Has it been 30 years already? A Dec. 2017/Jan. 2018 Trip Report! (Updated 1/15/18)

Discussion in 'Disney Trip Reports' started by adamreisinger, Jun 2, 2017.

  1. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Looking forward to reading about the Frozen Dessert Party when you get back. We have it booked for our arrival night. Glad you're having a great time!
     
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  2. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    I checked into my room after visiting Epcot and DHS today and now I might never leave. As a Disney Princess fanatic, these Royal Rooms at Port Orleans are basically my ideal living space. I keep finding all these little touches that delight me to no end.

    While I don’t actually plan on staying in my room for the next 3 days, I did adjust my MK plans for tomorrow so I can come back here after breakfast before heading to MK for lunch. I always knew 13+ hours in the park was going to be rough. Now I’ve cut that down to 10, which should be much more manageable.
     
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  4. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    MK Day is done and it was so much fun, but what made it even better was meeting so many of you there! Let’s see if we can get lucky enough to have that happen again at Epcot!
     
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  5. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Well, my trip has sadly come to an end, but I’m still in Florida, thanks to some weird winter weather on the East Coast and being under the weather myself. I should be heading home this weekend, by which time I hope to be feeling better and have a full day-by-day trip report coming for all of you.
     
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  6. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Sending you get well soon wishes!
     
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  7. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Trip Report, Episode XVIII: Day 0 - A Magically Frozen Evening
    A long time ago (12 days), in a galaxy far, far away (1,221 miles)...

    It is a period of civil war.

    (Wait, that's not right)
    My first day at the parks on this trip didn't involve wars of any kind, unless you count Florida's brief war with the weather (spoiler: Florida lost and it got surprisingly cold), nor did it even involve Star Tours (that would have to wait for another day).

    For those of you who've been following along on this trip report since the beginning, you'll know my original plan for this trip was to drive most of the day on the 27th, then finish the drive on the 28th and head straight to the parks. I ended up moving up my timeline by a day and I'm thankful I did, because it made for a much more relaxed first day, making this feel much more like an actual vacation and less like a chore of trying to do as much as possible.

    After spending the night at Orange Lake, I woke up and had breakfast with my parents, then headed back to the condo to watch "Enchanted", which I hadn't been able to watch while driving all day on the 27th. After that I took a much-needed nap to refresh and get ready for an afternoon/evening at the parks.

    Had I not taken the nap, I probably would've started my day at Animal Kingdom, in an attempt to see Flights of Wonder one last time before it closed, but, quite frankly, the two hours of extra sleep I got were much more important. The drive from Orange Lake to TTC was quick and traffic-free, and after a short tram ride from the parking lot to the entrance, I decided to take the ferryboat over to Magic Kingdom. It's probably my favorite way of getting there and I try to take it at least once per trip.

    My afternoon started with a visit to see Mickey in Town Square Theater. To my disappointment, Mickey wasn't talking on this day -- I know that's always a possibility with "Talking" Mickey, but it's still a bummer to use a FastPass on this particular meet & greet, then find out it's a day where Mickey isn't talking for technical reasons -- but it was still nice to start my trip with a photo with Mickey Mouse. Because, as Walt said, "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing: that it was all started by a mouse."

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    When I made my FP plans for MK on the 28th, I'd stacked them back-to-back-to-back, knowing I wasn't going to try to do much at MK before heading over to Epcot. I finished the Mickey meet & greet right around the time that FP window ended, and rather than head immediate to my next FP (BTMRR), I decided to take my time, then do Thunder Mountain at the end of its FP window, followed by Splash Mountain immediately after.

    With some time to kill before riding Splash Mountain, I ended up staking out a good position in front of Cinderella's Castle to watch the Frozen lighting ceremony. At least, I thought it was a good spot -- leaning up against a garbage can just to the east of the Partners Statue -- until a parent came along and decided to have his two kids stand on top of the garbage can. That's right, not sit on it, but stand, directly in front of me. I decided not to say anything at first, because I figured a castmember would quickly come along and tell them to get down, since there's no way it could possibly be safe to stand on one of those for any extended period of time, but that never happened. So I made the best of the situation and leaned slightly to my left, still having a really good view. Honestly, I find that particular show kind of cheesy (and not in an enjoyable, tongue-in-cheek way like the Frozen Sing-Along at DHS), but seeing the castle get lit up holiday-style is always amazing and inspiring.

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    After that was done, I slowly made my way to Frontierland, making sure to stop along the way to take more pictures of the castle. Both mountains had really long standby waits at this point, so I was happy to get on them with a FastPass -- which made BTMRR about a 10 minute wait and Splash basically a walk-on.

    After Splash, I rode the railroad back to the entrance, then took the monorail back to TTC so I could head over to Epcot. I considered just transferring monorails and going to Epcot that way, but because I had some time before my dessert party reservation, I decided to go back to my car and get the pictures of Elsa and Anna that I wanted to get signed, so I could do that before the party, and not have to carry them around at any other point during the trip (the annoyance of carrying the 11x17 portraits is why I hadn't brought them with me into MK in the first place).

