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TRIP REPORT: Oct. 20th - Nov. 10th.

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  • TRIP REPORT: Oct. 20th - Nov. 10th.

    Well, we did it – the big trip, and we survived, barely. It was great fun, up until the last 24 hours.. but we will get to that later.
    So this trip report will have a Sesame Street theme… This trip report is brought to you by the letter “C”!
    Here are the basics: 14days at the Disney World Resort, 10 days in the parks, 1 day to Universal Studios, 3 sleep in/whatever we want to do days.
    From the beginning:
    Orlando airport: “C” is for construction. Love this airport. It’s big, but easy to move around in, once you have the basics. They are doing construction in the airport, and not sure, but looks like there may be a big expansion of the airport just south of the main terminal – saw an almost completed building on the way out to Disney. So on the Magic Express, and away we go……..
    Transportation: "C" is for road construction. Disney is doing a lot of road construction. Fist thing we noticed is it appears they are building "Disney bus only" lanes in the center of the Buena Vista Drive by Disney Springs. So far appears only go to Bonnet Creek Parkway, but could see this going through all of Disney World. Great way to move the bus traffic around, and take a lot of the regular traffic out of the equation. Also, appears Disney is trying to keep as much bus traffic off Buena Vista Drive as possible. From Caribbean Beach, the only bus that would go on Buena Vista Drive would be the one to Hollywood Studios. All others would exit the back of the resort, and go south to Osceola Parkway. And at that intersection, appears Disney is building a big off ramp from the East bound Osceola Parkway that curves around, and looks like it is going to tie in with the main North/South road "World Drive".... not sure why, because there are already on/off ramps there, unless they are planning on getting rid of that "cloverleaf" design to move more traffic. But at this intersection, the Disney bus traffic has to turn Right to go to all the other parks...... and they have it as a "no turn on red"..... and trust me, there are times you can sit through 1 or 2 traffic light cycles. Plan ahead, leave early. Also, a big "Thank you!" to Disney Transportation --- On day, we had breakfast reservations at the Polynesian resort. So we went to Hollywood Studios from the resort, and waited at the Polynesian resort bus stop.... and waited.... and waited... Finally a cast member in a Disney van came up, and asked where we needed to go, and then took us in the van directly to the Polynesian!! Oh Wow!! He said there are vans out there that do that during the morning, to help with just this type of situation. Great planning!! Last thing I want touch on is the bus service from the resort to the parks..... The bus stops in Caribbean Beach, like most now, have the monitors showing the "estimated" time the bus should arrive at that stop. It is our findings that whatever time you see on the monitor, add 10 to 12 minutes to that, maybe more. And whatever bus you are waiting for, that is the one you will see the least of... I budgeted at least 30 minutes to get from the resort to the park.... and sometimes that was not enough. Again, plan ahead.....
    Resort: Disney Caribbean Beach. “C” is for construction and changes. We knew this resort was going through changes. This trip makes the 11th out of 12, and 11 we have stayed at Caribbean Beach. Pulling up to the Customs House to check in is like seeing an old friend. You can clearly see the area where Barbados used to be, and the two huge cranes there, working on the site for the multi-level tower. Inside the current Customs House are artists renderings of what the new tower will look like, and the new Custom House, which will be moving to the center of the resort, where the food court is currently. And, loosing the current Custom House – employee there told me they plan to tear it down once the new one is done, probably use that area for parking….. Also, construction at the back of the resort, which I can only assume will be the gondola transportation system.
    We stayed at Trinidad North – room had been renovated, and was really nice. Where the old dresser/TV stand was is now a pull down bed… nice, we didn’t need it, but problem with the pull down bed is you greatly loose storage drawer space. There are three small drawers at the base of the pull down bed unit, and two larger drawers to the right of the pull down bed. To the left is the refrigerator. So plan carefully on what to bring, and what you need to store, if you get one of these newer rooms.
    On the other side of the center pool is now the “Food Court”….. well, it’s a food tent. The layout is a little strange: You have to go to the small trailer outside of the tent, and either purchase food items, or the ‘’buffet’’ – employees will put a paper bracelet on you, to show you have purchased the buffet. The buffet is good, but can be really busy, depending on the day and time, you may have to wait outside for others to finish before you are allowed in… But for the small area they have to work in and prepare the food, the employees did an amazing job!! Kudos to the Caribbean Beach Resort food staff, one and all. So all in all, we were glad to be back at the Caribbean Beach Resort, construction and all.
    Disney Parks: “C” is for construction and changes….. I’ll go through the dining we did later, but now just touch on the parks:
    EPCOT: My favorite! Ellen’s Universe of Energy is closed; other than that, the front of the park is about the same. The new Soarin’ is BEAUTIFUL!! I won’t give it away, if you have not seen it yet, but it’s all new, and so well done. And I think it is longer than the old one. And the lines to Soarin’ are just as long as you remember. The new mission in Mission: Space is…….ok.. I think I like the old one better… Journey into Imagination is still waiting for attention… And now for the back of the park: “C” is for CHAOS!! The Food and Wine Expo is going on when we go down there, and we expect the back of the park to be busy…. But this is getting crazy! The area where you enter the back of the park, and go towards Canada, all the way around to France is an absolute battle to try and walk through. The rest of the back is not that bad, but that front corner is best to avoid if possible: Everyone is either waiting in line to one of the booths, standing there eating, sitting in the walkways eating, or trying to read the menus at the booths… I love EPCOT, but may have to adjust the time we go down there to avoid the Food and Wine Expo. Disney, one suggestion: Areas off the paths with more benches and tables, where people can get their food, and get out of the main stream of traffic.

