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Thread: Savvy's Annual September Trip – Yacht Club Resort - Sept. 16-23, 2017

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    Savvy's Annual September Trip – Yacht Club Resort - Sept. 16-23, 2017

    Hello all!

    This is a very, very belated trip report. I find it's much harder to crank these out since I added part time school on top full time work, but better late than never, right?

    Savvy's 2017 Family Trip
    DATES: 9/16-9/23/2017
    TRAVEL: EWR to MCO, Magical Express
    RESORT: Yacht Club
    PARTY
    Me (29) Many, many trips
    JF (31) My boyfriend, his second trip but the first with my family
    Sis (26) Many trips
    ZF (26) Sis's fiance, who has done a few trips with us
    Mom and Dad (54) - My parents, again, many trips
    HIGHLIGHTS: Behind the Seeds Tour, Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP)

    I feel like there's always something I'm worrying about before a trip. If it isn't a running injury, it's a hurricane and a sick dog. All jokes aside, Irma obviously posed a serious threat to a lot of people. I got a taste of that experience with Sandy, but I never had to evacuate or seriously worry about my home. So I feel for all the islands that suffered major damage.

    That being said, it was a stressful week watching for updates on Disney and MCO re-opening in Irma's wake. We were initially scheduled to fly down the Saturday Irma hit Orlando. Luckily, I received a wedding invitation for that same day, forcing us to push the trip back a week. Without that delay, we would have either spent several days cooped up in the hotel or not made it down at all. Crisis number one averted.

    I also worried about my dog, who scavenged some people food at my Labor Day BBQ and was now sick. I spent the two weeks leading up vacation trying to get him back to normal. After two vet visits, three medications, and a big bag of prescription dog food, his stomach finally settled down. While he wasn't horribly ill, the thought of dropping him at the kennel sick had been weighing on me. Crisis number two averted.

    So. My worrying aside.

    This is the first time I'm bringing a significant other on a family trip. JF and I took a trip alone in May this year, and while he really enjoyed himself, my family tends to move at a crazier pace. I can only hope we don't exhaust him. We did set aside some time for ourselves, including a Behind the Seeds tour and dinner at Citricos.

    Other highlights of the trip include MNSSHP. Sis and ZF will also be wedding venue shopping, with my parents in tow as the maximum of two guests. I'm a little bummed we can't tag along, but we filled that time slot with the tour.

    DAY 0/1, FRIDAY/SATURDAY, ROOM RENOVATIONS AND UPGRADES

    The last day before vacation was a hectic one. It started with me bringing both dogs to the kennel when they opened at 7 am. I moved in with JF last year, so now it's the two of us and each of our pooches. I wouldn't exactly call the dogs buddy-buddy, but they tolerate each other well enough that it made sense to board them together. They're only 35 lbs each, but at 4'11", it was a struggle to get them both in the door without them jumping on everyone. Once inside, they bounded away without saying goodbye. This would normally upset me, but I was too busy discussing dog 1's intestinal issues and dog 2's fear of thunder with the woman checking me in. The struggles of pet parenting are real.

    I had a quick trip to the chiropractor and then work. Halfway into the day, JF texted me saying the kennel called: his normally goofy, friendly dog was guarding the water bowls and had to be pulled from playtime. Having suggested JF board him here, I was now feeling pretty guilty that he was sitting in solitary. We did check in with them the next day and found out he was adjusting back to the play group. Crisis number three averted.

    JF and I met back up at home after work. We had already packed, so it was just a matter of making sure The Land II was all set. The Land II is my name for the aquaponics garden in our basement, which JF created after being inspired by The Land ride at Epcot. With the help of timers, pumps, and automatic feeders, JF was confident The Land II would survive without us - which I appreciated, because I've become quite attached to the fish.

    After locking up, we drove over to my parents, where we were late to the traditional pre-Disney pizza party. Mom and Dad were already getting into bed, and Sis and ZF were parked on the couch. I had eaten the last of our leftovers at home, so after JF ate two cold pieces of pizza, we went up to the guest room to get ready for bed. He conked out pretty quickly, but I tossed and turned most of the night, which I usually do before vacation.

    And as usual, I heard everyone else getting ready way before me. We had a 7 am flight, so I set the alarm for 3:50 to be out the door by 4:30. We took two cars to Newark and had an easy morning, with one 15 minute delay where the TSA inspected Mom's bags thoroughly (plus the bags of everyone in that line before her). We then went in search of breakfast. They removed most of the brand name food vendors a few years ago and replaced them with a gigantic smattering of no-name options. Though I admit I was amused by the name of one of the vendors, Eggy Weggy, I ended up getting an egg white spinach bowl from the vendor next to it. I was also annoyed that many of the gate seats have been replaced with tables and chairs, each equipped with an iPad to make the airport more money. You can play games and order food, but this offers less seating for everyone waiting to board.

    The flight itself was smooth, and Dad's elite status got us extra leg room for free. I did some homework and attempted to buy internet access halfway into the flight, but the service kept going in and out. I didn't want to waste money on the service if it wasn't going to stick, so I put my laptop away and watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 for the rest of the flight; I saw JF was watching the latest Pirates movie, but he said it wasn't that great.

    We were welcomed into MCO with that reassuring burst of warm air that means Florida. For some reason I never got our Magical Express luggage tags, which I didn't realize until last night, so we had to collect the bags before heading to the bus. Thanks to Dad's status again, the bags were some of the first ones out on the carousel. We grabbed them and walked directly onto the bus, making it to WDW in less than 40 minutes. The only hurricane damage we saw along the way were knocked over trees and branches scattered everywhere. (They were all cleaned up on WDW property within the next two days.) We made two quick stops at Boardwalk and Beach Club, where everyone else but us got off, before being dropped at Yacht Club.

    Dad wouldn't let me do online check-in prior to arrival because he always asks for a room upgrade. I find it
    little embarrassing, but we have about a fifty percent success rate with this. Luckily today, the hostess confirmed she already had both rooms upgraded and with a pool/lagoon view. Score! That kind of upgrade is also usually a good indicator that the resort is empty. The rooms weren't ready yet, so we changed into our shorts in the lobby bathroom and checked everything with bell services. We were all a little hungry, but Mom, Dad, and Sis didn't like the new Market at Ale and Compass. I was a little surprised because JF and I were quite happy with the offering when we first visited this new quick service in May. They were most unhappy with the cold, contemporary design, which I don't disagree with; it's very different from the warm wood theme that the lobby maintains.