    When I arrived at Epcot -- with a parking spot so close that it would've been silly to wait for a tram -- the app showed a wait time for the Elsa & Anna meet & greet of 30 minutes, which was perfect since I had 40 minutes until my dessert party started. However, in the 10 minutes it took to walk from the entrance to Norway, the wait time doubled to 60 minutes. I quickly made two assumptions: first, the wait time doubling was a function of them reducing the number of open meet & greet rooms, rather than a sudden surge in people in line, and second, that it wouldn't actually take 60 minutes. I have no way of knowing if the first one was right (though the line didn't seem that long, so I'm guessing it was), but I was definitely right on the second one. I got in line shortly after 9:00 and was in the room to meet Elsa by 9:45.

    I always love doing the character meets when I have these portraits to get signed (the artist, by the way, is comic artist Joe Eisma of "Morning Glories" fame, who has done a whole set for me via Patreon over the past couple years). This meet ended up extra special when Anna tried to mimic the exact pose of the portrait.

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    Once the meet & greet was done, I headed back over to the entrance to World Showcase to check in for the Frozen Ever After Sparkling Dessert Party.

    The party technically starts an hour before Illuminations and you can check in up to 15 minutes before the start time, but quite frankly I found that the 35 minutes or so I had from check-in to the start of the show was more than enough. It helps that unlike a lot of the other dessert parties at WDW, you're not relocated for the show, so you can have drinks and desserts at your table to eat while still enjoying Illuminations, which essentially extends the time of the party by 20 minutes or so. Being a solo diner, I ended up sharing a table with two other parties of two, which wasn't a problem for me, but might be something to keep in mind if you're booking this for yourself.

    DRINKS:

    There was a solid selection of adult beverages at the party: four beers (Bud Light, Corona, Yuengling, Angry Orchard), five wines, and three signature cocktails. I, of course, tried all three, and I'd rate two of them as "very good" and one as "okay". The Summertime Celebration Margarita (tequila, strawberry monin, lemonade, lime juice) was the first drink I had, and it was a great start to the night -- and it certainly helped that the tequila is poured in separately from everything else, which meant I got a generous pour from the bartender. The Sangria (Veuve Vernay champagne, blue curacao, pineapple juice, triple sec) was also very good, and topped with a small helping of chocolate chips to make it look like a "melted snowman". The Pina Colada (pina colada mix, Malibu pineapple rum, garnish boba pearls) had that same "snowman" treatment, but quite frankly didn't taste quite as good. I guess I don't like pina coladas or getting caught in the rain (but that's a tale for later in the week).

    There were also of course non-alcoholic drinks (the "Frozen Heart" was a nice juice mix), plus water and cans of soda -- which I was more than happy to stock up on when the party was over.

    DESSERTS:

    If you've done any dessert party at WDW, you'll be familiar with many of the dessert offerings at the Frozen Ever After party: cookies, mini-cupcakes, "crisped rice" treats, fruit mix, etc. Elsa's "blue velvet" cupcake looked incredible, and actually tasted pretty good too.

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    There were two items that really stood out to me as highlights of the selection: the warm pudding options and the freeze-fried popcorn. The latter was normal caramel popcorn, which was flash frozen in dry ice on demand. The final product still tasted really good, with the added bonus that when you put a kernel in your mouth and bit down, it created a "dragon breath" effect, which, I have to admit, was way more fun than I would have expected. As for the warm puddings -- which were really nice to have on a relatively cold night -- there were two options: Olaf's Warm Double Chocolate S'mores and Anna's Warm Cottage Pudding with Salted Caramel Glaze. Both were great, but I really enjoyed the Olaf one, especially with the vanilla bean ice cream to balance out the temperature.

    Between the drink selection and food selection, I really feel like I got my money's worth at this party, even if I only got to my table 30 minutes before the show began.

    ILLUMINATIONS:

    This has never been one of my top nighttime shows at WDW, but seeing it from this viewing area gave me a whole new perspective (literally). The seating area for the party is right along World Showcase Lagoon, stretching from Showcase Plaza down just past Disney Traders (they close a couple of the entrances/exits to the store so people can't "sneak into" the dessert party area). I was about as close to front and center as I could be, which made the show all the more impressive. I honestly don't think you can have a better view of the show than the one this party provides, especially for someone like me who values being able to sit down during these shows. Being able to see the detail on the globe was very cool, and the fireworks were the perfect stage-setter for the rest of this New Year's Eve-centric trip. Plus they gave us these special glasses that added cool 3D effects to the fireworks, which was a nice bonus.

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    FROZEN EVER AFTER:

    Oh yeah, this dessert party includes a post-show ride too. Honestly, Frozen Ever After isn't one of my favorite rides at Epcot, and among the Tier 1 rides, I'd probably rank it third (with Soarin' first and Test Track second), but it's a nice cap to the night to be escorted over and essentially walk right on (depending on how quickly you make your way over from your table, you might have a short wait at the ride, but I was basically in the first group that left the party area). In my case I was splitting the day between MK and Epcot, so I didn't make a Tier 1 Epcot FP selection that day, but if I was doing a full Epcot day with this party, I'd certainly appreciate being able to do two of the three Tier 1 rides with no wait. And Frozen Ever After is kind of an adorable way to end the night.

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    OVERALL:

    $79 seems a bit pricey for a dessert party that doesn't include a character meet or special gift, but I don't feel like I "overpaid" at all for the experience. The way I see it, by purchasing the dessert party, you're essentially getting two additional FP selections (Illuminations, Frozen Ever After) at the end of your day, without blocking out the ability to grab same-day FPs if you're in the park all day. I had 3 cocktails, which at World Showcase costs is about $30-$35 right there, and while I'm not gonna say I ate $40 worth of food, I certainly felt like I got my money's worth in that department too. Truth be told, this was probably my favorite overall dessert party experience, and I'd definitely recommend it for others (while fully recognizing that for a family of four, the cost gets up there pretty quickly).

