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Thread: Sue Holland Rayford, Dec 2023 Weekend

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    Sue Holland Rayford, Dec 2023 Weekend

    Who/When/Where:

    Who: Sue (65), DVC Member
    Dates: December 7 10, 2023
    Resort: Disneys Beach Club Villas Resort
    Experience: Very Experienced 60th stay at Beach Club Villas

    INTRODUCTION:
    Its hard to believe this is my 60th stay at Beach Club Villas especially since I only have 200 points here! In the old days you used to be able to get in here at 7 months, but that hasnt been true for several years now. Its my overall favorite resort for the trips that include a festival at Epcot cannot beat the convenience, and its a lovely resort on its own merits.

    This will be a solo trip in the true sense. SB wont be along to share my room and no friends/family will be coming in their own rooms. Its a very short trip, so this works well for me. I used to always enjoy seeing the holiday dcor and some of the activities in the parks and resorts during this time of year, but the last time I did that was probably before the pandemic. HAL cruises have trumped DVC in terms of priority to me and I always have a cruise in late November or early December. This year the cruise ended November 29th, so I decided to add a short 3-night trip in December. This trip begins 8 days after the cruise ended, which is a bit much in terms of taking off from work, but at this stage of my career I feel more comfortable putting myself before the job! Ill leave work at noon Thursday, take Friday off, and go home Sunday to be back at work Monday morning not a big deal.

    The primary focus is Festival of the Holidays, hence the decision to stay at Beach Club Villas. My annual pass is not valid on Saturday or Sunday, but thats not a problem. Sunday Ill be leaving early to head home. Saturday, I had planned on visiting the MK resorts but when I checked the weather earlier this week and saw Saturday would be the warmest/sunniest day I decided to make it a pool day. I decided I did want to see more than Epcot this trip so I booked a park reservation at Magic Kingdom for Friday. I didnt realize at the time it would open for resort guests at 7:30! Im not foolish enough to NOT arrive at 7:30 as Id like to ride a couple attractions before the lines get unbearable. Its supposed to be cloudy all day so I decided to do the MK resorts touring today most likely Ill be out of MK by 10-11am at the latest.

    At 2pm I can park hop so if its cloudy I may hit Festival of the Holidays for a lunch (unless I eat at some MK resort while touring) and may head to Hollywood Studios to see their holiday stuff around dusk/early evening. From there I can always go back to Epcot for the rest of the evening. I thought about the French onion soup at Steakhouse 72 but being such short notice there were no reservations available Friday or Saturday. I didnt consider Chefs de France on Friday because Id rather enjoy the festival offerings. Boathouse at Disney Springs was my next thought, so I booked a late lunch at 3:30 on Saturday. That should give me time to enjoy the pool, shower and get over there. Maybe Ill check out the Christmas Tree Stroll (or whatever they call it) before or after my lunch.

    The plans so far are:
    Thursday 12/7: Drive to Disney, Epcot/Festival of the Holidays
    Friday 12/8: MK, MK Resorts, Epcot/Festival of the Holidays
    Saturday 12/9: Pool, Boathouse/Disney Springs, Resort
    Sunday 12/10: Drive to Gainesville


    DAY 1 Thursday 12/07/23
    Who: Sue (65), DVC Member

    Plan: Drive to Disney, Epcot/Festival of the Holidays

    Actual: Today I worked until just before noon and was on the road by 12:00. Traffic was not bad at all, and I pulled into the Beach Club parking lot just before 2. There had been no room ready text so I found a shady parking spot at the end of the lot. No sooner had I pulled in when I felt the vibration from my fitbit meaning a text had arrived. To my surprise it was Disney telling me my room is ready! I moved the car closer and brought my stuff up to the studio.

    Im on the 4th floor and very convenient to the ice machine but in a corner. This means the balcony and even the room at night has no privacy other people can look right in. I can make do for 3 nights, but this isnt my ideal location. I unpacked quickly and was heading over to Epcot by 2:20 to find some lunch.

    They didnt have the passholder lane today, and only had 2 sets of readers open (one of them was only one side, while the other was both sides). A family with issues was blocking the entire single side lane. I jumped over to the other readers and a dad stops at the first one to help his little son (leaving the one ahead of him empty/not used. Of course dad had issues getting the kids finger right, so I bypassed and used the empty reader getting into the park while they were still there. Why cant the cast member wave people around when this happens??

    Once inside the park it was clearly very busy much more than I expected at this time. The line in France was huge, but thats pretty normal no matter which festival is running. I continued to LChaim (the jewish foods) and could not believe the line! It snaked around and completely filled in the waiting area. Ive never seen so many people in line here! I thought about skipping it but figured everything would be a nightmare. Usually, Disney keeps the lines moving pretty well, so I stayed put. The line did move steadily, so it wasnt too bad.

    I got the pastrami sandwich and took it to the top of a trash can to take the pictures. In a stroke of dumb luck a party was leaving a table nearby and the guy came to tell me I could have their table how nice! The sandwich was good, although a bit messy from the mustard. The napkins were so tight in the dispenser after trying several times to get one I just gave up. Instead, I found a Kleenex in my bag and used that.

    I continued walking and did see some booths had short lines (Japan was dead, Italy was not too bad). I was headed for the linzer cookie from Bavaria (in Germany) and of course that line was ridiculously long. It snaked back and forth 4 times in the queue! So, no linzer cookie for me! I am interested in the flourless chocolate thing in Italy, but probably tomorrow.

