A Big Blue World at AoA with the Fab Four - Nov. 24-28, 2012 TR *Updated 5/17/14
Hi everyone! I've been wanting to do this TR ever since we returned from WDW. I'm finally getting to it! :yay:
The seeds of this trip were planted on New Year's Eve 2011. I was very sad after my sweet 13-year old dog died just before Christmas. I was spending NYE with 2 friends, one of which (J, you'll meet him in a moment) is a huge Disney buff, to the point that his friends & family surprised him at WDW for his 30th birthday. As we waited to ring in 2012, I told J that I hadn't been to WDW since 2000, and I really wanted to go. That's all it took, the planning started right then! We decided to go in mid-October so we could enjoy the Food & Wine Festival, and to celebrate both our birthdays, which are both around that time.
I registered on the DISboards on January 7, 2012, and started getting serious on my planning! By January 11th, we were booked at POFQ in a Royal Room, just the 2 of us. We made a few ADRs, and we were all set... until August, when we both had work conflicts come up for mid-October! :headache: So we decided to go right after Thanksgiving, hoping for smaller crowds. POFQ didn't have any rooms, so we booked at CBR instead. Cut to September, and 2 of our friends, G and S, wanted to come with us - the more, the merrier, right? ;) With 4 adults, we decided that we'd like some more room to spread out. AoA was brand-new and looked beautiful. We lucked out and were able to get a Finding Nemo suite there - best decision we could've made, having that bedroom and 2 full baths! We tried to make new ADRs, but choices were limited with less than 60 days til our trip. The countdown was reset, and it wasn't long before it was time to go to WDW! :goodvibes
A quick intro to our Fab Four:
That's me. I'm single, mid-30s, and I love all things Disney (especially the Muppets!). I'm originally from Indiana, but I've lived and worked in NYC for 10 years now. I'm a big planner, I had a massive spreadsheet for this trip! I resolved after this trip to not let another 13 years pass before I return to WDW!
My most excellent friend and fellow Disney buff, J (seen here at IOA at the WWOHP). He's like a brother to me, I've known him for many years. You'll see that he loves to ham it up. J grew up in Florida, so he was a WDW regular (lucky!). He's in his early 30s, married, works in NYC, and lives in NJ.
My wonderful friend, G - he took a liking to this Slytherin robe at WWOHP. Despite that, he has one of the kindest hearts of anyone I know. He grew up spending summers at WDW and also spent his honeymoon at WDW. He lives and works in NYC.
Meet S! He gives the best bear hugs, and he's a goof, I love him. S is single, early 30s, lives and works in NJ.
So that's the cast of characters... and trust me, they are characters! ;) I hope you'll stick around for the updates. Enjoy!
Trip Reports by Day (a work in progress)
Day 1 - Saturday, November 24, 2012
Part 1 - Magical Express, take me away to the AoA!
Part 2 - "How have I never tasted this before?"
Part 3 - Mountains and Mansions and Castles, oh my!
Part 4 - "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow"
Part 5 - Almost as bad as rush hour in NYC
Day 2 - Sunday, November 25, 2012
Part 1 - Did everyone disapparate or what?
Part 2 - Poolside Plunge at The Drop Off? Don't mind if I do!
Part 3 - When we accidentally stumbled upon the Osborn Lights!
Day 3 - Monday, November 26, 2012
Part 1 - The Captain EO Comeback!
Part 2 - Tequila makes you try on goofy souvenirs!
Part 3 - A Grand Marnier Slushie makes it all better!
Day 4 - Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Day 5 - Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Oh yay! I'm in!
I am in, will be at AoA in June of 14, so excited to hear your review!
Day 1, Part 1 - Magical Express, take me away to the AoA!
The day was finally here! I was beyond excited. Since we had an early flight out of Newark, I spent the night at J's, and his DH took us to the airport. S met up with us there. G was already in Florida, visiting his parents for Thanksgiving. The plan was for G to meet us at AoA, along with J's parents, who drove up from Miami.
Flight was on time, everything was good. Then we saw the line for the Magical Express. :scared1: It looked so long! Luckily, the buses were coming close together. We still waited for over 30 minutes and finally made it onto the 3rd bus. I just wanted to get to WDW already! I was so antsy.
We were the first resort dropped off. :) The other 2 resorts on our ME were POP and CBR. We walked into the AoA lobby... beautiful! It was so Disney, I loved it. The animation was truly amazing.
The animation wall in the lobby, opposite the check-in area.