    Hollywood Studios: Again, “C” is for Construction. Star Wars land, and Toy Story land are being built.. so the sad thing right now in HWS about the only things to do are: Indy Jones, Star Tours, Midway Mania, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror… at least for us adults… and of course, the stand by times for Midway Mania and Rockin’ Roller Coaster are always long… usually… we hit it just right, and Midway Mania had a standby of 40 minutes, and we actually got through in just over 30.. by the time we were out, the crowd had caught up, and standby was back up to 70 minutes. Hint: Go try the big rides when they are doing the Star Wars shows on Main Street – that pulls a lot of people! Other problem was one day one complete side of Tower of Terror was down…

    Animal Kingdom: “C” is for Change, and by that, I mean Pandora!!! Wow, it is amazing. Although, it is not as big as you probably think it is… two rides, and an eating area. But it is beautiful. The river ride is beautiful, but the “Flight” ride is the main attraction, and I see why the standby lines are 3hours or more.. GET A FAST PASS…. The front of the park, in front of the Tree of Life has been opened up, for the night time projections on the tree, and it looks great. The River of Light show is very well done… almost looks/feels kin to Illuminations from EPCOT… but worth seeing. Rest of the park has not really changed. Expedition Everest is so fun, the safari is always fun, and personal view: The Flights of Wonder bird show is something we never miss. Which brings us to:

    Magic Kingdom: The heart of DisneyWorld. We were at this park more than the others. It is always fun, but this park holds special times for us… We timed it so we could do the Halloween Party, and the first Christmas Party!! We did the same thing back in 2014, so we thought we knew what to expect… wrong. No real changes to the park – Splash Mountain was down, but we knew that. Comparing this trip to the 2014 trip, there seemed to be more people, in every park. Late October used to be our secret, guess that is not true anymore. I was concerned when they announced the ending of “Wishes”. That has always been an amazing show. Now we have “Happily Ever After”. Once again, Disney shows why they are the best of the best. Amazing show, and whomever their team is that has ramped up and worked on the projection images on the castle and surrounding areas, what a group of wizards. It is amazing.