    They wanted to eat in the park instead, so we headed out front and had a short wait for the Magic Kingdom bus. This would end up being my only short bus wait of the entire trip. More on that to come.

    The park itself was decked out in its yellow and orange Halloween decorations and didn't appear crowded. We first headed into Adventureland to get Sis her dole whip; normally a chocolate ice cream person myself, I decided to live dangerously and get a citrus swirl, which is now sold at the old dole whip location. It didn't do anything for me, but hey, I tried. I ate half of the vanilla ice cream and passed the rest onto JF to finish.

    The park did fill up, but we were able to get a couple of rides in using both FP and standby. We started with a Haunted Mansion FP, which had a long standby wait, then walked over to Tomorrowland and waited for Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. The little girl Marty Wazowski interviewed in the last section of the show completely hijacked the routine, interrupting him and telling her own knock-knock jokes that always referenced poop. It was hilarious, and Marty did a great job rolling with it.

    Next up were FP for Buzz, where I narrowly beat JF, and then a ride on the People Mover. Since we had an early dinner over at the Polynesian, Mom, Dad, Sis, and ZF left for the monorail to relax at the lounge. JF and I stayed to watch the Festival of Fantasy parade from the hub. The only complaint I have about this parade is that you must stand out in the sun during the hottest time of day. That aside, I really love the parade itself. It's a nice mix of old and new characters, and the soundtrack sticks in your head all day long. I suppose that can be good or bad, depending on your preference.

    JF and I walked to the monorail and met up with my family at the Tambu lounge an hour before our 3:50 'Ohana reservation. I ordered a sparkling wine, which became my drink of choice for this trip. Though I can't remember which I got, I probably ordered the cheapest and still enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the little opening ceremony 'Ohana does, which I've never witnessed before. Our pager went off around 3:35, and dinner was fantastic as usual. I always skip over details on this one because I've eaten there so many times, but I highly recommend 'Ohana if you want a fun atmosphere, all you can eat food, and are ok with twenty kids running around racing coconuts. (A word of caution: I have occasionally been whacked with a broom.) While the menu has a lot of meat, they did prepare a veggie dish at Sis's request. It was basically more of the same veggies you get as an appetizer, plus tofu for protein. They've also made a bland dish here for Dad a few years ago when he was having stomach issues, so they are very accommodating. Then of course there is the bread pudding dessert, which is always a must-do for me. We were given a skimpy serving on this visit, but that at least prevented me from eating too much.

    'Ohana drained the last of our energy, so we took the monorail back to MK and transferred to the Yacht and Beach bus. I had gotten the room text at dinner, but I could tell from the number that it wouldn't have been a lagoon view. Since Dad hadn't gotten a text at all, so we stopped at the front desk to get the correct room numbers, which were lagoon view and connecting as promised.

    Room review time!

    This was my first time staying in the Yacht Club since the renovations had been completed, and boy do I have a lot to complain about. I'll disclaim that I'm resistant to change in general, but I hated pretty much EVERYTHING they did to the guest rooms. The carpets have been replaced by tile? that looks like wood. I'm sure it's easier to clean, but your footsteps echo, and it was hard for me to sneak out for a 7 am walk without waking others. I could also hear my parents' 6 am chat sessions next door every morning.

    The beds are now higher, presumably to let you store your luggage, since the traditional dresser has been replaced with a huge armoire full of shelves and hanger racks. There is no more ceiling fan, and the bed lights (which used to be dimmer switches) are extremely bright and can only be turned on and off. This is not convenient when I'm trying to read in bed and other people are asleep; there are bed-mounted reading lights, but they are obnoxious LEDs that I couldn't stand to use. The bathroom did have a neat rain shower, but Mom and Dad's bathroom did not have a tub, which is something to keep in mind if you have kids.

    Like the new marketplace, the room was modern and seems to seek the approval of business travelers, not families. When I have kids and bring them for their first Disney trip, I won't stay here. That's a big deal considering I've stayed at this resort almost every trip for the past twenty years. The one tiny saving grace in the room were the window curtains, which subtly hid constellation patterns that formed Disney characters. There was no other theming present, which is very disappointing. Our view of the Boardwalk was the only thing that felt familiar.

    While the Market at Ale and Compass has the same look and feel as the guest rooms, that change I don't mind so much. It's nice not to have to walk all the way to Beach Club for a bigger food offering. The new Market has a ton of options, including many healthy ones, though I admit the atmosphere is boring. Mom, Dad, and Sis were so turned off by it that I dont think they ate here more than once the whole trip. JF and I used it mostly for coffee runs.

    Anywho. Back to this evening.

    It was too early for bed, so we changed into our bathing suits and went down to the pool. The guys toughened it out in the chilly pool while Mom, Sis, and I relaxed in the hot tub. Mom and Dad split off to get ice cream after a while, but I was still full from dinner. At one point JF and I got drinks from Hurricane Hanna's and brought them back to the lounge chairs. JF got a black cherry lemonade something that he really enjoyed, but I didn't like my sauvignon blanc. We went upstairs around 8:30 to shower off and relax in bed. While I don't care for the high bed, I am a fan of the new pillowtop mattress! Sis and ZF, who had made a loop around the Boardwalk, said they came back to find Frozen blasting on the TV and the two of us passed out. I slept really well.

    DAY 2, SUNDAY, BRUNCH AND BOOZE

    JF and I were still on our work schedule and woke up at 6:40. It didn't help that we heard Mom and Dad chatting and watching television next door at 6. If they weren't my parents, I'd be annoyed with the lack of soundproofing through the connecting door.

