I have been reading this newsgroup (rec.arts.disney.parks) for most of this year, and just returned from WDW on Sunday night. I thought some of the "lurkers" may be interested in reading a trip report from the viewpoint of a more casual visitor.
My background: My husband and I visited WDW in Oct. 1987 while he attended a conference held at the Buena Vista Palace where we also stayed. I went to MK and Epcot with my 15 month old daughter on two days. Last week was my first trip back since 1987, so there were many changes.
My family: Myself (Sharon)- age 42, don't like any rides that have a "drop"; husband Bob - age 44, loves roller coasters, can't ride anything that spins; daughter Becky - age 13, will ride most anything, and daughter Cindy - age 10, very tentative about most rides that are fast, or have any kind of drop.
Trip planning included reading as many guidebooks as I could, and reading this newsgroup. We decided to drive down, as my husband wanted to see some other cities in the south. I won't include all the details of our other stops on the way, except to say we stopped for a day at both Savannah and St. Augustine; and enjoyed both cities. It also helps to break down the long drive from our home in Rochester, NY.
Arrived at Dixie Landings about 3:00 p.m. Check-in was very efficient, and only took about 10 minutes. I had faxed our room request (Alligator Bayou, building 14 or 15, top floor) before we left. I was disappointed to find we were assigned to building 24, but did get the top floor. It seemed far from the food court and main building when we drove to our room, but we found later that we could walk on the pathways and get there in 6-7 minutes. The bus stop was 4 minutes away in the other direction. By the time we left, I was glad we had the building we did, as we enjoyed the beautiful landscaping during our walks. If I had small children, however, I would not have been happy to be so far away. We unloaded our van, unpacked, and decided to check out the resort. We stopped at the DxL food court, and purchased two refillable mugs ($19.70) while the girls played in the main pool. The water was heated nicely, and they really enjoyed the slide. The girls then decided they wanted to go to the Port Orleans pool. It is about a 10 minute walk, along the river. After swimming awhile, they changed out of their suits in the dressing room (I had brought dry clothes), and we went to the food court for dinner, and to buy our other refillable mugs ($29.62). The girls liked the design on the PO mugs better. We all agreed that we preferred DxL, but it was fun to see another resort. We stopped at the DxL store to get a quart of milk for the next morning ($1.50). We went to bed about 9 p.m., looking forward to early entry the next morning at MK.
Bob and I woke up at 5:45 on our own (we are real early birds!), got dressed, and woke up the girls at 6:00 when we left to fill our mugs. This gave them a chance to get dressed without having to hide in the bathroom. Bob got his coffee, and I got hot chocolate or myself and the girls. There was also hot water for tea, along with the usual soft drinks. We ate a quick breakfast of cereal in the room, before walking to the bus stop (West Depot), arriving there at 7:00. We only waited a minute or two before the MK bus arrived. We had already decided to separate for early entry, to make the best use of the uncrowded lines. Bob and Becky went to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain, Alien Encounter, and Astro Orbiter, and Cindy and I went to Fantasyland to ride Dumbo first. By 9:00 a.m., we had ridden Dumbo twice, Peter Pan twice, Small World, Pooh, Snow White, and the Teacups! I highly recommend early entry. We then went into the Lion King show at 9:20 (just okay), and headed to Haunted Mansion. We walked right on. Cindy was very nervous about this ride, so she rode with her Dad. Becky rode with me. She was looking at me chatting away, when a CM poked her head around the buggy and yelled "boo". Becky about jumped out of the buggy, but loved it. We all loved the special effects here, and Cindy decided it wasn't too scary. We walked into the Country Bear Jamboree right as the pre-show was ending, so no wait once again. None of us liked that show very much, the best part was the talking animal trophies on the wall. Bob and Becky then decided to go on Big Thunder Railroad while Cindy and got a citrus swirl snack (2.25). Meeting up again, the 3 of them decided to go on Pirates while I shopped (told you I don't like drops). Cindy didn't like that drop either, but I wanted her to try it. Bob decided to buy a Pirate sweatshirt ($27.56). We went to Jungle Cruise, where we had to wait about 20 minutes. Our guide was very good, and full of energy. We were getting hungry by then, and decided to eat at El Pirata where we shared two taco platters and a taco salad ($14.73). We drank the bottled water I had packed in my backpack. We all enjoyed the Tiki Room show next, very clever. We were getting tired, but Bob and Becky decided to go on Splash Mountain. They had to wait an hour for this ride. I had told them to ride in the morning, but they wanted to wait until it was hot. I talked to other guests who said there was no wait in the morning. Cindy and I got fries from the McDonalds wagon while we waited ($1.65). If I had known the queue was so long for Splash Mountain, she and I would have gone back to DxL. It was a hot wait in the sun. Anyway, Bob and Becky enjoyed Splash Mountain When I saw them come down the drop, I went to get them fries ($3.30) too. We left the park, and went back to swim in the quiet pool behind our building. The water was a little cool, not as warm as the main pool. Only one other family in the water, though.
