Winter Disney Trip – Magic Kingdom

We were at Disney World for 8 days this trip and we typically spend the first day and a half and the last half day at the Magic Kingdom. When I left off in the last post, we were about to leave for the Magic Kingdom. We took our first monorail ride of the trip and arrived mid-day at the MK. We had an early dinner, so we didn’t have a whole lot of time in the afternoon left, but we hit some of our favorites like Haunted Mansion, Pirates, and It’s a Small World, and we even had time for a walk through Toon Town, which I didn’t remember at all. Maybe I never saw it? I’m not sure. I wanted to see it before they started up the big Fantasyland expansion project, which is set to be built on top of Toon Town and in some of the older unused areas of Fantasyland (like 20000 Leagues Under the Sea). The project looks pretty cool and it looks like the area/ride closings are pretty minimal (except Toon Town), but it’ll be a bummer to have walls up and construction going on for so long until it opens in 2013. Anyway, it was cute, but we had a reservation to get to! At one of my favorite dinner spots: Cinderella’s Royal Table! I love it there. We requested “our” seat by the window, and though we didn’t get the exact one, we got one by the window, so I was still happy. We saw 2 engagements while we were there – one of which was at “our” table, so I guess that’s why we didn’t get that one, even though it was open when we got there. Dinner was very good – actually maybe my favorite of the week – I had some sort of pasta and Chris had lamb.

Our table at Cinderella's Royal Table

Our table at Cinderella's Royal Table (but not "our table")

Mickey and our view

Mickey and our view

Chris and Perla

Chris and Perla

My partially eaten dinner

My partially eaten dinner (I did eat the rest - I just forgot to take a picture before I started)

After dinner, we used the pathway through the castle to the front to find a spot for the parade and fireworks. I took a few pictures of the castle as we walked through, since it seemed as if they were getting ready to rope off the pathway, so it was pretty empty.

Up close

Up close

Still pretty closeThe parade was cute, as usual, though some lady and her kid showed up 2 minutes before it started and tried to push in front of us. Sorry lady, find another spot. Get there early if you want a clear view. It’s not like getting in front of us would’ve helped much anyway, we were standing in the back, too. Not pushing, though, I might add. After the parade, we moved a bit since we were still really close to the castle, which would’ve made for too close pictures of fireworks. I didn’t have my tripod that night, since it was in the suitcase, which hadn’t been delivered to our room yet, so I just took some normal pictures. I tried a few slow shutter, but despite my delusions that I can hold still for a clear picture, I cannot. They were terribly blurry. I even tried sitting down and using my elbows on my knees as a makeshift tripod, but no.

Normal picture of fireworks

Normal picture of fireworks

My poor attempt at slow shutter without a tripod

My poor attempt at slow shutter without a tripod

After the fireworks, we meandered out of the park and took the monorail back to the hotel. We had an early morning the next day!

So on our second day, we woke up bright and early (actually dark and early) for our 7 am Chef Mickey’s breakfast at the Contemporary. I don’t know what possessed me to make our reservation that early. Egads. The monorails apparently don’t even start till 7 am, and they were running late that day, so we got to Chef Mickey’s kinda late. But we got in right away, no waiting. Breakfast was good – very filling. It was a big buffet and we each had stuff like eggs, bacon, chocolate injected croissants, and a really yummy apple/grape/granola liquidy goodness. We met all the characters (Minnie even motioned to me that Chris was hot!) and took some pictures:

Me and Goofy

Me and Goofy

Chris and Mickey

Chris and Mickey

Chris and Minnie

Chris and Minnie

Me and Pluto

Me and Pluto

Once we were done, we headed back to the MK. We started out with Space Mountain, which was probably not the best idea on a very full tummy. I felt icky till about lunch time. It was fun though. I’ve heard some complaints about the renovation of Space Mountain, but overall, I thought it was pretty good. We didn’t get to play at all with the in-line games:

In-line game

In-line game

but I saw a few people shooting things before it went to that screen (and stayed at that screen for the rest of our fast walk through the non-existent line) and it looked kinda cool. The ride itself seems smoother and also faster. Although it’s possible it just feels faster because it’s completely dark now. No more glowy stripes on the sides of the coaster, no more thrill of “oh my God, am I going to hit my head on those low beams”, and even the stars weren’t terribly bright. That may be my only complaint. I can do without seeing the track, but seeing the stars and other coasters was kinda fun. Now you barely see anything. Maybe it would’ve been better for me if I hadn’t been so full. After Space Mountain, we decided to hit some tamer rides, like the People Mover (also refurbished, with a new script – no more “paging Tom Morrow”), Carousel of Progress (I still love it), Autopia, and Laugh Floor.

Us on the People Mover

Us on the People Mover

Chris's Buzz Impression

Chris's Buzz Impression - he thought he looked stressed or constipated or something.

Us near the castle

Us near the castle (pay no attention to the tarps on the castle!). Also, you may notice our jackets - it was pretty cool that day. But the park had really low crowds!

We stopped for a quick lunch at Cosmic Rays, but I was still so full, I didn’t eat much of my salad/soup and Chris only had about half his wrap. I think we even passed on the meal plan-included desert. After lunch, we finished out most of the rest of the park, except Thunder Mountain (saving for nighttime) and Splash Mountain, which was in the middle of being refurbished – actually it was completely drained. It looked pretty weird. After a short break, we had dinner at the California Grill at the Contemporary (Contemporary twice in one day!). The food was amazing as always – I had lobster salad and sweet potato/ricotta ravioli and Chris had really tasty sushi and I think some sort of fish. This was definitely Chris’s favorite meal of the week. My only complaint was where they seated us: they put us in the back room, which was meant I guess to be romantic and quiet, but we didn’t have the famous view of the Magic Kingdom! Way off in the distance you could barely make out Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, but otherwise, it was just a big dark expanse of wetlands.

Our view at the California Grill

Our view at the California Grill. I think off in the distance, maybe to the right is EPCOT, but I don't see it now...

Anyway, we wanted to get back to the park to see the fireworks again, so we skipped desert and headed back.

Tonight, I had my tripod, and we got set up nice and early near Casey’s Corner (the hot dog place) on Main Street. I wasn’t in anyone’s way, and most people left me a small box to work in. Of the few people who obliviously stood directly in front of me, most quite willingly moved over a foot as to not block my shot. Except for one. Who we shall refer to as Ms. Big Head Magic Stealer (Ms. BHMS for short.) She showed up about 2 minutes before the fireworks started and plopped her kid (not a small kid either, she must’ve been 8.) on top of a trash can a few feet in front of us, which completely blocked out the entire castle in my shot. Chris politely asked her if they could move over just a little bit, and her response was “We’re fine.” Fine, my ass. I complained loudly that they were blocking my entire frame and then yelled at her that it was not fine and that they were rude and completely in the way. I was there first! Again with the getting there last minute and expecting to get in front of everyone! I freakin’ hate people!! But anyway, the show started, and I didn’t really have any choice but to start trying to take pictures since I didn’t really have time to find a new spot, set up again, and set all the settings again. Therefore, most of my pictures came out like this:

FW Heads 1FW Heads 2FW Heads 3FW Heads 4Which, yeah, the fireworks look pretty cool. But imagine how much nicer it would’ve looked without the 2 abnormally large heads in the way. Near the end of the fireworks, I realized I could move over a couple inches, right to the very edge of the curb, for a better shot of the castle, but it threw off my focus, which I didn’t notice immediately, and by the time I got the castle back in focus, the show was practically over.