    Continuing around it was nice just soaking up the atmosphere. I thought about checking out the apple crumb cake in Odyssey but decided to wait for later, as Id rather take it back to the resort. I headed into Future World and checked out the new gardens area that just opened the other day. Pluto and Daisy were greeting guests (with lines) and there was a big line for people to take a picture with the statue of Walt Disney. I figure that will be there forever, so no need to wait for it now. Theres lots of seating, lots of charging stations for electronics, and I look forward to coming back to see it after dark.

    SB had given me his credit card in case I could find anything for myself from him for Christmas, so I browsed through Creations but found nothing. Heading back outside I crossed over to the Swirled Showcase booth (same one as Food & Wine) and got the liquid nitro cake pop. This was good, but pretty filling it could easily be shared! I was pretty full at this time and sat on a bench in United Kingdom to plan my next move. At one of the DVC kiosks I stopped and got my two dvc member magic band sliders its a holiday thing.

    My plan tomorrow was to visit Hollywood Studios early tomorrow evening to see the projections on Tower of Terror and snow on Sunset Boulevard and decided to do that today instead. It had the added benefit of getting some walking in after eating that cake pop! I left Epcot and walked over to Hollywood Studios, entering with no wait.

    It wasnt dark yet and Star Tours had only a 10-minute wait, so I decided to do that. It was actually a walk-on. Boy, compared to Flight of Passage this really kind of sucks. It doesnt help that Im not a Star Wars fan and know nothing about what Im seeing but the same is true about Pandora and Flight of Passage.

    It still wasnt dark when I came outside so I wandered around and decided to find out what time the projections would begin. I stopped at the booth where you used to make dining reservations and the guy confirmed they still do that. I asked what time they start and when he looked it up on his tablet, he learned its only on the party (Jollywood) nights now. That sucks they have the show, so why cant they run it every night?

    With SBs credit card in mind, I did browse the shops along Sunset Boulevard and bought a cute pair of costume jewelry earrings with the passholder discount for under $20. Im a cheap date, lol! I came up empty-handed in the rest of the stores and left the park. Once again, I walked back, and headed to Yacht Club to take pictures in there, then continued to Beach Club and up to my studio for a few minutes. I was able to update the report and leave behind the stuff I wont need (my backpack, water bottle, etc) all I have is my phone, gift card, glasses, camera & a jacket for later.

    I was back at Epcot by 6:30, looking forward to seeing everything the lights up now that its dark. It was pretty busy entering the park, but they now had four lanes open instead of three, so it went quickly. I turned left at the top of the hill, into United Kingdom. World Showcase was very busy, and in the dark it can be hard to see where youre going at times. As usual there seemed to be hundreds of scooters but many had lights on (including Christmas lights & decorations). People are generally dressed very festively. Some of the outfits are downright ugly, but theyre festive! The people wearing them are having fun, so its all good. Ive heard of ugly sweater but that seems to have spread to other items of apparel, lol.

    The big Christmas tree was all lit up and was beautiful! I took several pictures, mostly from the back where hardly any other people were. From back there the pictures could/would have Spaceship Earth in the background, which was a bonus. I walked into what Ill always call Future World even though Disney has given it several new names and went to see the new garden area. Specifically, I was looking for the section of pavement with the led lights and this was a big disappointment. Either that or I didnt find it and mistook the center section (with lights in the ground) to be it. I liked the old lights in the pavement much better.

    Someone on facebook posted that something wasnt working here, so maybe I didnt get the full effect. I can try again tomorrow. For now, I continued up towards Spaceship Earth to take pictures and watch that for a little while. Going around to the other side I thought about going into the Moana water thing but it looked really wet and I felt like staying dry so I skipped it and headed back out to World Showcase.

    I started on the Mexico side, thinking Id try for the linzer cookie again. Earlier the line was snaked through four lanes of the queue. Now it was five lanes sigh. I continued walking. I thought maybe Candlelight Processional had just ended and hordes of people had jumped in the food queues Italy was busier than before also. However, as I approached America the processional was still happening. Neil Patrick Harris is the narrator tonight, so the crowd was huge. It was 5 deep standing outside the theater, so getting any kind of decent picture was impossible. It also seemed quieter than previous years it used to be heard quite clearly in front of the American Adventure but not tonight.

    A lady reached out and grabbed my jacket to pull me over next to her. I didnt understand her but I think she was offering space so I could see part of the show. I took a picture (probably crappy) then thanked her and went to leave, and she pulled me again. I have no clue what she was saying so I said no thanks and headed out. I dont think she was speaking English, and thats all I know.

    I headed back the way Id come, and this time decided to just bite the bullet and join the ridiculous line for a linzer cookie. Tomorrow I cant get here until after 2pm so I expect itll be as crowded or possibly more crowded. The line moved well, but with only 2 cashiers working it was not quick! Finally, it was my turn, I ordered my cookie, and was shocked at how big it is! For $3 (at Disney) I was expecting something small, but this was basically the size of the plate. I stopped at a trash can to take a picture of the cookie and tried a bite it's delicious. I ate a few bites as I walked but ended up with more than half of it going back to the resort.