    After the party, it was back to Orange Lake to get a good night of sleep before my trip was truly to begin.

    Next Up: Day 1 - BEST. ROOM. EVER.
     
  8. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Excellent review of the FEA party! Thanks!!! We will be there on the 20th.
     
  9. OhMari

    OhMari WDW PreTrip and Trip Moderator Moderator

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    I have you moved to the regular board.

    We also did a road trip the Christmas. We drove from Wisconsin to Manchester NH. My son and his girlfriend flew from LaGuardia to Boston on Christmas Day surprisingly during the snow storm, but they made it in. We took them back to NYC on the 27th and we came part of the way down on I95. My dd and her new husband live in N.H.

    We had good driving weather, except for a few miles along Lake Erie hope you didn't run into that crazy ice and snow in Florida/Georgia.
     
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  10. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    I ended up staying with my parents for a couple extra days at the end of my trip to avoid that weather and recover from a cold. By the time I drove back this past weekend, the roads were clear (but you could still see snow on the ground pretty much from Georgia on).
     
  11. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Trip Report, Episode XIX: Day 1 - BEST. ROOM. EVER.
    After my pre-arrival day at Disney World went so well, I had high hopes for the first official day of my trip, check-in day. I said goodbye to my parents early in the morning and made my way over to Disney's Beach Club Resort for Minnie's Beach Bash Breakfast at Cape May Cafe. As someone who really likes his breakfast foods (think full-on Ron Swanson "give me all the bacon and eggs you have" mode), I always enjoy Disney's breakfast buffets. The scrambled eggs are always made exactly as I like them. The bacon ranges from "fine" at its worst to "excellent" at its best (the crispier the better) and the sausage is usually good too. I do miss the old days of full-sized Mickey Waffles, but the mini ones are pretty good too, and usually what I get on my second trip through the buffet line (along with more bacon). I did find it a bit weird that this character breakfast had Minnie, Goofy and Donald, but not Mickey, but I honestly booked it for the buffet and not for the characters (I like the interactions with the characters you can talk with much more than the full-costume characters).

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    At the end of breakfast, I hit my first bump in the road on this trip -- I couldn't use my dining plan to pay for the meal. This screw up was pretty much entirely on me. If I'd done my research beforehand, I would've realized that the dining plan doesn't activate until you check in (which, obviously makes total sense). Had I known that, I would've at least made a quick stop to the front desk at Port Orleans to get the plan activated even if my room wasn't ready yet. Still, it wasn't a huge deal, as I had a solid balance on my Disney Rewards Redemption card, plus two gift cards my parents had given me for the holidays. I chalked it up to a lesson learned, and figured I'd convert that extra meal credit to snacks at the end of my trip (which is exactly what ended up happening).

    After breakfast, it was off to Epcot to meet Alice and get my last character portrait of the trip signed. I was going to try to do them all on my pre-arrival day, but Alice wasn't meeting at Epcot on the 28th (and thankfully I checked the app to learn that, which freed me up to go to Magic Kingdom that afternoon). I was going to ride the boat over to Epcot, but a quick check of the app showed that the walking distance from Cape May to the International Gateway was basically the same as it would've been to walk over to the boat landing shared by Yacht Club and Beach Club. As it turned out, it was basically a 10-minute walk from breakfast over to Alice's line, even accounting for the time it took to get through the entrance and security.

    I was in line for Alice for less than 15 minutes, and she loved seeing the drawing of her (as did a bunch of the people in line as well), and with that wrapped up, I headed back out the International Gateway to go back to my car. I briefly considered detouring over to France to get a Grey Goose Slushie, but I decided to hold off consider I'd be back at Epcot in a couple days and there'd be plenty of alcoholic beverages awaiting me at DHS.

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    I ended up taking the boat back on my return trip, then drove over to DHS -- since I didn't want to leave my car parked at Beach Club all day. It took slightly less than an hour from the time I left Epcot to the time I walked through the gates at DHS, and less than 15 minutes after that I had a drink in my hand, specifically the Very Merry Cranberry Mule (vodka + limoncello + cranberry juice + ginger beer). It was excellent, even if a bit overpriced (those glow cube drinks at the cart right at the entrance to Sunset Boulevard always are, and yet I get one every time).

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    My three FP selections at DHS were Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Star Tours. The first two were basically back-to-back, so I wanted to get to Tower of Terror toward the end of the window, so I could get on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster quickly, then try and squeeze something else in before doing Star Tours. As I walked down Sunset, I saw that the Tower of Terror standby line stretched all the way onto the boulevard -- the end of the line was right in front of Hollywood Scoops. The posted wait time was 125 minutes, but they were telling people it was closer to 145 (and by the time I got off the ride, the posted time was up to 155). I got through the FP line and off the ride in about 20 minutes, which left me some time to kill before RnR, so I grabbed another beverage from the Joffrey's station right outside ToT, this time a spiked iced gingerbread cocoa, though given that the temperatures were sub-60 at this point, I probably should've gone with the hot version. Still, the drink held me over nicely while I waited for my FP window for RnR to open up, as I watched people stream into the standby line, which was already at a 180-minute wait time.