After I moved and refocused

After I moved and refocused, though it's a bit low now

Ms. BHMS and her large headed daughter practically bolted after the fireworks ended, but not before glimpsing at me and receiving a good stink-eye look. Boy, she made me mad. I wanted to pick up my tripod and plop it directly in front of her and her daughter and then get up on Chris’s shoulders (haha, boy, that’d be a funny sight. I’m pretty sure Chris would topple as soon as I tried to get up! Ooh, but hey, maybe we could’ve fallen backwards onto them!!) or maybe abandon my picture taking attempts and stand directly behind them and talk about highly inappropriate things. Or at the very least, show my camera to them afterwards and demand payment for their private photo shoot. It just really upset me. Cool fireworks pictures was one of my huge goals of this trip, certainly my main photo goal. And that night was our last planned MK night, so I wouldn’t get another try that trip. And worse, it really soured me to even trying to get good fireworks shots in the future at the MK because people just suck. And I don’t like being angry all night because of one insignificant bitch. With a big ugly head. (Bitter much? lol). I don’t even know how to combat it. Other than to get there late and be a jackass myself setting up in front of others or getting an extremely tall tripod. Either way, I block someone else’s view and ruin their magic. Which I don’t want to do. I care about other people’s fun (when they deserve it). I don’t want to be in the way. Bah, enough about that.

We finished off the night with a ride of Thunder Mountain (still prefer it at night!) and another ride of the Haunted Mansion. We had another early morning the next morning with Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom! However, since I’m trying to keep each park within one post, we did stop back at the MK on the last day of our trip as well. We only did a few rides that last day since we had to pack up and check out before going to the park and we had a bus to catch at 4 back to the airport, but we did Laugh Floor, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates all again, as well as eating lunch at Pinocchio’s Village Haus (where we actually got some pretty good meatball subs). Our last ride was Pirates and it was obvious that that next week was going to be busier than our week, since we had our first 20 minute line. I was exhausted by the end of the trip and almost didn’t want to wait the 20 minutes, but afterwards, we got some Dole Whip Floats and relaxed in the shade for a little while, so that was a nice way to end the trip.

A few more Mickey pictures:

Captain Mickey Sparrow

Captain Mickey Sparrow

Mickey tries to find a girlfriend

Mickey tries to find a girlfriend

We console Mickey

We console Mickey

Mickey found a girlfriend!

Mickey found a girlfriend! After a trip full of Mickey pictures, I decided to get a Minnie on the last day. 🙂 They'll both come with us next time!

And a few scenery pictures:

Castle through the trees

Castle through the trees

Early morning Main Street

Early morning Main Street

Night castle

Night castle

Spooky castle

Spooky castle

Walt, Mickey, and the Castle

Walt, Mickey, and the Castle

Roy, Minnie, and Main Street

Roy, Minnie, and Main Street

Next up: Animal Kingdom!

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Winter Disney Trip Report!!

Well, this is getting to be a bit late, since we went almost 2 months ago, but oh well. I had like 850 pictures to upload, sort through, and label. Not to mention a move (more to come on that…eventually, lol). Anyway, like last time, I’ve decided to chronicle our recent Disney trip on the  blog, although I may consolidate posts by park. This trip was sort of meant to be our last vacation in which we were purposely just the two of us (as in, we would like to start our own family soon), so we went all out and did the deluxe resort, club level, full week of Disney fun! To start out the series of posts, like last time, I’ll first talk about the hotel!

Since this is a trip report of sorts, I should mention how we got there and then go on with talking about the resort, itself. We were still in our temporary apartment at the time (really close to the airport) and the night before, everything was packed and Buffy was already at the kitty kennel. Everything was great and we were excited. However, it started snowing the day before our trip and snowed all day and all night long. I remember looking out the window the night before and worrying that it was sticking a bit too much. The next morning, bright and early, we got up to see that the snow had stopped, but the ground was coated in at least 4 inches of snow, with not a single plow in sight (I guess NC isn’t really equipped for snow). We checked our flight status and it still said “on schedule” surprisingly enough, so we packed up the car and drove very slowly to the airport. Even the highways were completely unplowed. There were only a few cars on the road. When we got to the airport, we checked into our flight, still showing “on schedule” and made our way to the gate. As we were about to go through security, I made the mistake of looking at the flight schedule board. It was full of red. As in “canceled”. Including the earlier flight to Orlando that we had considered taking. But ours was ok, apparently. The airport was empty and when we got to our gate, we got our first glimpse at the runways. Which also looked completely unplowed…

Icy Runways

Icy Runways...