There was free lemonade and cookies sitting out for everyone. And there sat G with J's parents - perfect!
Me, S and J with J's mom, with check-in behind us
We explored a little as J checked us in, which seemed to be a very smooth process. This animation wall was very impressive...
And so was the AoA Christmas tree!
It was 1:00 PM, and our room was ready - yes! :banana: J's parents were also staying at AoA in the Cars Land section, but their room wasn't ready yet. The rest of us went to check out our Finding Nemo suite. We were in Building 5, just past The Big Blue Pool, on the 2nd floor. The hallways smelled so new and fresh, and the artwork was so colorful and beautiful.
We made it to our room. A Mickey towel awaited us on the bed.
Bedroom with a queen bed and adjoining full bathroom
TV and dresser in bedroom
The 2nd bathroom, of course wonderfully themed. A door separated the toilet and tub/shower.
We really loved our suite. It was perfect for 4 adults who brought a lot for 5 days, and then of course we bought more! :) I slept on the sofabed one night - it was fine, as far as sofabeds go. J slept on the Murphy bed that pulled down from the table, he said it was comfortable. The bed in the bedroom was very comfortable. There was a tiny kitchenette, tucked beside the sofa, with a small fridge and microwave.
Up next... our first park!
Day 1, Part 2 - "How have I never tasted this before?"
Of course, a bus came from every other park before one came for our park of choice. When it finally came, after about a 20-minute wait, we were ready!
We were off to the Magic Kingdom, a natural choice for our first park. Since J's parents were only going to 1 park, they wanted to see the New Fantasyland, which was fine with us! Let the memories begin!
As we used our KTTW cards for the first time, something amusing and somewhat annoying happened to me that would become a gag among us - the scanner had a very difficult time reading my fingerprint! This happened several times, at both WDW and IOA. I started joking that I was really in the Witness Protection Program. :rolleyes2 But I finally made it through, and we walked under the tunnel and onto Main Street USA!
I hadn't been to WDW at holiday time since I was probably 5 years old, so everything seemed so new to me with the holiday decorations. They were gorgeous, especially on Main Street USA!
As soon as we started walking down Main Street, I heard a shriek from G - one of his favorite Aristocats was nearby! G insisted on getting a photo. I had no idea he was such a big fan. The things you learn about friends on vacation! ;)
As we walked down Main Street, Cinderella's Castle came into better view. It took my breath away, it looked so magnificent!
At the hub, we took a left toward Frontierland. It was 3:00 PM, and we hadn't yet had lunch, so we went to a very crowded Pecos Bill's Cafe for some food. Even on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the line moved quickly, and the 6 of us squeezed around a 4-person table. The food was good for quick service food. I was just so happy to be there, it really didn't matter what I was eating!
We decided over lunch to experience the Country Bear Jamboree, our first attraction, and a favorite of mine as a child. It didn't disappoint! I took this at the part that they do allow photography, of course I always follow the rules while at WDW! ;)
Next up... Adventureland! You can sense the excitement building. :)
We checked the POTC wait, which was under 30 minutes - perfect! The line moved quickly, and we all really enjoyed it. That's one of J's absolute favorites, he was very happy!
I don't remember who it was, but someone in our group then insisted that we had to go buy Dole Whips. I guess I'm not as big of a Disney fan as I thought, because I'd never heard of a Dole Whip. Somehow, through all my trips to WDW, I had never experienced the Enchanted Tiki Room, and I'd never had a Dole Whip! :confused: Well, we remedied that quickly, at least the Dole Whip part. We decided to save the Enchanted Tiki Room for another day since it was already past 4:00 PM, and we had an ADR at 8:00 PM.
When I took my first taste of that Dole Whip, I couldn't believe that I had never tasted it before now! It was literally one of the best things I've ever tasted in my life. I got the pineapple-vanilla swirl. S got the pineapple float but said after tasting ours, he wished he'd gotten ours - he only got one bite of mine, the rest was for me! It was SO GOOD!!! :goodvibes
Next up... a Splash Mountain breakdown, our first peek at the New Fantasyland, and our first taste of LaFrou's Brew!
I'm in. Loving this!!
Day 1, Part 3 - Mountains and Mansions and Castles, oh my!