    I used to not be a big fan of RnR, but I think I honestly like it more than Space Mountain at this point, mostly because it's so much easier to get out of the ride car. Plus, even at my size, I fit easily into the seat and the restraint isn't too restrictive. Also, while #RockerStitch isn't as adorable as #BellhopStitch, it's fun taking a picture with him at the end of the ride too.

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    With more than an hour to kill before my Star Tours FP, I decided to get in the standby line for the Frozen Sing-Along. As I got into line, they were telling us that we might not make it into the next show. I didn't believe them, but it turned out they weren't exaggerating. The doors closed with probably about 50 people in front of me in line. They told us we could wait there for the doors to open for the next show, or come back and line up about 15 minutes before the show. I wasn't going to wait around, so I hopped out of line and grabbed a seat right at the edge of the Dockside Diner, which gave me a pretty good view for Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away. As a "Star Wars" fan, I enjoy seeing all the characters come out on stage, even if there isn't much to the show itself beyond that. And I don't remember Rey being part of the show the last time I saw it, so it was cool to see her. After that was done, I caught a bit of the end of the Jedi Training show (the part where Darth Vader comes out to fight the kids), then hopped on Star Tours. Seeing all the stuff from the new movie integrated was really cool, and one of the only real disappointments of my trip was not being able to get back to ride it a second time -- but since I'm going back next month, anything I "missed" was really just "delayed" as far as I was concerned. Also, as I exited through the gift shop, I had to pick up a new friend.

    Because I did Star Tours at the beginning of my FP window, I had time to squeeze in the Frozen Sing-Along before the start of the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Dessert Party, though I almost missed the cut in line again. In fact, I was basically the last person in the theater, and ended up sitting in the very far right seat in the first row -- not the best viewing angle, but I've seen the scenes from the movie more times than I can count, so being able to see the screen perfectly wasn't a priority. I enjoyed the humor of the show as always, and the new ending pulling from "Olaf's Frozen Adventure" was a nice touch (though, admittedly, I enjoyed that short film more than most people).

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    Next up, it was finally time for the Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Dessert Party.

    I've done this party before, though this was the first time I'd done it with the added Disney Movie Magic show, and quite frankly, as much as I enjoyed that projection show, it took away from the experience of the dessert party, mostly because we had to relocate for it so early. They started moving people over to the grassy viewing area -- and thus shutting down the dessert party itself -- at about 5:45, which didn't really give us as much time to savor everything for the party itself. The dessert options were pretty much the same as they were for the Frozen party, with things appropriately renamed. The drink selection wasn't as good, with more hot drinks than cold drinks (which, I'm sure was nice for the people who found 55 degree weather to be "cold", but for me, I don't think of that as hot cocoa weather). The Jingle Bell Holiday Punch -- raspberry lemonade with rum -- was very good, and, in a bit of a pleasant surprise, the party had the same bartender as the Frozen party from the night before, and since he recognized me and was friendly, I got some generous rum pours for my drinks. One of the options was a black cherry bourbon hot cocoa, and I really wish there'd be an iced, or at least non-hot, version of that. Also, from a non-cocktail perspective, there were only two beer choices (Bud Light and Yuengling) and two wines, so the Frozen party wins from that perspective as well.

    This was my first time seeing Disney Movie Magic, and while it was a nice projection show, I found myself longing for the seats that had come with the Frozen party. Also, weird as this might sound, I wish we'd been further back from the theater. I did the Star Wars dessert party last year, and that reserved viewing area was behind the main GA standing area, which provided a better view of the entire projection and fireworks operation. In the area we were in, I felt like we had to keep looking up and turning side to side to see the whole thing.

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    Re-reading this, I know it doesn't sound like it, but overall I enjoyed the experience, just not nearly as much as the Frozen party from the night before -- or the Star Wars party, which I'd done last year. I'd say if you're looking to do one single dessert party on your trip, I'd look toward one of those and skip this one (which is only available during the holiday season anyway).

    Once the party was over, I decided to skip trying to see Voyage of the Little Mermaid or riding Star Tours again and headed straight to my room, and I was glad I did, because -- as the title of this post says, it was the Best. Room. Ever. I was staying at Port Orleans - Riverside, in one of the Royal Rooms, and it exceeded every expectation I had for it.

    Because I'd done online check-in, I didn't even have to stop at the main building. My room number was right in the app and my room wasn't very far from the parking lot, which made getting to it that night (and each subsequent night) very easy. Immediately upon opening the door, I was blown away by the theming. It was everything I wanted from a Disney room and more. These posts are limited to 10 files/photos, so I can't share with you all the photos I took of the room, but I put a bunch of them into this single Instagram post (and trust me, that really only represents a small portion of the photos I took of this room): https://www.instagram.com/p/BdVZnDugrM0/?taken-by=adamreisinger

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    Immediately I adjusted my next day plans to give myself more time in the room -- which I probably would've been happy to stay in for almost all of the remainder of the trip. At some point in my life I'm going to find a way to make one of the bedrooms in my house look like this.

    I eventually tore myself away from the room long enough to make the short walk across the bridge and over to the food court to pick up my refillable mug and use one of my snack credits on those crazy good (but crazy bad for you) Goofy character gummies, then it was back to soak up more of the room's beauty and get a good night of sleep before the first of three straight very long days.

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    Next Up: Day 2 - FastPasses and Fireworks.
     