    So lets move on to the battle:
    Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party vs. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
    We have done the Halloween party many times, and now have done the Christmas party total of 3 times…. And I have to honestly say…….. we will probably never do the Christmas party ever again. Or will be a long time. Let me explain: The energy/feeling between the two parties are different. And not surprisingly, so are the people attending. The Halloween party people are there to have fun. We enjoy talking to each other, seeing the costumes, the parades, fireworks, and all the decorations. The Halloween crowd just seem to work together for a unified good time. You do have to plan ahead, as far as the parade and fireworks, but we work it out together……
    The Christmas party people… wow… “C” is for Crazy…. “C” is for Chaos…. And “C” is for Manic!! OMG!!! People start lining up for the first parade like 2 to 3 hours early, to get a front spot. And that’s fine, good planning…. But throw in a few thousand others that show up to the front of the castle 30 minutes prior to the parade, and cannot find a spot. Let the pushing/shoving/burrowing through people to find a spot begin! During the Halloween party, if a group comes up, and there is nowhere to stand where they can see, they move on, keep looking. During the Christmas party, if a group comes up, and there is nowhere to stand where they can see, they start (or trying to) pushing their way in……..because if their little darling cannot see Santa Clause, THE WORLD WILL COME TO AN INSTANT AND VIOLENT END!!! It’s crazy. It was like that a little in 2014, but this year was much worse. And the poor Disney employees……… I feel so sorry for those kids that have to work these parties, especially the Christmas parties. They have to keep walking lanes open, so they put tape down on the walkways, and try to enforce “this area is for walking only, no standing”, and have to keep requesting people to keep moving in these walking areas. I know everyone spent extra money to come to this show, but there has to be a better way of doing this. And the huge strollers that are “holding” an area… I’ll get to that later/below…..
    But, Disney did not disappoint in the decorations for either time/party… and amazing how fast they can transform the parks from fall/Halloween, to Christmas.

    Universal Studios: Have to be honest, only reason I wanted to go was to see the newest section of the Harry Potter world. And it did not disappoint. Both of the Harry Potter “lands”, and the train linking the two are very will done…. Universal Studios in comparison to Disney is a very different feeling… Universal is a bit more raw, more “you’re on your own to figure it out, good luck kid”. Now that have done all of the Harry Potter areas, probably will not go back to Universal until a big change to these areas.

    Now to move on to my favorite: Dining in Disney World. We had the Deluxe Dining Plan, which means you can pretty much eat as much as you want, and where ever you want: 3 table services and 2 snacks per person per day…. Wow! So here is a breakdown by area, and opinion:
    Magic Kingdom:
    • Crystal Palace: A classic. Prefer breakfast to dinner here. And who can go wrong with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and the great Eeyore!!
    • Liberty Tree Tavern: Have to admit, not as good this year as in the past. And so incredibly noisy. But still a favorite.
    • Be Our Guest: Split decision on this one.... I liked it, person with me did not really like it. The main dining room is stunning, it is the ball room from the Beauty and the Beast story, and the room was fully decorated for Christmas. And not sure they do this every night, but at one point, we hear on the overhead speakers: "Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please..... your host has arrived".... in which the Beast walks into the dining room, needless to say to cheers and applause... He heads to one of the side rooms, where he does a "meet and greet".... thought that was really nice!! So we'll see on this one... may go back, may not.....
    • Le Cellier: Was not that impressed when we were here in 2014, but it redeemed itself. Expensive, can offer other/better choice…. (see Artists Point)
    • Teppan Edo: LOVE IT!! Always go, always good food and good show!
    • Harvest Grill: Very good! Did breakfast this year, and was impressed. And having Mickey, Chip&Dale, and Pluto along for the ride is great!
    Hollywood Studios:
    • Hollywood & Vine: Breakfast buffet… was good, similar to Crystal Palace on the food… Character dining, they have 4 from the Disney Junior shows…. So not that big of a deal to us, but the little ones were LOOSING THEIR MINDS!! And that was fun to watch.
    • 50’s Prime Time Café: LOVE IT!! Did this twice, one day for lunch, one for dinner, and both times the food was amazing, and the waitress’s were as loud and pushy as always.. if you have never gone, you have to go. A good time! But leave your cell phone in your pocket and keep your elbows off the table.... what color is the soap???… I warned you…..
    Animal Kingdom:
    • Tusker House: Breakfast! So good, slightly different choices from the other buffet choices. Character dining: Goofy, Mickey, Donald Duck!!
    • Tiffins: The newest jewel in the park. It’s beautiful, the wait staff is excellent, but going to be honest, don’t think I’ll go back. For a table of 2, check would have been $150.00+ (thank you Dining Plan!!), and neither of our entrées were very good – I had the swordfish, which I was warned was spicy: It was, but so overpowering you could not even taste the fish, and the other was a duo of steak: One was good, other very fatty. So do your homework if you want to do to here.

