Jason D. Weiss - December 27, 1998 - January 2, 1999 - Coronado Springs Resort
Time of Year: Holiday Season
Travel Method: Plane, Shuttle Service
Ages Represented in Group: Teen, Adult
WDW Experience Represented in Group: Veteran, Frequent
Comments: Jason has graciously allowed me to post this trip report to the site. It's his second one (there's one from June 1995, also.) In this report, Jason describes his 8th trip to WDW. This time, the family stayed at Coronado Springs. Written in a summary style, Jason covers a great amount of detail on how to tour WDW during the busiest week of the year.
December 27th 1998 to January 2nd 1999
Just got back from a wonderful WDW vacation. I've written the traditional "chronological" trip report several times in the past but I'm going to try a little something different this time. I'll give my impressions of each of the things we did in several different categories in the hope that it will be somewhat more useful and maybe a bit shorter. Please feel free to ask me any questions. I love to talk about this stuff.
First a little about me: I'm a 22 year old Engineering Student and certified "Disney Nut" this was my 8th trip to WDW (I've also been to Disneyland once). I stayed off property 5 times, then the All Star Music twice. This time we were at the Coronado Springs. I traveled with my parents who are in their early forties (this was their fourth WDW trip) and my 13 year old brother (this was his third WDW trip).
This was the part that I got the most misleading information about ahead of time so I want to talk about this first. People talked so much about how bad the crowds were going to be that I was almost scared out of going. The crowds were huge but didn't interfere with us doing what we wanted to do AT ALL. I'm sure this was due in large part to all the preparation we did. We knew what we wanted to do in advance, we made priority seatings well in advance, we arrived to the parks early on most days and we went to the right parks on the right days. The parks were extremely mobbed on New Years Eve but by going to EPCOT we didn't have any trouble. The longest line we waited in was about 90 minutes for Test Track. We definitely found the crowds easier to deal with when the weather is in the high 70's than in the summer when it is hotter than hell. The Disney MGM studios were practically empty on January 1st. We walked right on to tower of terror at about noon with no wait and right on to star tours at about 3PM with no wait.
This resort is absolutely gorgeous. What a step up from the All Stars. I would never even consider staying off property again. The transportation was extremely convenient. We didn't rent a car and never waited more than 15 minutes for a bus (except around 1:30 am on New Year's when we waited about 30 minutes). The direct bus from CS to the Boardwalk was very convenient. Longest trip was probably CS to Artist Point which took about 40 minutes (bus to MK, boat to WL). The pool is beautiful. Great big hot tub and a really cool water slide. The resort is really spread out but that wasn't really a problem. There were three bus stops and one was quite close to our room in Casitas 2. There was very little reason to go the main building. It was quite a walk to the pool but that didn't really bother us. It was a pleasant walk along the beautiful "Lago Dorado". Only ate in the restaurant for breakfast and didn't get a chance to go to the food court. My brother and I rented water mice 2 times ($18 / boat / hald hour) and they were a lot of fun. Probably my brothers favorite part of the trip.
My family loves fine dining and that was a big part of our trip this time. I am an extremely adventurous eater (as is my father) but my mother and brother are very "meat and potatoes" types. We ate breakfast in our rooms most days (pop tarts and coffee) and often picked up a quick lunch. Our big meals were mostly at dinner. I won't mention much about what the rest of my party ate because I don't remember and because they had steaks almost every night and enjoyed them all immensely.
Spoodles: 9PM-12/27/98 ***** We had dinner here our first night. The food was absolutely fabulous especially for the adventurous. The dining room is beautiful but noisy. I had the chef's playground which was basically) three appetizers (definitely enough for an entree). It had a wonderful fried calamari with octopus and vegetables, a flatbread with mushrooms and goat cheese and a dish made with pan seared tuna and cous-cous. I loved all three. The calamari in particular was the best I've ever had. This was probably my favorite meal all week.
Rainforest Cafe: 11:30AM-12/28/98 (Animal Kingdom) *** When I called to make this priority seating for an 11:30 lunch they told me the best we could do was 3:30 so we just showed up at 11AM and were seated by 11:45. The decor was a lot of fun. The food was nothing special. We just had sandwiches but they were good although severely overpriced.
Artist Point: 7:45PM-12/28/98 ***** Another one of my favorites. Fabulously beautiful dining room. I've had the cedar plank salmon here before and it is to die for. This time I had the Ahi tuna (rare) and it was also great. My dad had, and thoroughly enjoyed, the venison. Definitely a not to be missed place.
Restaurant Akershus: 11:30AM-12/29/98 **** This is the only place I've ever had Norwegian food but it's great. A buffet is a great way to try "unusual" foods and this one has something for everyone (not to mention that the Norwegian waitresses are almost worth the price of admission
Brown Derby: 6:30PM-12/29/98 *** Another beautiful dining room. Very pricy, I was still pretty full from Norway so I just had the Cobb salad. It's not on the menu so you have to request it but it's very good.
Fulton's Crab House: 7:00PM-12/30/98 ***** Incredible view. All four had the crab feast (3 lbs of Alaskan King, Dungenous, and sno) and it was spectacular. Go hungry.
Cape May Buffet: 5:00PM-12/31/98 **** We did this buffet on New Year's eve and it is a shell fish aholics dream come true. Steamed calms, mussels and oysters, all very fresh. They also had great barbecued ribs and steak. At $20 including drinks this has got to be the best bargain in WDW.