However as we were waiting, we saw what I’m guessing was every plow in NC (all 10 of them) plowing the runways. To my surprise, we got on the plane and got to go through the de-icing procedure!

De-icing

De-icing

I was a bit nervous during take-off, but once we were up, I relaxed and was very happy that we were on our way to the happiest place on Earth!

Now then, about the hotel! We decided to stay at the Polynesian for a couple of reasons. One, it’s on the monorail line, which I’ve always found useful for getting around (it’s also got buses, which operated just fine for us while we were there – no complaints), not to mention I love riding the monorail (“Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas”!). Two, it’s just a really pretty resort, with dark wood details, lots of tropical plants, a beach, etc. Since I’ve stayed frequently at the Grand Floridian, I had passed the Polyneisan quite often, wondering what it would be like to stay there. So we did.

When we got there, we got our leis, checked in, and headed over to the Hawaii building. The grounds really are beautiful. I loved all the trees, flowers, paths, and the beach. The views from the beach were great – you could clearly see the castle and both other hotels on the monorail line. If it had been slightly warmer and less rainy, I would’ve definitely wanted to spend some time sitting at the beach during our breaks. The pool even looked pretty nice. I can see it being a blast for kids with the water slide, and it seemed nice for adults, too – it was heated, which was pretty at night when the water would steam. Chris maintains that the Beach Club/Yacht Club shared pool is still the best, though.

Entering the Polynesian!

Entering the Polynesian!

Waterfall at the Poly

Waterfall at the Poly

Mickey in paradise

Mickey in paradise

Us in the lobby

Us in the lobby with Mickey

Mickey's about to get it!

Mickey's about to get it!

Mickey fights back!

Mickey fights back!

Pretty flower

Inside the lobby, looking up

Inside the lobby, looking up

Polynesian pool

Polynesian pool

Our building

Our building

When we got to our room, we discovered that it was really nice! The size was good and I liked the decor a lot. My only two complaints were 1. we didn’t have a balcony since we were on the second floor (I don’t know why the second floor just gets a window while the first gets a patio and the third gets a balcony) and 2. I think I was expecting the concierge building to be somewhat similar to the Great Ceremonial House where the lobby is, with a big open space in the middle. However, when I thought about it, yes, the Grand Floridian has a good amount of concierge rooms in the main building with the grand lobby, but there’s also a smaller concierge building that is fairly normal looking. So our building was similar to the smaller concierge building – long, somewhat dark hallways with rooms on either side. I did notice that if we had paid even more, we would’ve had an amazing view of Cinderella castle on the opposite side of the building, but I was happy enough with our view of palm trees and the pool – it was actually pretty relaxing. It could’ve been way worse – some of the standard rooms have views of the parking lot. So overall, we liked the room. Here’s some pictures, including a few “Where’s Waldo” ones:

Chris skipping down the hallway

Chris skipping down the hallway

Our room!

Our room!

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo?

Cool lighted closets

Cool lighted closets (no Waldo)

Our view

Our view (no Waldo)

Alternate view from our room

Alternate view from our room (that day was rainy)

