawyer's Island until 1:30. The boys returned pretty much on time, and the parade started at 2. I was amazed at the number of obnoxious people who were sitting on the ground at the roap but stood up as soon as the parade started. They completely blocked the view of everyone behind them! Fortunately the people who were sitting at our feet stayed on their butts so we could see pretty well when the parade was right in front of us. After having waited 90 minutes, I fully expected to be able to see the parade. At one point a women in our line of vision stood up. After a minute or so I went up to her and nicely (I thought) told her that if she stand she blocks my view & if I stand to see I'll be blocking those other people. She got all in a huff and said "is it all right if I stretch my legs??" to which I replied "not if you're blocking somebody's view". Geesh! I wonder if she would have sat back down if I didn't say anything. The parade was very good, and it lasted a full 30 minutes - which is a long time for a parade. As soon as Santa passed, we made a bee-line to Frontierland & rode the train back up to Main Street. We took the bus to the Dolphin Hotel, and walked to the Yacht Club. Along the way we fed the ducks some shredded wheat cereal we had (the unsweetened kind). The boys each got a water sprite & the Mom's shared a canopy boat from the YC marina. We kept the boats only hour, since there is limited space & we were able to see it all in under 30 minutes. The cost without F&F would have been $59.36. The boys were hungry, so we went to Epcto & got them fries & soda at the Electric Umbrella. We sat upstairs, which I had never noticed before, and it was nice & quiet up there. Next we rode Horizons and spent time in Wonders of Life. We walked over to Morocco & got there just in time for 6pm. I ordered some sort of Moroccan specialty drink which was very good (Tangiers something or other), and tried the chicken bastilla appetizer. I had asked the waitress if it was large enough to share, and she said it was very small. When it came, it looked huge to me, and all 4 of us ate off of it without finishing it. It was unusual, but very good - chicken & chopped nuts wrapped in filo dough & dusted with cinnamon & powdered sugar. For our meals each Mom/son shared the brochettes of chicken - basically chicken shish kebab with yellow rice & green beans. The food was excellent! I'd gladly return here. The boys were entertained by the belly dancer during dinner. Total after 20% discount, tax & tip was $53.20. I had decided that after dinner I'd be returning to OKW because I was determined to see if I could watch the Illuminations fireworks from "home". I figured if I was wrong it was no big deal because I really didn't care for Holiday Illuminations anyway. Chris had the option of returning to OKW with me or staying in Epcot for Illuminations, and he chose OKW so he could play in the jacuzzi tub. Sheila & Colin had never seen Holiday Illuminations, so they stayed in Epcot. When Chris & I returned to OKW we stopped by Community Hall where he picked up a free movie rental (That Darn Cat) & got some apple juice from Good's. He took his jacuzzi bath & had a snack/juice while watching his movie. I packed (we were leaving tomorrow) and did some reading out on the porch - waiting to see if the fireworks would be visible. Sure enough, around 10:30 or so the fireworks were right there over the trees. They were clearly visible from both the porch & out the living room window. Chris was still watching the end of his movie, but I told him when the good ones were up there & all he had to do was turn his head. It was great! After the fireworks, we went to bed. We must have fallen asleep quickly, because I never heard Sheila & Colin come in.
DAY 5 - WEDNESDAY 12/24/97:
Today we were checking out, and since the free park passes were no longer valid we were not planning to do any parks today. We planned a nice breakfast, more boats, then a Rainforest lunch before leaving by late afternoon. Around 8 the phone rang, and I answered it. To my surprise my father was on the other end of the phone, and was noticeably distressed. Turns out my mother had died suddenly & unexpectedly while he was at work yesterday. He'd been unable to locate me last night, but WDW security located me for him this morning. Today would have been Mom's 61st birthday - last year we celebrated her 60th at the Grand Floridian's character dinner. Her death was a complete shock, as no one in our family dies before they're in their 80's, and I've got one grandmother who is 95 and capably still living alone in her apartment. I made a few calls, including one to my travel agent who agreed to open her agency today (it was closed for Christmas Eve) to book Chris & me on a flight to Boston in the next day or 2. There was nothing else I could do today, so we decided to spend the day at WDW like we had originally planned. Chris was upset to hear the news about his Grandma, and it did put a damper on the day, but it didn't really hit home for a couple of days.
