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Thread: Steve Russo - January 17 - February 7, 2017 - Boardwalk & Kidani Village

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    Steve Russo - January 17 - February 7, 2017 - Boardwalk & Kidani Village

    The Granddaddy of All Trip Reports:
    January 17 February 7, 2017
    Boardwalk Villas and Kidani Village


    Steve AKA GrandPop (or Pop-Pop depending upon the specific grandchild). A bit older and certainly no wiser.
    Barb Animal KingdomA Grammy and my faithful traveling companion.
    Michelle Our Daughter and a Walt Disney World vet. Multiple visits since 1984.
    Will Michelles husband and a veteran of seven trips with us beginning in 2002.
    William (now 11-years old) Will and Michelles son, Steve and Barbs grandson. If I count correctly, this will be his sixth trip with us.
    Christopher (7 years old) Will and Michelles son, Steve and Barbs grandson. Three prior trips and counting.

    For convenience, Michelle, Will, William and Christopher will, collectively, be known as the Schwabs. William and Christopher will be the boys (I do, occasionally, refer to them as Father Mulcahy. Lets see if anyone gets that reference.)

    Barb and I will be staying on site for the duration 21 days. The Schwabs will be joining us for a week, beginning Saturday, January 21.


    Since I retired, in 2011, our modus operandi has been to make a longer visit to Walt Disney World in January/February each year. These visits are typically 2-3 weeks in duration and, while they dont qualify us as snowbirds, they do help us get through the harsh Northeast winters. As I age ever so gracefully (like fine milk, Im afraid) I find the cold and snow less and less endurable.

    We supplement this single long trip with one or more shorter ones, typically to enjoy the Food & Wine Festival, Flower & Garden Festival or, as in last year, a trip to enjoy the holiday decorations and events at Walt Disney World.

    Our longer trips have usually included a segment where one or more of our (3) children, their spouses, and several (of our now six and counting) grandchildren join us. Last January we hosted daughter Stephanie, her husband, Paul, and their two boys, our grandsons, PJ and Sean. This year, its the Schwabs and next year promises to be our son, Stephen, his wife, Stephanie, and their two children: grandson Jack and granddaughter Grace (AKA the Princess). At some point, wed love to get the whole clan on board for a single trip but the logistics for that have, thus far, eluded us.

    The planning for this trip began, as most do, by booking the resorts at the DVC 11-month window. We booked studios at our home resort, the Boardwalk Villas, for the Schwabs and our first two weeks. Barb and I will spend the last week at Kidani Village.

    Our plan, as we did in 2015, was to drive from New York to Florida. The fly/drive decision is not an easy one. There are a few advantages to driving the ability to take more stuff with us and the availability of a car throughout the stay are chief among them. The drive, however, is not an easy one. My back/shoulders/knees wont allow more than 6-7 hours of drive time per day so the cost runs up with hotel rooms and meals. When you add in gas, tolls and wear and tear on the car, the cost difference between driving and flying is negligible at best. In fact, if you can grab decent airfare, its actually less expensive to fly. When driving, you also need to be concerned about weather. While I expect having to dodge winter storms in the Northeast, the past few years have brought ice and snow as far south as South Carolina and Georgia.

    I often wrestle with the concept of making the drive down (or back) more interesting and attractive by stopping and sightseeing along the way. Much of that goes away with the fact that most things wed like to visit would be much better in any season but winter.

    Flying has its own headaches: you get up at an un-godly hour and trek to the airport where you check luggage and endure the retina scans and cavity searches that are TSA. Youre then crammed into a long, metal tube where you spend three hours with your knees pressed against the seat in front of you while you swap DNA with complete strangers. And dont get me started on the quality of in-flight coffee and restrooms.

    At any rate, I was able to score $201 roundtrip fares on Southwest so spending three hours in a plane won out over three days in a car. Unfortunately, this also removed the driving advantages namely packing more stuff and having a car. Well solve the first one by packing an extra suitcase. We always bring two large suitcases (one each) and Southwest allows two checked bags per passenger so, this trip, well lug along a third suitcase. While Disneys Magical Express will handle the luggage in Florida, the third bag will present some issues at the Albany airport but Im fairly sure we can deal with that.

    We dont really NEED a car while at Disney World. We use Disney transportation almost exclusively. The beauty of staying at the Boardwalk (yes, I am a Crescent Lake Snob) is the ability to walk to Epcot and Disneys Hollywood Studios. However, it would be nice to be able to get off site for shopping and site seeing on a longer trip like this. I figured we could live with Disney boats and buses at the Boardwalk but would rent a car to facilitate the move to Animal Kingdom Lodge and give us a week of potential off-site options.

    I tried repeatedly for a deal with Alamo, my go-to rental company at Disney, but couldnt find anything less than $250-$300 for the week. I also have memberships in the clubs of several other rental companies so I tried National, Budget, Dollar, Avis and Hertz. To my absolute astonishment, I was able to secure a mid-size vehicle with Hertz for a weekly rate of $164 (that price includes all taxes and fees). Hertz has usually been the most expensive of the bunch. Alamo is super-convenient for me with their office at the Dolphin hotel, a short walk from the Boardwalk. Hertz is located at the Hilton Bonnet Creek resort not far but no good way to walk it. I thought about a taxi or Uber but Hertz website indicates theyll pick me up. Color me impressed.
    Lastly, let me share that somehow, and I have no idea how theyve been able to do this, the trip will be a complete surprise for William and Christopher. They have no idea and have, on more than one occasion, wondered aloud when their next visit would be. In 2015, Barb and I drove down and the Schwabs flew down to meet us. On the evening before they flew down, I received a text message from William asking, Hey, Grandpop. Lunch at ESPN tomorrow? An ESPN lunch is sort of our arrival day tradition. Our plan is now for Barb and me to text the boys on the evening before they fly. Im thinking a photo (selfie) of us in front of the ESPN Zone with the same message Hey, boys. Lunch at ESPN tomorrow?

    Day 1 Tuesday, January 17, 2017 Planes, Projections and Power-Naps

    The alarm is set for the completely stupid time of 2:45 am but, sadly and expectedly, Im awake at 12:40. I just cant seem to get a good nights sleep before a trip. I finally get up at 1:50 and we proceed to caffeinate and shower. Barb gave me firm orders to ignore any spiders I spot today (and I always obey her orders) so were packed and off at 4:00.

    We arrived at the Albany airport at 4:30, park in the garage, and drag all four bags (three to check and one to carry on) down to the Southwest counter. Whoever decided to put spinner wheels on suitcases is one of my heroes. Check-in was quick and easy. We didnt score a TSE-PRE today and we had a little drama when I needed to endure a wanding and remove my cash, license and boarding pass from my front pants pocket.

    While seated at the gate, we had a particularly noisy couple nearby and we discussed avoiding them on the plane. Our 145 seat 737 had only 73 passengers which meant no one would have to sit in a center seat. We boarded early-ish (A25 and A26 thanks to Early Bird Check-In) and, rather than shoot for our usual 2-seats in the exit row, we decide to sit up front in row 4 (quicker exit dontcha know?). Naturally, the noisy couple is parked in row 5. They were awful during the first 30 minutes but then settled into watching a movie or something after that. Why do some people have to have a discussion so loud that everyone within 50 feet can hear every word?

    We had a wonderfully smooth flight that landed early at 9:40. Just after landing, I received a text message that our room was not quite ready - no surprise there.

    We exited the plane quickly and made the long walk to Disneys Magical Express, checked in with our Magic Bands, walked right through an almost empty corral and directly on to a bus. Were off to a great start. In 5 minutes, were off to the Boardwalk. Theres usually an earlier stop at the Caribbean Beach Resort but no one was on board for that. Total elapsed time is one hour from Gate 126 to the resort not a personal best but very, very good. To make things even better, I received a text while on route that our room, 3073, is ready.

    Side Note - There is some major construction by the airport. It looks like a new train rail extends out to another large building, which I assume to be additional gates.

    We hit the room for a quick freshen up and then were off to the ESPN Zone for an early lunch one of our many traditions. I have my favorite Dinger sandwich (even though its now called something else on the new menu) and a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Barb has the Chicken Caesar Salad and coffee (and water). Were the first ones seated there at 11:00. Its a bit early for lunch (at least for us) but weve been up for 10 hours so

    After lunch, we hit the Screen Door for a few essentials and learned they had no coffee creamer because someone ordered wrong. Barb got a container of French Vanilla flavored creamer, something I cant handle so Ill need to be on the lookout for Half and Half.

    We brought our stuff up to the room hoping our luggage might have been delivered. It hadnt made it yet so we headed off to Epcot. Everyone coming through the International Gateway now has to pass through the metal detectors. I found this true at a few locations and its a random check in others but, really, its no big deal. The only thing I carry that would be an issue is a cell phone and placing that into a bin and passing through the detector literally takes 3-5 seconds.

    We also used (for the first time) the new Passholder entry lanes. Theyre a really nice feature and saved us considerable time over the trip but theyre not always enforced.

    We walked through World Showcase and noticed the new kiosks for the Festival of Arts. The Festival runs Friday through Monday so the booths are currently closed and covered.

    We head down to the Land to use our Fastpass for Soarin. Its crowded and there is a long line in the Fastpass queue (Standby is 60 minutes) but were on in 15 minutes. Were seated in the third row but in the center section where there is almost no evidence of distortion.

    My cousin, Frank, and his wife, Patty, are here, staying at the Swan. Its funny that we live about 10 miles away but rarely see each other except, as the saying goes, at weddings and funerals. In our case, however, we have to add Disney World to that list. Its amazing how many times our trips have overlapped and we usually try to meet for a meal and/or drinks. We decide to meet tomorrow night at Todd Englishs bluezoo (Im pretty sure they dont capitalize the b). I also received a message from Tom Moeller. Were fellow RADPers but have never met even though we live approximately 25 miles apart (Tom lives in Saratoga Springs (the real one)). Tom thought it fitting that we schedule a meeting while were both 1,200 miles from home logic I couldnt disagree with. He and his wife, Beth, will be here after the Schwabs leave so we tabled the details for later.

    We walked back to World Showcase and stopped at the Rose and Crown (another tradition) for a Golden (Barb) and a Black and Tan (me). Barb was able to score a high top table (standing) but a table with chairs opened up in a few minutes so we moved there.

    Carol Stein, AKA the Hat Lady and formerly the keyboardist at the Comedy Warehouse, was decked out in a Union Jack shirt and matching skirt and mingling with the crowd. Soon, she was at the keys and entertaining us with her great voice and wonderful piano playing. She is very talented but her songs sparked a question: Why do young girls need to Whooooo so loudly and so much?

    Another of our traditions (obviously, we have many) is to take a photo of each other while sipping the first Rose and Crown beer of the trip. I use my phone to snap a quick photo of Barb and she then returns the favor by getting 13 identical photos of me. She has terrible difficulty with anything that is touch screen. To her, every button is the Abort button on a nuclear sub and must be mashed hard with a finger. This is why Im often called in to fix whatever latest catastrophe has befallen her iPhone, Kindle Fire, the laptop, etc.

    Thirst quenched, we exit Epcot through the International Gateway and shopped for a bit in the International Traveler.

    Back at the room, our luggage is still not there so I called Bell Services and heard it just came in. That sounds like a stock answer to me but its delivered in quick order and we set about unpacking. Much has been made about the refurbishment changes to the Boardwalk Villas studios. Many changes are positive (the fold-down childs bed and the abundance of USB ports come to mind). The bed, however, has eliminated several large dresser drawers, which have been replaced by a smaller dresser with even smaller drawers. The result is you need to be inventive with storing clothing, particularly when youve packed for 3 weeks.

    Unpacking was followed by my favorite thing a quick 20-30 minute power nap. Its amazing how my favorite thing has changed over the years.

    We decide to change tonights park from Epcot to Disneys Hollywood Studios so, around 4:00, I use the My Disney Experience app to cancel our Fastpass for Mission Space and get one for Toy Story Midway Mania at 4:35 and the Frozen Singalong at 6:00. Yes I successfully booked a Fastpass for Toy Story for 95 minutes later on the same day. That has never been possible for me ever!

    We walked to the Studios and caught a new Star Wars video show broadcast across three giant screens in front of the Chinese Theater. It was very entertaining with lots of Rogue One and Force Awakens footage. At the finale, several live characters (including C3P0, Chewbacca and R2D2) were on stage.

    The new track (3rd track) at Toy Story Midway Mania is all the way in the back and we were directed to it. The boarding area is a bit different but the ride is identical at least to this untrained eye. I win but the score is only 132,000 to 112000 I never do very well here.

    Star Tours posts a Standby time of 20 minutes but its a walk on and our ship isnt completely filled.

    Were a bit hungry and Ive long lamented about the lack of good counter service at the Studios. I do like PizzaRizzo (formerly Pizza Planet) but we know well be there when the grandsons arrive so we opt for the Backlot Express. We each get an order of chicken nuggets and water. The only review I could offer is meh.

    Next up was the Frozen show. We really enjoy this and, at least for me, it has to do with the different cast members that portray the Historians. While much of the show is scripted, they seem to get quite a bit of leeway with ad-libs and what they can with expressions and reactions. Most have been very funny and I do enjoy most of the music.

    When the show ended, we took a bench outside and people watched until 7:30. We then moved over to a spot in front of the Chinese Theater for the 7:45 Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks and projection show. This show is very good but Im not sure its better than Symphony in the Stars show that was there last year. I enjoyed both but think I prefer the original because it offered more fireworks. The fireworks in the new show are amazing but much of the middle of the production involves projections across the building surfaces. Theyre great but Id bet only 40-50% of the people watching are able to see them all you really need to be up close and/or centered. There were some spontaneous cheers each time an image of Leia (Carrie Fisher) appeared on screen, which was very nice.

    We walked back to the Boardwalk. The television was completely devoted to the capture of a local murderer. He was on the run for a number of months but was apprehended very close to his home and where the murder took place. This story was pre-empting anything on the television so we enjoyed a cocktail, some conversation and lots of people watching on the balcony before turning in very early. It had been a long day, we were both exhausted and sleep came before 9:30.

    Things I Think I Think:
    I think, as I get older, the extreme early morning wakeup of the first direct flight of the day is taking more of a toll on me. However, I still prefer getting there early enough to get an (almost) full day at Disney World.

    When its just the two of us, I think flying beats driving for convenience but I find I miss the adventure of a long road trip and having access to the car while here. I wonder if Id still feel that way after three days of driving.

    I think I have some advice for viewing the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show is to get there early, 15-30 minutes before the show starts (earlier during more crowded periods), and grab a viewing spot as close to the Chinese Theater as possible. It needs to be viewed once from up close. After that, you can forgo some of the projections and settle for a lesser view further back that can, presumably, be had without much of a wait.

    Day 2 Wednesday, January 18, 2017 If you press your face to the window and squint, you can see about 1/3 of Spaceship Earth.

    Im awake at 4:00 but fall back to sleep until 6:20. Considering the early hour we turned in, that was a great night of sleep.

    Let me discuss our morning routine this one time and, on future days, consider it the same except for the few times we ventured out to breakfast. Were usually up between 5:00 and 6:30 typically, Im the earlier riser. The first one up puts on coffee and breakfast is in the room. It consists of some combination of English muffins, bagels, muffins, toast, oatmeal (the instant variety), yogurt, fresh fruit (mostly bananas), coffee, etc. Some items we brought with us, others we shop for here.

    Each morning we alternate reading our local paper on-line, breakfast, showers and getting dressed. I also spend time on-line with paying bills and updating financial software. Being retired means that some of our income comes from periodic 401K activity and financial transactions. On a shorter trip, I just catch up when were home but over 21 days, I like to stay current and make sure no bills are going without attention.

    We walked out at 8:30 and found a waiting bus for the Animal Kingdom. We saw much construction while on route large areas being bulldozed off the sides of the road. It was impossible to tell if this is for road construction or something more substantial.

    We used the Passholder entry lane to save some time but saw no purple lights (as Sue had indicated) for DVC when we scanned our Magic Bands just the typical green. The Passholder queues often move much faster than the others (I guess the premise is that Passholders should be more experienced with the Magic Band and finger scan) but, in this case, one little girl took forever. I have found this to be common with children in the entry queues.

    We all queue up at the Tree of Life and wait for rope drop. Ive seen this before and its usually Safari Mickey or Goofy but, this time, we had a group of about a dozen large and colorful parrots fly over the crowd and roost near a CM (carrying some seeds). It was unique and very beautiful.

    We encounter DiVine on our walk back to Harambe and check in for our Kilimanjaro Safari. Each one is different and I scored the dreaded right-side of the truck but we did catch the cheetah walking, a rhino by the road, many zebra but the only giraffe in view were several clustered together up on a hill near the savannah.

    The batteries in my camera were failing (earlier than they should have been for a recent charge) so I swapped them out only to find the second set failing quickly as well. I guess these batteries might have hit end-of-life but I think theyre only about two years old. Hmmm.

    We exited the Safari and walked right to the Pangani Forest Exploration trail. There were several gorillas by the viewing window including one adult asleep and a very cute little guy playing with a bucket. We also saw more meerkats than ever before.

    Next up was our Fastpass for Expedition Everest. I love the queue here and enjoy the ride except I really dont enjoy the backwards part. Barb is okay riding solo but I decide to suck it up and put on the big boy pants and ride with her. Its fun but the backwards component is still an issue for me. This may be the last ride for a while. Someone did suggest that riding backwards is easier if you sit closer to the front of the train, which makes sense its the rearmost cars that get more lift and angle. Naturally, we were toward the rear in row 13.

    We walked around the Rivers of Light seating areas and I found they are far more substantial than I thought theyd be after viewing them through the construction walls. Probably not as large as Fantasmic! but still substantial.