We had a short rest by the pool before we had to change for our 4:30 Fantasmic! dinner reservations at MGM. We arrived right on time, and had to wait about 5 minutes for our table at Mama Melrose. We loved our server, Barbara, from Buffalo (an hour away from our hometown). Our dinners were absolutely terrific. Bob ordered the salmon with citrus sauce, I got the chicken marsala, Cindy the kids spaghetti with an Alfredo cheese sauce, and Becky a cheese pizza ($57.03 with MKC discount). Barbara was great with the kids, suggesting to Becky that she might want to skip the Gorgonzola on her pizza, and bringing her a chocolate chip cookie when she brought Cindy's cookie that came with the kids meal. That was a nice touch, as at 13, Becky generally doesn't want the kids meal food, so orders off the adult menu. Service was quick, and we were done at 5:45. We decided to see the Muppet Movie, but it was down for technical problems. We walked on to the Great Movie Ride, and then headed to Oscar's for our Fantasmic! seating. We had good seats about a third of the way up the stadium, and the second section from the right. I was glad we didn't have to waste time standing in line, and would definitely recommend the Fantasmic! dinner package for anyone, especially if you have kids. The show (7:00 p.m.) was amazing, but I wish I had a jacket after getting misted by the water spray a few times. Don't miss this show! We hustled out to the buses, and got right on. A long fun day.
Another early day, as we planned to go to Animal Kingdom, opening at 8:00. We caught a bus about 7:20, so got there in plenty of time. Cindy wanted to look at the flamingos and other birds on the way in, but I hustled her to the Safari, and told her we would see them on the way out. We literally walked right onto the Safari. We saw lots of animals, and had a rhino chase another rhino across the road in front of our vehicle. We all liked this ride, and I found it easy to ignore the poacher story, and just look at the animals. Next we went to the Bug movie, enjoying the views of the tree of life as we made our way in. We had to wait about 20 minutes for this. I wasn't crazy about the waiting area, being a little claustrophobic. It was dim, and CM's keep asking everyone to move closer together and forward. The movie was fun for all of us. Several people had to leave with crying children, and I would not recommend this to anyone afraid of bugs or darkness. We took the train to Conservation Station, but didn't enjoy it much. The girls had been hoping for more animals to pet. Next, Bob and Becky decided to go to Countdown to Extinction. I couldn't convince Cindy to go, so we looked at the gift shop while waiting. Becky really liked this ride, Bob thought it was a little rough. We decided to go to the Tarzan Rocks show before having lunch. The girls and I liked this show (Bob hadn't seen the movie, and was a little lost); my one complaint is that the sound was MUCH louder than necessary. We found this at many of the shows. We had lunch at Flame Tree BBQ - 3 brisket sandwiches with fries and corn on the cob, and lemonade in a souvenir mug ($22.64 with MKC). We weren't wild about this food, the corn was soggy, and the beef cold and fatty. Our only bad meal. We should have gone to Tusker House, but were too lazy to walk over to Africa. We walked through Asia. I loved the bats, but it was getting crowded, and hard to see. The Festival of the Lion King was next on our agenda, and we REALLY LOVED this show. There was so much to see during this show, almost like going to a 3 ring circus. The costuming was great too. We caught the bus back to DxL, stopped in our room to grab our mugs and change into our swimsuits, and were at the main pool by 3:30. The girls both filled their mugs with the frozen coke and cherry slushes every time they could, a nice perk at this resort.