OK, so by this time it was around 4:30 PM, give or take a few. We were near Splash Mountain, and the wait wasn't bad at all, so we got in line. Just as we entered the boarding area, it broke down. :sad2: Splash Mountain is one of my all-time favorite rides, and the sad part is I had only been on it once before, when I visited WDW in 2000 with friends. We rode it at night during the parade (a great time to ride it, as it was practically empty with no line). I was in the front seat and got wet, but I loved every second of it. I had high hopes for another ride on our first day at MK this time around, but it wasn't meant to be. Moving on then, we had a lot of ground to cover and still make it to our 8:00 PM ADR!
We walked through Liberty Square and decided to bypass HM for now, because the main priority was to show J's parents (and see for ourselves) the new Fantasyland additions. We were not disappointed! We walked by Prince Eric's castle and a very long line for Under the Sea. That wasn't going to happen today on our tight timeframe, but it was great to see it just the same, and exciting to see the construction happening for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train!
We walked through Belle's Village, also very busy, and stopped at Gaston's Tavern for LaFrou's brew. I liked it but didn't love it. To me, it tasted like fizzy apple juice. I doubt I'd pay for it again. The guys really liked it, though.
Here is the Beast's castle off in the distance, with BOG underneath it.
As we walked back to the older part of Fantasyland, G insisted that we all stop and see Mickey's PhilharMagic. S and I had never seen it, but everyone said how great it was. So we got in line and timed it well, we were inside in just a few minutes. I have to say, I loved it! Such a fun experience. I will definitely do that again next time I'm at MK.
J's all-time favorite attraction is The Haunted Mansion. We still had plenty of time before our FP window for Space Mountain (G and I had gone to get the 4 of us FPs for SM when everyone else was in the long line at Aloha Isle for Dole Whips). So we walked back to Liberty Square and waited for maybe 30 minutes for HM. We went through the interactive queue, really fun!
It was just about dusk, so it was the perfect opportunity for some great photos of nearby BTMRR.
I loved the HM, especially the new special effects! It was also relaxing, as we'd been walking for some time before that.
Next Up: Time for Tomorrowland, and MK all lit up and festive at night!
I'm going to update more very soon, promise! I've been working on my scrapbook for this trip as well, so that consumed most of my time this past weekend.
Joining in!! We were there at the same time and we stayed at AoA as well...we were in the Little Mermaid section! We were also at MK on this day too..woohoo! Looking forward to see if anything else overlaps.
More to come soon, promise! Thanks for joining in!
Day 1 Part 4 - "It's a great big beautiful tomorrow"
By now it was about 6:00 PM, not quite time for our Space Mountain FPs to be used. It was now dark, and I absolutely love the MK at night! We walked from Fantasyland toward Tomorrowland. I enjoyed seeing the castle from the back and side, different viewpoints but still so pretty.
Not the best photo, but at least you can see the holiday decorations on the back of the castle.
We wandered around Tomorrowland, taking it all in. We debated what to ride. G and I considered riding Astro Orbiter but decided to wait. S is a smoker, so every once in awhile he would wander off - let me tell you, we now know where all the smoking places are in the MK, because we'd have to meet S there. I'm so glad I quit several years ago!
Anyway, we decided to visit Carousel of Progress. I don't ever remember 'riding' this attraction before. I found it somewhat charming, but also so out of date now - we were mainly laughing throughout it, and of course we were singing "It's a great big beautiful tomorrow" after the first scene - that song never quite goes out of my head! :eek: ;)
Finally, it was time to use our Space Mountain FPs. We had just a short wait in the FP line. I was nervous! Quick side story: When I was probably 6 or 7, I was riding the TTA with my parents and little brother. My dad had convinced me to ride Space Mountain with him for the first time until the TTA went through the ride - scared me to death, all in the dark with cars flying by and people screaming! Of course, our next trip, I rode it and loved it. I really enjoyed it this time as well, I just didn't remember it feeling so fast! I know part of that is because it's in the dark, but wow - it's a really great coaster! We all loved it.
It was time to head back to Main Street and meet up with J's parents so we could make our 8:00 PM ADR at the Grand Floridian Cafe. As we walked over the bridge from Tomorrowland, a PhotoPass photographer stopped us and asked us if we wanted a photo with the castle in the background. It turned out to be one of my favorite photos from the trip!
The castle is just so beautiful all lit up at night, I couldn't get enough of it!
Main Street was just as gorgeous, all lit up, and the holiday decorations really made it special. I could've stayed there all night, taking it all in, except that I was getting hungry, and it was very crowded!
We were back to where we'd started earlier that day, at the front of the MK, and it was time to take the monorail to the Grand Floridian!