    At this point, we head out of the park and to the bus stops and a Boardwalk bus pulls up as we approach. Our travel timing has been excellent so far.

    On the bus, I cancel our two remaining Fastpasses for Expedition Everest (we rode via Standby) and Its Tough To Be a Bug and book one for Illuminations. Im loving this convenience and while this is not as significant as scoring a Toy Story Fastpass this late in the day, its still surprising.

    We head to the room and then walk to the Speedway (formerly Hess) station. It seems their selection of beer is smaller each trip but I avoid the Bud Light (I dont even glance in its direction less someone be watching) and grab a 12-pack of Yuengling but strike out on coffee creamer and butter - nothing there at all.

    Its lunch time and Ive long maintained that the best burger on property is the Big Brew Cheeseburger at Big River Grille and Brewing Works. More than a few people have urged me to try the burger at D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs and I intend to, but Big River is on the boardwalk so were there for lunch.

    I have the cheeseburger and a Rocket Red and neither disappoints. Barb has water and (gasp) a chicken sandwich. Its good but she later indicates she should have had the burger. Doh!

    We walked over to the Beach Club Marketplace where I finally find some Half and Half and butter for the room.

    Have I mentioned the temperature is in the 80s? And its sunny? We changed into swimsuits and hit the quiet pool for a swim, some hot tub, lots of lounge chair time and a rousing game of air hockey in Community Hall. I blasted Barb (6-0) mainly because I needed revenge. Somehow, some way, the last time we played she won. She never beats me in anything except maybe laundry and bed-making so I needed to deliver a message and restore the male dominance in any athletic endeavors.

    We showered, changed and headed to the bluezoo at 5:45. We ordered drinks and Frank and Patty showed at 6:00. We shared a bunch of appetizers including crab nachos, fish and chips, flatbreads and calamari) and several more drinks while we chatted and caught up. Frank picked up the check while I was off in the restroom (my plan worked).

    A couple of highlights from the conversation They chatted with a guy at the new Abracadabra on the boardwalk. Frank wound up buying him dinner at the Trattoria (this, apparently, is what Frank does) and learned he was in IT Security for the White House. He indicated he was going to the inauguration and followed up by emailing a photo of him, in the White House, with Obamas dogs.

    Second, and more importantly, Frank and Patty also raved about the burgers at the Swan Cabana Bar. OK, theres another one I have to try. So many burgers and so little time.

    We decided to head to Epcot together. They kept insisting we use our Fastpass for Illuminations but, honestly, weve seen it enough that location is secondary. We first visited their room at the Swan they needed to pick up a few items and I wanted to see the rooms. On the way, we learned theres a respectable view of the Studios fireworks from the promenade between the Swan and Dolphin. Their Swan room had a partial view of Illuminations and, as Frank said, If you press your face to the window and squint, you can see about 1/3 of Spaceship Earth. He was right.

    Frank bought dinner so the least I could do was spring for a round at the Rose and Crown. We found a table and sipped and chatted some more. As 9:00 approached, I grabbed four plastic cups to transfer our drinks and we headed outside. My go-to spot for Illuminations was taken with a private function but Patty steered us to another area near the Rose and Crown that we were able to grab good standing spots with about 3 minutes to spare. Illuminations, as always, was great.

    Back to the boardwalk where we found a table and four chairs and I got us another round of drinks at Boardwalk Joes. Somehow, that escalated to a final nightcap, that Frank insisted on buying, at around 11:00. By 11:30, we said our goodbyes and headed to our respective rooms.

    Things I Think I Think:
    I think Frank and I grew up together, and see each other far too infrequently, so its great to meet up with them at a place we all love. During the course of this trip, I think I never saw the purple light for DVC at the entrance pedestals that Sue Rayford had alluded to. I still think Big Rivers burgers are the best but I am looking forward to trying D-Luxe Burgers and the Swan Cabana Bar.

    Day 3 Thursday, January 19, 2017 Try the grey stuff its delicious.

    We have our normal morning routine. Local weather is now calling for some severe storms and potential tornados on Sunday. Well have to keep an eye on this.

    We walk to Disneys Hollywood Studios and are in the park for rope drop at 8:50. We walked down Sunset and Tower of Terror was a walk on. I know Ive mentioned this previously but I find myself enjoying this ride more and more.

    We then walked back to Toy Story Midway Mania to use our 9:20-10:20 Fastpass. I won again, 144,000 to 73,000, but its still not a score to brag about.

    Next up was Star Tours that listed a Standby time of 10 minutes but was a complete walk on with empty seats on board.

    We only had coffee this morning in the room so we stopped at Starring Rolls for muffins and coffee. We have an early dinner tonight so this will be a late breakfast or early lunch take your pick. We had a reasonable view of the Storm Trooper parade from there. Every hour a troop of them are led up to the Chinese Theater and back down Hollywood Boulevard by Captain Phasma (and before you validate my Geek Card, know I had to look up that name).

    We thought briefly about the Great Movie Ride but the Standby wait was listed at 30 minutes and the line was out the door so we passed.

    Instead, we decided to head out. As Barb visited the restroom, I killed some time in the Antique Shop that was formerly Sid Cahengas. There was some very cool stuff including a Lion King movie poster autographed by James Earl Jones, Nathan Lane, etc.

    For absolutely no good reason, we decided to take a boat ride back to the Boardwalk. On the boat, I used the My Disney Experience app to cancel our remaining Fastpasses at the Studios and book one for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for 6:40 tonight. Again, this is typically not available on such short notice.

    Back at the Boardwalk, I stopped at the Front Desk to pick up our Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue tickets.

    We spent a few minutes freshening up and relaxing in the room. Our balcony view is of the front drive and port cochere with the Resort Airline Check-In desk off to our left. I know this is not a boardwalk view but I can watch the comings and goings out there for hours. Its people watching at its finest.

    We were out to the Magic Kingdom at 2:05 and caught a bus in 5 minutes. Were really having great luck with Disney transportation so far but, Im sure it will change at some point.

    The first thing we noticed was that the Emporium is under construction and had a large scrim covering the facade with a temporary tunnel leading to the sidewalk up Main Street. Construction is never as attractive as the original but Disney does a nice job of minimizing it.

    We wandered up to Tomorrowland and waited just a few minutes for a Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor show. There was a family on my left and the guy (guessing dad or uncle) next to me spent the entire show slumped in the seat with his hands in his pockets and his baseball cap pulled low over his eyes. He had absolutely no interest at all in the show and I was wondering if he understood English or was just being difficult. His family a woman and two children seemed to be enjoying it so Id opt for the latter.

    Next up was a ride on the Wedway/Peoplemover followed by Mickeys Philharmagic, two attractions I always enjoy.

    We had early dinner reservation at Be Our Guest and we were seated around 4:45. This is our fourth time here (one lunch and three dinners) and it continues to impress me. I had the Braised Beef while Barb had her favorite, the Ratatouille. Both were very good and washed down with a glass of Merlot. We also shared the Trio Salad. We dont normally order dessert but tonight we had an eclair and a triple chocolate cupcake. The desserts here are on the smaller side so I dont feel like Im overdoing it even though I probably am.

    After dinner, we rode Journey of the Little Mermaid and then headed back to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad where we rode using our Fastpass. Big Thunder is a much different ride after dark.

    We then walked out to the bus stops just as a Boardwalk bus pulled away. It seemed as if our luck had changed but being a Crescent Lake Snob has many benefits. In about 5 minutes, we saw a Yacht Club / Beach Club bus pull in. Two guys who were waiting with us seemed unclear and asked so we explained it would be a short walk from the Yacht Club to the Boardwalk and they followed us.

    We exited at the Yacht Club and debated which direction is closer: left past the Beach Club (Barb) or right over the Swolphin bridge (me). I often have a hard time convincing Barb on things like this. It seems she cant process non-straight line distances well without a map. At any rate, a few days later, we walked the circumference with a GPS and my route was about 20% shorter.

    We tried to convince the two guys who rode with us that it was an easy walk but they opted to take the Friendship boat over. It was just pulling up to the dock and, with us walking, we beat it to the Screen Door area but by only a few seconds.

    I had a thirst so we hit the Screen Door for a bottle of water then headed back to the room.

    This was another early night for us. We felt exhausted. I think we needed another good nights sleep to recover from the travel day instead of being out partying late last night. Apparently, old age has taken up permanent residence.

    Things I Think I Think I think I noted this on our last trip but its become more evident. The cast members in Mickeys Philharmagic are being adamant about all guests moving to the end of row. They go as far as singling people out, shining a flashlight and calling them out with you in the red shirt. After the seating was completed, one cast member thanked most of you that listened. I normally applaud this effort but their diligence was odd considering the theater was only half-full. We wound up with everyone seated in the right half of the theater while the left side was entirely empty. Im guessing here but it seems what theyre really trying to eliminate is guests having to climb over those that insist on stopping in the middle. I know this is one way to accomplish that but I think a better way is to revert to the instruction to move 2/3 of the way down the row before stopping I think thats a better solution.

    I think there are no DVD players in the refurbished rooms at the Boardwalk. This is not an issue for us but just something I noticed. I know DVC still advertises free DVD rental for members so I wonder if theyre providing loaner DVD players with them.

    Day 4 Friday, January 20, 2017 S-U-P-E-R, C-A-L-I-F, R-A-G

    Im awake at 1:44, 5:20 and 6:15. I guess choppy sleep is better than no sleep.

    Today is Inauguration Day (I love evaporated milk Can anyone get *that* reference?) and I also need to check in the Schwabs for their Southwest flight. They did not opt for the Early Bird Check-In and both Will and Michelle will be working at the appropriate time, so I agreed to handle it.

    I have tons of experience at this but this one will be difficult because they cashed in miles for all four tickets, which, for Southwest, mean four unique reservations. So I opened four browser windows and prepared each one. Then, at 6:58, I began clicking the check-in button and being told it was too early. Just as the time clicked to 7:00, I got through. It takes two mouse clicks per reservation and I had all four done in less than 10 seconds but there must have been a lot of people doing the same thing because I received Boarding numbers B19, 37, 47 and 53.

    Were off walking to Epcot and ride Test Track with a Standby wait of 20 minutes. We had a single rider with us - a mom from Maryland who was here alone. As a single rider, you bypass the design your car portion and she indicated her kids wouldnt stand for that.

    Next up was Soarin with a 9:30 Fastpass. This is becoming our MO at Epcot because you can only get one premium Fastpass (Soarin, Test Track, Frozen or Illuminations) per day. I can live without Frozen (we rode once and its nice but not worth the long waits or a Fastpass) and I have plenty of spots to view Illuminations. We book either Soarin or Test Track with a 9:30 Fastpass and ride the other Standby.

    Next stop was the DVC Lounge (upstairs at Imagination) and, jeez, theres a lot of stairs there. Its an aerobic workout I wasnt planning on or looking for. I need to use the elevator more.

    This place is inside the Imagination glass pyramid and offers some really stunning views around the park particularly of Spaceship Earth. They offer a free beverage station for soft drinks and a Keurig for coffee. A cast member also wanders around offering some small snacks (Chips Ahoy, Cheetos, etc.) from a cart. For a reason I still cant comprehend, I had a Seagram Raspberry Ginger Ale. It really wasnt very good and I blame the menu system on the beverage machine for leading me down that path of no return.

    After relaxing for a bit, and catching up on email, we walked out to World Showcase, stopping first at the Odyssey. There were a couple of art displays there, as part of the Festival of the Arts, so we spent some time wandering and viewing. I wanted to see some of the work by Mary Blair, whos famous for designing many of the Small World dolls and also the mural in the Contemporary. To be completely honest, nothing here impressed me but keep in mind that I have very little artistic taste and, what I do have, begins and ends with dogs playing poker.

    We began our walk around World Showcase and stopped in Karamel Kuche. I love stopping here but I rarely buy anything. Three young girls (12-14 is my guess) were, apparently, fulfilling a school project by asking questions of the two young, German cast members there. I listened in and found the female CM had been here 7 months. When she was asked why she decided to work here, here reply was, Hey, its Disney! Many of the questions were well formed and the answers interesting. As we were leaving, she seemed stumped by the question, What have you found here that you also enjoyed at home? I should have waited for her answer.

    I had read previously in a trip report (thanks, Sue Rayford) that DVC members or Passholders could secure a badge for guaranteed seating at the Disney on Broadway concert series. What I didnt know was how to secure them. I asked a cast member by the American Gardens Theater and was informed you have to get them in person at Innoventions (Whine: But I just came from there!). Well risk attending via the standby queue tonight.

    We head out through the International Gateway and stop at the Boardwalk Bakery for a bit of lunch. We grabbed a Turkey Sandwich (me) and Chicken Caesar Salad (Barb, and she complained it had very little dressing).

    We brought these back to the room and noticed housekeeping had not been there yet. Were due today for a complete cleaning (not just trash and towel service). After lunch, we noticed housekeeping was nearby so we changed to swimsuits and headed to the quiet pool.

    It was, again, in the low 80s so we spent another 1.5-2 hours swimming and lounging. Two parents and their adult daughter were in the pool and I heard them asking about the noodles so they could relax in the water. The daughter, and Im guessing late-20s here, jumps out and, giggling, wraps her arms around the entire stash of noodles (probably 15-20) and dumps them in the pool. They all had a chuckle but I correctly predicted they would leave without returning them to the storage bin. Someone else can clean that up.

    Back to the room and its still not cleaned so we head to the balcony with a beer. While were out there, housekeeping shows up and does their thing. Typically, DVC stays only get trash and towel service on day 4 but for stays of longer than 7 days, its a complete cleaning on day 4 followed by trash and towel on day 8 rinse and repeat. This is the first stay weve ever had of greater than 7 days so this was a nice benefit. Our longer stays previously have always involved moving to another resort after 7 days.

    While on the balcony, I received a text from my cousin, Frank, informing me that the Victoria Secret models are at the Dolphin. Apparently, theres a convention or photo shoot or something. Once, years ago, I was spending a week at a hotel on business and learned it was the week that nurse exams were being given at a nearby medical center. They werent Victoria Secret models but those would-be nurses knew how to party.

    I also got a text from Michelle. Tonights the night we planned on texting the boys about the trip and shes suggested we make it a Facetime session instead. She now asked if we could move it up to 5:00 pm because of soccer practice. No problem.

    We showered, dressed and headed out on to the boardwalk by the ESPN Zone. Using Facetime was not ideal we stood with the large ESPN sign behind us so the sun was low and directly in our face and we had difficulty viewing the screen. Facetime, and Disneys Wi-Fi, were also spotty and the picture was a bit jumpy but we accomplished the goal. We asked the boys if theyd like to join us for lunch tomorrow at ESPN. They just looked confused and we could hear Michelle and Will saying, Yes, were going tomorrow and they boys shouting, Really? Were going?

    This was a success and the boys were both surprised although Michelle admitted later that she thought the school might have blown it today. She was there picking up Williams schoolwork and she received several notes and texts from his teachers saying, Have a great trip. She thought one of them would blow it for sure but it didnt happen.

    We walked to Epcot and found the Standby queue for the America Garden Theater. It took us about15 minutes to gain entry, which wasnt terrible. While walking inside the queue toward the theater, Barb spotted a woman walking the other way while breastfeeding a child, estimated to be 7-8 months old. Thats not very newsworthy except the woman was not covered at all. It was an open boob and Barb described her as having ample bosoms. Im not quite sure how I missed that but I blame old age.

    Full disclosure - Im not a big fan of musicals or Mary Poppins (sorry, everyone) but this show was outstanding. Ashley Brown was Broadways first Marry Poppins and also played Belle (she joked she was the first Mary but the 15th Belle). Josh Strickland played Tarzan and was also very talented but just a little too demonstrative for my taste. In any event, they sang solos and duets of songs from Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, Tarzan, the Little Mermaid, etc.

    Ive never seen the Broadway version of Mary Poppins (Ive actually only seen the film once) but, and Im speculating here, during Supercalifragiliciousexpialidocious (I really hope I spelled that correctly) theres a point where they sing it letter by letter as in S-U-P-E-R, C-A-L-I-F while Mary mimes the letters. Now its very fast and Ashley Brown is doing a magnificent job of it when she looks into the audience and says, I see you in the orange shirt. She then brings up a young (17-18?) girl on stage, who mimes the letters for the entire song very quickly I should add. It was impressive but I could only imagine this young girl has played the role somewhere or she is the biggest fan on the planet.

    We both enjoyed the show immensely and, as we left, noticed people already lined up for the next one.

    We walked around World Showcase stopping in China to, once again, be amazed at the Acrobats. We stopped in the Lotus Blossom and shared an order of Pot Stickers and Egg Rolls. This was only an appetizer as we discussed plans for a Russo Rule dinner at the Dolphin Fountain.

    We walked out the International Gateway and on to the Fountain for two sundaes a Brownie Sundae that was too big, even for me (I actually left a bit in the glass) and a Hot Fudge for Barb. They dont take Tables in Wonderland here but we do get a 20% discount for DVC. Comparatively, the sundaes at Ghirardelli run about $12. These were $8 and $6 respectively, or $6.40 and $4.80 after discount, every bit as good and dont require a bus trip to Disney Springs. I see us hitting Ghirardelli again, but probably only if were already at Disney Springs.

    We exited and caught a large part of the Star Wars fireworks from the walkway. Back to the boardwalk where we mingled with what seemed to be many convention attendees. We enjoyed some live entertainment, a juggler and a magician, and then turned in for the night.

    (Something I completely forgot to do was to report the daily steps and mile walked. Let me catch you up.)