    When I came to Odyssey I detoured inside and got the apple crumb cake. I was thrilled to see it comes in a little white box, but the cover ends up sticking to the caramel & icing on top. Oh well. I brought that back to the resort as well. Having done everything I wanted to do, including getting four of the five food items on my list, I exited Epcot and walked back to Beach Club Villas. I got in around 8:30 and could see clearly into other nearby rooms so I closed my drapes.

    I cut a tiny bite of the apple crumb cake to see if its as good as the reviews indicated, and its very good. I put that (in the box) and the rest of the cookie into a gallon ziplock bag. In less than 11 hours I need to be at Magic Kingdom this isnt like me, lol! I poured some wine and got into bed to finish up the report (that part IS like me, lol).

    Although I didnt arrive until 2pm today, I walked over 27,000 steps and over 12 miles. This is when its nice being solo most people would grumble about all that walking, but I enjoyed every step! However, Im sure I didnt walk off that cake pop <g>.

    Today was a great start to this very short trip. Yes, the crowds are bigger than I like and not having the Tower projections at the Studios was a disappointment. However, Im loving all the holiday dcor and the festiveness of everything (including the other guests). Im glad I got the Studios out of the way today.

    Tomorrow Ill hit Magic Kingdom bright and early, since I expect massive crowds there as well. If I get to do a few attractions that will be great, but if not Ill still enjoy the dcor. Its been ages since I went to that park. Tomorrow will also be my Magic Kingdom resort area touring, and maybe if its warm enough Ill get a little pool time before another Epcot evening.


    DAY 2 Friday 12/8/23
    Who: Sue (65), DVC Member

    Plan: MK, MK Resorts, Epcot/Festival of the Holidays

    Actual: Last night at 9:30 I could hear the fireworks but as expected Im on the wrong side of the hallway to see anything. Thats ok because there will be many future trips and maybe someday, Ill actually stay in the park to see Harmonious the way most people do.

    I slept really well comfortable bed and totally silent room. Id forgotten to set the alarm but was up a little after 4:30. Peeking outside I could see one of the neighboring rooms was also awake, so I left my drapes closed. I enjoyed my cappuccino while doing online stuff and cooked an egg and slice of bacon for breakfast a little before 6:30. I also had a few bites of the apple crumb cake. Its good, but not as good as the warm apple crumb tart/pie they used to have at Food & Wine.

    Its going to be warmer than originally forecast today, but Im not sure well have much sun. It should at least be comfortable for walking around. Just before 7 I left for the bus stop. According to the app the MK bus should arrive at 7:13. I was at the bus stop at exactly 7am, along with a family of 3 who were walking ahead of me. Several people were waiting for the Animal Kingdom bus, which came first.

    All was going well until the next bus was also Animal Kingdom. Id been checking the arrival time for my bus, and it was fluctuating between 7:13 and 7:15. I checked again and now it said 7:32! Arrival time at MK would be 7:52 basically when early entry would be ending. Another Animal Kingdom bus arrived, along with a couple that werent for any park. By now a line had formed. The benches were all wet, so nobody was interested in sitting. In the meantime, a guy rolls up on a scooter. A bit later a family arrives with granny on a scooter, so she pulled in behind the guy.

    Finally, the MK bus shows up (at 7:29), followed closely by the 4th Animal Kingdom bus! We have to wait now for the scooters to load. The guy gets out of his scooter and plops down on a seat on the bus. His scooter is belted in, but he chooses to occupy even more space than he needed to. Granny got strapped in while sitting on her scooter (they were both very similar, so probably rentals). People were then able to load, and we left with several people standing in the aisles. Most people were good about putting their small kids on their laps, but I dont know what was going on in scooter guys head.

    We made it to MK around 7:45, which was pretty good. I was first off the bus and headed for the entrance. Getting in went quickly, and they were letting all guests in by that point (around 7:52). I knew I needed to try for a 11/8/24 dvc reservation so I was logged into the site with my dates, villa size and resort selected. At 8am I hit the button, my room was available for a split second and then disappeared. This has been happening all week keep getting shut out. Thankfully people may be walking a reservation, so maybe the dates will appear a few days from now. If not, well have to suffer through Old Key West (not a bad resort but sucks for park access) or possibly go on the waitlist.

    Anyway, Magic Kingdom looked beautiful, and it wasnt crowded initially. The tree was easy to photograph since it wasnt overrun with other people taking pictures. The wreaths along Main Street look nice, although I miss the garland they used to string across. I understand some of the parade stuff is too tall to have that anymore. I took my photos before trying for the dvc reservation, and then checked the app to see how the wait times looked. Space Mountain was listed at 10 minutes, so I headed over there.

    When I arrived it still said 10 minutes but in reality, it was a walk-on! I never had anyone ahead of me and when I got to the loading area there was one party & the cast member pulled me ahead to fill the next rocket. That worked out really well! Its been a while since I rode this and it felt wilder to me somehow, but I enjoyed it. I dont believe they made any changes, so its most likely just that its been so long since my last experience. I love that the moving sidewalks are gone and now you just walk out. I always hated getting stuck behind big parties who stood still.