    And out of the parks:
    Animal Kingdom Lodge:
    • Boma: Love this place. Beautiful. Staff is very good. Have to say like breakfast here more than dinner. And inside hint: Foods at Boma, and at Tusker House, 90% same… Tusker House is character dining, Boma is buffet…. Which is more important to you???
    Contemporary Resort:
    • California Grill: AMAZING! One’s of Disney’s best. Food, view, staff, everything is so good.
    • Chef Mickey's: Another new on for us.. did this for dinner, and was really impressed! Buffet style restaurant, and could be the best buffet in Disney World. Biggest advantage they have there is space -- you are not crammed in a small area, trying to work your way through. It is character dining, and on a person note, nothing like spending your birthday with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald!! Not many people can say that!! Have heard the breakfast buffet here is amazing too, so will be checking that out next time!
    Wilderness Lodge:
    • Artists Point: I’m going to go out on a limb here, but this place is Disney’s best kept secret. It’s in the back of the Wilderness Lodge, which I have to admit is not that easy to get to.. From the Caribbean Beach resort, we had to take a bus from there to the Magic Kingdom bus area, find the bus to the Wilderness Lodge, and ride over. Doesn’t sound complicated, but took a lot more time than we thought it would. But, the restaurant: Stunning! Food was possibly the best we had on the either trip. And we lucked into a back corner table, overlooking the waterfall on the back of the resort. No other people/table around us, it was quiet, elegant, and I’m ready to go back there right now!! If you have the time, try Artists Point. We will make this one of our regular stops.
    Polynesian Resort:
    * Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show: Another new one, never done this before (always try and include new adventures each trip.... becoming a challenge!)
    First off, the Polynesian resort is beautiful! My aunt used to go to DisneyWorld on a regular basis, and this was her resort, and I see why! The
    dinner show is a little confusing from the start, in the lobby: In the back left of the lobby is a sign in desk for the Dinner Show.... took us a few minutes
    to figure this out. So got in line, signed in, and got our instructions: The Dinner Show is not actually in the Polynesian, it is a good little walk, heading
    towards the Grand Floridian. The show is good - divided into sections where the "story" is laid out, and different Polynesian island dances are done. The highlight the end of the show - the fire dancer. I don't know where they found this young man, but he does amazing sets of dances with one and
    two "fire sticks", for lack of a better term! To be honest, the food was ok at best.... not really our type/style of food, but you're there for the show.
    Kind of like the Hoop-Dee-Doo over at the Fort Wilderness Campground, food is ok, you're there for the show!
    * Kona Cafe: Breakfast - OMG!! So good! I have read the reviews, watched the videos, and several people said that this could be the best breakfast
    in Disney World, and I can agree. Order off a menu, not buffet, and the menu is not huge, but the food is AMAZING, the portions are plenty, all so
    and fresh. And nothing in Disney World is "cheap", but I was surprised at this breakfast: Two breakfast plates, and added on a (huge) fresh fruit
    plate to share, and a side order of pancakes, check was $48.... I think you could pull that kind of check at a lot of breakfast restaurants around the
    nation, and not get that much food, or as fresh. Reoccurring theme: If you can, check into Kona Cafe.