  12. mbvisitor

    mbvisitor Mouseketeer

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    Totally agree with you Adam! The VIP area for the dessert parties at DHS were waaay to close. I enjoyed the dessert party and being able to see the projections. But a premium spot should have been farther back. I was sent a survey after the party and that’s exactly the feedback I gave.
     
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  13. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Love the room! I would love to stay there one day. The details are so fun. A similar room in your own home would be a fabulous place to hang all of the drawings you got signed.

    We are going to the SW party on the 22nd, and the latest news makes me think the viewing area is the same one you experienced for JBJB. It has moved since last year, and people are saying the view is not as good. Still, hard to pass up on that party. We loved it last year.
     
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  14. momplus3

    momplus3 Mouseketeer

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    I just found this trip report and am loving it!

    I love the "Enchanted" shirt. Enchanted is actually my favorite Disney movie! My husband and I got married at Disney (Boardwalk resort - Sea Breeze Point) and I walked down the aisle to "So Close" and we exited to "Ever After". "So Close" was also our first dance!

    Can't wait for more!
     
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  15. ANforever1030

    ANforever1030 Mouseketeer

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    As an NBA (Denver Nuggets) fan, Disney fanatic, and comic book nerd I am extremely envious. I look forward to reading more of the trip report, and I'm definitely enjoying everything thus far.
     
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  16. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

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    Trip Report, Episode XX: Day 2 - FastPasses and Fireworks
    The night before I headed over to the Magic Kingdom, I made some changes to my initial plans. I slid my breakfast reservation at Boma an hour later, so I could sleep in/enjoy my room more, then moved all my FastPass+ reservations after my lunch reservation, so I could go back to my room after breakfast. This meant swapping Peter Pan's Flight (which had no more FastPass openings) for Pirates of the Caribbean, but I was fine with that.

    What wasn't fine was my stomach, which was rumbling all night, then eventually sending the previous day's food in the wrong direction. Interestingly, I felt fine again after emptying my stomach, though I knew right then that I wasn't going to keep all 3 ADRs I had for that day. I considered canceling lunch, especially since it was so close after breakfast, but I decided in the end that dinner was the better option for cancellation, especially since the menu had changed at Skipper's Canteen and I wasn't too keen on anything on it except the steak (not even the side dishes that came with the steak). Looking back, I don't think it was anything specific I ate that caused my upset stomach, just more not being used to eating so much -- over the couple of months leading up to my trip, I'd basically been eating one meal a day. It's also possible it was the earliest sign of the illness that ended up laying me up for two days at the end of my trip.

    With the day re-planned out, I drove over to AKL to enjoy a late morning (10:05 a.m.) breakfast at Boma. Though the restaurant has some dining options that fit its locale, the buffet is for the most part the traditional Disney offerings: eggs, bacon, sausage, Mickey waffles (though Boma has Simba waffles too), pastries, etc. The one change I made to my normal Disney breakfast buffet routine was to have ginger ale as my drink instead of Diet Coke, to help keep my stomach settled (which worked nicely all day).

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    After breakfast it was back to Port Orleans for a little R&R before what was going to be a very long day. I chilled in my room for a little bit, then took in the beauty of the resort, and eventually hit up the poolside bar for some drinks -- knowing full well that there wouldn't be the option to do so once I was at MK. Maybe having a frozen Jack & Coke when it was 50 degrees out was silly, but it tasted really good and the bartender provided some friendly conversation (since I was his only customer on this chilly Florida afternoon).

    Eventually I made my way over to MK, riding the bus from POR and walking through the gates at 1:30 p.m. I'm not gonna lie, it was CROWDED. And yet, honestly, it wasn't as packed as I'd expected. Sure, there were a lot of people, but it was still relatively easy to move from place to place.

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    With 50 minutes to go before my lunch reservation, I decided to make one last visit to Stitch's Great Escape. I know it's close to blasphemy to admit this on these boards, but I actually mostly enjoy that attraction (it helps that "Lilo & Stitch" is one of my favorite Disney movies). Sure, they probably could've toned down the chili dog smell by about 50% and still gotten the reaction they wanted, but overall I liked how it captured the mischievousness of Stitch, and I'll miss it now that it's gone.

    Next up was lunch at the Plaza, which I thoroughly enjoyed, even though I made one miscalculation. When I told my waitress I was on the dining plan, she explained to me that I could get the bottomless milkshake as my drink and also get a separate dessert, which sounded awesome at the time, but in retrospect was silly. I should've just gotten a ginger ale as my drink and the milkshake as the dessert, because I didn't really need a milkshake and a sundae (though they were both awesome). I think my favorite item from The Plaza was actually the loaded fries. They're really just the same fries you get at any QSR, but topped with bacon, cheese, lettuce and ranch dressing, they turn into something amazing. I probably could've had those and a milkshake as my entire meal and been fully content.

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    I took my time eating lunch before heading up to Splash Mountain for the first of my three FastPasses in the afternoon. The standby wait times for any of the rides were out of control that day, so I was happy I had FastPasses for the things I really wanted to do. Splash was great, even in the cold, then I had time to visit both the Country Bear Jamboree and the Enchanted Tiki Room before my Pirates of the Caribbean FastPass window was up.

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    Surprisingly, neither show was particularly crowded -- I expected they might be as people looked to both escape from the cold and find a place to sit, but that wasn't the case. My next FastPass after Pirates was over at Haunted Mansion, but that window didn't open up until 6:55, which meant I had time to enjoy the festivities around the park for "New Year's Eve" (which they had going even though it was only the 30th).