    Mom texted me to ask what time we were leaving for brunch at Narcoosee's, so I popped into their room. While we had all agreed last night to take a MK bus and transfer to the Monorail, she didn't want to rush and asked us to set up a Minnie Van, Disney's new service through Lyft. Sis had downloaded the app yesterday but was still asleep, so JF and I went downstairs to get coffee and take an easy stroll. I stopped at concierge to ask about the Minnie Van, and the woman told me all we had to do was download the app and the service should be available.

    Though my family traditionally passes on the refillable mugs, JF and I had enjoyed them on our trip in May and purchased new ones from the Market this morning. We took it to go with us and had a nice walk around the Boardwalk. Normally we would also go down to Hollywood Studios and back, but we cut it short this morning to get ready for brunch.

    Back at the room, Sis was having a hard time with Lyft and the Minnie Van, so we went down a few minutes early to get some help. Contrary to what the concierge told us, Bell Services had to take Sis's phone number and call somewhere to get the Minnie Van to appear in her Lyft app. It was pretty easy, but I thought it was odd you had to approach a CM to get it set up. (To be fair, I did get a Minnie Van info packet in the mail before the trip, but I tossed it without bothering to open it.) The Minnie Van option appeared in Sis's app seconds later, and we waited only 10 minutes for our driver.

    If you haven't seen the pictures already, the Minnie Van is an appropriately named polka dot SUV which comfortably seated all six of us. The driver is a CM who took us straight to the Grand Floridian for a flat rate of $20.00. If you take a Minnie Van to MK, they also get to drop you directly at bus stop 1, so no worries about having to take the ferry. (Keep in mind this info is as of September 2017, and I know it costs more now.)

    While it was nice to have a direct ride to GF in our dressier clothing, I would probably only use this service again when regular transportation is really inconvenient. We got to Narcoosee's a little early but were seated right away. JF and I had experienced this brunch for the first time back in May and were so blown away that we insisted on bringing my family back here. The food is amazing, and it has a beautiful view of Bay Lake. For about $70 a head, drinks and food are unlimited. Though, as my Mom noted, it's a bit expensive for kids at $30 a head.

    Most of us started with mimosas, and Narcoosee's has three: orange, cranberry, and pineapple - known as the Hawaiian. Mom said the cranberry was her favorite, and Sis and JF loved the Hawaiian. We got a pastry basket for the table, an appetizer and entree per person (you can order more), plus a dessert trio to share. JF and I split the shrimp and grits and cheese plate starters. The shrimp and grits were great, but I only liked one of the cheeses, the Barely Buzzed. I'm not a fan of goat, blue, or really soft cheese, so I'm not the best judge here. I stuck with a simple egg white omelet for the entree (have to cut calories somewhere), and JF had the chicken and waffles. I believe Mom got an omelet, Dad and ZF the steak and eggs, and Sis the French toast. Everything was a winner. The dessert trio consists of three mini cakes, chocolate, orange and lemon/blueberry; they're very pretty, but everyone was too stuffed to take more than a few bites. Overall everyone loved this meal, and I saved 10 percent with my Disney Visa. (EDIT: As of January 2018, Narcoosee's brunch is suddenly no longer. I'm incredibly devastated and hope ti comes back, but it sounds like the change is permanent.)

    Sis and ZF wanted to go back to the hotel to change, so they caught the monorail back to MK. Mom and Dad had struck good balance between dressing nicely and also for the park, and JF and I had packed a change of clothes, so the four of us took the monorail directly to Epcot.

    Magic Kingdom security is now done before you get anywhere near the gates. The buses, ferries, and monorails have their own security stations, which really cuts down on lines and made entering the park faster. That means if you're leaving from the Grand Floridian, you go through security at the hotel just before you get on the monorail instead of the MK gates. Epcot has not implemented this yet, so we went through security both at GF and the Epcot gate this time. Not a big deal.

    Once inside, we browsed the Animation Store until I got a text from Sis, so we walked over to Norway to meet them for our Frozen FP. It looks like this one is still sporting long lines, so it was good we had these FP. Mom wanted to check out the Food and Wine Festival Center afterward, so we went back to Future World to do that. JF and I browsed some of the merchandise and got a wine bottle ornament for our tree, then picked up our free Ghiradelli candies: milk chocolate caramel today, yum!

    We then made our way over to the Land for our FP on that, but afterwards were still dragging from all the food. We all went back to the hotel and spent the afternoon at the pool, which was comfortable today since the sun was out. We originally had a dinner reservation at Rose and Crown but had canceled it thinking it would be too much food after Narcoosee's. Not only was that the right call, but it also meant we didn't have to rush out of the pool, which was a very welcome change of pace. With the invention of Fast Passes and ADRs, we spend entirely too much time rushing around on a typical Disney vacation. Add Run Disney events to the mix, and forget about relaxing at all.

    After our few hours of chill time, we went back into Epcot to browse the Festival for dinner. We each got the wristband gift cards and spent most of the evening sharing sips and bites. JF and ZF did more of the drink sampling since they liked the more economical drinks (beer, mixed drinks, etc). I never get more than one or two glasses of wine because you get a very small cup for over $7. We did quite a bit of Food and Wine sampling throughout the week, so I'm including a review of everything we had at the end of the report.

    I think Sunday night was the perfect time to enjoy the festival. The weather was nice enough that you could walk around without sweating up a storm, and it wasn't very crowded. We didn't have to wait long for anything, and because we were eating slowly, we could enjoy a lot more. My only complaint is that Epcot closes at 9, and we could have stuck around for another hour or two. We walked back to the hotel, and I had another fabulous night's sleep.

    DAY 3, MONDAY, BEHIND THE SEEDS

    JF and I slept in until 7:30 and did a full walk to Epcot, around the Boardwalk, to HS and back. Some of the marshy tree areas on the HS path had been knocked down, which exposed a lot of decaying wood and stunk. We had a very nice walk otherwise and saw a lot of turtles and big bass in the water.

    It was wedding venue day, so the rest of my family was heading out the door as we got back. JF and I cleaned up and walked to Epcot for breakfast in France. Two different CMs confirmed we were heading to the bakery as we made our way over the bridge; I guess they don't want people walking around France without reason before World Showcase opened. There weren't many people here, so we enjoyed our food at one of the little tables outside. I can't remember what JF got, but I ordered the croquet monsieur, which was toasty and cheesy and all kinds of delightful. We each also got a cafe Americano, and at the last minute, he ordered a glass of champagne for us to share. We're really not in the habit of drinking with breakfast, but it was a nice treat.