    And the last part, some personal views:
    • MRO and SMRO: I think these should be put into use in normal Disney vernacular. MRO: Middle Road Obstruction, and SMRO: Sudden Middle Road Obstruction. How many times have you been walking through one of the parks, and for no reason, anywhere from one person to an entire group is stopped right in the middle of the walkway!! And/or the SMRO where the one or many just suddenly stop, making the entire walkway suddenly have to shift directions. Just a friendly reminder to our valued guests: You are one of thousands in the park, if you need to figure out where you are, where you are going, talk with your group, PLEASE move to the side of the walkway, so the flow of traffic can continue. And in a related issue:
    • Right is Right: This is America. If you are here from a foreign country, welcome, we’re glad you are here. Just a friendly reminder to our valued guests: We drive on the right side of the road, therefore we walk on the right side of the walkways. Please do not try and “swim up stream” by walking on the left side of the road, against the flow of traffic. Remember, you are one of thousands in the park.
    • Electric chairs: I know this one has been debated for a long time: There are clearly people in the parks using the electric transport chairs for no reason other than they just don’t want to have to walk… not that they can’t, they just don’t want to… or – they “need” the chair to transport them and their dog… Now if this is truly a Service Dog, that is fine… but the several I saw down there, there is no way these dogs were truly Service Dogs… And the sad thing is Disney is put right in the middle of this controversy: How do you decide who does and does not “need” a chair.. and if you say no, I can only imagine the backlash that would come from the people/family. And on this subject, including topics above, this happened this year: Mickey’s PhilharMagic – Love it! Walking in, behind a person on one of the electric chairs, several people behind us – person gets just past the area where you pick up the 3D glass’s, totally stops in the middle of the ramp, whips out the phone, and starts looking at pictures. You have got to be kidding. I normally would not, but I did, I said something to this person, in the vain of “you are not the only person in the building, let’s have some thought for your fellow vacationer. And I’ve seen this more and more, and if you do say something, the person just looks at you like you’ve done something wrong, like you have lobsters crawling out of your ears. Where/when/how did this disregard for our fellow traveler happen?
    • Noise: There are truly some amazing restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. One thing they all see to have in common, in one degree or another, is an almost painful level of noise in the dining area. I understand when you get that many people together, especially in smaller rooms, the noise is going to happen. But is seems to be getting worse. Talking about it, worse offender by far is the Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom. OMG!! By the time we were done with dinner, I thought my ears were going to start bleeding!! California Grill is the same way, and that's a big room. Liberty Tree is a grouping of smaller, lower ceiling rooms, so I see why it is loud. Disney: You have some of the most incredible technology on the planet - can we start to look into retrofitting some of the worst rooms with some sort of noise baffling/blocking apparatus? There has to be something.....
    • The Last 24 Hours: Anyone see that report on the news about the camera battery that exploded in the TSA Security line at the Orlando Airport Friday, Nov. 10th?? Yep, we were there. What a mess. We were at the SouthWest gate, 20 minutes from being on the plane. SouthWest employee comes on the overhead: All guests will have to go back to the main terminal, and go through Security screening again. And since it was a TSA Security issue, the trains were shut down, so everyone had to walk back to the main terminal, and get in line back to their gate side. After one hour of just standing there, no information from the airport, no information from the TSA, I went to the SouthWest ticket desk, because I knew there was no way we were getting on a flight that night…. Yep, rebooked to 6:20pm the next evening. Now the race to find a hotel room for the night, did not even want to think about sleeping in the airport. Finally found one, Holiday Inn, all the way back near Celebration, almost to Disney. And since this was a TSA issue, and not a airport or Southwest issue, we have to pay for all of it: $55 taxi ride, each way, room for one night, $155…. Needless to say, was good to get home..

    And to any Disney Staff member, current or past, that may be reading this: THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! You are the heart and soul that keeps the most magical place on Earth the most magical place on Earth. You work for minimum wage, work all the days and hours nobody wants to, and do the thankless jobs, so we can all have our vacations. So much goes into Walt Disney World, and you are the reason it is the reason we return year after year. Thank you!
    Well, time to get ready for the long winter… dream of Disney, and the next trip. To those of you getting ready to go, I’m jealous as all hell, and good for you!
    And as Ellen says: Be kind to one another.
    Last edited by proradvlx; 12-07-2017, 04:53 AM.

  • #2
    Thorough trip report. Would love to see some photos, if possible.

    No matter where you go, there you are.


    • #3