    Shortly before 6:30, I ducked into Liberty Tree Tavern to get a drink (sadly, a non-alcoholic one), and hide before the 6:30 fireworks show began. I'd found out that day that they were doing the same show at 6:30 that they were doing at midnight, and because I had reserved viewing for the midnight one with yet another dessert party, I didn't want to be spoiled by seeing the earlier show -- though I could certainly hear most of it, even indoors.

    Haunted Mansion was enjoyable, as always, and as soon as I was off, I started my quest to grab same-day FastPass selections. Truthfully, I wasn't expecting that anything good would be available, but at 7:00 I was able to score an 8:00 FP for Pirates. Sure, I'd just done it a couple hours earlier, but I couldn't pass that up.

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    On my way back over, I decided to swing by Magic Carpets of Aladdin, since it had a posted wait time of just 15 minutes -- easily the shortest time for any ride I'd seen all day, and as it turns out, 100% accurate. It was funny doing the ride hearing the normal ride music (Arabian Nights for my specific time), with the New Year's party music playing at the same time.

    From there it was over to Pirates, and while I was in the FP line (which moved pretty quickly), I grabbed the next available FP, which at the time was 9:30 for Winnie the Pooh. Not my first choice, but I figured, "sure, why not?" Then, funnily enough, while I was on Pirates, I got the email that is normally dreaded, but this time was welcomed. Winnie the Pooh was down temporarily, which meant my FP was converted to an "anything in the park" FP for any time I wanted. I considered giving Space Mountain a try, since being able to jump the 200+ minute wait time was super appealing, but then I remembered how last time I rode it, it messed up my back for days, and settled for the short walk over to Jungle Cruise instead. In all my years of going to WDW, I'd never done the "Jingle" version of the cruise, so it was honestly fun getting to hear the seasonal cheesy jokes.

    By the time the cruise was over, Winnie the Pooh was back up and running, and had immediate FastPass availability, so I pounced on that like Tiggers do, and had a fun time on that ride before snagging a late FP for Under the Sea.

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    If I'd been more aggressive with my FP selections, I probably could've squeezed a ride on Dumbo in between, but I was starting to get tired from all the walking back and forth, and had a pretty solid rest of the night plan that went smooth as could have been imagined: relax for a bit to kill time before Under the Sea, ride Under the Sea, ride Carousel of Progress, check in for dessert party, enjoy some drinks and desserts, watch fireworks. And that all went off without a hitch. My ride on CoP ended just after 10:50, which was a little after the check-in time for the party. By the time I walked over to the entrance, it was closer to 10:50, and most of the seats were taken, but they did manage to find me a table -- which I didn't even have to share with anyone this time.

    The dessert selection was by far the most limited of the three parties I did on this trip, and the alcoholic drink selection was (obviously) non-existent -- though I did drink more than my fair share of the POM juice (at least I think it was POM at this event, and not POG, though both are very good and I wish I could replicate them at home). To be quite honest, I didn't book this specific party for the food or drinks, it was solely for the reserved viewing area for the fireworks.

    I made my way over to the viewing area in time to find a good spot at 11:45, and the show started a few minutes later. I was immediately pleased with my decision to not let myself see it from a bad viewing angle earlier in the day, because it was one of the most spectacular things I'd ever seen. I've watched the video of the grand finale almost every day since, and I still get chills seeing it. It was easily worth the trip -- and the price of the dessert party -- to see that in person.

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    I'd originally planned to stick around for "Once Upon a Time", but it turned out the show was at 12:45, not 12:15, so I didn't want to wait that long, especially with an 8:25 a.m. breakfast reservation staring me in the face. So I made my way out of the park and boarded a packed bus (which thankfully arrived very quickly) and was in bed back at Port Orleans before 1 a.m. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to fall asleep given how excited I was after the fireworks show, but I was happy to be off to dreamland, with the actual New Year's Eve day ahead.

    Next up: Day 3 - New Year's Eve!
     
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  17. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2013
    Messages:
    286
    Oh, somehow in all that writing about my day at MK, I forgot to mention how cool it was to meet so many people from the boards in the parks that day. Meeting people at the dessert party/in the viewing area after was fairly expected, given that I'd mentioned I'd be there both in this thread and in multiple threads in the Theme Parks board, but what was totally unexpected was just randomly running into @fallonkendra while walking through Adventureland. She actually spotted me and was like "hey, I think I'm following your trip report on the DISboards." It's kind of crazy that with all the people in the park that day, two of us from this thread would just randomly bump into each other. And so much fun!
     
  18. OhMari

    OhMari WDW PreTrip and Trip Moderator Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2000
    Messages:
    14,420
    I hope they bring back The Osborne Lights back. With each park now doing some kind of projection, fire work show, sort of seems like an over kill.
     
  19. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2013
    Messages:
    286
    I got to see the Osborne Lights the last year they were up and was blown away by them even though I’m not much of a Christmas person. I’d love if they brought them back once all the construction at DHS is complete.
     
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  20. adamreisinger

    adamreisinger 10+ Year Castmember

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2013
    Messages:
    286
    Trip Report, Episode XXI: Day 3 - New Year's Eve!
    Even after getting back to my room quickly after the fireworks on the 30th, I didn't get nearly enough sleep that night/morning, thanks to an 8:25 breakfast reservation. Had it been at literally any other restaurant on site, I would've canceled it and slept in, but I've been trying to get into Akershus for years, and I wasn't about to let this reservation go.