    Once back outside I checked the app again and saw Big Thunder was only 5 minutes! I walked through the hub to get over there, amazed at how deserted Frontierland was at 8:30. Big Thunder was still saying 5 minutes, and it was almost a walk-on too. I was behind a big guy with lots of really long (almost to his waist) hair. I knew I was NOT going to be riding behind this guy, with that disgusting hair blowing in my face. Thankfully he was the last one sent to the train on the right, and I was sent to start filling in the left. Had it not worked out that way I would have asked the cast member if I could wait for the next train and ride in the back row. As it turned out, I was in the last car, second row from the back so that was great.

    It was a fun ride and quite a few people got back in line to ride again but I decided to move on. I briefly thought of Jungle Cruise since it has the holiday overlay, but Ive seen that before and it didnt really impress very much so I skipped it in favor of doing Haunted Mansion. The hatbox ghost was new to me, and it looked like the hidden mickey on the dining table in the ballroom scene was gone (unless I just couldnt find it). This is a classic attraction a little hokey by todays standards but its amazing they had most of this technology over 50 years ago!

    From there I walked through Fantasyland Small World was 5 minutes, but Peter Pan was 45. I skipped both and walked onto the Little Mermaid thing. Thats a cute one, and usually not too bad of a line. I decided to walk the path to Tomorrowland and ride People Mover but then the train pulled into the station, so I hopped onboard for a ride around the park. Its been years since I did that, too. Once back where I started, I got off the train and walked to Tomorrowland.

    At that point I realized I had never even thought about Tron. This was my first time seeing it since it opened, and since my lower legs and lower arms bruise so easily Im not really willing to risk the leg restraints on this one. It doesnt feel right to take the back car from someone who really needs it, so this may be one I dont ever bother to try.

    By now the park was much more crowded, and People Mover had a LINE! This is nuts! I joined the queue, for my longest wait of the day (not counting the stupid bus this morning) but did enjoy my ride around Tomorrowland. That was not only a clue, it was a megaphone telling me it was time to get out of the park, lol! I worked my way down Main Street, took a few pictures and headed out. Id decided to start my resort touring with Wilderness Lodge figuring Id ride the boat over there and then take the little boat to Contemporary to pick up the monorail resorts.

    Well, first there was a wait for the boat to arrive. When we got to Wilderness Lodge the line of guests waiting to board extended the entire length of the dock! I checked the other side and learned the boats to Contemporary dont begin until 3pm. Ugh. At this point I was kind of stuck, so I walked up to the lobby. This resort looks beautiful, with gorgeous holiday decorations. I didnt take the time to go over to Boulder Ridge, but I assume they also have their usual tree and garland as well.

    I went back out to the boat dock and the line was very short. This time it was the smaller boat that arrived, which was perfect. We rode back to Magic Kingdom, I went through security again, and then walked over to Contemporary. This resort was a total bust in terms of holiday dcor. In the lobby they had some garland strung up over the front desk area and they had some pretty wreaths. Up on the 4th floor Im not sure youd even know Christmas was coming. I didnt see anything other than a sign in the window of the first shop. I immediately continued up to the monorail (going through security again) and squeezed into a car (they were all full).

    At Transportation & Ticket Center the express monorail line was pretty long lots of people were arriving, which I dont understand. Why arrive when everythings already got long waits? Surely not everyone buys Genie+ but maybe they do. I got off at Poly, which had a big crowd waiting for a monorail.

    Poly was also disappointing. They have a tree at one of the corners of the downstairs lobby and some garland by the front desk area but nothing amazing. I went back upstairs to the monorail station (going through security again) and joined what started as a small crowd but grew to a big crowd by the time the monorail arrived. The cars were pretty much all full, so I stepped into one and stood behind a stroller. At Grand Floridian it was shocking those guests paying $$$$ for their monorail resort were snaked back and forth on the platform and would be waiting for multiple monorails for everyone to get on. Thats just not right, but I have no solution.

    Grand Floridian did not disappoint, and quite a few people (like me) were visiting to see the holiday stuff. The tree, the garland its all just perfect! The gingerbread house is huge, and so is the line of people standing in another snaking queue to buy gingerbread stuff. I wouldnt want it for free, so definitely didnt consider joining the queue! I pulled up the app to order lunch at Gasparilla Grill and got a message that only guests staying at Grand Floridian can mobile order there.

    I walked over to Gasparilla Grill, which was not terribly busy, and placed my order at the register. My Disney friend Lori Braswell eats grilled cheese practically everywhere in her trip reports I see that so often. She must have been on my mind because my planned lunch was the gourmet grilled cheese which comes with tomato bisque. I ordered, was given a number and went to a table outside. The food came pretty quickly, and it looked very good.

    Right off the bat I noticed the ends of the bread were hard not just crispy but be careful you dont break a tooth hard! The inside was normal, and since theres no way Id eat a whole grilled cheese things were fine. It tasted good Im not sure Id call it gourmet. Its also so heavy its one of those things that a little bit goes a long way. The soup was outstanding, and I ate all of that! Im glad I tried it, but its a one and done for me.

    Given how awful the monorail looked earlier, since the boat dock was nearby, I walked over there to catch a boat to Magic Kingdom. It felt like we stood there forever we could see the boat docked at MK but not moving. Finally, it came and of course the next stop would be the Poly, followed by Magic Kingdom. It was the little boat, so at least it was a pleasant ride. At MK I went through security again, exited the area and stood in line for my bus. This was another wait. There were 2 Coronado Springs buses that passed by before Yacht & Beach bus arrived. Thankfully we had no scooters, so boarding was quick and then we were off. We stopped at Yacht first and then Beach Club.