We had 6:20 reservations at Ohana at the Polynesian. After checking with guest services, we decided to drive there, rather than having to transfer on the bus. After one wrong turn (my fault, I'm a terrible map reader), we were waved through security, and arrived at 6:15. The hostess gave us bread to eat on the way to the table, which we thought was a little weird. Our waiter Rick came over and took our drink orders and left our appetizers. I was surprised when the lights dimmed at 6:30, and the MK fireworks music came on Rick told the girls they could go up to the window, but we could see the fireworks quite well from our table. Bob thought I had planned our dinner around this, but I didn't know this would happen. It was pretty magical. Our dinner was great, the menu was just as it shows on Deb's site. The girls and I liked the smoked turkey the best. Bob ate most of the salmon and prawns, as the rest of us didn't like them. We finished up with the pineapple and caramel sauce. The pineapple wasn't too ripe, so we didn't eat much of it, being pretty full anyway. My only complaint is that Rick tried to get us to order the other desserts, and didn't mention the pineapple was included until I asked for it. Dinner was $93.08. We had originally planned to go to the luau, and I changed to Ohana after reading this newsgroup. The girls had a great time with the coconut races and hula hoop contests, so won't forget this dinner for a long time. One note is that the kids are given a handful of candy pieces (not wrapped) after the contests. We asked Rick to bring us a doggy bag to put it in, which he did.
We rode the monorail to the Contemporary to look around. Becky was very impressed with this resort, and said she would like to stay here. It was getting late, so we rode back to the Poly, and looked around there. I liked the torch lit paths. We wandered down to the beach, where the girls enjoyed playing in the sand and the hammock. We saw the Water Pageant from the dock at 9:00. This is a 5 minute show with lighted barges playing music. The girls loved this, and was nice to see since we were at the Poly anyway. We drove back to DxL and were in bed by 9:45.
Today, we planned to go to Epcot, so could sleep a little later. We got to Epcot in time to see the release of the doves, then hurried right to Test Track. What a thrill! There was no one waiting to ride, so we were able to ride it again without getting out of our car. We went to Ellen's show (can't remember the real name), and there were only 17 of us there for the ride. Being big Jeopardy fans, we really enjoyed the themeing around this ride. Next we walked right on Spaceship Earth. Cindy didn't like going down backwards. We went to Station Cool next. I liked the lemon soda, Becky and Bob liked the one from Brazil, and Cindy loved the watermelon. They all tried Beverly, and didn't think it was too bad. We decided to see Honey I Shrunk the Audience. Since Bob is a Kodak employee, we went in the employee lounge first. He was hoping for a cup of coffee, but none was made, so we settled for juice and diet coke. When the movie was ready to start, we were walked into the theatre. Very nice. We liked the movie, but the mice gave me the creeps, even though I knew it was going to happen. Once again, kids were crying at that, and the snake scene. Parents evidently don't take the warnings seriously, and drag the kids in anyway. We skipped the Living Seas as we were going to Sea World later in the week. We walked around the World Showcase, purchasing wine and food samples along the way. We split an order of fish and chips in England, it was very good. The girls split a Beaver Tail in Canada. The CM was very nice, and made each half different for the girls as they couldn't agree on the same topping. We saw the movie in France before getting a great chocolate mousse dessert. Bob and Becky split an escargot puff pastry sample there too. We stopped to listen to Nova Era in Italy. They have a CD coming out soon that we will have to get. Very different, but we liked it. The girls enjoyed the kaki gori in Japan. Cindy liked the honeydew, and Becky the tangerine flavor. Kind of like a snow cone, except the ice is very finely shaved, and the flavor is very intense. We watched the Chinese acrobats before riding Maelstrom (I shopped and enjoyed talking to the CM in Norway). They thought this ride was just okay. We bought a sweet pretzel in Norway, it was so tender it melted in your mouth. We rode the boat ride in Mexico, and enjoyed the marketplace area. The girls wanted to eat there, but we weren't too hungry after munching all day (we spent about $40). We made a quick visit back to our room to pick up sweatshirts and our mugs. We bought a few snacks ($19) at the food court for dinner. We refilled our mugs, and took them back to Epcot for the parade. We found a place by Morocco about 7:00 for the 8:10 parade. We sat on a bench, and enjoyed talking to the other guests also waiting, and listening to the music being played in Japan. We had great views of the parade, and several of the figures bent down so the girls could touch them. I liked the music, but Bob found it too repetitive. After the parade, he was really tired, and decided to go back to our room. The girls and I stayed for Illuminations. We had a nice view, but forgot to check the wind direction. We had lots of smoke and ashes blow our way. After it was over, we dragged ourselves to the bus stop. The buses were very full. Cindy was able to sit, but Becky and I had to stand. We got back to our room about 10:15, and fell asleep immediately.