    Arriving at Epcot that morning was one of the weirdest Disney experiences I've ever had. I drove to the park, specifically because I wanted to avoid being stuck on a crowded bus at the end of the night (being stuck in traffic wouldn't be as bad if I was in my car by myself), and instead of directing us to the conventional parking lot, they had us park on the grass right by the entrance.

    From there it was a quick walk back to Norway, where there was almost no line for the restaurant. I enjoyed the setup for the Akershus breakfast itself. The buffet line includes all the "cold" options, including pastries, fruit and the Norwegian meat options, and the traditional breakfast platter (scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes) is served family style. My waitress was very attentive and kept my eggs and bacon refreshed as I needed. Given that I'd done dessert parties for three straight days leading up to this, I didn't have much interest in the pastries -- which are really just desserts re-branded as breakfast food -- but I did appreciate that they had mini-bagels and plain cream cheese available too. Plus they had my much-needed ginger ale, which tends to be hit and miss at Disney restaurants.

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    The Princess interaction was fun, and I appreciated that my waitress made sure none of them skipped my table (which sometimes can happen when you're a solo diner at a character meal). I did realize upon arriving that I'd have to return to Akershus during a non-holiday season to finally get my picture with Belle in her ballroom dress. Because it was still technically "Christmas season", she was in her holiday dress for this meet & greet.

    After a breakfast I'd sum up as "magical", I had some time to kill before my Mission Space FastPass, so I decided to just relax as I walked to Future World and take in the scene. A little people-watching here, a little non-alcoholic drinking there (I appreciated that a lot of the food carts had Sprite Cranberry as a "seasonal" beverage choice), then finally it was time. I usually do the Orange mission when I ride Mission Space, but I wanted to see the new Green experience. To be entirely honest, it was kind of underwhelming. It felt more like "Space Soarin'" than what I've come to expect from Mission Space, so I guess it's back to Orange for me (unless I'm coming off a Drink Around the World trip).

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    Wait times for everything were so long on the 31st that squeezing in a ride -- or even a showing of the short film festival -- between FastPasses was going to be tough (and probably would've involved waiting much more than I would've liked), so after Mission Space, I took in a performance by the JAMitors, then did some window shopping at Mouse Gear and Art of Disney before hopping on Spaceship Earth, which I consider a must-do for any Disney World trip.

    I'd spent enough time doing other stuff before my FP window opened that I didn't have a lot of time to kill after Spaceship Earth before my Soarin' FP, which was both my last FP before lunch and my last FP of the day. I considered taking in a viewing of Circle of Life over at The Land before Soarin, but when I walked into the waiting area, there were still 12 minutes to go before the show started, and I didn't feel like waiting that long. So I instead went down to the food court to grab one of the special New Year's Eve cupcakes that was only available that day. It was legitimately one of the best dessert items I've ever had at Disney World, and I say that as someone who doesn't normally like fruit inside my cake (but I'll make an exception for champagne-soaked cherries).

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    Once the cupcake was gone, I headed off to Soarin', which is definitely my favorite of the three Tier 1 rides at Epcot. I wish there was a way to get the actual Soarin' video available for home viewing (I know it's on YouTube, but it's not as crisp there as an official home release would be). I'd definitely watch it over and over again.

    Lunch for the day was at Chefs de France, which I'd been looking forward too almost as much as Akershus since my ADR booking day, and I was definitely glad I was on the dining plan for this one. Sure, I still had to pay for my champagne (which is where the 2018 dining plan would've come in handy), but not having to pay out of pocket for a $14 charcuterie board, a $31 steak and a $10 sorbet was nice. And while I know it's a French restaurant, and "French" is in the name of the side, it still felt weird that the steak came with French fries, and not mashed or baked potato. Also, not paying out of pocket meant I didn't feel bad that I didn't eat everything on the charcuterie board, or finish the dessert -- though I came closer to that than I'd originally planned. The sorbet dessert option is three small scoops of sorbet, and when my waitress brought it out, I figured I'd eat one of them (I specifically got them all the same flavor because I don't particularly like strawberry, and I forget what the third option was, but it didn't enthrall me either, so mine was all passion fruit). I ended up having almost all of it, that's how good it was.

    I probably wouldn't have scarfed down that much sorbet if I'd been planning to walk around the park right after lunch, but instead I decided to head back to my room for a mid-day nap, to ensure that I'd be able to make it to midnight both awake and alert. I took the bus back to Port Orleans, since I didn't want to mess with moving my car from the grass, and before leaving checked with multiple castmembers about potential park closures -- as by this point MK had already gone into its first phase of closure for the day. They assured me that Epcot almost certainly wouldn't reach capacity, and even if it did, as a resort guest with an in-park dining reservation, I'd have no trouble getting back in.

    After my nap and return to the park (on an almost-empty bus, as just about everyone at the bus stop was waiting for Magic Kingdom instead), I discovered how right they were, as I walked right into the park with no problem at 7:25, exactly one hour before my dinner reservation. Once again, everything had a wait time that exceeded my personal patience level, so I just enjoyed the scene around the park, which was bumping by this point of the night. They were projecting a big countdown clock onto the back of Spaceship Earth and the pavilion back there was packed with people enjoying the music. It really was quite the scene -- and probably the only time during my trip that I had any difficulty navigating the walking paths, since there were so many people in front of the stage.