California Grill: 8:15PM-01/01/99 ***** This was my first time at the CG, what an experience. Excellent view, excellent service, excellent wine, excellent food. My brother and I split "Yoshie's Deluxe Shushi Platter" for starters and it was by far the best sushi I've ever had. We went out on the balcony to watch the MK fireworks which was a ton of fun. For an entree I had the Bonsi Tuna which was very fresh and had an interesting preparation. I enjoyed it although I probably wouldn't order it again. The four of us split two triple chocolate peanut butter souffls for dessert and they were excellent. Warning $$$$$$ this was about $300 for dinner for four.
Maya Grill: Breakfast 12/31/98 and 01/01/99 **** I've heard very negative reviews of this place but we thought the breakfast buffet was great. Waffles, eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, hash browns, breakfast burritos, fruit, croissants, oatmeal, grits, and cold cereal. The service was also quick and friendly.
The first day we arived at Animal Kingdom bright and early. This park was wonderful. So much more fun than I expected. The whole park is absolutely gorgeous. Especially the "Oasis" area. The tree of life simply has to be seen in person to be appreciated. The safari was great, we saw soooooo many animals. It's tough to be a bug is very similar to Honey I shrunk the Audience but a bit better IMHO. Countdown to Extinction is very similar to Indiana Jones in Disneyland (I think indy is a bit better), I was glad that we did CTX the Safari and IABL before 9:30 because the lines for these were looooooooong later in the day. We had so much fun just wandering the park. By about 3 O'clock we had seen pretty much everything and headed for the MK.
The only new attractions for us at MK were Buzz light year and the new Tiki Room. Buzz lightyear was tons of fun. It was such an interactive ride. You get to spin your own car and they are surprisingly responsive. Firing the laser guns was fun but surprisingly difficult. My brother especially enjoyed this one. We are big Tiki Room fans and we definitely missed the old show but the new one is quite funny and certainly preferable to ripping out the thing all together.
The second day we spent the morning in EPCOT. We didn't arrive until about 10:00AM but we headed straight to test track. Much to my surprise (and excitement) test track was up an running. We waited in line about 45 minutes. This ride is unbelievable. I was here two years ago when it was suposed to "grand open" and it was almost worth the wait. We rode it again on new years eve with about a 90 minute wait. It seemed to be open pretty much all day every day. Cast members said it had been open for at least some part of every day since December 19th. The last part of the ride is incredibly fast and alot of fun although it is way too short. The earlier part of the ride is fun too.
We left EPCOT at about 4:00PM to head to Disney MGM studios. The new attractions for us here were fantasmic, the osborne lights and the making of armagedon. We were pretty disapointed in the fantasmic in Disneyland (mostly because we waited for 90 minutes before the show and still couldn't really see it) so this was a pleasant surprise. The show is amazing. I won't give too much away but it is really spectacular, fireworks, flames, water, music, lasers, characters, you name it. We lined up for the 10:30PM show about 60 minutes ahead of time and got near perfect seats (it looked like almost all seats would be pretty good though). I won't even try to describe the osbourne family lights. They were absolutely breathtaking. The making of armagedon show was OK. I didn't see the movie so it was hard for me to get too excited about it but it was well done.
New Years Eve at EPCOT: The new years eve entertainment at EPCOT was only so so. They had some DJ's scattered around the park which isn't really my thing. There was a swing band at the American adventure pavilion and I like swing but I didn't think this band was very good. Probably the highlight of the night was a band called the British Invasion in the UK pavilion. They did beatles covers and were very good. They even looked a bit like a the young beatles (presumably with wigs on). Hats and horns were given out for free. We had champagne for $6 a glass which we had to wait in a ridiculously long line for. Illuminations started at 11:45 and was just the standard show. Then they had a 5 second countdown to midnight and everyone yelled happy new year. I was expecting a big explosion or some thing at midnight but there wasn't any. They did start a pretty good fireworks display at about 12:01 but overall I thought this was the most disappointing part of the trip. Don't get me wrong, it was probably the most fun I've ever had on new years but I just expected a little more pyro
We had 5 day park hoppers and managed to do an incredible amount of things at the busiest time of year. To the best of my recollection we did:
At MK: Space mountain 2X, Alien Encounter, Buzz Lightyear 2X, TTA 2X, Skyway, Peter Pan's Flight, Small World, Hall of Presidents, Big Thunder Mountain 2X, Tiki Room, Pirates of the Carribean, Haunted Mansion
At Epcot: Spaceship Earth, Horizons, Ellen's Energy thingy, Test Track 2X, Listen to the Land, Inoventions East and West, Canada Movie, American Adventure, lots of wandering the countries
At Disney MGM Studios: Great Movie Ride 2X, Tower of Terror 2X ,Backlot Tour, Osbourne Lights, Making of Armagedon, Fantasmic, Indiana Jones stunt spectacular
At Animal Kingdom: Tough to be a bug, Safari, Countdown to Extinction, Train Ride, Boat Ride, Conservation Station, Dinosaur Jubilee, Lots of time wandering the Oasis
7 shots glasses for my collection (AK, MK, Epcot 2oz shooter, Disney Studios, Hollywood Tower Hotel, Yo Ho Yo Ho, Space mountain) Hard Cover book called "The Making of Animal Kingdom," Test Track Key chain with Mickey ears Music From Disney's Animal Kingdom CD Fantasmic CD
This is the second time I've used the Florida Town Car service and I'd never go back to Mears. It is so convenient and efficient and a lot more fun.
Well, so much for short but I hope someone gets something out of this. Again, please send me questions, comments, etc...
Jason D. Weiss