Coming up... a monorail breakdown, and the beautiful Grand Floridian all decked out for the holidays!
Day 1, Part 5 - Almost as bad as rush hour in NYC
We just left the MK, the Fab Four plus J's parents. As we started up the ramp to the monorail station, we noticed a huge crowd waiting for the monorail. This was around 7:30 PM, normally plenty of time to get the monorail to the GF for an 8:00 PM ADR. We debated getting out of line to take the boat to the GF, but it also had a huge line, and one full boat was just about to leave the dock. At that point, we still thought our best bet was to wait for the monorail. :rolleyes: Now wouldn't you think that at 7:30 PM on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, monorails would be arriving every 5-10 minutes at least? We waited 20 minutes, no monorail, and keep in mind there was already a sizable crowd before we got there! We were clearly going to be late for our ADR. G's parents had gone to Sea World for the day (I know, why not WDW? I tried not to judge them too harshly. ;) ) So we were texting his parents to see if they were already at the GF and could check in for us, but they were having parking difficulties.
Finally, a monorail came, only it was almost as bad as rush hour in New York City - people were crammed in, people behind us were pushing us, but we still didn't make it on. :sad2: The only thing that made it better than NYC was that regardless of this, we were still in WDW. :) Another one came in just a few minutes, thank goodness. Being the New Yorkers we are, the 4 of us squeezed in around some strollers and EMVs to get nice and cozy with some people, while J's parents squeezed into some seats. The crowd behind us still waiting for the monorail was daunting. Clearly, something had gone very wrong with the monorail system that night!
I usually enjoy taking the monorail and going through the Contemporary, and I don't remember ever going to the Poly or the GF on it. But I was so worried about us missing our ADR, not to mention trying to shuffle around while people pushed past to get off the monorail and then on from the resorts, that I couldn't really enjoy the glimpses we got of the Contempory or the Poly. Finally, we made it to the GF, but then we had to find the restaurant! :rolleyes: I had never been to the GF, but J kinda knew where we were going. By this time, G's parents had parked and had checked in. Once we arrived at the Grand Floridian Cafe, it was past 8:30 PM - yes, it took us over an hour to get from the MK to the GF Cafe! Craziness.
But now comes the good part - after a full day of traveling, then motoring through the MK, then the monorail fiasco, we finally got to let down and relax and just visit with each other - so nice! Our server at the GF was terrific. When we arrived, the place was mostly empty - she said that they'd received word to be flexible with everyone's ADRs because apparently the monorail had indeed broken down, and it was expected that everyone would be very late. Phew! The 8 of us had a really lovely dinner - I wish I'd taken photos of our meals and drinks, but they were all very good. I really liked the vibe in the GF Cafe, too - it was refined yet casual, if that makes sense.
The quick glances I had of the resort as we'd made our way from the monorail to the GF Cafe were gorgeous. After a great dinner, we explored the GF. I was in awe of the main Christmas tree - I mean, COME ON! It was beyond beautiful! I had to sit next to it.
The life-size gingerbread house was very impressive - I think I could live in it. :)
I took several more photos, but everyone was very tired after a very long day, so we decided it was time to say goodbye to G's parents, who were driving back to their home in Sarasota, and head back to AoA. But how would we get there?
We weren't ready to trust the monorail again, so we decided to take the boat back to the MK, and then catch a bus to the AoA from there. We waited maybe 10 minutes for the boat, not bad except that it was windy and cold. I was OK in my hooded sweatshirt, but J's parents from Miami were cold. :) We were able to see the very end of the Water Pageant, which was very cool - I'd never seen that before. And as the boat neared the MK, we saw Wishes starting! We were so tired, though, and we wanted to beat the crowds, so we headed to the AoA bus line. The line itself was already very long, but buses were coming fast - we only waited 20 minutes, I was sure it would be longer.
We said goodnight to J's parents, who were staying in a Cars suite, and headed to our new home, our Finding Nemo suite. We were all beat and certainly didn't do much but get ready for bed. We had to be up at a decent time the next morning because J's parents were going to drop us off at Universal Orlando on their way back to Miami. I was so excited to check out for the first time the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
Coming up... Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, butterbeer, Jurassic Park, Ripsaw Falls, and more at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure! Plus a food court review of breakfast at AoA.
Following along! :goodvibes
Enjoying your report!! :)
Hi & thanks for writing this! Loving it so far & can't wait to hear about WWOHP! I'll be going there for the first time in Feb, 2014. :banana:
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