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    Fortunately I didn't have to go all the way through the main walkway back toward World Showcase, as the path cutting through Odyssey Center was wide open -- as was the center itself on this evening, which would come in handy later in the night.

    I knew I was going to take my time eating dinner at San Angel Inn, but what I hadn't anticipated was how much of that was going to be by force and not by choice. I got there about 10 minutes before my reservation time and checked in almost immediately, but didn't get seated until about 20 minutes later -- then didn't see my waiter until about 20 minutes after that. All that set the tone for what was probably the slowest service I've ever received at a Disney restaurant, though it didn't help matters at all that I was a solo diner seated next to a party of 16... really! They were split up among two tables (8 and 8), and my waiter had to spend so much time throughout the night dealing with them that he barely had any time for me.

    Quite frankly, I didn't mind that much, because it gave me a chance to relax, eat slowly without someone trying to rush me out the door, and gave me a guaranteed place to sit for a couple hours on a night where seating in the parks was at a premium. The only time I was truly bugged was when they brought my entree out about 10 minutes after bringing my appetizer. Of course, I might not have minded as much had I not been an idiot while eating my app -- the queso fundido, which I'd all but finished before I realized that little paper packet next to the skillet wasn't a pile of napkins, but contained small tortillas. I'd literally just been eating the cheese and chorizo off my fork (which was fine, because I love melted cheese, but I couldn't help but laugh at myself when I'd realized what I'd done).

    The strip steak was excellent, even if I wasn't going to touch any of the traditional Mexican sides it came with, and by the time my waiter finally got around to offer me dessert, I was thankful that everything had taken so long, because I was actually kind of hungry for it again. When he brought out the cheesecake, I looked at it and said "I'll probably just have a couple bites or so", then 10 minutes later I looked at my plate and said "why is all my cheesecake gone?" I adore cheesecake, and the slice at San Angel Inn could definitely go up there with the best I've had.

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    By the time dinner was all said and done and the check was settled (after dealing with multiple mistakes on it the first time it was brought out), it was 10:40 p.m., and I only had an hour to kill before the fireworks began. Part of me wanted to walk around World Showcase and see everything it had to offer, but as I exited the restaurant I took one look in that direction and saw how packed it was and said "nope." I made my way back to Future World and found a nice sitting spot near Agent P's World Showcase Adventure. It was the perfect spot to take in the music happening behind me and the scene happening in front of me.

    As the clock ticked toward midnight, the anticipation grew, and I wondered if this would be everything I'd imagined. Eventually I got up from my seat to take one last bathroom break, and take advantage of Odyssey Center being open for business. When I saw they were selling hot dogs, I was very tempted to get one (or two, or three...), but I thought better of it, and settled for another bottle of Sprite Cranberry (seriously, that stuff is amazing and they should offer it year-round) and a glass of sparkling cranberry wine -- the closest thing to champagne they were offering at this particular point of sale. Drinks in hand, I headed back out and grabbed a seat for the start of Illuminations, which was just the normal show up until the New Year's Eve Countdown.

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    A couple minutes before the clock struck 12, I got up and slid over to the concourse where people were moving into position to see the midnight spectacular. At first my view wasn't great -- and was a little obstructed by the monorail line -- but I ended up moving back near the Goofy topiary which gave me more of a wide look at the show, and ended up being the perfect place to take it all in, as the sky lit up to ring in 2018. Even having seen the MK fireworks the night before, I felt like I'd never seen anything like the show at Epcot that night. At its brightest, it truly looked like it was daytime, even if only for a moment.

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    With the most spectacular fireworks I'd ever seen wrapped up, the crowd started making its way to the exit, and I slowly -- VERY slowly -- followed. I stopped multiple times to take more pictures, and by the time I got to the front of Future World, I saw that Spaceship Earth had just a 5-minute wait time... so I decided to ride it one more time, my first Disney World ride of 2018. I was off the ride by 12:45, out of the park and into my car by 12:50, and -- maybe most amazingly -- back at my resort by 1:15 a.m. The traffic was certainly bad, but I think the fact that I was staying at Port Orleans, which has its turnoff less than a mile from the main Epcot road, certainly helped.

    My 2018 was off to a great start, and the first full day of the new year was only going to get more magical from there.

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    Next up: Day 4 - One day, four parks!
     
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  21. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

    Joined:
    May 24, 2015
    Messages:
    1,634
    That New Year's cupcake looks too gorgeous to eat, but I think I'd also have to dig in for champagne soaked cherries. YUM!

    So I think you just answered a question I've had about Mission Space. We have not ridden it before because of my motion sickness prone family, but I heard we might be able to tolerate the green side - especially since the re-do. I made fast passes but did not see an option to select orange or green on the fast pass. From your report, though, it sounds like the fast pass is for either side, so we should be okay. Space Soarin' sounds perfect for us.

    We also enjoy Chefs and Akershus. This next trip, we are arriving with Chefs and departing with Akershus. If you return to Chefs one day, I recommend the meringue basket for dessert. It also has sorbet but includes berries. The combination of meringue, berries, and sorbet is perfect, and the dessert is so pretty when it is placed in front of you. I think I might ask for it to be served with passion fruit sorbet this time. That sounds really good!

    EPCOT sounds like a perfect place to spend New Year's Eve. Certainly more festive than our NYE at home!
     

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