    I went up to the studio, arriving around 1:30. My water bottle was nearly empty, so I got some ice and added some cold water from the fridge, then sat down to update the report and watch General Hospital. Around 3:15 I brushed my teeth in an attempt to get rid of the garlic taste from the grilled cheese maybe the garlic butter is what made it gourmet, lol. Earlier I tried a couple bites of the linzer cookie, but it just wasnt right with the garlic taste in my mouth. I also took a shower since I dont plan to do that tomorrow morning before going to the pool.

    The shower was another adventure. The handle you have to turn was stuck in place for quite some time. I even got into the tub to try to see any markings to give me a hint as to which direction I should be trying to turn it. Finally, I used enough force that it moved, and I was able to shower. Turning the water off, I realized the faucet continues to drip/pour until you jam it all the way. After getting dressed and drying my hair I puttered around the room and watched some local news before heading out shortly before 5. Im still not hungry after that grilled cheese, but hopefully I can eat a dessert later.

    It was quite busy as I approached the security checkpoint the line of strollers and scooters went back almost to the skyliner. As usual, I held my eyeglass case and camera in one hand and the metal water bottle in the other both arms stretched out in front of me. This time (the very first time) the guy sent me to the table for further screening. The lines there were ridiculously long they were at least 5-6 people deep. When the person got to the table the cast member wanded them with a scanner. Then they methodically took every item out of the backpack and opened up each of those items to ensure the person wasnt bringing in a bomb or weapon. It took forever! Meanwhile Im standing there holding my same stuff in my hands. I asked another cast member if I could go through the scanner again, since its never been a problem before right now and he said the other guy sent me here so thats the end of it.

    Finally, when they were searching the backpack of the guy in front of me another cast member came to the table and said the first guy just couldnt see what I had in my hands. He thought the eyeglass case was probably the suspicious item, so he opened it and saw nothing but a pair of glasses and a lens cloth. Satisfied I wasnt a terrorist he let me go and I entered the park.

    It was not quite dark yet, so I decided to take a walk around World Showcase before going to the front of the park to check out the garden area again. World Showcase was even busier than yesterday, if thats possible. The queue in France was overflowing, and the same was true at LChaim. Even Italys queue was snaked back and forth at least 3 times.

    The dinner package line for Candlelight Processional was back to Japan, and the standby was even worse. People were already seated in the theater, so I assume the dining package line were there for the second show, even though the first one had not started yet. In America it was complete gridlock the standing area outside the theater was full and cast members were trying to hustle guests behind them in one direction or the other. At times everyone could only take baby steps, it was so congested. Thankfully it got marginally better once past America.

    In Italy I started feeling an occasional raindrop. My umbrella is safely back in the studio, with another 6 umbrellas in my car. It was not supposed to rain so I left it behind since I already had my hands full carrying stuff through security. A quick check of the weather app showed rain coming, but only for about 15 minutes or so. Thankfully it never rained hard, and I was able to avoid it by browsing through the shops in Germany. Some people used umbrellas, but most were unprepared or maybe felt it wasnt raining hard enough to bother.

    To kill time, I thought about getting a glass of overpriced wine from the wine cellar in Germany but quickly abandoned that idea when I saw a line that extended back to the entrance to the store! I have never seen anything remotely like that before. Instead, I continued browsing the other stores and ended up in the caramel shop. It smells so good in there! I stood by the doorway to keep an eye on any rain, and a facebook friend Ive never met before spotted me & came over to say hi that was a bonus! Weve known each other for years, so it was nice to finally meet.

    When I checked the rain again it had completely stopped so I continued walking around the countries and headed into Future World. Down there it wasnt nearly as congested, although it was still pretty busy. Tonight, the lights in the pavement were different colors I think last night they were all white, which didnt look all the special. This isnt a knock your socks off thing by any stretch of the imagination, but the colors look better than all white. I walked around, took a few pictures, watched Spaceship Earth and then took another stroll through Creations.

    This time I found a pair of earrings I like even better than the pair last night, and since I know SB would want to cross another gift off his list I used his credit card to buy them. Theyre just costume jewelry again but theyre pretty under $40 after the passholder discount.

    With that done I returned to World Showcase starting on the Mexico side to get the chocolate torte in Italy. It was still mobbed all around World Showcase. The standby line for the processional now reached almost into Germany. The queue in Italy was completely filled and starting to overflow outwards. I should have just walked away but I was thinking this chocolate torte was going to be fabulous.

    When I finally got to order, that register didnt have a card reader. I moved to the one next door when it was free, and the reader would not read my gift card. The cast member tried 4 or 5 times, apologizing the whole time. Finally, it randomly worked, and I was able to join the line of people waiting to pick up their food. I was given my torte, and I was a bit surprised how small it is for $8.50. I would have expected to pay $5 or maybe $5.75 for this. But, quality trumps quantity, right?

    I took a photo then took a bite big letdown! For my ordeal I got neither quantity nor quality, lol! I ate it all, however. I just wish it tasted better it was almost a bit dry and nothing special at all.

