Lynda Harner - December 2006 - AKL
This is our third trip to WDW always the same time of year and same resort.
Our first trip was in December of 2004 and we learned a few things with our first trip. (1) Dont rush to see everything, youll just kill yourself trying.
(2) Definitely make priority seating for dining, although we did not do this we did find the Flying Fish Caf which is on the Boardwalk, excellent meal and have made it a regular with each trip.
(3) Bring tennis shoes that have lots of cushion.
(Thursday/Fri) We decided to take the last flight out of LAX the night of December 7th. (In the past years we learned that traveling the day of our arrival we lost a day and most of the night and could not enjoy the many things happening.) We left LAX at 10:30PM Thursday December 7th arrived in Orlando Friday December 8th at 6:30am which was none too soon for us as we had a crying kid on board the first 45minutes of the flight and the last 45 minutes of the flight. So our idea of sleeping on the plane definitely did not happen.
Worked our way down to the Magical Express area, check in and waited about 15 minutes before boarding the bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge. (AKL) Knowing in advance that our room would probably not be ready we were not surprised when the cast member told us that our room was not ready and gave us a card with a telephone number to call later in the day to see if the room was ready. Off to Animal Kingdom Park to ride Expedition in the frigid temperature of 50 degrees with the wind chill factor making it about 40 degrees.
Expedition Everest, what can I say. It is thrilling, exhilarating and the best experience I have ever had on a coaster. (Keep in mind we are working on 26 hrs of no sleep) Definitely an E-Ticket adventure. Now with it being so cold the thrill and excitement of riding Expedition Everest made it almost like we were really in the Himalayan mountains. My excitement and fright of riding this ride made me scream so loud and hard that I lost my voice. Hats off to Joe Rohde and all the fantastic creators who worked making and themeing this ride so that guests can enjoy Expedition Everest to its fullest adventure.
Now being around 11:00am Bruce called to see if our room was ready, much to our surprise it was so we headed back to AKL to get ready for a late lunch with friends who live in Orlando. We met for a late lunch at Planet Hollywood where we had priority seating for 2:00pm. The only reason we made priority seating at Planet Hollywood is we were using the voucher for one meal of a Burger, Pasta or a Salad that was included in our package. We have decided that we would never eat at Planet Hollywood again. The atmosphere was loud and I am not sure but if the tables were any closer together everyone in the dining area could have been one big party. Even our waitress had made mention of how close the tables were to each other and how difficult it was trying to serve guest. The tables were so close she had to reach over the table to serve drinks and meals.
Now working on 30+ hours of no sleep we took the bus back to AKL after a short detour of not properly reading the bus sign from Downtown Disney. The resorts share the same bus stops and even though we were at the right bus stop we hopped on the wrong bus, we chalked this detour up to lack of sleep. Finally back at AKL we dragged our tired bodies down to the Mara and filled mugs with hot chocolate, dragged our bodies back to our room sat on our balcony to watch the leisurely strolls of the giraffes and zebras. Bedtime 10:00pm.
(Saturday) We got up for early entry at MGM Studios. Arrived at MGM without any bus detours.
First on the list, Tower of Terror and Rockin Roller Coaster. OK, I wont ride Rockin, loop de loops I dont do. But Bruce enjoys the ride so he rides alone.
Next we decided to make our way over to Animation Courtyard to see the Magic of Disney Animation show with Mushu the dragon. With one stop purchasing collectors pins. This show is similar to the one at Disneyland but we thought we would give it a go just to see the differences.
Onto the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Adventure Show. This is a good chance to rest your feet and after the show exit right to Backlot Express for lunch. Good menu selection and the food is quite good with plenty of seating. After lunch we decided to head over to The Great Movie Ride. I must say at this point the crowds were minimal and there were no lines for anything that we had done so far, including The Great Movie Ride.
We now decided to head back to AKL for a little rest and freshen up for our dinner at Flying Fish Caf on the Boardwalk which we had priority seating for 6:00pm.
We left AKL for dinner around 5:00pm, hopped on a bus to MGM to catch the Ferry to the Boardwalk, I always enjoy the Ferry Boats, it starts the evening with a nice relaxed feeling. Once at the Boardwalk we headed over Flying Fish Caf gave our name to the hostess, we were so caught off guard when Mikael a waiter at the restaurant approached us and welcomed us back to The Flying Fish Caf, this was the same waiter that we had last year and we were just stunned that he remembered us. After being seated in Mikaels section we proceeded with ordering our dinner. Appetizers: Bruce had Crab Cakes and I had the Seasonal Salad. Entrees: Bruce had Scallops and I had the NY Strip. Dessert: Bruce had the Chocolate trio and I had the Chocolate Gallette let me just say TO DIE FOR.The couple that was seated next to us were doing alot of wine tasting. Mikael had mentioned chocolate wine and with me being a Chocolate fanatic my ears perked up and Mikael certainly got my attention. Mikael chuckled at how he got my attention and with a little joking here and there he poured me a glass of chocolate wine. This wine was a smooth burgundy type wine with just a hint of chocolate taste, phenomenal. Excellent meal without a doubt and great service.