While I was making my calls, the doorbell rang and Don the Duty Manager was there to offer his condolences and to assist in any way he could. He offered us breakfast, transportation, priority arrangements to see anything we didn't want to miss - pretty much whatever we needed. I thanked him for his offer, but we really were all set & I couldn't think of anything we needed that we weren't able to get on our own. It was really nice to have him come by, though. The whole front desk knew of my situation, and expressed their condolences when I checked out as well. The whole cast was very supportive and it really impressed me.
After checking out, we bought a couple of OKW mugs from Good's - and had hot chocolate put in them since they came with a drink. When I asked the girl working there if the mugs were refillable here during our stay, she replied that they were refillable anywhere on property. I asked if those were "free" refills, and she said "no", that they would be $1-2 or so (whatever the regular price is). Oh well, we got 1 mug for each family as a souvenir, and let F&F cover the $10.50. We drove to the Grand Floridian, at first missing the turnoff & having to loop back around a couple of times until we got it right. We valet parked the car, and had breakfast at the Grand Floridian Cafe a little after 9. I forget what we had, but it was very good & cost $24.72. When our waiter brought the check he noticed we had a lot of F&F money left & that we had checked out, so he suggested we spend the money buying a bottle of wine or something to take with us. That was very nice of him, but we assured him we still had plans for the day even though we were checked out, and would be spending the $$.
After breakfast we took the monorail to MK, then the boat to WL. We rented water sprites to the tune of $95.40 F&F. It was pretty damp & windy out on the water, so we didn't stay out too long. We took a bus from WL to GF & retrieved the car. We drove back to OKW so I could pick up my car, and we drove both cars over to Downtown Disney. The parking lot was a zoo, and we ended up parking over by Pleasure Island & walking back to Rainforest. We had a 35 minute wait, so we browsed in the immediate area. Sheila got the Tortuga Tidbits (small chicken sandwiches), Colin got the Bimini Wings (chicken wings), Chris got the Rainforest Rascal (burger) & I got the Caribe Chicken Tenders. Those were chicken fingers with coconut & were pretty good. We also shared the Amazon Flatbread. Total check was $57.34. After lunch we figured out how much of the remaining F&F balance belonged to each family. Since Disney pools it into one pot, we had been keeping track of it on a separate piece of paper. I ended up with about $41 and Sheila had about $47 left to spend. It was getting late, so I headed over to the Boardwalk bakery to spend my money. I bought 3-4 bags of stuff that is right now sitting in my freezer. Sheila ended up doing the same thing later on, but a bunch of her stuff got eaten at her parent's house during Christmas. I think I ended up with $1-2 left in the account, which hopefully Sheila spent when it was her turn. Chris & I began the 3-hour drive home, arriving in just enough time to unpack, do laundry, repack for a week in Boston, and open some Christmas presents. We flew to Boston the next morning, which is why this trip report is later than usual for me.
Food & Fun was a good value for this trip, since we planned to do lots of water sprites. It was still difficult spending all the food money, even though each family only had $330 to spread over 3 days & one meal alone was $118. I definitely wouldn't consider the 1998 Food Plan, and would never consider it again unless the Fun was put back in as free. We did a total of $689.84 in Fun (boat rentals, trail ride, bike rental) that we did not have to pay for. In terms of Food - because of the 20% discount from the Disney Dining Experience card, we saved $50.93 from that, plus got $60 free from F&F (we paid $600 between the 2 families and were given a $660 food credit) - so we really got $110.93 in food that we did not have to pay for, either.
We're really GLAD we did -
Watching the fireworks of Illuminations from my porch! How cool!
Dinner in Morocco - a new restaurant to all of us
Christmas Parade - always great
Jolly Holidays - although Chris didn't like it enough for me to spend the $$ on him going again. When I repeat it, he'll stay in the room or go elsewhere if he's old enough.
Water Sprites - the boys just could not get enough of them, and at $17 per hour, we'll probably never again spend a couple of hours daily on them
Renting canopy boat from OKW (cheaper than anywhere else with the DVC member discount) and riding to PO/DL. Next time we'll ride to Downtown Disney on one.
Touring the BW grand villa
We really REGRET we did -
Character breakfast at Olivia's. We overheard another member talking on the bus about how he thought it was awful, too.
Trail Ride - The others may have enjoyed it, but I just could not breathe!
As always, the thing we regret most is that the trip has to come to an end. Luckily for Chris & me, we return to OKW for 7 days 1/17/98 with other friends. That's the beauty of DVC - being able to share fantastic memories with good friends. o