    This morning was our Behind the Seeds Tour at the Land, so we walked over there and checked in at the counter by Soarin'. The tour lasted 75 minutes and took us through their bug incubating room, several greenhouses, and the fish farm. We got to feed the tilapia, which were obviously used to this and swam right up for their breakfast. While you can't touch much on the tour, you could flick a leafy plant (named Stanley) that immediately withers up and puff back out after a few minutes. We also got a lot of neat ideas for JF to try at home. For $25 a person with a 10 percent discount with my Disney Visa, I thought it was worth it. it's not something I need to do again, and younger kids would probably be bored.

    We went back to the Yacht Club and relaxed in the room, stopping at the Market for a mug refill. I did some homework while JF watched television and checked his email. We had passed Mom and Dad on the way up, who were going for lunch and didn't sound like they were back yet. Sis and ZF had gone straight to HS, and after sitting around for a while, JF and I decided to do the same. MDE app was showing only a 20 minute wait for Tower of Terror at the hotel room, but by the time we walked over to the park, it was closer to 40. Sis and ZF were already in standby for Aerosmith by this time, so I let JF make the choice. He's not a huge fan of heights but insists on riding with me, so we decided to get in line for ToT and get it over with.

    The wait outside was hot and uncomfortable, but inside we moved quickly. JF seemed to enjoy this much better than his first ride in May and even let out a laugh or two during the drops. We celebrated by getting ice cream at the stand just outside: a small cup of cookies and cream for me and an ice cream sandwich for JF. The chocolate ice cream in his was way better than mine.

    We met with everyone else and walked to Muppets, which took longer with all the Star Wars and Toy Story construction. Muppets ended just in time for our Toy Story Mania FP, where JF beat me pretty good. We had an hour before Star Tours FP, which the other four in the group didn't want to wait around for, so they walked back to the hotel. JF and I decided to ride standby, which only took 20 minutes. I enjoy standby here because I like watching the droid scanning cargo bags; he finds a lot of Disney Easter eggs inside, such as Chip and Dale, mouse ears, and Wall E.

    After a long walk back to the hotel, we showered and met my family at Hurricane Hanna's. I stuck to one drink and tried the chardonnay this time, which I liked better than the sauvignon blanc I had the other night. We hung out here for about an hour before walking to Epcot for dinner.

    My Dad has been itching to go to Teppan Edo in Japan for a few years. I've been opposed because we have very good hibachi at home, and I'd rather eat food unique to Disney when we're down here. This year I caved at the peer pressure and we booked it. I admit the restaurant itself looks very nice since its refurbishment, and I thought the CMs were especially friendly. We all got hibachi dishes, which come with veggies, noodles, and rice. The one thing I didn't care for was my sake mimosa, which was too sweet. While the food was good, I still personally don't have a need to return.

    JF and I broke off on our own after dinner to look for a tea set in Japan's gift shop. I felt like they had less options than what we had been looking at back in May, and they were more expensive than I remembered. We passed on the tea set but did each pick out a set of fancy chopsticks.

    Mom and Dad had gone off to watch Happily Ever After fireworks at MK. Sis and ZF were swimming back at the hotel, which we were too tired for. We did one more lap around WS with a stop at a booth for dessert before going back for bed.


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    DAY 4, TUESDAY, EVERYONE OUT OF THE POOL, HALLOWEEN PARTY

    Sis and ZF were up very early for a boat fishing excursion. JF and I slept until 8, changed into workout gear, and got our coffee downstairs. We had a 10:50 breakfast at Cape May Cafe this morning, so I got a pack of hard boiled eggs to tide me over. We took the coffee to go and went for a stroll around the boardwalk, stopping to snap a few pictures of Sis and ZF fishing out on Crescent Lake. We hung out in the room for a while so I could get my homework done, then changed into swim suits and went downstairs with the whole group for breakfast.

    Breakfast was just okay. We typically use this buffet to carb load before evening Run Disney races and love it for that purpose. Today I think it was just too late in the morning for me, and I'd already had too much coffee. The menu hadn't really changed, so I had my usual sampling of chorizo scrambled eggs, Mickey waffles, salmon, and potatoes, with a mini cinnamon roll to finish.

    We made our way out to Stormalong Bay, which was empty. While an overcast day at Stormalong Bay is better than any day at home, we wasted too much time here today. Without the sun, the pool was too chilly to enjoy. It was also evacuated not once but TWICE because someone doesn't know what a pool diaper is. I'm only speculating it was the same child because this happens so rarely at this resort, I can't imagine two people making the same mistake in one morning. (PS, I don't have kids and recognize I may be over judgy here. I just know each cost everyone an hour of pool time, and many other people were annoyed.) So anyway, I spent most of the day reading on the lounge chair with an occasional trip to the hot tub.

    JF and I went to Beaches and Cream for a sundae in the middle of the day. We've been coming here for years, and while the ice cream is always great, the service is generally sub-par. Unfortunately, today was no exception. I ordered a two scoop sundae with chocolate and mint chocolate chip ice cream, with chocolate syrup instead of hot fudge. She confirmed back to me, "So that's two scoops of vanilla right?" Nope, not at all. I corrected her and we got the correct ice cream, but she gave me the hot fudge. I let it go.

    Originally, we planned to spend only a few hours at the pool, then visit Trader Sam's before MNSSHP. Using free Disney transportation, it is a slight hassle to get to Poly from Yacht. We like to get there by 3:30 when they start distributing pagers and ensure seats together. We would have needed to leave the hotel by 2:15 to be safe, with more time to clean up. No one felt up to this effort, so we sat by the pool until about 3, showered, and changed into our costumes, which were by the couple this year.