    Steps/Miles Walked
    Day 1 17,504 steps 7.2 miles
    Day 2 19,635 steps 7.9 miles
    Day 3 15,708 steps 6.1 miles
    Day 4 18,752 steps 7.7 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think that somehow, some way, Michelle and Will pulled of a surprise that I never thought had a chance. I think I know very little about art. I think Im not a big fan of musicals but I thoroughly enjoyed the Disney on Broadway concert tonight. One of the most entertaining Ive seen anywhere (it probably didnt hurt that it was only 30 minutes long). I think the two Broadway stars they brought in were tremendously talented and had the perfect personalities for this venue. I think I should avoid Seagram Raspberry Ginger Ale. I think the Schwabs will be here tomorrow which means our leisurely park touring style is about to be kicked upwards several notches.

    Day 5 Saturday, January 21, 2017 The end of Constantine.

    Im up at 6:15 and Barb is still snoring like a runaway freight train so I try to be quiet and let her sleep. Eventually, she stirs and we go through our usual routine.

    Well hang out a bit today, waiting for the Schwabs to arrive. We begin with a walk around Crescent Lake to prove my earlier point about the walk to the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk to the Beach Club is .385 miles, the Beach Club to the Yacht Club is .09 miles (making the Yacht Club to Boardwalk on that route .475 miles), and the Yacht Club to the Boardwalk is .379 miles. I never tire of hearing this but Barb admitted, You were right.

    We get a text from Michelle that theyve landed in Orlando so I start tracking them on the iPhone (Yes, we often stalk our children. Its a parents right.) They seem to be stuck waiting on the Magical Express bus for a good 20 minutes but they arrive at 11:15. Unlike 2015, Christopher manages to exit the bus without leaving a stuffed Michelangelo behind. He was, and still is, the biggest Pluto fan around and hes wearing his Pluto hat to prove it. Their room is not yet ready so they freshen up and store their carry-on bags in ours. As we leave the resort, Michelle gets the text that room 3079 (just a few doors from ours) is ready.

    We head to ESPN for our traditional lunch then its off to Epcot. Our first Fastpass is for Spaceship Earth at 1:25. The standby wait is listed at 30 minutes but, using the Fastpass, were on in five. I really wonder how the boys will like this, as their tastes are more for thrill rides. William is a bit older and, I think, has a better memory of riding things previously. Christopher remembers less, as he was only five on his last visit. He is very visual and asks many questions about rides before boarding. However, nothing seems to hold him back he just likes to know what to expect.

    Spaceship Earth seems to be a hit with both boys. William has been studying ancient Egypt in school and knows all about the use of papyrus for writing.

    Mission: Space is next with a 5-minute wait. Its the first time for both boys and we choose the non-spinning green side. They both enjoy it and it becomes a ride they ask for again.

    We spend a few minutes at Pin Central where William buys a pin. I use my Annual Pass for the discount but the cast member insists that I pay for it, not Michelle. Another example of the Carousel of Policy as weve done this many times previously.

    Were now ready for our 2:25 Fastpass on Soarin. I really like the new version, in spite of the potential for distortion, and Im hoping the Schwabs will as well. It seems to be a hit with everyone.

    We leave Epcot via the International Gateway and stop at the Traveler for a Passport for William. Last trip, the boys really enjoyed visiting the KidCot stations and William is turning it into a school project, getting stickers, passport stamps and writing from each country. Christopher will opt for the lesser map/coloring items.

    We hit the Screen Door for Slushies (Will and William if my memory serves) then the Schwabs were off to the room to unpack. They also spent some time at the Luna Park pool (the boys can go up and down that slide for hours).

    We were off to Disneys Hollywood Studios a little after 5:00 but detoured when we noticed cast members hosting a marshmallow roast at the fire pit by Community Hall. They had all the makings for Smores so the boys roasted a few before we head out again. Its interesting, at least to me, the level of safety equipment thats there for a marshmallow roast and the adherence to procedure that the cast members insist upon - but I can certainly understand it.

    We make our way to the Studios and visit Star Tours but the line is out the door and into the Ewok village so we pass. I dont care what the Standby sign says here. That kind of line happens when a large tour group enters and/or an Indiana Jones show lets out. The wait time jumps quickly to 30-45 minutes but it might take a while before the signage catches up. If the lines out the door, I keep moving.

    We visited the new PizzaRizzo (formerly Pizza Planet). The Schwab boys are two of the fussiest eaters on the planet. William, being older, is starting to branch out a bit but their tastes run toward pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese and very little else. Luckily, Disney World is loaded with places that will accommodate them.

    Like its predecessor, PizzaRizzo is pretty good. The personal pizzas are good and I enjoy the Caesar salad that comes with it. After dinner, we walked back to Star Tours. The wait was still at 20-minutes but it did give us a chance to see all the pre-show, which we almost never have time to enjoy. The boys loved the ride.

    Next was a visit to MuppetVision 3D where Im pleased to report that Constantine has been purged from the pre-show finally! And, for the first time, Sweetums paid a visit and spent a few minutes dusting items in the preshow area. That was new at least to me.

    We were about to head off to see the fireworks but the boys asked for another ride on Star Tours. It looked like a walk-on so we entered again. It was a complete walk-on but it still delayed us a bit. We now only had about 5-minutes before fireworks. We tried to walk quickly over to grab a good view but, as we all know, there are no straight lines in Disney World. We got close but not close enough. When the show began, we were back a little bit from the Theater and off to one side. Our view was affected by some trees and a few open umbrellas. We could see most of the fireworks and a bit of the projections but I told everyone we would need to come back for a proper viewing.

    When the show ended, we waddled out with the masses and walked back to the Boardwalk. This is so much better than waiting for a boat or bus and just makes me happy to be a Crescent Lake Snob.

    Back at the Boardwalk, they were showing a film on the back lawn. It was Star Wars: The Force Awakens so the boys quickly found a blanket to sit on and watch. Barb and I were still exhausted (Im not sure well ever catch up) and passed on the film. We headed up to the room and I think I was asleep by 9:45.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    20,045 steps 8 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think its great to have the Schwabs here. I think, at 7 and 11, the boys are now the perfect age to enjoy all Disney World has to offer. I think theyll also make great use of the pool and slide. I think theyll remember riding some attractions while experiencing a few for the first time. I think I need to get them back for the Studios fireworks so they can really enjoy them.

    Day 6 Sunday, January 22, 2017 Churros, footlongs and tornados.

    We go through our usual morning routine and are out to the Magic Kingdom at 8:15. We must have just missed a bus because it was a 15-minute wait and got very crowded before our bus finally arrived. A word about the displays at the bus stops. It seems the expected arrival times change frequently but almost never in your favor. I walk up to a stop and see the Magic Kingdom bus is due at 8:28. In short order, that time will jump to 8:30, 8:33 and 8:35 - but it never seems to drop to 8:26. Just sayin.

    There are some very large crowds at the Magic Kingdom at the security tables as well as the entry points. Its funny though, each park seems to have tons of people milling around but the wait times are reasonable. I guess thats a tribute to Disneys efforts to spread out the crowds.

    The Schwabs head to Space Mountain while Barb and I do Buzz Lightyear twice. We used to ride Space Mountain regularly but, sometime around the last refurbishment we came to the conclusion it was becoming too rough for us. We both enjoy the ride but, possibly due to the darkness, its become impossible to prepare yourself for the dips, bends and drops and that leads to undue stress on these old, aching bones and joints.

    When they leave Space, we all ride Buzz Lightyear and then take a spin on the Wedway. We follow that with Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. I get put up on screen as the guy whos going to buy churros for the entire crowd and I shake my finger and mouth the words, Not happening. A bit later, one of the monsters is interviewing a particularly subdued young man when he learns he has a dog. He asks, Is this your dog? while Christopher appears on screen, complete with his Pluto hat.

    Next up was a ride on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with a Fastpass. At 5 years old, Christopher didnt like the animatronic of the witch at the very end of the ride. Either hes gotten over it or it was just too quick to bother him on this trip. Barb and I rode in the front row and both remarked how much faster it seemed. It might be because theres no car in front of you when up front all you can see is track. At any rate, it seemed quicker.

    Next up was Mickeys Philharmagic with another similar cast member experience of getting everyone all the way to end of the row. This is an attraction we all seem to enjoy.

    William was a bit hungry so he got a pretzel from the fruit stand in Liberty Square (I never remember the name of the place).

    We walked back and rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Pirates of the Caribbean in succession.

    Now the rest of us were ready for lunch so we hit a semi-busy Caseys (Ive seen worse crowds here). I need to continue my theme from our last trip here everyone in front of me has a complicated transaction. The cast member at the register was alternating between guests on his left and right. When I stepped up on the left, he began taking the orders from two young ladies on the right. They had questions on every item on the board. For crying out loud, ITS A HOT DOG. It took five full minutes for these two to order a hot dog and a soft drink.

    I had a Footlong and fries while Barb just had the plain hotdog. We figured (correctly) that we could share the fries. The dogs were fine, not the best nor the worst Ive ever had. I will say the footlong is huge, thick as well as, er a foot long, with entirely too much roll. Will had one as well and we both spent time breaking off and discarding pieces of bread.

    On the way out, Michelle stopped at Guest Services and upgraded their passes from 6 to 7 days. They purchased discounted passes through Undercover Tourist and the best deal was on 6-day Park Hoppers. Extending them here is often a leap of faith, hoping youll find a cast member knowledgeable enough to upgrade the tickets while maintaining the discount. Ive found, in the past, that the Guest Services booths just outside the turnstiles at Magic Kingdom can usually handle things easily and quickly. They came through again today.

    It was getting very windy and storms are forecasted for later in the day. Each day so far has seen temps in the 80s but that will change with the front coming through.

    Back at the room, we now see that tornado watches are part of the forecast for this evening. This will certainly affect our plans. The Schwabs head to the pool while Barb does laundry for us I thought about helping but, as I said, shes a much better launderer than I.

    I noticed a blinking light on our in room phone and retrieved a message regarding a family fun night activity tonight at Community Hall. Its scheduled for 8:00-10:00, during what promises to be the height of the storm so it might have some interest.

    Soon the high winds, rain, storms, etc. are a reality. We all decide to stay close to home so, during a break in the heaviest rain, we grab ponchos and jackets and head to the Dolphin Fountain for dinner. At Williams request, were seated at a high-top table for six and chow down on burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork and salads.

    Our server. Darren, is an odd sort. He tells me that a gratuity will be added automatically for a party of six and if I want to refuse it, hell bring out his manager. He also informs me that I can also add to the included gratuity. Okay

    During the course of our meal, we learn this is Darrens last week. He has congestive heart failure and has already been taken out of the restaurant twice by ambulance. Sheesh! He doesnt look older than late-30s. I feel for this guy but Im wondering why he felt the need to share all that with us. It wasnt as if we did anything to prompt him.

    He delivers the bill (less 20% for the DVC discount) and I pay via credit card. Its a my bad here but, after signing the bill, I notice he added two craft beers that we never had. I found Darren and he apologized those beers were for another table. He now needed to adjust their bill, our bill and get his manager involved to issue a refund for me (which may take up to a week to post).

    We had back to the room in light rain and I get a text from Frank. Theyre flying home today but have been cooling their heels at the airport since early afternoon. So far, their 3:30 flight has been delayed 4 hours. (I found out the next day that they had an awful time that began when their Tiffany Town Car driver ran over the Swan valets foot. After spending hours on the plane on the tarmac, their flight was canceled while a later flight to Albany took off. It took them almost two hours to retrieve their luggage due to lightning at the airport. They wound up getting an Uber back to Disney World after midnight and spending another night at Coronado Springs.)

    Barb and I watched the Falcons crush the Packers in the NFC Championship game. The Schwabs decided to head to Epcot but thought better of it while on route. Michelle texted that the radar looked awful so they made their way back and later, headed out to the Boardwalk Bakery for dessert. While they were there, it poured. It rained as hard as Ive ever seen it. Looking out our balcony window, it looked like a river flowing down the Boardwalk driveway. The Schwabs were stuck in the Bakery for 20 minutes (which is not a bad place to be stuck).

    Lightning, thunder, heavy rains and high wind were the theme of the rest of the evening. There were several tornado reports but none close enough for concern. Nevertheless, we stayed put for the evening and watched the Patriots win to set up a Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    10,925 steps 4.2 miles (We stayed in tonight)

    Things I Think I Think I think the My Disney Experience app has really improved over the last few years. I still have a couple of complaints: it needs a dining filter that can be used BEFORE the search and the Ipad version often reverts to Portrait mode for no good reason. I think our server experience tonight at the Dolphin was a bit odd. I think our decision to stay in, given the forecast, was a sound one. I think Frank and Patty had an awful day but probably have a story theyll tell for years.

    Day 7 Monday, January 23, 2017 If you cant trust a cast member

    The storms raged a bit overnight but let up somewhere after 1:00 am or so.

    I stopped at the front desk to ask about travel to tonights Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue. Ive done this many times and always found the quickest method is to bus to the Magic Kingdom and catch a boat to Fort Wilderness but Im always looking for new solutions if they present themselves. Additionally, the forecast is calling for high winds all day and Im concerned about whether or not the boats will run. I was assured by the cast member that: 1) that is the best way to get there; and 2) the boats will run unless there is lightning. Remember that.

    Back at the room, I come to the realization that were headed to Animal Kingdom today and its early entry (Extra Magic Hours). I text Michelle and we agree to leave a bit earlier at 8:00.

    We arrive at the bus stop at 8:00 and see the next Animal Kingdom bus scheduled to arrive at 8:06; then 08:08; then 08:11 and, finally, 8:12. I had been telling Will what stellar bus service we experienced before they arrived so we agree that the problem is because the Schwabs are now here.

    We arrive and get through security. Our normal pass through Security is we all venture through the Guests With No Bags line for quick entry but Will carries the single backpack with all their stuff so he goes through the regular bag check. I notice that he always seems to be randomly selected for the metal detector as well. I mention it and he admits he thought that was a mandatory requirement. Hes been walking through it on his own, without being asked, for three days.

    Expedition Everest has a Standby queue listed at 30 minutes but the gang heads through anyway all except me and Christopher. Ive ridden it once this trip so Im good for 2-3 years. Theyre off the ride in 15 minutes and it was Williams first time and he loved it! By the end of the trip, he called it his favorite. While they were riding, Christopher and I hung by the exit and tried to spot our group either going up into the mountain or coming down the big drop. After a bit, we conceded that wed never be able to pick them out so we headed into the gift shop at the exit and waited for them there.

    There is no forecasted rain today but the sky is getting very dark and its starting to sprinkle so we decide to beat the downpour by seeing Its Tough to Be a Bug. It starts to rain heavier as were moving through the path around the Tree of Life. I could not get the folks in front of us to either move out of the way or walk faster so we got a little wet before making it into the lobby area.

    I always seem to be seated next to some live entertainment for these 3D films and today was no exception. There was a family on my right. Dad sat next to me and began the show by reaching for the butterfly five or six times. He was absolutely gagging when the stinkbug sprayed I thought he may convulse. Then he jumped completely out of his seat when the maggots and roaches left. Im glad he enjoyed it but cmon man.

    The rain had stopped when we exited and the sun was again shining. We headed back to Harambe and used our Fastpass for the Kilimanjaro Safari. There was actually a long line for the Fastpass entry but it moved quickly.

    It was another just OK safari. The lions were all sleeping but we saw 5 or 6 elephants along with the baby.

    We walked the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail next. We found the hippo very close to the glass window and the baby gorillas were out as well as four males on the hillside.

    We walked quickly to Festival of the Lion King and just made it for our 10:45 Fastpass. William did this somewhat begrudgingly (hes 11 going on 17) but Christopher seemed to really be into it.

    After the show, Michelle took Christopher off to get his face painted (like a pirate) while Barb and I (and shortly after us, Will) hit Kusifiri for water, coffee and two cinnamon rolls. We found a high-top table nearby to polish this stuff off.

    The Schwabs stayed for another ride on Expedition Everest using an 11:55 Fastpass. Christopher rode this time and also loved it. They then hit Primeval Whirl, a real Schwab favorite, before leaving.

    Barb and I decided to head back to the resort and caught a waiting bus. We were the only passengers on board. See? Its the Schwabs fault.

    Back at the Boardwalk, I stop again at the Front desk to discuss transportation to Hoop Dee Doo. Im thinking a second cast members opinion may not be a bad idea. I also consider Uber but Im told it will take us only as far as the Settlement. If memory serves, I think its still a bus ride from there. Anyway, this cast member agrees with the first one that the boats should be no problem.

    We visit On the Boardwalk (which is also called the Screen Door I think) for chips and fudge. Yes, they now have the same fudge deal (1/3 off if you buy six) I used to get only at the Main Street Confectioners. And this time Im not wasting two picks on Barb that she probably wont eat anyway so its a chocolate centric order. The only downside is they refuse to give me the Passholders discount because the fudge is already discounted.

    The Schwabs make it back at 1:30, refresh, and were off at 2:00 to make our 4:00 Hoop-Dee-Doo reservation. If youre wondering why I booked the earlier dinnertime, its 20% off using Tables in Wonderland for the first show only and, at the pricing for this show, 20% is a substantial savings.

    The bus arrives at 2:12 and were at the Magic Kingdom bus stops by 2:30. We head over to the boat deck where we find the boats arent running due to the high winds. I swear, I have been given more bad information by cast members I really wish some would just admit that they dont know.