    At this point Id had all I could take of these crowds this is making Saturdays during Food & Wine Festival look not too busy. With all the people standing in lines everywhere (for food, for processional, to buy beer, etc) where the hell did all these people clogging the walkway come from? It was unreal. I assume a big part of the problem is those damn Christmas parties at the Magic Kingdom. They keep selling out, so Disney adds more and more of them. On party nights MK closes at 6pm. Animal Kingdom always closes early. Guests paying for park passes need to go somewhere, and Epcots the logical choice. Chris, Amanda & Ari are coming up for the day and plan to hop to Epcot at 2pm tomorrow, so well see what they think of it.

    I left the park and took a walk around Crescent Lake before heading up to my studio. Im in for the night drapes closed since neighbors are home, enjoying some wine (still too full for food but might finish off the cookie later), doing online stuff and watching a little tv. I was tired earlier, so I hope the mediocre chocolate torte doesnt interfere with sleep!

    Today was kind of mixed bag. There were definitely things I wish were better, starting with the long delay for the bus this morning and ending with the extreme crowds again at Epcot. In between though I did have fun doing some favorite attractions at Magic Kingdom with almost no wait at all (except for People Mover, lol). I loved seeing Grand Floridian & Wilderness Lodge, but Contemporary & Polynesian were a total waste of time, and the transportation wasnt as easy or efficient as I would have liked. I made a note to myself dont order grilled cheese! Overall, Im still happy to be here but this wont be an every year thing.

    Tomorrow is a relaxing day, with no park access. The weather looks nice, so I hope to have some pool time before a late lunch at the Boathouse. Hopefully Ill get to see Chris, Amanda & Ari at some point theyre doing Studios and then Epcot as a day trip.


    DAY 3 Saturday 12/9/23
    Who: Sue (65), DVC Member

    Plan: Pool, Boathouse/Disney Springs, Resort

    Actual: Yesterday I did less walking than the first day 11 miles instead of 12. I think today will be significantly less since Im not going into any parks. I turned in around 10 and slept well probably the best in a long time. I got up somewhere around 5:45 hoping to watch HALs Eurodam sail into port. I could see on the radar she was in the channel but the webcam was offline so there was nothing to see. Ill be at lunch when she sails this afternoon but will have another chance to watch in 11 days.

    I made my cappuccino and took it back to bed while I did online stuff with the local news running on the tv. It looks like itll be quite warm today & tomorrow, then drop 20 degrees with a cold front Sunday night into Monday. Of course, here at WDW cold is warmer than Gainesville and not bad at all.

    I snacked on some of the crumb cake, which is still good. Theres about half of it left at this point. Its definitely something to share (maybe with a couple other people) or take back to the resort, so its great it comes in a box. It looked beautiful outside, so I went for a walk around Crescent Lake. This time I ducked into the Swan and saw their annual chocolate display (Santa). If they need a way to get rid of this after the holidays, Im willing to let them ship it to me!

    Quite a few people were out jogging and there wasnt a cloud in the sky should be nice at the pool later. There was a huge youth (teen) group wearing green t-shirts who may be staying at Beach Club. They got breakfast (some hot food, but many just got a muffin or other cold stuff) at Beach Club Marketplace and were sitting on the walls outside the Crescent Lake exit from the lobby. I have no idea who/what they were, but they were very well behaved not nightmare groups seen in the past at the value resorts (cheerleaders, Pop Warner, etc). Inside Beach Club Marketplace was someone holding a Disney Cruise Line sign, so some people (not sure if its the green t-shirt people) must be having breakfast there before heading to the cruise. A BC Marketplace castmember wearing an apron was telling the DCL cast member that hed like to work for the cruise line but in Celebration, not on the boat <g>. I didnt stick around to eavesdrop on his reasons, lol.

    At 8 I tried for the dvc reservation again and was shut out again. That was expected, so no big deal. The availability had advanced another day, so now a villa is available through the day before I want to arrive. If this keeps up I may be able to book a night at a time over the next 4-5 days. I went up to the studio and relaxed online for a while, getting up to cook my egg and piece of bacon around 9.

    By 9:30 I was heading out the door to sit by the Beach Club quiet pool (our quiet pool is still under reconstruction). It was beautiful out there this morning! At first there was a family with noisy kids but at 10am they disappeared most likely because thats when Stormalong Bay opens <g>. Eventually others arrived, including a multi-generational family with multiple strollers. They were really good the adults interacted with the kids, corrected them when they started to get out of line, and it was very pleasant for everyone at the pool area.

    I did some dozing, read more of Barbra Streisands autobiography, and talked to a friend about work stuff. At 12:30 I went up to the studio and got cleaned up & dressed. Chris texted to say they were walking to Epcot from Hollywood Studios and would stop by. I checked the Disney app for an earlier Boathouse lunch time since I was getting hungry. Several times were available so I chose 2:30.

    I let Chris know Id meet them by the carousel but once I got to the lobby there were no empty seats. Instead, I sat on a bench outside and let Chris know of the change. I checked the app and saw the next Disney Springs bus was 1:43 so the timing was looking good for a brief visit. It was nice seeing them, but Ari was exhausted from having to get up at 4:30 this morning! I imagine hell get more sleep on the way home. They had a good morning at Hollywood Studios, seeing several characters with no wait and doing a few attractions with very minimal waits. They also had an early lunch at Woodys Round Up Rodeo (or whatever it's call the bbq place). They like that place.