    JF and I were doing Star Wars, and rather than do the more traditional Han and Leia, we were doing Han and Chewie. Given the height difference, he was Chewie, wearing a basic printed tee shirt so he wasn't sweating up a storm. I was also sporting a heat-friendly costume with shorts, booties, white tank, and an XS men's fishing vest. Mom and Dad were donning past Halloween Disney merchandise, but Sis and ZF really killed it (get it?) with their Haunted Mansion ensemble. They were portraits from the stretching room: Sis was the tightrope girl, and ZF the man on the barrel. They both looked really good.

    This bus wait wasn't terribly long. Once at MK, we walked to Contemporary and had drinks in the Outer Rim. (Only in Disney can Sis sit in a hotel bar with a tutu and parasol and get very few weird looks.) I had a glass of prosecco, which was good, but I didn't enjoy the atmosphere. We couldn't sit together because of the seating arrangements, and though the view across the lake is nice, the windows are really filthy. When we come back to Contemporary, we're going to stick to the Wave.

    We headed toward to the new security checkpoint in the lobby to catch the monorail, where we were momentarily delayed by the couple ahead of us. Security had pulled out of their backpack a very large and very full bottle of rum they had just purchased in the gift shop. Because they were essentially going through MK security and not staying at the Contemporary, they had to choose between the monorail or the rum. They gave up the bottle. Ouch. I'm not sure how much a bottle of rum at Disney costs, but I'm betting it's not cheap.

    We entered MK a little before 6:30 and got our MNSSHP wrist bands at the gate. Dinner was going to be a quick affair at Cosmic Ray's Cafe. I'm pleased that you can now get the same food at all three bays, which makes ordering much less confusing. It was still a little chaotic with the crowds, but the meal served its purpose. I had a plain grilled chicken sandwich and more fries than I care to admit.

    We backtracked to the entrance of Main Street once the party started to hit the first candy trail and get our collection bags. We did a few more candy stops in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, with a walk-on ride of Space Mountain in there. At my insistence, we cut back toward the castle to secure spots for the Hocus Pocus Spelltacular at 8.

    We made it 30 minutes before the show and got a spot along the rope to the right of the castle. It wasn't dead center, but we could see the stage well. Two minutes before show time, I turned around to say something to my sister and found myself literally face to face with a strange teenage girl. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her sister sneaking in to wedge herself between me and the rope.

    What was this, a velociraptor attack?

    Behind this girl, my mom and sister are fuming because these two are way too old to pull this kind of crap. I planted my feet firmly and kept my mouth shut, but Sis later told me she had to block the parents from squeezing in too. I'm ok with moving aside for a little kid to see, but everyone else can get here early if they want a decent spot.

    Rude people aside, I loved the show and thought the woman playing Sarah was spot on. Dad stayed behind after it was over to get a spot for the parade while the rest of us went to ride the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and get more candy. Sis, ZF, and Mom split off to do some more rides, but I was dead set on seeing Boo to You, so JF and I went to Liberty Square to find a spot of our own. Thirty minutes wasn't early enough this time, and we walked around for a while looking. It turns out even Dad hadn't moved quickly enough to get a street spot; we found him in the main hub and stood by the Liberty Square Bridge, a few rows of people back from the street.

    This was a lucky move, because the CM directing traffic took down the rope just before the parade started and let us move right up next to the bridge. I was still three people deep but ended up seeing most of the street performers and all of the floats well. This is by far my favorite parade, so I'm glad we made it happen.

    I got the sense JF was tired but not admitting it for my sake. However, I also didn't feel like waiting around in a crowd again myself, so the three of us skipped the fireworks and walked back to the bus stop. ZF ended up back at the hotel just 30 minutes after us. When I asked where Sis was, he just shrugged and said she was staying until the party ended at midnight - which she literally did, by herself.

    DAY 5, WEDNESDAY, NOT SO HAPPILY EVER AFTER

    I was wide awake at 6 am and tried to subtly wake JF to see if he wanted to go to the gym. He woke up briefly enough to give me a look that said, "I love you, but leave me alone." While lying there thinking of what I wanted to do at the gym, I fell back asleep and didn't wake again until 8. We were all splitting up for dinner tonight, but otherwise the day didn't have much structure. Mom, Sis, and ZF decided to go to Typhoon Lagoon. JF, Dad, and I were getting ready to get coffee when the fire alarm went off. This is our second time experiencing the alarm here, but at least we were awake this time. Today it went on much longer, to the point where Mom, Dad, JF, and I got impatient and walked to the Boardwalk to get breakfast.

    While I like going to a different venue, I don't care for the Boardwalk bakery. They have a nice selection of pastries, but I try to have high protein, low fat breakfasts, and that can be a tough order here. I also don't like having to wait in line with everyone else and not be able to see the options until a CM is right in front of me, asking for my order. I was able to get a bagel with the biggest blob of egg whites I've ever seen, but it was understandably bland. Luckily I remembered to grab our mugs on the way out of the room, so we did also get to fill up coffee.

    Mom left to change for Typhoon Lagoon before the rest of us finished eating. JF and Dad listened patiently while I tried to think of the best way to spend our morning, coming up with a new plan roughly every sixty seconds. I was torn between doing more Food and Wine Festival, having a better pool day, and/or making it to Trader Sam's; the dilemma was that JF and I had a dinner reservation at Citrico's tonight, and I didn't feel like wearing my nice outfit to the bar and getting all sweaty in transit. By the time we had walked back to the room, I had settled for the pool.

    Dad already had his swim shorts on so he went off to the pool, and JF and I went back upstairs to change. When we walked onto the pool deck, however, I stopped and looked around: there were almost no lounge chairs anywhere near our usual spot. There were just four, and as I got closer I wasn't surprised to recognize Dad's shirt and shoes on one of them. These chairs were also brand new and cushiony, which explained why all the old ones were suddenly gone. It looked like they were still in the process of replacing them, with a horde of new chairs visible on the other side of the pool.

    We did have a nicer pool day today, with the exception of yet another 30 minute evacuation because of an accident in the kiddie pool. Sigh. We went to Hurricane Hanna's for lunch, which was just ok, as usual. JF said the seafood roll had too much citrus, something my mom has said in the past as well. I got a kids grilled chicken sandwich, mostly because I like eating out of the little sand pail. I also made my way over to Beaches later and got my once-per-trip chocolate milkshake. By that point we'd decided again to skip Trader Sam's and chalked it up to a must-do for next trip. Besides, it was sunny and much more comfortable for staying by the water.