    What to do? Im thinking a bus to the Wilderness Lodge, and then well make our way to Fort Wilderness. At the bus stop, we learn that the same bus will also make a stop at Fort Wilderness so were good to go. Now in the old days, once you arrived at the Fort Wilderness Outpost area, you would have to take either a Crockett or Boone bus to the Pioneer Hall area. At some later date, those buses were renamed to (I think) A and B. That is, apparently, no longer the case. I spied a driver, waiting outside his bus, and asked for the best way to get to the Hoop-Dee-Doo. He turned and pointed to a building about 100 yards away. I didnt recognize it immediately because we always approach it from the other side, but that building was Pioneer Hall. Therefore, the moral here is that if you ever need to get to Pioneer Hall, take a Fort Wilderness bus from Magic Kingdom and walk 100 yards. I really wish the Boardwalk cast members had that information.

    We now had about an hour to kill. The Schwabs are big campers they have their own large glamping style recreational vehicle and enjoy scouting others - so we wondered the campsites for a while. We see two deer running through the area by the Settlement store then jumping the fences to retreat back to the woods.

    At about 4:30, they begin taking check-ins for the show so I enter a short line by short I mean Im third in a line of about 8-10. There are only two couples in front of me but, as you all know by now, everyone in front of me has a complex transaction. Im not sure why but, while my check-in took all of 30 seconds (show your ticket and they check you off a list), the two couples in front of me took 7 and 5 minutes, respectively. I noticed them asking questions but couldnt hear what was asked.

    Ive written an article about the Hoop-Dee-Doo (if youre interested, so I wont offer a lot of detail here. It was an entirely new cast but the show was great, as always. Its scripted but the cast seems to have enough leeway to ad lib occasionally and that seems to come with audience interaction. I also thought the ribs were the best Ive tasted here and I can rave about the strawberry shortcake forever.

    The boys are not into ribs and fried chicken (I mentioned theyre fussy eaters) but they were able to dine just fine on Mac & Cheese, a hot dog and a grilled cheese sandwich.

    When the show ends, we would typically queue up for a boat back to the Magic Kingdom but instead (due to the winds), we catch a bus to the Contemporary. Can anyone tell me why there is a bus to the Contemporary from Fort Wilderness? That was a huge surprise.

    The Schwabs began walking to the Magic Kingdom but Barb needed a restroom so I waited with her and we decided to ride the monorail. For some stupid reason, neither of us thought about the monorail going all the way around the loop, in the wrong direction, before getting to the Magic Kingdom. It took a while.

    We were joined on the monorail by a large family boarding at the Grand Floridian. They had celebrated a 4-year-old girls birthday there. She was wearing an elaborate and very nice Cinderella gown and one of the men was carrying the remnants of a very large birthday cake that precisely matched her gown. I can only imagine the cost of that party.

    The Schwabs were off riding Space Mountain so we walked to Tomorrowland and waited by the exit. Will and William decided on the Haunted Mansion (Williams first time) while the rest of us rode the Wedway. On a previous ride, I noticed some construction walls in the back, between the Carousel of Progress and Space Mountain. I thought they might already be dismantling those silly cabanas ($650 per day) but saw here that theyre building something new. I have no idea what it will be but, inside the construction walls, I could see octagonal footings have been poured.

    We caught the very well done projection show, I think this version is called Once Upon a Time, on the castle and then moved to Main St. where we met Will and William for Wishes. William liked the Haunted Mansion, by the way, and we had a great view for, and all enjoyed, Wishes.

    We thought a bit about trying to get back quickly enough to squeeze in Illuminations weve done it before. Unfortunately, but we had a 10 minute wait for a bus (must be the Schwabs) which killed that idea. Once back, we spent some time on the boardwalk and the Schwabs had some Mickey bars before turning in.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    17,009 steps 6.8 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think Animal Kingdom may be the boys favorite park. I think cast members should admit that, sometimes, they just dont know the answer. On numerous occasions, Ive been given bad information that has cost me time and/or difficulty getting from place to place and none of it would have happened if the cast member had just said, Im not sure. I dont expect them to have every answer but I would certainly prefer if they didnt make something up or offer their best guess and present it as fact. I think Ive seen the Hoop Dee Doo Revue 8 or 10 times and still enjoy it. I think everyone in front of me has a complex transaction.

    Day 8 Tuesday, January 24, 2017 Give me ten, soldier!

    Its snowing back home with some sleet and freezing rain added to make it interesting. The schools are closed so this is one day the boys arent missing anything.

    Its a bit of a chilly morning (sweatshirts or jackets are needed) and forecasted cool for this evening but should be very nice during the mid-day hours.

    I receive several texts this morning from friends and family asking how were doing. Our son, Stephen, also lets me know that Mike & Mike will be broadcasting live from Disney Springs on Thursday and Friday. For the non-sports fan, thats Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic who have a very popular morning show on ESPN Radio. The NFL Pro Bowl has been moved from Hawaii to Orlando and will be played here next Sunday. Much of the buildup during this week will take place at Disney World most of it at ESPNs Wide World of Sports facilities. While I would enjoy attending a Mike and Mike broadcast, they begin at 6:00 am and that would mean getting to Disney Springs around 5:00 am. I dont think thats going to happen.

    We set off walking to Disneys Hollywood Studios at 8:30. They let us into the park early. We send Michelle and Will off to ride Rock n Roller Coaster while we take the boys for a ride on Star Tours a walk on.

    Were off quickly enough that we opt for a second ride and, this time, Christopher gets selected to be the Rebel Spy. It seems like William wants to be chosen here and hes calculating where he thinks he needs to sit in order to be picked.

    We meet Michelle and Will by Pixar Place and they share a disturbing story about rude cast members at Rock n Roller Coaster. They seemed exasperated by an older man asking for help with his hat and glasses. The cast member just kept repeating the same thing over and over instead of helping the guy. There was a similar encounter with a younger boy having difficulty getting the harness up at the end of the ride. The CM just kept repeating the same thing until, finally, Michelle helped the young man. Wills comment was that its Only your fourth ride of the day. I admit hearing reports from other guests about this very thing. Ive always written it off as my interactions with cast members are typically great. I do admit though that Im starting to see more and more of this type of behavior. Its becoming common to see 2 or 3 cast members conversing amongst themselves while guests are left alone to board attractions, etc. I also see less patience for guests that are struggling with something I wonder if this is a training issue?

    We ride Toy Story Midway Mania then exit on to Pixar Place. Christopher would like the opportunity to meet and greet Buzz and Woody so Michelle takes him into that queue. William is, as Ive mentioned, 11 going on 17 so hes not interested and he and Will head back into Toy Story Mania for a second ride. The Standby wait is only 20 minutes so that should work.

    Barb and I are hanging out when I get accosted by a Green Army man. He has the distinct advantage as hes using a bullhorn to shout at me. We have a heated exchange about the Albany army and before long Im being commanded to give him 10 Jumping Jacks. I complain that I have bad knees and hear, Thats what they all say so before long, Im doing 10 Jumping Jacks. I really do have bad knees (arthritis in both) and I try to restrict lower body workouts to stretches, walking and/or a stationary bike. Nevertheless, I give him ten and am then scolded for not doing them correctly my hands need to touch at the top. I whip out ten more and , again, Im scolded this time for not counting them out. I see how this is going so, on my own, I do 15 counting them loudly. He begins complaining that I cheated again when I inform him that Im done. The knees are barking and I dont plan on incapacitating myself to entertain this guys shtick. He then insists I salute him. Somewhere inside Im thinking that I served in the military and this yokel did not. Hes not wearing any rank and Im no longer active duty so its inappropriate to salute him but I do. He proceeds on and has some others actually doing push-ups in the street.

    Now, Im all for having fun but I have a mini-rant here. This guy is basically shaming guests into complying with his arbitrary orders. We can all smile but having people drop to the ground for pushups is, at least to me, a bit over the top. As is requiring a senior citizen (and I hate to admit that) to perform Jumping Jacks when you have no idea whats going on with his health. Suppose I had a heart condition, or A-Fib, or my knee collapsed and I tumbled to the ground, or You get the idea. Im just thinking he can have some fun verbally without risking injury.

    Once Ive stopped crying about being made to exercise, we all take in the Frozen Singalong show. Were earlier than expected so we enter via the Standby queue (not really an issue) and I cancel our 1:00 Fastpass.

    The boys have decided to avoid Tower of Terror so we send Michelle and Will there using our Fastpass while Barb and I take the boys back to Star Tours which has a 20 minute wait.

    When were all finished, we meet up at the SciFi Drive-In Theater for lunch. I check us in with a very unfriendly cast member (it seems like a theme today). She wasnt rude at all, just not very pleasant. No smile or eye contact, just giving instructions. Were quickly seated, by a much nicer cast member, in our 6-passenger Chevy (I think its a Chevy).

    While we were ordering, I managed to book a Fastpass for Test Track for this evening again, a bit of a surprise that its available this late in the day.

    We watch the old movie trailers (my favorite is still The Amazing Colossal Man when he skewers the scientist with the injection needle) and dine on grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, turkey sandwiches, shakes and waters. This is another spot that we always enjoy.

    We think about the Great Movie Ride but pass again as the line is out the door. We do spend a few minutes looking over the concrete handprints and autographs before heading out.

    Near the exit, we stumble upon a meet and greet with Donald so Christopher jumps in line for some photos and hugs. The boat is just pulling up to the dock so we take it back as far as the Swan and Dolphin, then walk to the Boardwalk.

    Back at the room, I spent some time downloading photos and hooking the laptop up to the TV (did I mention the Boardwalk studios now have a 50 flat screen mounted above the dresser?) so we can all view the photos later. Downloading is a bit of a cumbersome process that, I think could and should be streamlined for guests. Barb went out for a quick walk while I was doing that and Michelle texted about 4:00 that they were ready so everyone was in our room for a quick photo show and then we were off to Epcot.

    First up was a ride on Mission: Space. The Schwabs went back in for a second ride. We were heading toward the Land when we noticed a meet and greet with two characters from Inside Out, Joy and Sadness, in Innoventions (or at least what once was Innoventions its such a shell of its previous entertainment). Christopher is a big fan of the film and dressed as Anger last Halloween. He and Michelle entered a long-ish queue and I was surprised at how many in the queue were young adults without children.

    Barb and I hung out while Will and William went in and rode Living With the Land. When we were all back together, we walked up to World Showcase for dinner at the Liberty Inn. We had a mix of Salads, chicken nuggets, a burger and a hot dog. Will held out in favor of a bratwurst in Germany.

    We rode Test Track using our Fastpass and then walked back up to Mexico for a ride with the Three Amigos. On his last trip, then 5-year-old Christopher had us ride this 5 times. He enjoyed it here but thankfully, not as much.

    Its now in the mid-50s and what we Northerners would call chilly. We decide its time for the boys to start knocking off some of the Kidcot stuff so we visit Mexico, Canada and the UK while getting Williams Passport updated, while CTS does the handheld sign thing in each country. While theyre still in the UK, Barb and I head off and secure spots for Illuminations viewing. We luck into one of our favorite spots and the Schwabs join us with plenty of time to spare. We enjoy the show, and then head back to the resort.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    21,496 steps 8.5 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think our park touring differences are apparent. Barb and I tend to hit a park for 2-4 of our favorite attractions before heading out. Michelle, Will and the boys, because they visit less frequently, are more prone to ride their favorites multiple times and take a more commando approach to touring. I think this has no relevance to anything we did today but Any time one of us hears someone say forever, we repeat it as Forever? imitating Gonzo from Muppetvision 3D. Anyone else do that or have we gone completely over the edge? I think the Green Army Men could be a little more sensitive when theyre inflicting corporal punishment.

    Day 9 Wednesday, January 25, 2017 I play fan boy.

    Were up early and its a brisk 48 degrees but it should be back to the 80s later today and tomorrow.

    We have a breakfast reservation at Chef Mickeys so were out to the bus stop at 7:30. The first Magic Kingdom bus arrives at 7:48. From the Magic Kingdom, we would normally walk to the Contemporary but we spot a waiting Contemporary bus. Im not sure why its there and Ive never seen a bus from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary before but, given the cold, this was a welcome relief.

    We checked in at Chef Mickeys, had our photo taken with Big Cheeses statue, and we were seated in just a few minutes. I maintain that this buffet breakfast is significantly overpriced. The buffet is good, theres something for everyone and its an awful lot of food but $40+ for an adult, for breakfast, is ludicrous in my opinion, of course. However, I do get 20% off with Tables in Wonderland and it is a wonderful place to get some quality time, photos and autographs with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto. Such a conundrum.

    We try to get our moneys worth by sampling as much different food, orange juice and coffee as possible. I doubt we succeeded but none of us left hungry. The boys got some great photos and autographs and Christopher spent some quality time with his favorite character, Pluto, and even got him to sign the brim of his hat.

    We walked to the Magic Kingdom and, because the My Disney Experience app said the wait time at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was only 10-minutes, we headed there. Of course, by the time we reached Frontierland, the wait time had grown to 25 minutes. Nevertheless, we entered and in a few minutes, the Standby time had climbed to 35 minutes. We got a little lucky when, after about 15 minutes, they opened the second track and the line moved quickly from there.

    We next rode the Jungle Cruise using a Fastpass and had a great female skipper maybe the best ever. She had great delivery and offered several variations of the standard lines and what I thought were a few very good ad-libs.

    Then it was off to Buzz Lightyear with a Fastpass followed by Mickeys Philharmagic. The cast member here was again adamant about moving all the way to the end of the row, using his flashlight to highlight those that were non-compliant. After everyone was seated, he thanked most of you for complying.

    Then it was a ride on the Carousel for all but me and Will. We were standing out of the way, near the old Fastpass stations by Mickeys Philharmagic when Will left to take some video of the boys riding the Carousel. Soon, I received a text from him saying he was at the Friars Nook and did I want an ice cream. I declined and he brought ice cream back for the boys.

    We walked back to Splash Mountain where Will, Michelle and Christopher rode. I think the rest of us thought it was still just a bit too cool to get wet. William, Barb and I just hung out by the exit.

    Its 1:00 and getting warmer so the Schwabs are off to hit the pool. Im in need of a haircut so we visit the Harmony Barber shop. They say they can fit me in at 3:15 but Ill be long gone by then. I ask about making a reservation , something I was told to do during last years visit, and Im told phone reservations are for months out. Huh?

    Barb and I leave and catch a waiting Swan and Dolphin bus and walk over to the Boardwalk. While on route, I make a Toy Story Midway Mania Fastpass for 5:00 today (again nah, Im getting tired of saying it) and I also book three Fastpasses for Animal Kingdom on Friday I could only make these after the Schwabs upgraded their Park Hoppers with the seventh day.

    The Schwabs are at the pool. Barb turns on the TV and we learn that Mary Tyler Moore has passed away. This is very sad news. I was a huge fan of the old Dick Van Dyke Show as well as her later series.

    We all leave at 4:00 and walk to Disneys Hollywood Studios. We first ride Star Tours via the Standby queue (its a walk on) and then use our Fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania. At the Fastpass merge point, hey wave us through to the new track. As were in the queue there, moving to the boarding spot, there are two children up front (Im guessing a girl of 4 and a boy of 6 but they could have been just a bit younger). They are somehow alone and the cast member leaves the queue to bring them up to a bench and let another cast member know whats going on. We learn they were there with their father and he abandoned them at the load point when the cast member asked if there was a party of one. I am not making this up. He waved to them as his ride vehicle left. If anyone should have his parent license lifted, its this guy. They were gone when we exited so I can only assume they were reunited. I dont really know if Disney should have or could have done anything additional.

    After the ride, it was time for dinner. Will and William headed to the Backlot Express. They ordered their meals and carried them down to join us at PizzaRizzo.Weve been here twice now and both times the boys have gotten us seated upstairs at an outside table.

    After dinner, it was two back-to-back rides on Star Tours followed by the Great Movie Ride. I have never seen this before but there was no one in the preshow. We walked down a single row, out the door and into a waiting vehicle. I know its been rumored, and Ive said this before, but this ride is in need of a major refurbishment.

    With about 20 minutes before the show starts, we walk over and take up a spot in the dead center of the area in front of the Theater and wait for the Galactic Spectacular. The Schwabs all agree its a great show and much more enjoyable from this location than their first viewing behind the trees and umbrellas.

    When the show ends, the crowd is packed in fairly tight so everyone does an about face in place before beginning the waddle toward the exit. We walk back to the Boardwalk and through the Luna Park area. As we pass through the area by the gym, I spot one person in there working out. We continue out the rear area to the boardwalk where the boys set up in front of another movie.

    In a minute, Will lets me know that the guy working out is Herm Edwards. I didnt see his face but Will spotted it in the mirror. For those who dont know, Herm is an NFL analyst on ESPN. He was once a player, a defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles and made one of the most uncommon plays in history to beat the Giants. Later, he was Head Coach of the NY Jets (my team) from 2001-2005 and offered one of the greatest sound bites in NFL history, "You play to win the game!"

    Ive never been one to play fan boy but Herm Edwards is one of those guys that seems to be very nice and down to earth and Michelle told me that if I didnt meet him, Id probably regret it. So I head to the gym and interrupt his workout while I say, I dont want to interrupt your workout I introduce myself, shake his hand and thank him for his efforts with the Jets. He did give them three playoff years during his 5 years as coach. He really does seem like a nice guy. He indicated he was here for the Pro Bowl and would be broadcasting on several ESPN shows over the next couple of days. We chatted about the NFL and the Jets (Herm: You need a quarterback. Me: No xxxx!) So I played fan boy, talked with an ex-New York Jets Head Coach and, yes, I got a selfie with him.

    Back to the boardwalk, I joined everyone else to watch a juggler on a unicycle before we all headed back up to our rooms.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    21,691 steps 8.5 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think it has never been easier, in my Disney experience (pun intended), to get last minute Fastpasses for E-Ticket type rides (Toy Story Mania, Soarin, Test Track and Big Thunder). I think it was cool to meet Herm Edwards there. I later learned most of the Pro Bowlers were staying at the Bonnet Creek resorts so Im not sure why Herm was at the Boardwalk but Im glad he was.