Now the topper of this evening was watching the night time launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. We walked over to the bridge that connects the Boardwalk with the Beach Resorts and waited for the launch. We had plenty of time to kill but were quite entertained with the families and guests that had rented the Beach Bicycles as it was quite funny to watch them get up the incline to reach the bridge and come down on the other side where it is all down hill and they would pick up quite a bit of speed. We had to laugh at several guests and families. Once particular family had us rolling with laughter as the kids were screaming and crying and with dad peddling as fast and hard as he could shouts out Why did I pay all of this money if all you are going to do is cry and continued with some words that I cannot print. It was about 8:30pm and several people had lined the bridge to see this spectacular event, 8:47 p.m. - Ten... nine... eight... we have a go for main engine start... five... four... three... two... one... booster ignition and liftoff of the Space Shuttle Discovery, lighting up the night-time sky it was awesome and to Bruce and I we felt it was just an added bonus to this trip.
After the launch we decided to head back to the Ferry Boat dock and make our way back to AKL. We got back to the boat dock a little late, we were side tracked by a magician/comedian doing his routine of juggling and kidding with the crowd that had stopped to see his act, he was really good. Boarded the Ferry and upon making a stop at Swan & Dolphin the Captain asked were we were headed as all the buses for MGM had stopped running and he advised us that our best bet would be to get off here and catch a bus to Downtown Disney and then to our resort. Frustration was setting in with me. The first bus to Downtown Disney was packed and standing only, not for me. The second bus was quite empty, in fact there were only three other guests aboard. Striking up a conversation with them we learned that they were also trying to make their way back to their resort via Downtown Disney. The bus driver over heard the conversation and asked where we were all going, we all gave our destinations he then made the best Disney Magic ever, turned off his bus lights and proceeded to take each one of us to our resort destination bypassing Downtown Disney HURRAY. Finally reaching AKL we did our normal routine, filled our mugs with Hot Chocolate and went back to the room to enjoy the savannah view.
(Sunday) No early entry for any parks so we took advantage of sleeping in. Made it to Animal Kingdom Park where Bruce went to get fast passes for Expedition Everest and I headed for Kilamanjaro Safaris. Once meeting up at the Safari we once again took advantage of the short line, the sign said 20 minute wait but is was more like 10 minutes and that included the walking to the boarding area where you board the safari jeep. The safari was great, we saw the newest giraffe that was born late last year on the savannah.
We then headed over the Expedition Everest for the second ride of this trip. Again no disappointment on this ride.
From there we decided to go see if we could catch the new Finding Nemo Musical. Which use to be the Theatre in the Wild where they did Tarzan Rocks but has been transformed into an enclosed theatre. The line was long but we still managed to get in the theatre after about a 20 minute wait in line. The show was good, vibrant colors, dancers, aerialists and animated backdrops that at times made you feel like you were under water but Bruce and I both found ourselves watching the puppetry by the performers more than the puppets. Remember some of the performers are puppeteers that you can see who work the puppets of Nemo, Dory and Marlin along with others. It was a good show, exciting and I never was bored with the entertainment of this show. From here we decided to shop a bit and finally decided to have lunch at Flame Tree Bar B Que.
This was ourfirst time eating at Flame Tree Bar B Que. The line was extremely long and did not move fast but wanted to try it as we have heard nothing good things. We had priority seating for Jiko at AKL so Bruce and I decided to split the Rib Meal. This was just enough, the ribs were very moist and tender, corn on the cob a bit squishy for me and the beans were good just not hot enough Chocolate Cake was great!!!!!!!
Finally got back to AKL to rest up and get ready for dinner at Jiko. Again this was the first time eating at Jiko and our friends from Orlando told us to have the Steak and Macaroni and Cheese, yes sounds weird but as our friend quoted It aint the Macaroni and Cheese your momma makes
Arrived and were seated in the wine room. Appetizers: Bruce ordered the shrimp appetizer and I had the Chicken Flat Bread. Entrees: Bruce had Scallops and I had Filet Mignon.
Yes there is a pattern to our dinner, Bruce like fish and I am a steak person. Dessert Bruce had Chocolate Pyramid and I had the flourless chocolate cake which was dry and did not like a bit.