    JF and I went up to shower and change for dinner. The plan was to get to the Grand Floridian an hour before our 6:00 reservations at Citricos and enjoy a drink at Mizner's lounge. Unfortunately, this was by far our WORST experience waiting for a bus, about 45 minutes in total. The new digital board displaying the wait time until the next bus was not so reassuring when it constantly pushes the ETA back. It took twenty minutes for a MK bus to appear on the board at all, and then the expected arrival time kept getting worse and worse. It was maddening. I'd prefer not to have a board at all, though 45 minutes is too long regardless.

    Luckily Citricos was empty, so I was able to push our reservation back to 6:15 and then again to 6:30 on the MDE app. We had better luck at MK, where the boat for GF was just loading passengers. That bought us back enough time for a drink in the lounge. As we were walking into the lobby, JF got a call that the burglar alarm at work was going off. Thankfully it turned out to be nothing, and we made it for our drink after all. Mizner's was a little quiet for me, but we both enjoyed our drinks: a beer for him and riesling for me.

    Citricos was right next door, and while I was expecting to find a bit of a crowd, it was strangely empty. For a signature restaurant in the most expensive resort on property, this was a little surprising. I thought the restaurant was very pretty and found the staff professional and friendly. And the food was really delicious. We got a little fancier with the drinks, a glass of champagne for me and tequila on the rocks for JF. For appetizers, we split the tomato salad and octopus. I can't remember what JF got for an entree, but I had the seafood risotto, and we split the tiramisu and gelato trio for dessert.

    While I have no complaints about the food, there was something odd about the ambiance. Part of it was the fact that the place was empty at 7 and 8 o'clock. The other was that many guests completely disregarded the dress code. We're talking graphic t-shirts, basketball shorts, dirty sneakers, and sweat-stained clothing. And hey, I get it. People are walking around the parks all day in that humidity. I've also been on the other side of this, when a Yachtsman hostess literally looked us up and down and said, "Good, you're dressed properly." That kind of turned me off.

    But if I'm paying for a dinner at a signature restaurant, I'd prefer it enforced that dress code. There are many good eateries on property without dress codes, and you can still do nicer shorts and a short sleeve shirt if you're set on a signature meal. I can see why Citrico's wouldn’t want to turn Disney guests away, but other signature restaurants on property do, and the atmospheres are better for it. Between all the empty tables and the way our fellow diners dressed, it was awkward enough that I don't think I'll be back. It's a shame, because the food was wonderful.

    In any case, what I really cared about tonight was Happily Ever After. JF and I saw these fireworks in May just a few days after their debut, and I've been completely obsessed. I mean listening to the soundtrack during my commute three days a week obsessed. I made it a point to schedule dinner at the hotel with plenty of time to get to MK for a good viewing spot.

    I was practically giddy going through security and waiting for the monorail. Then JF asked, "What's that sound?" As I turned and looked over his shoulder, I saw fireworks in the background. For a moment I deluded myself into thinking it was coming from another park. Then I scrambled for my phone and pulled up the app, all the while muttering "no no no no no no." My heart sank when I finally saw that the fireworks were being held at 8 tonight. Almost thirty years of traveling to WDW, and as far as I remember, MK fireworks have always been at 9 or 10. Never 8. It took me a while to work out EMH started at 8 tonight, which is probably why they were being held so early: for all to enjoy. I was floored, a little embarrassed, and oddly close to crying for no good reason. (Yeah. I'm 29 years old.)

    They were over by the time the monorail pulled into MK. Since we were here, I figured we'd make the best of EMH. We started left toward Adventureland and met a solid wall of people at Casey's. I'm not sure if they were waiting to watch the castle show, but after ten minutes we hadn't moved an inch. We gave up.

    We left the park and walked toward the Contemporary, partially to help digest and partially to catch a bus to Disney Springs. Me being my indecisive self, I decided I was too tired for Disney Springs by the time we got to the resort. So we sat at the bus stop and debated what to do when a Hollywood Studios bus pulled up. Though it was late, I timidly asked if she was really going to HS so we could walk to the hotel. She was a little puffy at first and said she wasn't supposed to pick up passengers. I immediately backed off and said that was fine. She changed her mind just as quickly and said she'd drive us directly to Yacht Club. I'm not sure where her change of heart came from, but we appreciated it sincerely and went to bed as soon as we got back.

    DAY 6, THURSDAY, BANSHEE RIDE & FASTPASS BLITZ

    I woke up determined to make up for the last two days of failed plans and missed opportunities. I let JF sleep in and went out for a walk around 7. I kept it relatively short, coming back to shower and get a head count for Animal Kingdom. Sis and ZF were going golfing and Mom wasn't interested in riding anything, so Dad, JF, and I were on our own. The Ale and Compass Marketplace was completely packed with parents and screaming kids, which was disheartening. Though I like not having to walk over to Beach for better food options, we could always rely on a quick breakfast from Yacht. That’'s no longer a guarantee.

    We passed on the melee and went to the bus stop instead. This was a mistake. Once again, we joined a growing crowd of cranky people, and we were hungry to boot. The AK bus kept getting pushed back on the time board, then dropped off completely. One finally showed up after 30 minutes, getting us to the park around 9. Though we had 9:05 FP for Expedition Everest, I got a text that it was down, which meant we were now searching for breakfast. We ended up at Kusafiri bakery in Africa, which offered two pastries or a hot wrap with goat cheese. I knew it was a long shot, but I asked if I could get the wrap without the cheese. Clearly used to the question, the CM didn't even let me finish before blurting out "No." Cool. Ok.

    JF and my Dad got the wrap while I stuck to a plain croissant. It was yummy, but I would have preferred something more filling for less calories. The counter service area wasn't open, so we ate on a bench around the corner. Or rather, they sat and I stood because it was already too hot to sit in the sun. The app showed Everest was back up, but Dad wasn't feeling up to it with his back pain, so he waited in Africa while JF and I went to ride. We were there and back in less than 30 minutes.