    Day 10 Thursday, January 26, 2017 Beer is salad.

    I have us set for Epcot today and realize its Extra Magic Hours. This is the second time Ive done this and I normally try to avoid EMH if possible. I did use the crowd calendar to select daily parks so that might be the reason. Even though its EMH, the crowd levels are predicted to be low.

    In any event, I text Michelle and were out by 7:45. We meet them as theyre having breakfast on the boardwalk from the Bakery.

    We walk to Epcot and enter through the International Gateway. We walk down to the Land and ride Soarin with a 10-minute Standby wait. Will impresses me as were standing in the queue, listening to the background music. He thinks it sounds like its from the Band of Brothers (older HBO series about World War II) soundtrack. I have the Shazam app on my phone and that proves hes correct. Nice catch, Will.

    We snag the top row but on the left hand side for this ride. William has been into Hidden Mickeys and he finds one on the ride. Everyone probably is aware of the obvious one with the fireworks exploding over Spaceship Earth but William noticed, in the Monument Valley scene, there are three hot air balloons floating on the right. For a split second, they float together and form a classic Hidden Mickey. Nice catch, William.

    We walk next door to the Imagination building and take in the show with the three Pixar 3D films. Ive seen this several times now and it seems to be getting better with each viewing. The Schwabs agree that the depiction of Mickey on the stage in Get a Horse looks very real (its really very cool how the stage itself looks extremely real). Id also say that the second film, La Luna, has really grown on me.

    Next up was Spaceship Earth using our 9:25 Fastpass. I know of several Hidden Mickeys on this ride but William finds another in some spilled paint. Hes getting pretty good at this.

    We next visit the Seas With Nemo (the ride is fast becoming something I tolerate more than enjoy) and use our Fastpass for Turtle Talk With Crush. Its always a fun show and this is the first time Ive seen it since theyve added a few characters from Finding Dory. The Schwab boys love the aquariums here so we spend ample time viewing and just catch the end of the dolphin show.

    Once theyve had enough deep sea viewing we head through Mouse Gear (just looking as opposed to buying) and continue on to Test Track to use our 11:50 Fastpass. Im (finally)getting better at the design area and coming up with cars that are stronger in more than one or two areas. This is our third and last Fastpass for the day so, once were done, I make a Fastpass for the Schwabs at Space Mountain at 7:10 and Soarin for me and Barb at 7:25.

    The Schwabs opt for lunch on the Boardwalk, grabbing items from the kiosks there. Barb and I head to the Rose and Crown for salad and fish and chips. Follow me here Beer comes from hops, hops are plants, therefore, beer is salad. Nuff said.

    Eventually, we head to the room and the Schwabs are already down at the pool.

    We head out by 4:00 and wait until 4:26 for bus (yep, the Schwabs fault). Were heading to the Polynesian for dinner at Ohana so, once at the Magic Kingdom, we board the resort monorail and sit as it stalls twice; once on the beam and again in the Contemporary. Both times were due to activity on the beam in front of us. We finally reach the Poly at 5:25 a full 5-minutes before our reservation. I had visions of a cocktail at the Tambu Lounge but theres no time for that now.

    I check us in and we waited another 10-minutes before the pager went off and we were seated. It was another great meal here. I devour everything from the salad, wings and dumplings (pot stickers) through the entrees (Mmmmm, grilled meat!) but lately Ive been skipping the grilled shrimp. I like shrimp but they require peeling and Im just too lazy to deal with that, and the mess because theyre marinated, for just a few shrimp.

    The Schwabs monorail to the Magic Kingdom and we stay on to the TTC. Were joined there by a family that is dressed as characters. Dad was Prince Charming, a daughter was Cinderella, etc. These were very elaborate costumes and it wasnt clear to me why they were dressed like that especially heading to Epcot.

    We ride Soarin and it takes about 10-minutes with the Fastpass. Standby is listed at 20. This time, I use Shazam for the soundtrack and identify two songs: one from Air Force One and the second from Contact. We also luck out into the top row center, which has almost no distortion.

    When we exit, I retrieve a text from Michelle and we meet up in France. They stay to update the Passport and Kidcot pages at a few more countries for the boys. Barb and I head out and notice that, at 8:45, there is lots of room for Illuminations viewing on the bridge and the French Island. Thats very unusual.

    We head back and spent a few minutes watching a magician, Cardenell (sp?), on the boardwalk. Weve seen him before and this act seems to be one weve seen so we leave before his Rubiks cube trick.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    18,432 steps 7.3 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think William is getting pretty good finding Hidden Mickeys. I think Im finally learning how to design a car in test Track. I think Ohana never disappoints. I think Im stupid lazy for avoiding the shrimp.

    Day 11 Friday, January 27, 2017 No room at the bar.

    This will be the last full day for the Schwabs and thats a bit sad. We all head out to the bus stop at 8:25. The next bus for Animal Kingdom is listed at 8:43. Then we watch it change to 8:46, then 8:48 and finally, 8:52. It arrived at 8:55.

    We head through security and Barb needs the restroom so we sent the Schwabs on ahead and told them wed meet them inside. When Barb came out, we entered the park through the Passholders entry and walked back through to Chester and Hesters. What we didnt know was that the Schwabs were walking a couple hundred feet behind us because it took them forever to get through the entry lines.

    We joined up and all rode Primeval Whirl. Once was enough for Barb and me but the Schwabs all love this ride so they went back through a second time using their Fastpass. When the exited, they went off to visit the Boneyard where there was an opening show with Donald Duck. The boys have loved the Boneyard since their respective first visits.

    Barb and I walked around a bit, found a kiosk by the Yak and Yeti and split a coffee and a muffin. We found a small table nearby. The monkeys next door, for some reason, were making a huge racket. Even a few of the cast members were leaving their kiosks to have a look.

    We meet up with everyone at Expedition Everest and everyone rides (except me) using a Fastpass. The Standby is listed at 25-minutes so, after the first ride, the Schwabs go again. While theyre riding, Barb and I walk the Maharajah Jungle Trek. We see only one fruit bat but they have what I think is a new viewing area for the tigers. Youre up a bit higher and looking through a chain-link fence and across a bit of water. We had a tiger pacing the concrete ledges around the water while looking up at us. Im pretty certain he viewed us as lunch.

    We walked again by the River of Light seating areas and I asked a cast member when it might be opening. The response was it would open later this year. That made me think the problems were still serious but it would actually have its soft opening about 10 days later - after we left, of course.

    We meet the Schwabs at the Everest exit and all head down to Dinosaur. The ride is as dark and bumpy as I remember and I always ask myself why I continue to subject myself to it. Its fun but, at least in my opinion, not worth the rough ride.

    The Schwabs had wanted to fit in a meal at T-Rex at Disney Springs but that opportunity hadnt presented itself. Instead, they settle for lunch at the Rainforest Caf. Were seated after just a few minutes and enjoy a pretty good meal. Precisely at 2:00, the adults have their four phones linked to the Southwest Website and we check the Schwabs. Were a little closer this time and they wind up with B19, 20, 30 and 31.

    The Rainforest doesnt accept Tables in Wonderland but I do get the Passholder discount of 10% however its only good on four entrees - kind of a cheap copout in my opinion.

    The Schwabs stay at Animal Kingdom for a while longer. I know they rode Primeval Whirl again and Christopher really wanted to see Finding Nemo: The Musical so they also took in that show.

    Barb and I catch a bus to the Boardwalk and, on route, I book another Fastpass for Test Track at 8:00. Back at the Boardwalk we took a couple of laps around Crescent Lake before heading to the room for a break.

    The Schwabs were back and we all head to Epcot at 4:00. The boys wanted to complete their Passport and Kidcot countries and, somewhere on the bridge to France, William dropped the remaining stickers. A passing woman found two on the ground and put them atop a trash can. We retraced the steps but couldnt find the rest.

    The first stop was in Morocco and we learned we couldnt buy replacement stickers nor did the countries offer new passports. Well have to grab another in the shop by the International Gateway and William can affix his stamps after the fact.

    That lasted as far as the Kidcot station in the USA. A cast member there noticed he was missing stickers and left abruptly. She returned in a few minutes with a new Passport package, opened it and gave him the stickers he was missing. She really went above and beyond and did it without being asked service at its best.

    We continued on hitting the stations in Japan through China and both boys have now completed all 11 countries. We celebrate that with another ride with the Three Caballeros.

    Were now walking out by the Showcase Plaza, about to head to Future World, when Christopher spots Pluto at a meet and greet. He heads over there but the cast member informs him that the line has ended and Pluto wont be seeing any more guests. Christopher was heartbroken. I know they have to cut this off at some point but I wish they could find a way to do it less painfully. I tried to soothe it by telling him Pluto had already signed his hat but his response was, Yes, but he could have signed it again.

    Anyway hes 7 years old and he had forgotten all about by the time we reached Mission: Space and rode with a 5-minute wait. Barb and I are completely alone in our ship so we both pull double duty hitting buttons so we dont crash on Mars. The boys spent time playing with the various games in the post-show area.

    Barb and I decide to head back for a light dinner somewhere and make arrangements to meet the Schwabs when they return. Our idea is to have a cocktail and appetizer somewhere but we strike out at Marthas Vineyard at the Beach Club, the Crews Cup at the Yacht Club and Abracadabra on the boardwalk. All are too crowded with no place to sit.

    Dinner on the boardwalk it is so Barb gets a funnel cake and I get a pizza slice. We grab a table outside and wait for Schwabs. The reality of this being their last night has set in. William now thinks that a better surprise would have been to tell him hes staying another week. I certainly understand that.

    They order some food from Boardwalk To Go and bring it back to their room.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    24,635 steps 9.4 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think that cast member that replaced the Passport stickers restored my faith and let me know that Disney service is alive and well. I think I may be done riding Dinosaur for some time. I think I feel for the Schwabs, especially William and Christopher its funny how quickly 7 days can go by. I think trying to find a seat in a bar on a Friday night is near impossible.

    Day 12 Saturday, January 28, 2017 Byes, Burgers and Booze.

    We hear some loud chatter from next door at 11:51. It was loud enough to wake me.

    We give the Schwabs a hand getting their luggage down to Airline Check-In
    at 7:30, then hang out back at the room for a bit. Their Magical Express pickup is at 9:00. This idea of Barb and I staying longer is a good one but this is the third time weve had to say goodbye to family and its tough.

    I call a number trying for a reservation at the Harmony Barber Shop and Im informed they take no reservations for the same day and nothing is available for tomorrow, Sunday. This is another example of the Carousel of Policy I cant count how many different answers Ive been given here.

    Barb and I head down to the Belle Vue Room for coffee and a muffin (me) and a bagel (Barb). Its in the 50s right now and breezy out on the balcony so we remain indoors this time. We meet the Schwabs outside at 9:00. I hate saying goodbye but we give hugs and kisses and see them off on the bus before we head back to the room.

    We relax for just a bit then head to the bus stop at 9:45. A Magic Kingdom bus should be here at 10:08, 10:12, 10:14 youd think the Schwabs are still here. The bus stop is now packed and were still waiting at 10:20 when we decide theres nothing at the Magic Kingdom that needs doing and we can just walk to Epcot so we do.

    Unfortunately, karma thought otherwise and were held up at the boardwalk for a wedding. The ceremony has just concluded and cast members are blocking traffic on both sides of Sea Breeze Point. Out front are some bridesmaids, groomsmen (wearing tuxedos with vests but no jackets which I thought odd), and a carriage being pulled by six miniature horses.

    To be honest, I thought this delay went on a bit too long. I know weddings are sacred and you dont need tourists cluttering up the photos but I think asking people to cool their jets for 10-minutes while the bride and groom exit a gazebo is a bit much.

    We make it to Epcot and to Innoventions where we use our Annual Passes to get badges for tonights Disney on Broadway concert.

    Next we ride Ellens Energy Adventure all 45 minutes of it. Its a bit old, a bit long and a bit stale but I actually still enjoy it although we only ride it every couple of years. Ellen is still funny and Jamie Lee is still Jamie Lee.

    Soarin is next. Were a bit early for our Fastpass so we wait, appropriately off to one side I should add, so were not blocking the entry of other guests. A woman comes along dragging a small boy. Hes maybe 5 or 6 and hes dragging his feet and trying to reach back for something. A nearby woman and Barb realize at the same time that the boy has dropped his Magic Band and is reaching back for it. Barb tells the mother this while the other woman picks up the Magic Band and hands it to her. The mother then continues dragging the child off as the woman behind her yells, Youre welcome!

    We catch the 3rd row but in the center section of Soarin. I have to say, Im not tiring of this ride yet and weve ridden it a lot.

    We decide to leave Epcot and visit Disney Springs. Its time I listen to the suggestions of several Disney friends and give D-Luxe Burger a try. There are no direct buses until after 4:00 so we decide to catch one to Saratoga Springs and walk or boat ride over.

    Theres another couple at the bus stop, roughly our age, and we chat for a bit. They are staying at Wilderness Lodge and also want to visit Disney Springs but it becomes apparent they have no clue how to get there. We try to give them the options and they jump on the same bus we do. Once we reach Saratoga Springs Carriage House, they exit with us but remain at the stop to wait for a bus while we walk through the building and catch a boat barely. The boat has just begun to pull away but the skipper brings it back and re-ties it so we can board. Ive never had that happen before so we thank him and apologize to the other passengers for delaying them although they dont seem to mind.

    Im still getting my bearings at the new Disney Springs, particularly the Town Center area. A key for me is to stop thinking about where things used to be and just move forward. Anyway, I found D-Luxe Burger quickly and we took up a spot in the line that was outside the building. As a note, Blaze Pizza also had a line outside the building.

    The line moved quickly, however, and I began to wonder if wed get a table. I noticed many groups were sending people to get and hold tables before they even ordered. I wish people would stop that and just search after you have your food. Things work much smoother that way.

    We each had the Classic Cheeseburger and wisely decided to share a small order of fries. I was given a receipt and a pager/locator so we wandered off to the back and Barb found us an open booth. I wasnt sure where to get the dipping sauces I had been warned about, so I asked and found I was in the right spot you ask at the pick-up counter. I chose three and brought them back to the table. Soon, a server delivered our meals.

    Bottom line D-Luxe Burger is very good. If youre a burger lover, you wont go wrong here. But (here we go) I still give a slight edge to Big River. The Classic Cheeseburger was excellent but I still think Big Rivers is just a notch better. I do wish Big River had their fries, however. Big River does not have a fryer and serves chips instead. So if Im at Disney Springs, this is where Ill be for burgers. But if Im at the Boardwalk or I need to travel, Big River is still my spot.

    We shop for a bit. I need some socks, athletic-type and low ones, but I come up empty here. Theyre loaded in dress socks but black socks up to the knee arent my style for wearing shorts.

    We catch a bus back to the Boardwalk and Im again amazed at the difference in the new bus stations at Disney Springs, compared to what it once was.

    We chill in the room for a bit and then head to Epcot at 4:30. The park is mobbed more crowded than Ive ever seen it and that includes visits for the Flower and Garden Festival and the Food and Wine Festival. There are masses of humanity moving around the promenade but thankfully, mostly adhering to the keep right mantra. Thank goodness for that because it allow foot traffic to move very slowly, but at least its moving. Whenever we hit an area that narrows, such as by Morocco as the band plays, its almost complete gridlock.

    We make our way to the America Gardens Theater and get great seats with our badges much closer than our standby seats from last week. Its here that I receive an IM from Tom Moeller of RADP. He and Beth are on their way to Epcot and hes suggesting a meet tomorrow at 1:00 at the Commissary. He suggests it because its one of the joke venues from RADP (the others include the Electric Umbrella and Pecos Bills) and they serve Bud Light there his words not mine. I confirm our meet and warn him about the crowds here at Epcot.

    This show featured Kerry Butler (also a Broadway Belle) and Kevin Massey (also Tarzan but also appeared in Newsies). They were both extremely talented but I didnt find this show as good as last weeks. I think it had more to do with me than them. Im just not as familiar with the songs from Tarzan and Newsies as I am the tunes from Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Little Mermaid, etc. The only song that I truly recognized was A Whole New World from Aladdin.

    After the show, we wanted nothing to do with these crowds so we slowly (very slowly) made our way out and to the Beach Club. Marthas Vineyard was crowded but not quite as much as last night. There were three seats on the left end of the bar and, of course, one guy was perched on the edge of the middle seat. We tried something we often do which is to have Barb take the seat to one side while I stand behind her. The person in the middle will usually notice this and offer to slide over so we can sit together. Not this guy he was oblivious. But, thank fully, he was only getting drinks for a table and moved on in five minutes.

    We enjoyed a drink and, after a bit, decided we were still too full from our D-Luxe burgers to consider dinner so we shared a very good order of Tater Tots with sour cream, chives, bacon and cheese. It was very tasty and more than enough to share. The food was delivered as we were finishing our second drink so I violated my own rule and had a third Manhattan. In hindsight, that was not a good move but at least I wasnt driving and was pretty sure I could find my way home.

    We settled the bill (thank you Tables in Wonderland) and walked back to the Boardwalk and our room.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    17,508 steps 6.6 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think I hate having to say goodbye to family but thats the price we pay for enjoying these longer trips. I think every time I hear the words D-Luxe Burger I want to start singing the theme song from The Jeffersons. I think this is, by far, the most crowded Ive ever seen Epcot (or any other theme park for that matter).

    Day 13 Sunday, January 29, 2017 Someday, Im going to learn how Fastpass works.

    Its another chilly day today with some light rain. Barb throws in some laundry (and brings back muffins from the Belle Vue Room) while I adjust our Fastpass reservations moving things a bit later.