(Monday) Off to Epcot where we rode Test Track, Test Track and Test Track. This is my favorite ride in Epcot. We also went on Ellens Energy Adventure and The Seas with Nemo and Friends which is a new ride at Epcot. Priority seating at Canadas Le Cellier for 12:00PM. Appetizers: We both had the Cheddar Cheese Soup (Awesome) Entrees: Bruce had Petit Filet (Surpise no scallops) and I had the NY Strip. Dessert: We both had the Canadian Club Cake, of course it was chocolate and yummy.
We watched Off Kilter perform a couple of songs and then walked around World Showcase stopping at Italy to buy Italian Chocolates and get myself a caf latte which was quite good. Maybe because it had been four days since I had any coffee, anyway it hit the spot.
We now headed back to AKL for some rest and viewing the animals on the Savannah. We decided to go to the extra magic hours at MGM. to take in the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.
Arrived at MGM for magic hours, went straight to Terrace Grill where we both had the Chicken, Rice and beans. Chicken was good but cannot say anything positive about the Rice and Beans.
We then searched for about half an hour for the special wrist bands that resort guests are suppose to obtain so that we can legally stay in the park. Finally found the area where wristbands were being distributed and once tagged with the wrist bands we headed over to Tower of Terror and Rockin Roller Coaster.
Finally made it over to the Osborne Dancing Lights, this was the first time we had seen this, never managed to get over there the first two trips. Spent quite a bit of time enjoying the lights dancing to holiday music and intermittent snow.
Headed back to AKL for the nightly routine of hot chocolate and watching the animals on the savannah. Tuesday is Epcot again as we missed a few things.
(Tuesday) Tonight, Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) We first headed back to Epcot even with some rain and drizzle. First thing on the to do list Test Track, shopping and then over to ride Living with the Land. After doing some shopping and not finding any shirts in our preferred size we head over to The Land to ride Living with the Land. The line was huge so we decided to have an early lunch at Sunshine Season Food Fair which is located downstairs of the pavilion in the Land area. We split the Rotisseri Chicken and Chocolate Mouse Cake. Again the food was good. The line for Living with the Land had decreased quite a bit while eating lunch so aboard the boat we went. I have always enjoyed this ride very educational and it amazes me on how they get vegetation to grow with no soil.
Back to AKL to get ready for MVMCP. Bruce and I both feel that MVMCP is well worth the extra ticket price. Again special wristbands are required. With our experience at MGM we decided to leave a little early in case we had to hunt down the cast member(s) which issue the wristbands. Once at MK not a problem finding wristbands, immediately after entering the gate the cast members were there with plenty of wristbands.
Once inside MK we started to make our way over to Pecos Bills for dinner. Slight detour, Jungle Cruise which would be our first time riding out of the three trips we have taken. Now finally at Pecos Bills. Entrees: Bruce and I both had the bacon burger with fries and the horrible Peanut Butter Brownie. Again the food was not bad Bruce likes the hot condiment bar that Pecos Bills has and smothers his bacon burger with mushrooms and grilled onions. With our stomachs full it was time to PARTY.
One of the fringe benefits of MVMCP is the endless amount of free hot chocolate, snicker doodles and this year they added apple wedges. If I was taking notes the night of the party I could tell you how many times Bruce stopped for hot chocolate, lets just say I lost count after six cups.
Now for those who might be pin collectors, the MK had special limited edition pins for that evening along with sweat shirts, t-shirts and other apparel. So we waited in line for about 20 minutes to get our limited edition pins. Yes Bruce and I are avid Disney pin collectors. Lets just say with the pins we purchased this year at WDW and adding to our already existing collection we now have 436 pins in our collection. I wonder if they have a twelve step program for pin collectors?
Also tried to find the special sweat shirts and t-shirts strictly for the MVMCP but the MK did not carry our size. (please be sure to read gripes and likes at the end our trip summary) Now were off to ride Big Thunder, Splash Mountain, Carousel of Progress, Haunted Mansion, Mickeys Philharmagic and watch the special fireworks show. We actually saw two fireworks shows, there is the regular show at 6:00pm and then a special show for the party guests.
So after catching all of the above rides, some more than once and squeezing in the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Space Mountain and a spicy pretzel the light bulb in my head finally lit up, last parade for the Christmas party is 10:45PM. In previous years we have had horrible experiences trying to get a bus back to our resort. Long waits for buses, standing only or if you happen to be seated then you are hoping the person who is standing that is very tired and swaying back and forth does not fall in your lap. So we decided to make a run for the bus. Exceptional idea waited about 7 min. for a bus, no swaying passengers and no screaming, over tired kids who I believe parents have learned to tune out after a certain amount of time of screaming and yelling and making every passenger on the bus wishing they could get off and walk. Finally back at AKL no hot chocolate tonight, bed and back to MK tomorrow to do Hall of Presidents and other items we missed.