    After a brief wait for our next round of FPs to open, we went on Kilamanjaro Safaris. This was of my best experiences on this ride in a long time, probably because it was breakfast time for all the animals. (It was around 10 am.) We saw almost everything, including the lions, wild dogs, and lots of babies. We were also given our own row which I really appreciated; CMs have made us fit five in a row before, which is hot, uncomfortable, and extremely unpleasant for those of us who like a little personal space.

    With that done, there was only one thing left on the list: Pandora. Our first visit to Pandora to be exact, along with FP for Flights of Passage. Sis was interested in FoP but wanted to make ZF happy by golfing. Mom, on the other hand, gets motion sick on anything that is Soarin' level or above. So, that was never going to happen.

    Dad was suffering from some back issues this trip, but the CMs in the park reassured him the ride was very smooth. So we all walked over to Pandora, which I was really excited for: it's not often I get to experience something new of this magnitude at Disney.

    And Pandora certainly didn't disappoint. I'm not a huge Avatar fan myself, but this new land was beautifully done and has so much to look at. We browsed the one gift shop to kill time before our FPs, and I again was really impressed with the details pulled from the movie. They had some pretty cool merchandise, especially for kids, but the price tags were exorbitantly high, even for Disney.

    After what seemed like an eternity (read: 20 minutes) we finally went to the gate to use our FPs. Good thing, too, since the standby line was over two and a half hours long. The queue is so massive that it crosses the main walkway at a point, forcing CMs to stand there with ropes and periodically block traffic. FP, on the other hand, was almost completely empty. No one else rushed forward with us when our time finally hit, and we had a long, lonely (but pretty) walk through the mountainous queue. Once inside, the scenery takes on a more industrial atmosphere. Though we missed a lot of cool stuff that the standby line offers, I really, really loved all the pre-show stuff. The first room we entered went through this cool sequence to decontaminate you and match you up with one of the lab's avatars, which you see matched to yourself on screen. You're ushered into another room where you get the official welcome and introduction to the banshee, the creature you get to "ride" as part of the excursion. You're finally brought into a third room where you sit on your "banshee," which is a big motorcycle seat. The story is that your avatar is riding the real banshee, and you're tapping into the experience. This was my singular complaint of the whole ordeal: that you get to see your avatar but not your banshee.

    A word of caution here. Once seated, you'll be locked in by moving pieces that stop when they hit your waist and legs. I was too far forward in my seat when that happened, so it closed tightly around my ribs, which made for an uncomfortable ride. I recommend sitting a smidge farther back on the seat (or at least exhale) before you're locked in. I'd also agree that anyone with motion sickness should completely pass. It was intense, and being locked tightly didn't made me feel ill.

    That being said, the ride was amazing. The visual effects are some of Disney's best, and the synchronous motion of the ride seat really does trick your brain into think you're flying. While I would have like to see my banshee, one of the coolest effects is that your seat expands outward on your thighs so you can feel your banshee breathing. Crazy awesome attention to detail is how I originally put it.

    We had our fill of AK at this point, so we left the park and caught a bus back to the hotel. Dad got off a Yacht and was heading to the pool. JF and I got out at Beach and walked to Epcot to hit Food and Wine booths for lunch. We stayed left into World Showcase and went straight to the booths by Innoventions, stopping first at Earth Eats. We split the ravioli and beef skewers, which were just ok. Next was a booth I jotted down as "Fire Eats" which was just next door, where we got the piggy wings and sweet pancake; this was one of our favorites. The pancake was a little unconventional with a lot of sweet and savory going on at the same time, but I liked it a lot. While munching, I snagged last minute FP for Nemo, which we walked right over for. I then broke a personal record, snagging our fifth FP of the day for Test Track. Sadly, I always forget how much I dislike this ride until I'm actually inside. You still wait a long time because of the way the queues merge for car design, and the ride itself is so freaking boring. I miss the old layout. There's no story anymore.

    Feeling I'd redeemed myself for the past two days of laziness, we walked back to the hotel and went straight to Beaches and Cream. I ordered a two scoop sundae, thinking for some reason it would only be one scoop. Couldn't tell you why, but I was a little overwhelmed when the CM handed me the cup. JF was a trooper and helped me finish it on top of the ice cream sandwich he ordered. We went back upstairs, changed, and did the pool for a few hours since dinner was at the hotel tonight.

    Dinner was at the Yachtsman Steakhouse, one of our favorites in all of WDW. As we normally do, we went down early for drinks at the Crews Cup. Yachtsman tends to be one of those meals that stuffs me to the point of sleepiness, so I limited myself to one glass of champagne at the bar. Dinner was fantastic as usual, starting off with the calamari and cheese plate, which we shared as a group. I had the filet with potatoes gratin for my entree and was too full for dessert. Sis and ZF went right up to bed, but Mom, Dad, JF, and I took a stroll around the boardwalk to digest. I stopped at the Screen Porch for pumpkin fudge to bring home, but otherwise we made it quick before heading back for bed.

    DAY 7, FRIDAY, FREEZING PIZZA EXPERIENCE

    I woke again determined to totally take advantage of everything today, which was also our last day. JF was up early with me, so we did a long walk around the Boardwalk, to HS and back. ZF had gotten out early for another round of golf, and the other three were going for breakfast in France. After far too much deliberating (on my part only), JF and I decided to grab a quick breakfast downstairs before going to MK, which was uneventful except for me burning my bagel. The wait for the bus was considerably more exciting, with nearly 50 people getting agitated as 20 minutes turned to 30, and then 30 to 40. One gentleman took up the cause of yelling at every other bus that pulled up and blaming that driver. It got to the point where it started to feel like mob mentality. JF asked if I wanted to ditch the crazy and walk through Epcot to the monorail. I almost agreed, but we would have lost so much time.

    The bus finally showed up and dropped us at MK around the same time my family got there. We met up at City Hall, then walked over to Peter Pan for our first FP. Small World hadn't filled up yet, so we rode that Standby. We hadn't ridden the WDW Railroad once this trip, so we caught that at the Frontierland station and did a full loop, then went to use our FP for Pirates, which was sporting a nice 50 minute wait for standby. Haunted Mansion FP were next, but we somehow forgot that we still had 15 minutes to go and got the flashing blue light of denial; the CM was nice enough to let us go anyway, so we did that and then split up.