    I checked the app again around 1:29 and it said the next bus was now 1:29! I figured it couldnt already be there or it would be showing the following bus, so we said our goodbyes and I rushed to the bus stops. The bus was pulling in just as I arrived! There were hardly any other guests on the bus (from Yacht Club) and after a stop at Boardwalk we went to Disney Springs.

    I went straight towards Boathouse figuring Id check in early and probably get seated early. I had to pass Gideons, which had a line to the end of the block. The virtual queue was operating so I checked on that. It was currently 5 hours, so I didnt bother to enter. It seemed odd because what Id seen of Disney Springs thus far wasnt very busy.

    I went across to Boathouse and that place was packed! The bar was full and lots of people were waiting for their tables. Its also a very noisy place Id forgotten that. I checked in but the hostess couldnt find my reservation in their system. I showed her the email and the app and she said lately sometimes the reservations made through Disney arent hitting their system. She advised me to cancel it in the app to ensure Disney doesnt charge me as a no-show since she cant check me in to a reservation she cant access. I thanked her and soon was called to be taken to my table.

    Once seated I tried to cancel, but the app said I could not because of the timeframe. I tried to modify it, pushing it back so I could cancel it, but it wouldnt allow a modification either. I had to call the number on the screen, which took me to Disney Dining and that godawful automated menu system. Each time I had to say something or spell my name there was so much background noise the system was getting it wrong, and Id have to say NO when asked for confirmation. Finally, the system said it would send me to a person. That person was very nice but wanted my reservation number. I explained thats on my phone, but I cant see it because Im talking on my phone. She was able to find the reservation and canceled it for me what an ordeal! From this point Ill stick with booking here via Open Table, which is what I usually do.

    With that taken care of, I ordered a glass of wine and the filet mignon sliders. My server asked if I wanted the fries or something else. Id never thought of other options and she explained I could substitute any of the sides or the small salads. I decided to get a small Caesar salad instead of the fries, which was a $2 upcharge.

    The sliders were excellent, and so tender theyre easy to bite without using a knife to cut the meat. The salad was ok I didnt finish it. There was definitely no room for dessert, so I settled the check and headed back outside. Now Disney Springs was very busy! There were people everywhere. I headed towards the bus stops and found a very good steel drum band playing music outside the movie theater across from Planet Hollywood.

    Several people had Christmas Tree Trail maps and I asked someone where they got them and was pointed in the direction of Planet Hollywood. I went inside to get the map, which includes a sheet of stickers. There are 13 Christmas trees on the map and as you find each one you put the corresponding sticker onto that spot. The trees covered the entire Disney Springs complex, from down near House of Blues all the way to near Earl of Sandwich. Lots of people were doing this, and the prize was a button (similar to a birthday button). It was a fun activity, but it would be better when its not 80-plus degrees out! Most of the trees looked familiar from previous years but there were some themed to newer stuff like Encanto. They even had a DVC tree and a topiary of the Disney Treasure for the DCL tree.

    At this point I really went to the bus stops and saw a pretty big line of people at my stop. I took that as a good sign, thinking a bus would be here any minute but I eventually realized I was wrong about that. More people kept coming, until 3 lanes were full of people. The fact that just behind me was a family with 3 very loud & rowdy kids (ignored by the parents) and I was dreading the ride. As the bus was approaching, I noticed a Riviera bus a little behind it. Riviera was the next bus stop, and only 3 people were in that line!

    It's probably no surprise I backed out of my queue and went to the Riviera stop. I think a few other people did too, once they saw theyd be standing on that first bus. It was a nice, pleasant ride to Riviera. The bus stops here are really quite a distance from the resort. Since I was there, I stopped down at Primo Piatto and got one of the banana bread things the last one in the case.

    With that done I walked over to the skyliner and got stuck in a long line of people waiting to board. Of course, nearly all the gondolas were full of guests from the other resorts. I really think they should not have done that extension to Pop and Art of Animation thats just too many rooms and when youre at a value resort the buses can work just fine. I dont think its right that people paying so much more $$$ to stay at Riviera have to stand there waiting so long for the skyliner. Disney needs to leave more gondolas empty when leaving the Caribbean Beach station to resolve this.

    Finally, an empty gondola arrived (the occupants exited here) and they put me and a party of 4 women in there for the ride to Epcot. From there I walked back to Beach Club Villas. I gathered up a few things I would not be needing and took them out to the car then grabbed the camera and phone to catch what I hoped would be a pretty sky since the sun had just set. It turned out to be very pretty tonight, so Im glad I went out there. Last night it was so cloudy there was no visible sunset or color in the sky at all.

    I went back upstairs and updated the report while catching some local news. Since its my last night of the trip I decided to head back out for a walk before settling down for the night. I poured the rest of the wine into one of the paper coffee cups in the studio and took that with me. I wandered through Stormalong Bay and took a few pictures there. Its such a nice pool area I dont know of one thats nicer, yet I always go to the quiet pool to avoid kids and get out there earlier than Stormalong Bays 10am opening time. I really should spend some time here once in a while.

    There were quite a few people headed to Epcot, so Im sure thats mobbed again. Chris texted while they were over there, saying the lines at the food booths were longer than any festival hes ever seen. Hes right it shocked me too! Lots of people were outside at Boardwalk and I sat on a bench and watched the friendship boats for a little while before continuing with my walk. At Beach Club the movie on the beach tonight is 101 Dalmations. Last night was Nightmare Before Christmas, which is one of Aris favorites.