(Wednesday) Back to the MK to take in some attractions that were either closed or we did not get to the previous night. The weather was a little unpredictable rain was sporadic and heavy at times. No complaints here as this was only the second time we encountered rain.
With it starting to drizzle a little more we decided to hop into Cosmic Rays Star Light Caf. Bruce had the grilled chicken sandwich and I had the chicken soup and of course the chocolate cake. Even though it was raining pretty good we decided to eat lunch on the covered patio which overlooked the water and the Kodak moment of the Castle with the huge crane hovering above it while being painted.
We decided to go shopping for shirts and stuff. Again disappointed with the lack of merchandise and sizes.
We then hopped on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority before making our way back to AKL to once again make our journey to Downtown Disney for our priority seating at Raglan Road.
Raglan Road is an Irish Pub that opened in October of 2005. As many have stated Raglan Road is a true slice of Ireland. Our friends from Orlando took us to this restaurant last year and we decided that it was a must do for this trip too. From what we have heard to rich mahogany and oak bars were imported from Ireland. Appetizers: Bruce had the tomato soup and I had drunk chicken. Entrees: Bruce had Pie in the Sky which was chicken pot of sorts and I had Sirloin Steak. Dessert: Unfortunately we cannot remember what Bruce had for dessert. I had the raspberry something, cant quite remember the name but it was good.
We headed back to AKL as we needed to pack because tomorrow would be a sad day. We had to leave what I have now named my home away from home.
(Thursday) We woke up around 7:00am to find it cold and very wet outside. We decided to just hang around AKL instead of park hopping seeing as we had to check out by 11:00pm. 9:00am went down to the Mara and got breakfast and the weather seemed to be clearing up a bit so we decided to take at chance at Animal Kingdom Park. Went back up to our room were we packed and checked out and checked in with our Airline. We left one bag with the bellman to pick up after we got back from the park. Went on Kilamanjaro Safari and once again had lunch at Flame Tree Bar b Que were we got there around 11:15am and the line was not so long. I guess with this counter service restaurant getting their early is the key. Went shopping and finally with much reluctance headed back to the resort to our Magical Express Bus to the Airport.
Likes: Magical Express-Great not to have to worry about your luggage, just hop on a bus and enjoy the scenery and ride to your resort.
Disney Dining-Would not book a trip without it. Restaurant and menu choices are great and have never had a bad experience. Sometimes too much food but have learned from the past that splitting lunches like we did this year really works. Saves on counter services too.
Animal Kingdom Lodge-Well worth the price and have always had the best time with no complaints. Enjoy sitting on the balcony overlooking the savannah view and watching all the animals.
Animal Kingdom Park, MGM Studios, Epcot and of course Magic Kingdom. No complaints all parks were very clean and well maintained.
Disney Transportation-Great job would not travel any other way. Never had a problem getting from one destination to another, well once but that was our fault.
Dislikes: Well, as Steve Russo stated in his January trip report walking styles of guests. We encountered every single walker he described with the exception of a few walkers which I cannot think of names for right now but one walker is the one that walks and tries to read the map at the same time. Is this not like driving and reading a map or a book?
Parents who let their children run wild in restaurants. Yes I understand this is a resort but when you are dining at an upscale restaurant kids should behave. If crying, take them outside, the rest of the diners prefer no to hear it. In other words, stop tuning out your children and tune into them.
Disney clothing merchandise. What can I say except for the fact that we saved several dollars by Disney not having 3X t-shirts or sweat shirts. The first year we went to WDW we found plenty to choose from, but the last two years have been a bust, especially when you really have your heart set on getting some sort of memorabilia from MVMCP. The choices of shirts other than for the party were just as slim. There were styles of shirts in 3X but we wanted something unique from WDW, not the same shirt we can get at home from Disneyland.
Dining: Three trips with one in planning for this year. Magic Your Way Package is the way to go and adding the Dining is an exceptional value. Never had a bad meal. Table service meals were always a great experience including the service. Counter service meals were good with the one exception of the slow moving line at Flame Tree Bar B Que.
Favorite ride/attractionss: Expedition Everest, Kilamanjaro Safaris, Nemo the Musical, Test Track, O Canada, Off Kilter, Tower of Terror, The Great Movie Ride, Indiana Jones, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Carousel of Progress and Mickeys Very Merry Christmas Party.
Final Note: If you take advantage of ordering customized maps that are offered on the Walt Disney World website, order at least six weeks in advance. We ordered our maps on November 9th and received them December 22nd. Even after inquiring about the maps prior to leaving we were advised that because of the overwhelming response are maps would not arrive in time for our departure date of December 7th.