    Sis went back to the hotel, Mom and Dad went to the Columbia Harbor House for lunch, and JF and I went into the Christmas store. We were hoping to see if there were any new ornaments since our trip in May, but nothing struck our fancy. It was getting pretty hot and crowded, and with all our FP done, that was a wrap for rides. JF and I stopped for a dole whip on the way out of the park, and I did my customary last minute browse of the Emporium just to make sure I wasn't missing any souvenirs I absolutely had to have.

    We said goodbye to MK and started up the ramp to the express monorail, when a bunch of guests came down and said it was having issues. So we went around to the resort monorail. While waiting, the express made a miraculous recovery, loaded up with people, and took off. Sigh. We had quite a wait for the resort one, then another wait for the Epcot one at the T&TC. I feel bad complaining about free transportation, but it's really been bad this whole trip.

    We finally made it to Epcot, and it was uncomfortably hot as we walked through Future World. We went straight to the Fire booth again, where JF got a second round of piggy wings and I tried the corned beef, which is served on top of nachos and cheese. This was good, but the beef was dry. It was too hot to be outside for long, so we walked over to Mousegears and, after some browsing, scooped up the Food and Wine Festival champagne flutes. We made our way slowly back to the hotel, stopping for a so-so empanada at the Patagonia booth and a beer for JF in Germany.

    While we were hoping to get an hour in at the pool, the clouds were rolling in quickly. We changed anyway and went down to stop at the Marketplace for a drink, where we ran into Sis and ZF. They confirmed the pool had just been shut down for lightning, so everyone went back upstairs to pack and wait out the rain. I did a little bit of homework so I could enjoy the flight home tomorrow.

    We all went down to Crews Cup for a round of drinks and then made our way back to Epcot for dinner. Thankfully the rain was moving out, so it was a relatively comfortable evening. We browsed some of the country shops for a while before checking into Via Napoli in Italy. We're normally seated very quickly with reservations, but it seems waiting was just the theme of this trip. I perked up when the hostess got us 20 minutes later, but deflated when we were sat under a large vent blowing very cold air. Everyone in our group who had a jacket was wearing it, as were diners around us. It was beyond uncomfortable, and Dad asked the waitress if they could turn it down. To his credit, the manager came over himself to let us know he was trying to get Disney maintenance on the phone to turn it down. It did eventually go down but it was still a little uncomfortable, and after about 30 minutes it was back to full blast. So, this wasn't a great experience.

    We did a little better on the food. The garlic bread left a lot to be desired, but we ordered several pizzas and were happy with those. JF and I split the picante with spicy sausage and white Carciofi with truffle oil and artichoke. I enjoyed both, though the Carciofi was heavy.

    We didn't want to spend another second freezing, so we skipped dessert. Mom and Dad split off on their own. Sis, ZF, JF, and I took a last stroll around WS, making stops for cannolis, champagne, and cronuts. ZF and Sis split off earlier, so JF and I carried the cronut back to the Beach Club and ate it outside the lobby. It was good, but very sugary and too heavy for this late at night. We went up to bed after this.

    DAY 8, SATURDAY, NOW IT'S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

    We were up at 6 and downstairs to check the bags by 7. This is exactly how I prefer it. We've lingered around on departure day before, and I'm never able to enjoy myself. The last time Sis and I did that after Princess Half weekend, and we were just walking around World Showcase looking at our watches the whole time. I prefer to rip off the bandaid and go.

    To kill the little time we did have, we walked to the Beach Club for breakfast. The mug station was under construction, but they did have makeshift carafes of coffee. I walked around for a while looking for a toaster and eventually asked a CM, who confidently told me they didn't have one. I then found it on top of a garbage can. I don't usually use the term "lol" in a trip report, but lol. Ok.

    We made breakfast a quick affair and walked back to Yacht to await the Tragical Express. The bus was 15 minutes late but only made one more stop at Beach Club, so we made it to MCO very early. Nothing special here. We got our sandwiches for the plane, and though the flight was overbooked, Dad's priority status got us on quickly with our carry ons. I watched Table 19 because I like Anna Kendrick, but the movie was pretty stupid. I then paid for the internet, which worked this time, and finished my homework for the week. The flight itself got in half an hour early and all our bags made it back. Yay! But also, we're back. Sigh.

    The Land II in the basement was intact with all the plants and fish looking just fine. One of the dogs did come home with kennel cough, but since I bought their warranty, we got the full vet bill covered.

    NEXT TRIP

    Since it's taken me so long to write this report, I can simply say that I am not going down for Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend as I had hoped. It's been a long year and a half of trying to diagnose and fix my knee pain, and I am in serious Run Disney withdrawal. We're now calling it patellar femoral syndrome, which is a fancy way of saying nothing serious but diagnosable. I'm in a great sports-focused physical therapy program, but I haven't made enough improvement to run a half marathon next month.

    However! In November the entire Savvy clan plus 100 something guests will be celebrating Sis's wedding in WDW! She and ZF recently set the date at the Grand Floridian wedding pavilion. It's really not going to be a vacation at all, but it's going to a brand new experience and a lot of fun to write about. We even registered for the Fall (something?) 5K for Wine and Dine Marathon Weekend, which I'm really excited for.

    That's all for now. Thank you for reading!

  4. #3
    Self-Proclaimed Disney Queen! Pammer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Sacramento, CA

    Better late than never though! I enjoyed reading your trip report and appreciate how much effort they take to write them, so thank you! Please write one for Sis's wedding if you can; I will enjoy reading it too!

    Good luck with your physical therapy as well.

    Pam
    DL trips: too many to remember actual dates, but they began in the 60s!
    WDW trips: 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013



  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Pammer View Post
    Better late than never though! I enjoyed reading your trip report and appreciate how much effort they take to write them, so thank you! Please write one for Sis's wedding if you can; I will enjoy reading it too!

    Good luck with your physical therapy as well.
    Thanks Pam!

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