    Were out at 10:15 and, due to the steady rain, we opt for the boat to Hollywood Studios.

    We enter and walk back to Toy Story Midway Mania to use our Fastpass. As we approach, Im keeping a wary eye for any Green Army Men lurking about.

    As we exit, the rain has lightened, but is still there, so we head to the Star Wars Launch Bay to catch the film and spend a few minutes viewing the displays inside. Its close to our Fastpass time (11:50) for Tower of Terror. At 11:42, I receive an email that the ride is down. We continue the few extra feet to the entrance and see Standby is closed and a lengthy line is in the Fastpass queue. The cast member tells us that half the ride is down. He estimates a 25-minute wait in the Fastpass queue. We pass and we now have a Fastpass good for any attraction for the remainder of the day. I figure well try later for Tower of Terror, assuming it comes back up.

    We walk back and take a ride on Star Tours and then take in the film, The Path of the Jedi. Its our second screening of this film and I think its pretty good but only if youre a Star Wars fan.

    Were hitting the rest rooms nearby, walking up the ramp, when this little brat, maybe four years old, runs out, bumps into Barb, pushes her and says, Get outta my way! I turned and watched him join his parents and not a word was said. Likely a future serial killer.

    Were meeting Tom and Beth Moeller at 1:00 so we head to the Commissary, getting there early, at 12:40. Its busy there and Im wondering if well have difficulty finding a table. I let Tom know, via IM, that were here and he indicates theyre just the leaving MuppetVision 3D show and are on their way.

    At this point, about 80-100 kids push into the Commissary. It looked like a school group of some kind. Theyre all wearing backpacks and theres a lot of jumping and pushing and yelling so I let Tom know and he suggests PizzaRizzo as a backup.

    Barb and I begin walking there and, as were heading down the slope past Star Tours, Im starting to wonder how well find each other. At that point I hear, Hi, Steve. We get through the introductions and chat as were walking into PizzaRizzo. Barb and I decide to vary it a bit and share a pizza and a meatball sub. Both were good and came with Caesar salad. I was particularly impressed with the meatball sub it was very tasty.

    So this was a meeting of two couples that live approximately 25 miles apart but had to come 1,200 miles to get together. We had a really nice time chatting about Disney, kids, Saratoga, prior trips and the monster crowds at Epcot last night. Beth likened last nights Epcot crowd to a visit she had on New Years Eve. Ive never attended during those peak holidays but it was nice to hear I wasnt totally off base. Im betting next years Festival of the Arts is a bit longer than this years. It seems its a big success.

    It was a real pleasure meeting Beth and Tom and getting to spend a few minutes with a fellow-RADPer. Im hoping we can repeat this on future trips or (gasp!) maybe even locally. A meetup at Saratoga Racetrack may be a good thing.

    We walk together a bit then say our Goodbyes by Star Tours. Barb and I are heading there to use our Fastpass. I know you can gain entry 5-minutes before your Fastpass start time but its now 7-minutes prior - or two minutes too early. Lets try it and see if it works.

    It does and we enter the Fastpass queue. What I didnt consider, and it hit me just seconds later, is that instead of using our Fastpass for Star Tours, we used our Any attraction / all day pass we received from Tower of Terror being down. It took me a few seconds to verify that on the app. Doh! That was a dumb move.

    After riding, we decide to leave the park. On the walk back to the Boardwalk, I cancel that last Fastpass for Star Tours (geez, Im stupid) make one for Soarin at 7:45 tonight. I also change one for tomorrow so we can ride Tower of Terror at 9:15, being that we missed it today.

    Back in the room, we make a pot of coffee and chill for a bit. At 5:30, we head out to the Fountain, then reverse tracks when I forgot my phone. At 5:40, we AGAIN head to the Fountain for another iteration of the Russo Rule - sundaes and a 20% DVC discount. I avoid the brownie sundae this time and find Im now able to devour the entire thing.

    As we leave the Fountain, we find a boat just pulling up so we take it to Epcot and walk to Soarin. The app says its a 20-minute Standby wait so we decide to try that before using the Fastpass. The sign drops to 15-minutes as we enter. There are only about 20 people in front of us so were on the ride in 10 minutes.

    As we walk out the exit, I can see the Standby line is now almost to the exit and is now listed at 50-minutes. Its sometimes amazing how much difference 10-minutes can make.

    We head to Seasons to kill a bit of time. I grab a chocolate chip cookie to share and, as were finding a table, I here, Hello again. Tom and Beth are having dessert in Seasons. We chat briefly and I marvel at how we can live so close and never bump into each other, but at Disney World, its twice in one day.

    We devour our cookie. Kids, dont imitate our unhealthy diet options today. I count muffins, pizza, ice cream and cookies. I think I need a beer to wash all that down.

    We ride Soarin with our 7:45 Fastpass and exit to what is now a 20-minute Standby wait.

    After Soarin we decide to head out. Walking toward World Showcase, I can sense its colder tonight and the crowd is nowhere near what it was last night. I guess Sunday is a better time to view the Festival.

    Back to Boardwalk and we grab a pretzel to bring back to the room to eat during the Pro Bowl. I promise well try to eat healthier tomorrow.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    15,527 steps 6.0 miles (Slackers!)

    Things I Think I Think I think it was great meeting Tom and Beth today. Unlike their reputations, Ive found that very few RADPers are really ax-murderers. I think we did the opposite of a healthy diet today but I think it was all good. I think I better learn how to use the Fastpass system trying to enter 2 minutes earlier than I should, cost us a ride on Tower of Terror. I think its kind of amazing how the wait times at Soarin bounced up and down so frequently. I think it might be best to avoid World Showcase on Saturday nights during the Festival its the locals dontcha know.

    Day 14 Monday, January 30, 2017 The Captain, Mama and some sexting.

    Im awake from 2:00-5:00. Dont ask why. It happens. Eventually I nod off and sleep until 7:20. I wish I could say Im used to it but you never really get used to it.

    I rearrange Fastpasses for this evening (something Im getting quite good at) and add a dinner at Mama Melrose. We eschew the normal routine mainly because I need to add the word eschew to this report. I havent used it yet and I have a deal with the publisher so We eschew the normal routine (thats twice now) and head out to breakfast at the Captains Grille at 9:30. Breakfast is the usual eggs (over easy), bacon, sausage, toast and lots of coffee.

    After breakfast, we walk to the Beach Club, then a lap around Crescent Lake (got to walk off the breakfast calories) and, back to the Boardwalk. I contact Hertz to arrange my ride. I was told, by Hertz, that someone would contact me either yesterday or today to arrange the ride. My distrust for almost anyones customer service is that I didnt believe them for a minute. I was right.

    At 11:03, Im told someone will be there in 15-minutes. At 11:30, I call again. While Im on hold, I notice I missed a call. Im not sure how that happened but I then contact the driver who has no idea about the 15-minutes promise but says hell be here by 12:00. At this point, the Boardwalk valets are becoming concerned for us.

    The Hertz driver actually shows at 11:50 and were driven a short distance to the Hilton Bonnet Creek. Our driver tells us that he used to work at Disney as a Jungle Cruise Skipper so I ask for entertainment on route. He starts but I tell him I was only kidding.

    The Bonnet Creek area is a lot more developed than I knew. Several very large hotels and the Hilton is bustling. There are lots of people and cars milling about the front door. Our driver pulls into a middle row in front of the entrance and leaves the car right there while he has us follow him inside.

    I sign some paperwork, verify the information and the cost, and he leads us back outside to the Toyota Camry that we rode over here in. I thought I was getting a Chrysler 200 or 300 but the Camry will do fine. We do a walk around to search for dents and scratches and this thing, while looking nice at a distance, is loaded with scuffs and scratches on all four doors, the hood, and, in particular, the trunk and rear bumper.

    Soon, were off and Barb is plugging in our GPS to find the nearest Publix. I did have the foresight this time to bring the Garmin GPS unit out onto the balcony to let it acclimate to Florida so we didnt have a 15-minute delay in directions.

    We stocked up at Publix: more breakfast stuff, coffee, creamers, snacks, beer We drove our stuff back to the Boardwalk, stored everything and saved the bags because were moving tomorrow.

    At about 3:00, we head out again and walk to Disneys Hollywood Studios. I had moved our Tower of Terror Fastpass to 3:30. There was a very long line in both Standby and Fastpass but the Fastpass line moved continuously and we were in the TV room in about 10-minutes.

    We saw a somewhat disturbing thing when we boarded. There was a large, extended family in the queue with us and all of them were on board our elevator. One young boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old, did NOT want to ride. He was fighting tears and saying repeatedly that he didnt want to go on this. His dad, two seats away, instead of maybe calming him (or maybe even getting him out of there) was telling him to suck it up and stop being a baby. There are ways to toughen up your children and there are even appropriate times for it but I just dont consider a thrill ride in a theme park one of those.

    When the ride was over, while Id love to report that the little boy was smiling and loved it, that was definitely not the case. Barb asked the dad how he was and just got a terse, Hell live.

    We have an early dinner reservation at Mama Melrose at 4:05. We entered the Tower queue at 3:30, waited 10-minutes in line, saw the TV room, waited again before boarding, rode and exited the ride. We now power walked to Mama Melrose and arrived at 4:06. Im pretty sure they would have held our table for a while but its always fun to tell Barb we have to rush. By the way, am I the only one that has trouble finding things in that end of the park? I know roughly where everything is, but not specifically. I have to wander a bit to find the MuppetVision building, then PizzaRizzo, then wander back by the snow scene its not pretty but I get there eventually.

    We have Chicken Parmigiana and Spaghetti and Meatballs, all washed down by glasses of Cabernet. We also shared a piece of very good cheesecake. I assume everyone has a favorite go to Italian restaurant at home, and, trust me, Mama Melrose will never replace it. I did, however, think this meal was very good. Of course, not eating anything since breakfast might have had some influence on that.

    We now wander over for another Frozen Singalong show. Ive mentioned that I really like this show, mostly for the comedy but I do also like the music most of it, anyway. In case you havent noticed, for some unknown reason, Im often seated next to some odd characters. Of course, the folks seated next to me might have the same observation but I usually get seated next to the guy that cant comprehend the concept of a 3D film, or the woman that screams at Soarin (Oh, wait. Thats still to come. Sorry.).

    Today, the guy on my left is tying his shoe. His shoe is in his lap. He ties the laces, then slips the shoe on his foot like a loafer, turns to me and says, If I dont step on it, somebody else will. I smile politely but I have no idea what that means.

    This guy is Hispanic, speaks with a thick accent and is very short and stocky. With about 5-minutes to go before the show starts, I notice hes texting with someone. I dont consider myself a nosy person but if you flash a text near me, Im going to read it. He has texted, Im going to run my fingers over your body. Lick you everywhere. He types very slowly which gives me ample time to read but also has me pushing him to speed up so we can get all this in before the show starts. Unfortunately, I never got to see the response. Just as the show started, his phone did ring but he silenced it without answering. He did then write another text but I wasnt able to read it.

    This show had a new, at least for me, cast. The actors playing Eric and Arya were very good and had slightly different jokes and takes from what Ive seen previously. Eric, in particular, seemed to have a lot more lampooning of Disney.

    Next, we have a Fastpass for Fantasmic! at 6:20 so we head there right away and find the theater is already crowded. We watch, and enjoy, Fantasmic! and then do the waddle out. Someone on the RADP Facebook group asked the question if its possible to see the 7:00 Fantasmic! and still make it out in time for the 7:45 Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show. It is and Ive done it.

    We were seated about 2/3 of the way into the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater or 2/3 of the way furthest from the exit. When the show ended, we stood and exited normally. We made no effort to speed things up, walk across benches, hurdle small children nothing.

    When we exited on to Hollywood Boulevard, we tucked into the viewing area, between the pavement tape, in the first location where it was possible without moving directly in front of someone already waiting. We werent up as close as I wouldve liked but our view was fine. The show started about 90-seconds after we pulled in so there was no waiting. Even though a few of the widest projections arent visible, I found being back farther made the laser shots, coming from the starships, more impressive.

    With all that said, I think Disney needs to get its arms around a better method of handling these two shows. Having 7,000 people exiting through a group queued up to watch fireworks is not ideal.

    We did our second waddle of the night and walked back to the Boardwalk.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    15,625 steps 6.2 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think I got a good rate on the rental from Hertz but I dont expect that again. But, if I do, it was pretty easy to get over there. I think I really like Tower of Terror but I disagree with parents that force their children on rides like that. I think I like breakfast at the Captains Grill and dinner at Mama Melrose. I think its possible to see both Fantasmic! and the fireworks show on the same night without rushing. I think I saw someone sexting during the Frozen show.

    Day 15 Tuesday, January 31, 2017 Moves and Axe Murderers.

    Its moving day. Our morning routine is replaced by packing. First, we bring our smaller items to the car. Then we wheel the big suitcases to the port cochere and I walk down and bring up car. Loading is fairly easy the Camry has a surprisingly large trunk.

    Were at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in 10minutes and are greeted by an older Security Guard that has greeted us several times previously. His shtick hasnt changed much. Hey, what took you kids so long to get here? Weve been waiting for you. Ive heard it before but I enjoy it and I hope he never changes.

    Theyve changed the parking a bit. There was a lot off to the side that you could use while checking in. Ive heard it was abused so its now blocked off with traffic cones. I left the car out front, leaving the keys with a Valet, while we checked at the front desk. Our room is not yet ready but were able to get a general location so we can park the car accordingly. We store the bags with Bell Services and theyre nice enough to refrigerate our one bag that requires it (butter, milk, creamer, etc.).

    We park the car in the underneath garage, Timon section, and then ride the elevator up to the lobby.

    Were thinking about breakfast and find that Sanaa is open so back downstairs we go. Sanaa has a grab-and-go section or you can order from a menu. We choose the latter and both order a breakfast sandwich on a croissant. We also get coffee, which is serve yourself, and a small toy animal (ours was a hippo) with a number, which allows them to deliver your food.

    I was impressed by the efficiency and even more impressed by the food. The egg sandwich was great. These are the best eggs Ive had in a long, long time and I dont know if theyre cage free, free range, organic, no antibiotics, schooled at Yale, whatever theyre just darn good.

    We finish breakfast and take our coffee outside to the fire pit and viewing area. We spend some time out there before heading upstairs and settling into a couple of wooden rockers on the viewing deck. I like that there are multiple places, and viewing angles, here to keep tabs on the giraffe, zebra, etc.

    At 11:00, we still had no notification about a room so we decide to head over to Jambo House for a look-around. Before we leave, I decide to check one last time at the front desk. We first learn that our room is not yet ready but cast member Paul works some magic and finds us room 7401. It is, literally, the first room from the lobby elevator and the shortest walk Ive ever had at Kidani.

    We call for our luggage and set about unpacking. Ive now stayed at nine separate DVC resorts and my favorites are still the Boardwalk and Kidani Village, but for very different reasons. The Boardwalk has the distinct edge on location and thats what has made me a Crescent Lake Snob. Kidani, however, counters with a savanna thats hard to beat.

    I would have given Kidani a clear edge on the room before the most recent Boardwalk refurbishment but its now much closer. Boardwalk has narrowed the gap with a larger television (50), USB outlets, etc. Kidanis bathroom is the clear winner larger and better dcor. Kidani places the connecting door in the front of the room, which lowers the noise level from the adjacent guests but also makes for a smaller kitchenette. I could go on forever. I guess the result is that Ill continue to stay at both locations whenever I can.

    Once were settled in, we have axe murderers to meet so we catch a bus to the Magic Kingdom at 1:00. In the past, all park buses stopped first at Kidani, then Jambo. The Disney Springs bus did just the opposite. This gave guests an option for moving between the resorts (in addition to the shuttle or walking). Apparently, its changed because, at least for the Magic Kingdom, each resort has its own bus.

    We reach the Magic Kingdom and make our way through the metal detectors and into the park. First, I check in with the Harmony Barber Shop and theres a young lad screaming at the top of his lungs. I can only imagine hes being tortured. His grandfather tells Barb that he cant understand it Its his third haircut here. Im told to return at 2:45. This should work well because were meeting RADPers Sandi Femino and Mark Fendrick at the Skipper Canteen for a 3:30 reservation.

    Sandi texts that she just finished a Muppets show (Great Moments in American History) and is off to do something else. A few minutes later, I see Mark posting on Facebook that hes at the Tiki Room.

    Barb and I decide to take in the next Muppets show so we relax on a nearby ledge for about 15-minutes and then are taken through Paul Reveres midnight ride by Sam the Eagle, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and a few others. I really enjoyed this show but that may be affected by the fact that Ive long been a big Muppets fan. It was mildly educational and very funny with all the Muppet charm were used to. My only complaint was that the show was only about 6 minutes long. It seemed a lot like the pre-show from Muppetvision.

    Barb wanders for a few minutes while I check back at the Barber Shop. Im early but Im told Im next in line so I wait. Theres another youngster screaming, Ow. Ow. Ow! from a chair. When I check to see what pain is being inflicted, I see the barber is sprinkling talcum powder on his neck Aaaaahhhh.

    Ive had one other haircut here, last January, and as luck would have it, I get the same barber, Barbara. Its a nice cut and I thank her and tell her its fine. She says shes good at following directions. If I had a nickel for every barber that asked how I wanted my hair cut, and then cut it how they thought it should be well, Id have a lot of nickels. Barbara also says my wife will love sniffing my neck because she overdid the talcum a bit.

    I knew Sandi was going to catch the 3:00 parade from somewhere by the Diamond Horseshoe. We had just enough time to make it there so we hustled up through the crowds and found Sandi and Mark waiting for the parade, seated in front of the Liberty Tree Tavern. Weve met Sandi previously and have enjoyed several meet-ups with her. While Ive known Mark forever, via RADP and Facebook, this was our first face-to-face. We made our introductions and settled in for the parade. Oh and Sandi brought fudge! I think I made such a big deal after the first time she gave me fudge that she feels somewhat obligated to bring it every time. Im not telling her to stop!