We went back to MK for early entry. This time we stayed together. Cindy wanted us all to ride Dumbo, so I rode with Becky and Bob rode with her. Then the girls rode again together. We went on Peter Pan as Bob and Becky hadn't done that Monday. We all went on Astro Orbiter, which made me a little queasy. The rockets go around in a fairly small circle. Good thing the ride was short. We went on Buzz Lightyear twice, as the first time we barely shot anything. Bob got 146,000 the second time, while I did a pathetic 17,000. The girls decided to go on the Tomorrowland Speedway while Bob took pictures of the castle. We left MK and took the bus to MGM. We didn't see a bus stop for MGM, so I asked a driver, and he told us to take the Caribbean Beach bus. Sounded crazy, but we did it. The bus stopped at TTC and the Contemporary first. Bob and Becky rode Tower of Terror with no wait, then Bob ran over to Rock N Roll Coaster to get a fast pass as we decided to see the Beauty and the Beast show that was getting ready to start. The girls liked the show. After the dove release, Becky said "Disney doesn't do anything in a small way, do they?". She and Bob rode the coaster, and pronounced it the best coaster they had ever ridden. We bought a light lunch at Rosie's - pizza, soup, pretzel and a cheeseburger ($15) before the girls and I went to see Little Mermaid while Bob went to the Animation Tour. We thought Mermaid was cute, and I enjoyed the mix of animation, puppets, live actors, and special effects. Well done. We walked across the park for the Indiana Jones show. It was interesting to see how they film the action. We stopped for coffee and chocolate milk ($5.50) before going to Hunchback. I made sure to arrive early to see the pre-show. Matt the juggler was great, and the kids enjoyed his act. Hunchback was well done, but once again, I felt the sound was really way too loud, and took away from the great singing. We saw the Muppet movie next, which was Cindy's favorite of all the 3-D movies at the parks. Bob missed a lot of the jokes, as he was not familiar with the Muppets. We were lucky to get right on the Backlot tour. The crew was putting up the Xmas lights and decorations. I wish we could see them all lit up, we'll have to plan a trip again sometime for that.
We were getting tired, so decided to head to our new hotel, the Holiday Inn Eastgate. I had planned for us to go there for two nights while visiting Sea World. We stayed in a kidsuite room ($65). The girls liked their room within a room. It had bunkbeds and another twin size bed, their own TV, CD player, and Nintendo. Bob enjoyed the king size bed after enduring the double beds at DxL. The room also came with a small refrigerator and microwave. It was nice to have the extra space, but no special landscaping or maids. Also, there is a lot of construction on 192, which was a pain. After seeing Sea World on Friday, we went to Showcase of Citrus (as recommended to me on this newsgroup) to pick our own tangerines, grapefruit, oranges and key limes to take home. It was about a 20 minute drive off 192 and 427. The girls enjoyed doing it, but beware of the spiders in the citrus trees. We drove to Sanford to catch the auto train on Sat. afternoon. I can highly recommend the auto train if you are driving from the NE. We arrived at the station at 2:30. The train left at 3:45. We arrived in Lorton, VA at 8:00 the next morning, an hour ahead of schedule. Dinner and a continental breakfast are included in your fare. Check out the amtrak.com site for fares (depends on the direction of travel, and size of vehicle). We drove home to Rochester, arriving about 5:30 p.m.
Final thoughts: The maid at DxL was great. The girls enjoyed the things she did with their stuffed animals - had them "reading" books, eating from our cereal bowls, tucked in the covers, looking out the window, etc. I hadn't mentioned this to them ahead of time, so they were excited to come back each day to see what would be done next. The landscape changes at DxL as you get farther down the river, but it was very subtle, and I missed it at first. Everything was neat and clean everywhere we went. All the CM's we dealt with were polite and helpful. The afternoon break was great, and everyone should do it. I wish I had planned a day to stay at the resort, but thought we would have nothing to do. Was I wrong! We could have gone fishing, Bob and I could have relaxed at the pool bar while the girls swam, you can rent surreys, and we didn't have a chance to take the boat to Downtown Disney. The girls were a great age to take, as they could keep up with us and not get too tired. And we could leave them alone in the room while we filled the mugs every morning. We had four day park hopper passes, and saw the highlights of the parks, but of course, missed a lot. We did manage to see everything we really wanted to, primarily due to the small crowd level and short waits. Going off season was great for us. I'm glad we brought our own bottled water, as we thought the water in the park fountains was awful. I definitely think staying on site is the best way to go, as the bus system to the parks is great, and the option of coming back to your room in the middle of the day is good. Also, the food courts were efficient and easy at the end of a busy day. The food prices weren't as bad as I expected. We kept costs down by bringing our own individual cereal boxes, and buying the milk there for breakfast. Also, brought a few snacks with us. My only problem now is when I can go back! Thanks to everyone in this newsgroup for sharing information so graciously. Sharon