After dropping off some stuff in the room, we packed up our bag for the park and decided to stop off at the free concierge food. What I liked about this concierge food was that it changed day to day whereas I think (and I could be mistaken) that the Grand Floridian food was pretty much the same everyday. There were, of course, some repeats everyday like the amazing Disney cookies, gummy sharks, and most breakfast items (though some days muffins would be exchanged for croissants), but a lot of it was different each day. There was always popcorn, but it seemed to always have a different flavor. There were quite a few Polynesian appetizer items (I remember sushi, chicken sate, and a tasty salad) and quite a few desserts (the mousse seemed to change everyday – I remember white chocolate, mango, and chocolate). So, overall we enjoyed the food variety and it was nice to not have to buy breakfast in the parks or bring breakfasts with us like last time. Unfortunately, this was really the only benefit we took advantage of with regards to concierge, so I’m really not sure it was worth it for us. The concierge are also helpful in booking dinners and activities on the fly for you, but in recent years, I’ve become quite the planner when it comes to Disney. I know that if we want to eat at certain places like Cinderella’s Royal Table, it really helps to make reservations as far in advance as possible (even the concierge normally can’t help with CRT). Unfortunately, this year for us meal booking fell in the inconvenient time when Disney changed their policy from 90 days in advance to 180, so the day we made reservations was the day of the policy change, the day EVERYONE who was between 90 and 180 days out from their trip was trying to make reservations. In fact, their servers crashed and it wasn’t until that night that I was able to get onto their online system to book the restaurants (after trying to call all day). But no worries, we got everything we wanted!

Concierge food area

Concierge food area

Us in the concierge food area

Us in the concierge food area

View from the concierge area

View from the concierge area, there was a huge wall of windows

One other thing we had been told would be a benefit of staying at the Polynesian is it’s proximity to the Ticket and Transportation center, which is about a 10 minute walk away. Now, if you’re not familiar with the parks, the monorail has 5 stops in a circle – in order, it goes Polynesian –> Grand Floridian –> Magic Kingdom –> Contemporary –> TTC (and back to Polynesian). So from the Polynesian, the monorail’s an easy ride to the Magic Kingdom, but would be almost a full circle to the TTC, so it’s nice that you can just walk to the TTC and skip the whole circuit, get onto the EPCOT monorail and go. So, yes, in theory it’s fantastic. And scenic! But at night, when you’ve just gorged on a huge meal or you’re just plain exhausted from walking all day, that 10 minute walk isn’t that pleasant. You just want to get in bed. So I’m not sure how I felt about that. It seemed that our building was fairly centrally located in terms of all 3 departure points (regular monorail, TTC to EPCOT, and bus), but none felt very close. I thought back to staying at Port Orleans French Quarter, where the bus dropped us off from every park quite near our building (granted, it could’ve been a longer walk if we had a further out building) and I kinda prefer the bus. Ok, maybe I’m just lazy. But really, you do a lot of walking at Disney, so whatever.

Map of the Polynesian

Map of the Polynesian

Anyway, overall we liked the resort and thought it was beautiful, but I’m pretty sure we’re done with concierge. We just don’t need it. It’s not worth the money for us just to get the free food. We’ll stick with bringing small breakfasty items which, admittedly is much easier when driving there, but I’ve heard about services that deliver groceries to you at the resort, so maybe I’ll look into that. Or, we could just use snack credits. Also, I’m pretty sure our next trip will be at one of the value resorts (or possibly back to the moderate POFQ if the price difference isn’t too big) – I’ve heard POP Century isn’t bad and, from the pictures, All Star Music doesn’t look bad either (plus I believe it was the most recently renovated of the values). We talked to a mom and daughter (both adults) while we were there that were staying at POP. They told us they got a great deal, something like $50 a night, and that their philosophy was that it was just a place to rest their heads, so the resort was fine. I’m open to adopting that philosophy if it means we can go back sooner!  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to splurge every once in a while (well, every once in a LONG while) and try some of the other nice resorts like Wilderness Lodge (I’ve heard it’s fantastic at Christmas time), Beach Club (being close to EPCOT would be super handy since most of our dinners are there), and Animal Kingdom Lodge (I just like animals, so I think a Savannah view would be lovely), but in the meantime, I loved POFQ and would gladly go back and again, I’d happily adopt a “cheap gets you there more often” philosophy and try out the values.

Next up: Magic Kingdom post!

EDIT: Ok, so much for the last vacation for a while. We’ve already got 2 more planned. One with my family, which has actually been planned for a while, and as I was working on this post (slowly), we booked one more shorter trip for our anniversary. But! The whole “last vacation purposely just the two of us” still stands – you never know what could happen between now and then (no, I’m not hiding anything).