    After parade viewing, we took the shortcut from Liberty Square to Adventureland and the Skipper Canteen. We were seated quickly and enjoyed a very good meal and some great conversation. Its always amazed me how RADPers can meet for the first time and fold so easily into chats that it seems like youve been friends forever. The conversation included Disney parks, Jennys meat (Peaceful Pastures) and the upcoming Beauty and the Beast film. We even discussed politics without a fistfight erupting.

    When we finished, we all walked up to Frontierland where we said our goodbyes. Sandi went off to ride Splash Mountain, Barb and I to Big Thunder, and mark to walk around a bit and head home. A wonderful time was had by all.

    After Big Thunder, Barb and I decide to forgo our Fastpass for the Mine Train and head out. Heres where we notice the separate bus stops for Kidani and Jambo but Ill bet thats a seasonal solution.

    Back at the resort, we decide to take a cocktail out to the balcony and watch the sunset. Theres an interesting occurrence here every night at sunset. A massive number of bats fly by our balcony. I couldnt tell if they were migrating from one area to another or flying laps around the building. I would guess its a nightly migration. I will say its a copious number of bats and seems to go forever. I would also say its a tad disconcerting, based on the volume and how close they fly, until you get used to it.

    Later, I saw an online post about a massive power outage that closed Epcot tonight. I was never able to get that confirmed but the source seemed reliable.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    10,497 steps 4.0 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think I really enjoy the Boardwalk and Kidani and would be hard pressed to pick a real favorite. I think its great getting together with other RADPers. I think Sandi makes great fudge. I think there are a LOT of bats that buzz our balcony each night.

    Day 16 Wednesday, February 1, 2017 Clam Chowder and a Zebra Dome.

    Its been a bit cool the past couple of days but were back in shorts today as theyre calling for a high of 73.

    Were out at 9:30 and we drove to both Character Warehouse outlets: the one on Vineland and the one on International Drive. I normally have pretty good luck at these outlets. In the last couple of years, Ive found a significantly discounted varsity jacket, t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. Today? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. A few things of interest but nothing either of us really needed or wanted.

    We then drove down to Celebration for a walk around and some window shopping. I really like this area. I know a lot of people have termed it Stepford (after the film) but I find it more like Pleasantville which is interesting since I never even saw that movie. I guess it reminds me of the few scenes from the trailer. Anyway, I like it here.

    Eventually, we wandered over to the Town Tavern for lunch. I know we come all the way to Florida and visit a unique spot like Celebration in order to dine at a New England themed restaurant. Barb had the Chef Salad. I had to order the chowder and found it very good but not Cabby Shack-like. The Cabby Shack is a spot in Plymouth, MA where we have our annual golf outing. We always have one dinner there and everyone gets the chowder, which was voted best in the country (at least in someones poll). I also had a BLT, which was excellent and contained roughly 5 lbs. of bacon on Texas Toast.

    After lunch, we retrieved the Camry and drove around Kissimmee a bit. First stop was the Publix for a few things we neglected previously. We then searched for the Westgate Tower, just to check it out for a potential future visit. First, we somehow got twisted around on a wrong turn and wound up circling around on to a freeway and exiting to a tollbooth. They wanted $0.75 in exact change or Sun Pass. I had neither. I would have dropped in a dollar bill but there was no receptacle for anything but change so I ran. Yep, were scofflaws and likely wanted by the Florida State Police. I fully expect to get a bill for several hundred dollars at some point.

    Now lets add to the misery. Im driving westbound on 192 and my Garmin (Penny) tells me I need to U-turn to come back to the Westgate Towers. Im looking for the u-turn lane when Barb yells, Right here! I always do what Barb asks so, without thinking (yes, me) I turn into the left lane and, in about half a second, notice the turn arrows on the pavement indicating this is a U-turn for the eastbound side. Great, now the Florida Highway Patrol will be after me as well. Luckily, the oncoming traffic was stopped ahead at a light so I gunned the Camry into a semi-donut, U-turn and turned quickly into the Westgate Towers. Phew!

    We looked around Westgate for a few minutes and then, a bit shaken but no worse for the wear, we returned to Kidani and parked the car before I could do any further damage.

    We stored our Publix stuff and relaxed for a bit before catching the shuttle to Jambo House at 3:15. Our intent was to take in the Culinary Tour of Boma and Jiko at 3:45.

    We waited patiently by Boma for the 3:45 tour. A dad and daughter joined us at about 3:40 and a solo woman a few minutes after that. At 3:50, I stand and start looking around. A cast member comes out of Boma and asks if he could help. I explain that were waiting for the tour and he looks confused, mutters something in a very heavy accent and heads upstairs. I assume hes off to find the host.

    At 4:00, the dad and daughter give up because theres another child-friendly activity they want to catch. Barb and I head upstairs. Shes off to a restroom while I head to Guest Services to complain. I explain our predicament and the cast member is apologetic. She then pulls out the new (February) Activity Sheet and we learn that on February 1 (today), the tour moved from 3:45 to 4:00. So now we race downstairs and join the one other woman and our guide, Kux.

    He takes us through Bomas safe areas explaining the different designs on the tables, chairs, lights and dcor and what it all means and how it ties back to African heritage. Its all very interesting and brings things to your attention that likely would have gone unnoticed.

    We also get to sample a carrot/ginger soup and (wait for it) a zebra dome. I would say that alone was worth the price of admission but admission was free so

    Kux finishes up our Boma tour and brings us to Jiko and passes the torch to a young girl from South Africa. She spends a bit less time giving us a tour of the dining areas but we do wind up with another sampling opportunity: this time its Jikos bread service. Very similar to Sanaas, we sample 3 breads and 4 dipping sauces all very good.

    While were sampling, our hostess is asking the typical questions like, Have we dined here before? She then asks where we are from. We give our typical response of Upstate New York. After years of answering that question, I know a reply of New York has the questioner automatically assume New York City and immediately ask you if you know Vinny from Queens. Instead, the other woman on the tour says, Where in Upstate? It turns out shes from Schenectady, about 15 miles from where we live. Everyone now Its a world of laughter, a world of tears

    When we finish the tour, we head outside and catch a bus to Epcot and ride Soarin. The Standby wait is listed at 20-minutes but the ride is a complete walk on. We never even slowed once in the entire queue.

    The samplings at Boma and Jiko were very nice but not quite enough to qualify as dinner. Still a bit hungry, we went off to World Showcase looking for some food. We decided on China and went to the Lotus Blossom where we a shared a vegetarian stir-fry and orange chicken.

    Now full, we decide that we havent walked enough today so were off to Disneys Hollywood Studios to watch the fireworks. We arrive at 7:15 and just wander around a bit until taking up a spot in the front center at 7:35. We enjoy this fireworks show one more time before realizing that we are no longer staying at Crescent Lake and well need to join the crowds heading out to the bus stops.

    The Animal Kingdom bus stop is the closest to the exist but we arrive just as a bus pulls away. Oh, well. We decide this will be good because well now be able to grab a seat on the next bus, rather than standing. Theres one woman there who could have mounted the previous bus but declined because she didnt want to stand. The timing for both of us was great because the next bus was there in 3-minutes.

    We board the bus at 8:07 and make it back to Kidani at 8:31. Thats pretty good but I was amazed at the amount of traffic, buses and cars, leaving the Studios.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    14.232 steps 5.7 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think Ill shortly be on Floridas Most Wanted list. I think the Culinary Tour at Jambo is worth doing and you cant beat a complimentary Zebra Dome and Bread Service. Theres also one at Sanaa that well have to try.

    Day 17 Thursday, February 2, 2017 Groundhogs and Mickey bars.

    The groundhog saw his shadow so well have six more weeks of winter.

    Were out at 10:30 with a plan for to visit the Magic Kingdom and then switch over to the Animal Kingdom. We arrive at Magic Kingdom and make our way back to Liberty Square. Our plan is to take in the 11:30 Muppet show and then try the Haunted Mansion (now listed at 15-minutes).

    We take up a seat on our favorite wall and wait 10-minutes to learn, at 11:30, that a technical difficulty has canceled the Muppet show. Great. This may be the first time the Muppets have ever let me down. We walk down to the Haunted Mansion and find the wait there is now 30-minutes and, judging by the line, probably about to move higher. Curse you, Muppets.

    So we move to Plan B. We wander up to Fantasyland and take in Mickeys Philharmagic. We just missed entry into a show so we have to wait a full 10-minutes for the next one. Our timing today could not be worse.

    After Philharmagic, we walk back to Liberty Square again but Haunted mansion is now a 45-minute wait so, instead, we head into Columbia Harbour House for lunch. I almost deviate and order the Broccoli Salad (which looks very good) but, instead, I order my old faithful, the Anchors Aweigh. Barb does the same.

    We have our lunch upstairs and then decide to leave the Magic Kingdom at 1:00 and find a waiting bus to Animal Kingdom.

    Barb rides Expedition Everest using the single rider line while I visit the gift shop. Patty Winter, from RADP, has asked about the color of the plush Yeti. Its either white or brown so I verify that its white and take a photo to send to her later.

    Next, we visit Flights of Wonder. I always enjoy this show but it seems each show is a bit different. Today, we had a great Miles (much funnier and more talented than most) but no mice and rats running around the ledge.

    We have a Safari Fastpass for 5:30 but were getting a bit anxious. I change it to 2:30-3:30 and we ride at 3:15. The lions are there but asleep. We do see lots of elephants but no hippos or rhinos.

    Heres a question: Should they flatten the roadways on the safari?

    I understand that the roadways are meant to simulate the rough terrain of a real safari but does anyone really believe its a real safari? It makes for a rough ride and I cant tell you how many photos Ive had ruined by a sudden lurch of the truck. Would the safari really lose anything if the ride was smoother? What do you think?

    On the way out, we stop for a Mickey Bar (me) and an Ice Cream Sandwich (Barb). I, once, would have a Mickey bar on every trip and Ill bet this is the first one Ive had since 2010. I need to rectify that.

    We walked out to a waiting bus but its in the midst of a driver change, so we waited about 10-minutes. Our new driver was Darwin, who seemed like a really nice guy but talked way too much - celebrating everything from birthdays and anniversaries to anyone with a job (I didnt qualify for anything). He also told us hes lost 125 pounds since last March.

    Back at the resort, we spent some time on the balcony, watching the bat migration (Im now wondering if they are, indeed, bats or some other small bird. No, theyre bats.) and using the laptop to rework Fastpasses over the next couple of days.

    Neither of us was hungry enough for dinner so we just had some warmed-up leftovers from the past few days. I also use the laptop to catch up on the two episodes of Homeland that Ive missed since being here.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    9,586 steps 3.9 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think This was a very relaxing day. We didnt do a lot but had fun with what we did. I think they should smooth the roadways on Kilimanjaro Safari.

    Day 18 Friday, February 3, 2017 Theres a storm a-comin.

    We grab an Epcot bus (It hurts to even say that. No matter how much I enjoy other resorts, I do miss Crescent Lake.) at 8:40 and it also goes direct no stop at Jambo House. (Although, as we learn later, the return goes to Kidani then Jambo. I cannot figure out this system.)

    Soarin says 15-minutes but, once again, its a walk on. This time we get the 2nd row. The law of averages doesnt apply here. Because there are three rows, I would expect to get the top row one out of three times but, in reality, its much less than that. I attribute that to the numbers of people that will refuse seating in order to wait for the top row. Cast members will allow that, and put them to the side for the next flight.

    We exit and head right back in, this time using our 9:40 Fastpass. This time we wind up in the 3rd row. We exit and the Standby wait is now 55-minutes. It doesnt take long.

    From the Land, we walk up to Imagination and check in to the DVC Members Lounge for coffee. I spend a few minutes online here, mainly getting weather forecasts for back home. Were expecting what could be a major snowstorm on Tuesday. The forecast is also listing the possibility of a changeover to sleet and freezing rain, which, actually would be worse. After the fiasco return trip my cousin had, Im wary.

    While were sipping our coffee, I also check for an ADR at Tonys Town Tavern but the best I can so is 7:45 tonight and wed like to see Wishes. We discuss and opt instead for another burger at Big River. I think deep down, I know were coming to the end of the trip and Im trying to squeeze in the things I know Ill miss the most.

    We ride Spaceship Earth, using a Fastpass while the Standby wait is 40-minutes. I should note here that the television broadcasting Walter Cronkite and the moon landing has been dark since weve been here. Thats almost 3 weeks. I cant imagine what someone riding that for the first time must think. Heres a 1960s family all perched in front of a dark screen.

    I let Barb handle the Q&A on the downward side of the ride, which is fun because, as Ive already mentioned, she just cant seem to master a touch screen.

    We head back to Kidani after a 20 minute wait for a bus. This bus continues on to Jambo House just to confuse things a bit more.

    We relax for a bit and then walk over to Jambo, planning on lunch at the Mara. I know one of the things I do miss at DVC resorts is a food court. Sometimes youre just looking for a quick meal and many of the food courts at the Disney resorts are quite good. Mara isnt really a food court but it serves the purpose. I had the Chef Salad and Barb went for the kids Chicken Nuggets. We also had two waters and managed the Passholder Discount here. I find Im now asking at every shop and restaurant - between DVC, Passholder and Tables in Wonderland, Im getting discounts 90+% of the time.

    Back at the room, I start checking Southwest flights to return Monday, instead of Tuesday, in order to beat the storm. There are a couple of possibilities but Im not ready to pull the trigger yet. Forecasts like this frequently change as we get closer.

    At 4:30, we jump on a waiting bus to Epcot. Im not sure if Ive mentioned this but everyone at the entrance that uses the Guests With No Bags line, must go through the metal detectors. I should also mention, its really not a big deal unless you like to travel with a lot of metal. For us, we put our cell phone in a bin and walk through. Easy peasy.

    We walk through Epcot, through the International Gateway and over to Big River Grill. Today its the Swiss cheeseburger for me and Barb has the beer/cheddar soup and a large dinner salad. I just dont get her avoiding the burger here but, weve been married 44 years and I still havent figured her out.

    After dinner, we walk through the Boardwalk and to the bus stop. In 3 minutes, were off to the Magic Kingdom. I know this is probably not the most efficient way to travel but I guess its working for us.

    We visit the Haunted Mansion (first ride of the trip if you can believe that) with a Fastpass but it still took a while for entry. After riding, we stroll down to the Hub and find a spot inside one of the railings in front of Caseys. Its not a seat but leaning against the railing is close and we enjoy the Once Upon a Time castle projection show. Its impressive how far the Imagineers have taken this since the first projection shows a few years ago. Its also amazing how many people squeeze in alongside and in front of us as the show begins.

    Between this show and Wishes, I check on Southwest and now find that the Monday afternoon flight has sold out. Apparently, others are also trying to get home before Tuesdays storm. Theres one more late evening flight available.

    This location turned out to be a very good view for Wishes. When it ended, we did the waddle down Main Street and made our way to the bus stops. It was crowded leaving the park and a large group of Brazilian teens were doing the usual chanting and dancing and then stopped in the middle of the walkway in front of the bus signs. I normally ignore this kind of behavior but this was blocking almost the entire walkway, forcing dozens of people to walk around them. I walked through the center asking loudly to, Please move out of the way! Deaf ears and all that.

    We caught yet another waiting bus and were back in the room by 9:00.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    18,609 steps 7.9 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think I might normally extend this trip a day or two based on the forecast but weve been gone a long time and I think wed like to get home. I think Ill miss Big River. I think I really enjoy staying at Kidani but a part of me will always miss Crescent Lake. I think Disney has come a long way with the castle projection shows and now I see a new one is announced for later this year (Happily Ever After and a new fireworks show to replace Wishes).

    Day 19 Saturday, February 4, 2017 Im going to regret this.

    Im up early and decide to change our flight to Monday. I cant help thinking well likely regret it, but this is one of those discretion/valor deals. I call Magical Express to change our pickup date and time and Im told to expect the authorization under the door tomorrow. We will be sacrificing a few DVC points. Basically, instead of checking out at 11:00 am Tuesday, well leave the room around 5:00 pm on Monday so its not really a big deal. In respect to park time, well lose Monday night but, after 3 weeks, that is also not a big deal.

    Were off to the Magic Kingdom at 9:30. There is a huge crowd at entry but we get through the No Bags lane and then swerve all the way to the left for the Passholder entry and were inside the park quickly. I do notice that the line at Guest Services is huge - easily over 100 people. I have no idea what thats for.

    We make our 9:35-10:35 Fastpass at the Jungle Cruise at 10:34. Cutting it close but Im pretty sure they allow 10-minutes of grace on the back end. Our skipper is George and he is as bad as our last skipper was good. He may be the worst ever. He spoke in monotone and was glancing everywhere but at his audience. His lines were the standard with no discernible variation. He was an older fellow but, I suppose, he could be new. Hopefully, hes still learning.

    We walk up to Liberty Square to catch the next Muppets show. This time it starts but we learn that the Great Moment in American History is Paul Reveres midnight ride, the one show weve already seen. You know what they say Some days, you bite the bear. Others, the bear bites you. This was one of those.

    Next up is something Barb insists we ride at least once each trip and we have a Fastpass: its a small world. As were moving, alone, through the Fastpass line, Im asking, Who would get a Fastpass for this?

    We are seated in the first row, which, I soon notice, is not made for people over six feet. My knees are bent at about 150 degrees, just so my legs will fold in there. I have knee issues and this isnt helping.