    I was back in the studio around 7:15 and am in for the night. Oddly enough, today my only plans were to go to the pool and go to lunch yet I still walked over 20,000 steps and 9 miles. Thats 32 miles since I got here Thursday afternoon not bad! It would never happen if this wasnt a solo trip <g>.

    Today was another wonderful day, other than a couple minor headaches that did get resolved. Pool time was wonderful perfect weather, too! Lunch was delicious despite the reservation problem. The Christmas Tree Trail was fun too and it was a bonus getting to see Chris, Amanda & Ari.

    Tomorrow, I head home, just in time for thunderstorms and another cold front. Ill probably get breakfast from Beach Club Marketplace and once home work on the photo album for this trip (mainly holiday dcor).


    DAY 4 Sunday 12/10/23
    Who: Sue (65), DVC Member

    Plan: Drive to Gainesville

    Actual: Last night I listened to Harmonious fireworks one last time (some trip Ill actually see them) and finished up the caramel apple crumb cake for dinner. It was lights out at 10:30 and I got up just before 5. I made my cappuccino and brought it back to bed. This morning I was just in time to catch a HAL ship arriving in Ft Lauderdale, ending its transatlantic cruise from Europe to start the Caribbean season.

    Around 6:30 or so I got up to shower, dress, and finish packing up my stuff. Once that was done I opened the app to order breakfast and once again the item I was interested in is not one thats available through mobile ordering. We had the same issue with SBs chicken dinner the last two trips. It wasnt a big deal I just went down to Beach Club Marketplace and ordered the steak & egg breakfast sandwich at the register (no wait). It was ready very quickly and I brought it back up to the studio.

    This is a very large meal (to me at least). The side of potatoes were not impressive, and I didnt eat those. The sandwich had the egg on the bottom, a huge pile of shaved beef on top of that, and some horseradish spread that I couldnt really taste due to the large amount of egg and steak. The bun was great nice and soft, but it held together. I ate more than half the sandwich but had to throw the rest away. Im glad I tried it, but I dont see myself ordering it again unless Im with someone who wants to share it.

    I relaxed a bit longer in the studio, and at 8am checked for the dvc reservation I want next November. Its only 3 nights, in a 2br villa and nothing in any category (standard, pool/garden, boardwalk view) is available for more than one night at this point. However, it does appear people are walking the standard view, which is what I want. The first night of my stay was available so I grabbed it. Now I just need to be able to keep extending it to get the next two nights.

    Around 8:15 I brought my stuff to the car, filled up the gas tank across from Boardwalk and began the drive home. Once again I was fortunate to have no traffic, no bad weather and it was an easy trip. When I got home I was able to add the second night of my desired 3-night stay next November, so its looking good.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this trip, despite some challenges along the way. The weather turned out to be ideal nice & cool at the start, with a beautiful pool day at the end. As always, I loved the resort! My studio location was great except for being in the corner (which means no privacy on the balcony or in the room at night with lights on). The bus transportation was hit or miss mostly miss. While I enjoyed my brief visit to Magic Kingdom, I was really disappointed by the huge crowds in Epcot all afternoon and evening. I hope it was just a freak thing due to the new Harmonious show, some walls coming down in Future World, and Neil Patrick Harris narrating the processional. Itll be interesting to hear how Chris family finds Festival of the Arts next month.

    The atmosphere around Crescent Lake is always beautiful, but thats taken to another level with all the festive dcor and music. I never tire of being there. It was fun doing the Christmas Tree Stroll (not Trail) at Disney Springs, although its not something I need to do every time. I tried some new food items this trip again, kind of hit or miss. The gourmet grilled cheese was just ok, and that chocolate torte in Italy was disappointing. The steak & egg breakfast sandwich this morning was very good.

    The photos (more than what was posted on Facebook) are on snapfish at https://www.snapfish.com/share?via=l...30060/SNAPFISH

    When I first got here, I was appalled by the crowds in Epcot and swore I would not be repeating this trip for a very long time. The next day at Epcot was even worse. Then I had a lovely day without the parks and realized I undoubtedly will book this trip again, but now with the resort touring out of the way Ill enjoy Epcot right at opening and the rest of the trip will be spent in the resort area. I just love the whole atmosphere/ambiance and its not lost on me how fortunate I am to have dvc and specifically be able to stay at Beach Club and Boardwalk.

    My next trip will be the 3rd annual Hilton Head trip in a grand villa with Holli & Vickie. I hope to get a refurbished grand villa, but I realize the odds are against me (only 5 villas, 1 for sure has been refurbished but not sure about the 2nd one). This is likely the final year, due to Vickies ovarian cancer. Shes feeling well currently but the cancer is spreading, her numbers are going up, and her 5-year survival date isnt until next September. That said, if a year from now shes still miraculously doing well Ill book January 2026 and hope for the best. Shes really looking forward to this trip and Im happy I can give us that (thanks to DVC).

    Thanks for reading, and best wishes for a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday Season.

    Sue (Holland) Rayford
    WDW1972

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  3. #2
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    Aug 2014
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    Thank you Sue, I have grown quite fond of your writing style and all the effort it takes to write these reports for us.


  4. #3

    I love revisiting WDW through your great trip reports. Thank you…


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