    While on the ride, I notice the woman sitting solo behind us, is texting the entire ride. At the exit or, more correctly, NEAR the exit, were stuck in a line of eight boats. I could have waded in faster.

    OK. I did a lot of whining there and, truth be told, I dont mind the ride that much. But, sheesh! Knees folded and an extra 10-minutes listening to that song deserves combat pay.

    I check My Disney Experience and learn that Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain and the Mine Train are ALL down. The park is crowded and looking worse without those three rides sucking in a lot of people.

    I visit the restroom in Fantasyland and the only reason I tell you that is to ask you this: Is there anywhere else in the world where you would hear the line, Zack, go do poopy.

    As I mentioned, its crowded and we have a difficult time making our way to the exits and bus stop. This time we take the bus to Jambo for lunch, again at the Mara. Today I go with a Tuna Wrap while Barb has the Chef Salad.

    When we finish, we walk to Kidani (its roughly .4 miles, if youre interested) and check out the laundry and Community Hall. Barb despises returning home with dirty clothing so theres a laundry in her future.

    We relax in the room and, about 5:00, decide to have a drink on our balcony before dinner at Sanaa. Its nice just having a cocktail out there before the bats appear.

    We head downstairs to Sanaa, check in quickly and were seated around 6:15 and are asked about a drink. Weve already had one so I decide on a bottle of Cabernet and the (famous) Bread Service, with all nine sauces, while we review the menu. Now you really dont need all nine sauces, especially for two people, but I have a hard time deciding on only three and its only $2 more for all nine so

    I told our server that I was torn between the braised beef and the strip steak. He recommended the braised beef because you can get a strip steak anywhere. Thats a valid point but then he ruined it by reminding me that he recommended the less expensive entre (Most waiters would have told you to get the most expensive dish.). Hes obviously looking to increase his tip and he almost did if only he had quit with the recommendation. Barb ordered the butter chicken.

    Dinner was excellent on all counts. We tried to turn back some of the Bread Service (its really too much for two people) but another server refused to take it back (Just pick at it during dinner.). Its also fun having dinner next to a window where you can see giraffe, crane, zebra and Ankoli cattle.

    After dinner, we threw discretion to the wind and stopped at the bar for a Dambruie before heading upstairs and bed.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    7,558 steps 3.2 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think changing our flight will be a huge win or loss depending upon the storm there is no middle of the road on this one. I think I like the Mara. I think I really like Sanaa.

    Day 20 Sunday, February 5, 2017 Please, anybody but the Pats.

    There is no Magical Express Transportation memo under our door. Sigh.

    Were off to Disneys Hollywood Studios at 9:15. The bus is crowded and I stand while Barb gets a seat, insisted on by a nice older gentleman - while a number of teens sit and use their phones.

    We make our way through security and into the park. We walk quickly back to Toy Story Midway Mania to use our 9:00-10:00 Fastpass with about 5 minutes to go.

    Next up is Star Tours where we screw up royally trying to get two rides. Were going to try for a Standby ride and then use our Fastpass. We get in the Standby line with a posted 10-minute wait and, once inside, it quickly stalls. It becomes 30 minutes by the time we ride and now we dont have enough time for a second ride.

    On our ship is a big guy, bearded and tattooed. We exit near him and his buddy and come to the realization hes wearing boxer shorts. Barb calls my attention to it and we could be wrong but theyre short, striped green and brown and look every bit like boxer shorts to me. Thats a first. He also has a tattoo of an Altoid container on his arm. Ill leave the speculation on that one to others.

    We scrap using the Star Tours Fastpass we still have taking too much time on the first ride has cost us. We, instead, head down to Tower of Terror to use our 11:00 Fastpass there. Standby is 60-minutes so were happy to have the it. The first drop is so sudden, it actually hurts but only a bit. We have a large group on board here that are loud very loud - and, for some reason, cant shut up. I cant hear anything on the ride. And, of course, the use of the cell phone flash for photos is everywhere.

    After the Tower, were done so its out to a bus (and another driver change) and back to Kidani. I call Magical Express and they suggest getting the Transportation memo from the front desk.

    Tonight is the Super Bowl and I have a long-time tradition of subs during the game so we head off to another Publix. We have a couple of subs made fresh (a turkey and an Italian mixed with different toppings on each). We dont have Wegmans in Albany but I have visited their stores in Syracuse. Theyve set the standard for deli submarine sandwiches. Publix wasnt quite Wegmans but they were pretty good.

    We then drove to the Boardwalk-area Speedway for gas and then the Hilton Bonnet Creek to return the car. The same clerk was there and checked me out. The rental that was $164, then $161 became $159 at the end not that Im complaining.

    He also graciously gave us a ride back to Kidani so he was tipped well. I cant say Hertz left anything to complain about except the mix-up at pickup.

    Back at Kidani, Barb did our laundry (I told you she was better than me) while I visited the front desk. A cast member at Guest Services took care of the Transportation memo quickly.

    Lunch was half a sub saving the other half for the game. We walked over to Jambo and spent some time on the savanna, and then back to Kidani and the pool for a bit.

    By 6:30, we were upstairs munching on the rest of the subs while watching the Patriots pull out a huge come-from-behind win. Everyone will talk about the Falcons choking and Bradys comeback but that game turned on two plays. The Falcons were first and 10 on the Pats 22 late fourth quarter. A simple Field Goal, a chip shot from there, puts them up by three scores and puts the game out of reach. On first down, Matt Ryan is sacked for 10 yards. On second and 20, a holding penalty pushes them back further and out of field goal range. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    9,702 steps 4 miles

    Things I Think I Think I think Publix subs are darn good. I think Hertz came through this one time but Ive never been able to get a competitive rate from them in the past. As a Jets fan, it pains me to say this but I think the Pats may be the best team in history. Not the individual year but theyve been on a 16 year run that is unprecedented (or unpresidented if you prefer).

    Day 21 Monday, February 6, 2017 Homeward Bound.

    Disneys Magical Express left an envelope under our door for tomorrows flight. A reminder is that were flying out today, not tomorrow.

    We pack and bring our bags down to Resort Airline Check-In at 9:30. We manage to score TSA-PRE for the return trip. That goes smoothly and were back up to the room and out to Epcot quickly.

    The bus is there in 30 seconds. We thought we had just missed one as the 9:47 time blinked off the screen. I guess it disappeared as this one pulled in.

    Its a crowded entry but, once again, no bags and the Passholder entry is quick. A cast member is walking the Passholder line checking Magic Bands. I see several people are ushered out of line so Im glad theyre policing it but, honestly, I can see many people making the mistake. If youre not a Disney nerd and you have a regular pass, would you consider yourself a Passholder? I might.

    We visit the Pixar films show in the Imagination theater and, for the first time, all three films get audience applause. They really are quite good.

    We then visit the DVC lounge for coffee. This time, a cast member passes by with a snacks cart. We normally decline but this time Barb grabbed a small bag of Cheetos or chips (Ive forgotten but Im leaning toward Cheetos because she oranged her phone). I got a small bag of Chips Ahoy.

    Off to the Land, which was packed. We rode Soarin using a Fastpass and, yes, caught the top row. The woman on my right seemed apprehensive. She said she last rode in 2005 and screamed the entire ride. I explained that the film was new but, inside, I think its a little more of a challenge for her than the previous one. I hear no screams during the ride and I compliment her on it. She admits she closed her eyes for the whole thing. Im sort of incredulous about that.

    Thats our last ride of the trip so its out to the bus stop. Our driver warns those on board that we dont go to Animal Kingdom, only the Lodge. Im guessing that might be an issue they encounter regularly.

    To the Mara for a Black Angus Cheeseburger and a Pepperoni Flatbread sort of gorging on what will be the only meal today. We catch the shuttle back to Kidani and hang out in the room until 5:00. Our bus makes stops at Jambo House, Art of Animation and Pop Century before heading to the airport.

    Its a good flight that lands early at 10:55. Our bags come off okay and were home by midnight.

    Steps/Miles Walked
    9,075 steps 3.6 miles

    Final Thoughts
    The bus service this trip was very inconsistent. It ranged from great to poor and we often saw the projected arrival times inch upward quite a bit.

    Boardwalk and Kidani Village are, by far, my two favorite resorts. Id be hard-pressed to pick between them but Crescent Lake is Crescent Lake.

    Ive never, ever, ever had an easier time making same day/late day Fastpasses for rides like Soarin, Test Track and Toy Story Mania.

    One of my newest and greatest Park Peeves is when I hold a door open for someone and they pass through with no acknowledgement at all often times while on their phone. I just loudly say, Youre welcome.

    During our three weeks on site, I saw tons of scooters but we only had to wait for one to load on a bus one time.

    FutureWorld needs work. I love Soarin and Test Track. Imagination is a waste of time. Ellen is still fun but could really use an upgrade after 20 years.

    The boys were the ideal ages at 7 and 11. Barb and I talked about this often but they were able to do most everything, keep up all the time and were a lot of fun to be with. Theyre already asking about the next trip.

    The question: Was 21 days too long to be on site?
    Its a lengthy answer. Two years ago, we drove down for 15 days and thought that was a good length. Last year, we were here for 21 days but stayed off-site for 4 nights in the middle of the trip. That was good as well.

    This year? Yes, I think we both felt it was a bit long and we were eager to get home. We agree that 13-16 days on future January trips would be good, unless of course, we work in some more off-site time.

    The change to an earlier return turned out to be unneeded. We did see a storm on Tuesday but nothing like what had been predicted. The flight we were scheduled to take arrived just a few minutes late. Our drive home from the airport would have been in some freezing rain, and rush-hour traffic but would have been do-able. At any rate, we didnt second guess our decision.

    If you got through this tome, my congratulations or condolences. As always, thanks for reading.

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    Steve, OMG! A shout-out to Mike Scopa's "Great-Grandmother of all Trip Reports"!! I love your title! Can't wait to start reading it. Thanks SO much (in advance) for writing it. Your trip reports are awesome. As a native Up-Stater now living in the Mitten State, I hope we get to meet some day at the World!


    "A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference." --Eeyore

  4. #3
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wdwjan View Post
    Steve, OMG! A shout-out to Mike Scopa's "Great-Grandmother of all Trip Reports"!! I love your title! Can't wait to start reading it. Thanks SO much (in advance) for writing it. Your trip reports are awesome. As a native Up-Stater now living in the Mitten State, I hope we get to meet some day at the World!

    Thanks, Jan. I had forgotten all about Mike's "Grand Mother" report - I just figured this one was so big, it needed that kind of a title.

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    Great trip report as always, Steve. The past few years have been financially challenging for us and we've had to bypass park visits, although we've still spent some resort-touring time thanks to DVC. So, it's nice to visit the parks through your trip reports and those of others Mouseplaneteers.

  6. #5
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arnoldvb View Post
    Great trip report as always, Steve. The past few years have been financially challenging for us and we've had to bypass park visits, although we've still spent some resort-touring time thanks to DVC. So, it's nice to visit the parks through your trip reports and those of others Mouseplaneteers.
    Thanks, Arnold.

  7. #6

    Steve Russo - January 17 - February 7, 2017 - Boardwalk & Kidani Village

    Great timing for a marathon trip report it saw me through the first two hours of our flight home from Orlando last night. I just got back home from a short (for us) 9 night trip. Your bus times notes made me chuckle having just spent our trip at the Caribbean Beach playing the 'how many minutes will they add onto the arrivals due time' game daily! Our personal record was 12....... I think it must have been much busier last week as we couldn't get any decent FPP after 1pm in any parks apart from the Magic Kingdom. Thanks for writing your whole trip up it was an enjoyable read. In the spirit of a Russo report I shall add my Pet Peeve of last week. People walking while using their phones and whole families ignoring each other for entire meals buried in their I Phones. My own travelling companion, my 15 year old daughter, got a talking to about that twice as well!


    If no-one out there understands, start your own revolution and cut out the middle man (Billy Bragg)

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    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scoobydooby View Post
    Great timing for a marathon trip report it saw me through the first two hours of our flight home from Orlando last night. I just got back home from a short (for us) 9 night trip. Your bus times notes made me chuckle having just spent our trip at the Caribbean Beach playing the 'how many minutes will they add onto the arrivals due time' game daily! Our personal record was 12....... I think it must have been much busier last week as we couldn't get any decent FPP after 1pm in any parks apart from the Magic Kingdom. Thanks for writing your whole trip up it was an enjoyable read. In the spirit of a Russo report I shall add my Pet Peeve of last week. People walking while using their phones and whole families ignoring each other for entire meals buried in their I Phones. My own travelling companion, my 15 year old daughter, got a talking to about that twice as well!
    Thanks. I'm with you on the phone usage but, I think we have to realize they've become a part of life.

  9. #8

    Wow! I've been itching for a lengthy, newsy trip report and you delivered in so many wonderful ways.

    I love reading about yours and Barb's adventures. Having the Schwabs with you is great as well. The kid perspective is always interesting.

    Hmmm, your review of D-Luxe has me questioning if I stop. The other location I want to try at Disney Springs is the food trucks.

    I've never eaten at any of the locations on the Boardwalk. Maybe for the adults only trip we will make a stop this year for dinner and ice cream!

  10. #9
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LoveCats View Post
    Wow! I've been itching for a lengthy, newsy trip report and you delivered in so many wonderful ways.

    I love reading about yours and Barb's adventures. Having the Schwabs with you is great as well. The kid perspective is always interesting.

    Hmmm, your review of D-Luxe has me questioning if I stop. The other location I want to try at Disney Springs is the food trucks.

    I've never eaten at any of the locations on the Boardwalk. Maybe for the adults only trip we will make a stop this year for dinner and ice cream!

    Definitely give D-Luxe Burger a try. I thought it was very good - just a small notch below Big River but I'm a Big River snob so...

  11. #10

    Awesome trip report! Thanks for sharing your time at Disney with us! Think we're going to have to try the burger at Big River this summer. You are right, those two plays were the turning point of the game but what a fantastic, unbelievable finish! I'm surprised you couldn't hear us all the way down in Orlando! Thanks for writing we truly enjoy the reports.


  12. #11
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by baylakebeliever View Post
    Awesome trip report! Thanks for sharing your time at Disney with us! Think we're going to have to try the burger at Big River this summer. You are right, those two plays were the turning point of the game but what a fantastic, unbelievable finish! I'm surprised you couldn't hear us all the way down in Orlando! Thanks for writing we truly enjoy the reports.

    Thanks, Gail.

  13. #12
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    Things I think I think. I think I absolutely love your trip reports. It was so mUchiha fun to read a long one like this. You have a writing style that is easy and fun to read. It's great that your grandkids were able to join you for part of the trip. The split stay sounds like fun. Thanks for taking the time to post your report.

  14. #13
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suejacken View Post
    Things I think I think. I think I absolutely love your trip reports. It was so mUchiha fun to read a long one like this. You have a writing style that is easy and fun to read. It's great that your grandkids were able to join you for part of the trip. The split stay sounds like fun. Thanks for taking the time to post your report.
    Thanks, Sue.

  15. #14

    Great report Steve! Always enjoy reading your's and Barbara's touring of WDW.


  16. #15
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KWill View Post
    Great report Steve! Always enjoy reading your's and Barbara's touring of WDW.

    Thanks, Kerry.

  17. #16

    Always fun to read a Steve Russo trip report, and this one was no exception. I have one complaint, though - when did you stop using the apostrophe? Made things hard to read at times. Other than that, great report - I can't imagine visiting for that long!

    The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
    - James Taylor

  18. #17
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    Always fun to read a Steve Russo trip report, and this one was no exception. I have one complaint, though - when did you stop using the apostrophe? Made things hard to read at times. Other than that, great report - I can't imagine visiting for that long!
    Thanks, Dan. And sorry on the apostrophes - they are in the original. For some reason, I've had issues copying from MS Word. When I noticed it, I tried to edit but, apparently, I no longer have that capability.

  19. #18

    I was hoping it was something technical and not just that you're getting old and lazy!

    The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
    - James Taylor

  20. #19

    MS Word is a love/hate thing... I'm guessing it's a search and replace that caused "Animal Kingdom" to be spelled out in your Wife's name (the "AKA" part) .

    Great report, but I'm only up to day 5 at home, I think. I hope to make it to the end soon!

    It did hit me when reading one of the early day's activities, Disney went and renamed Pangani on us, but I'm sure many people will call it that forever (myself included)! (Now called Gorilla Falls)

    I also can't imagine being there for that long! Would probably be a very relaxing trip though. I'm guilty of possibly rushing around too much on the shorter trips I usually do.


  21. #20
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    I was hoping it was something technical and not just that you're getting old and lazy!
    Well... I am old and lazy...

  22. #21
    Registered User srusso100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1313 View Post
    MS Word is a love/hate thing... I'm guessing it's a search and replace that caused "Animal Kingdom" to be spelled out in your Wife's name (the "AKA" part) .

    Great report, but I'm only up to day 5 at home, I think. I hope to make it to the end soon!

    It did hit me when reading one of the early day's activities, Disney went and renamed Pangani on us, but I'm sure many people will call it that forever (myself included)! (Now called Gorilla Falls)

    I also can't imagine being there for that long! Would probably be a very relaxing trip though. I'm guilty of possibly rushing around too much on the shorter trips I usually do.
    Thanks, Dave. Yes, there are actually two spots where the AKA replacement cost me.

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by srusso100 View Post
    Well... I am old and lazy...
    So am I - why do you think we get along so well?
    The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
    - James Taylor

  24. #23

    Steve Russo - January 17 - February 7, 2017 - Boardwalk & Kidani Village

    Mouseplanet rejects some aspects of basic grammar when you cut and paste from Word. Very irritating. I like grammar.


    If no-one out there understands, start your own revolution and cut out the middle man (Billy Bragg)



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