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Old 02-05-2009, 06:25 PM   #1
JenniBarra
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Our Animal Kingdom Lodge Adventure: 1/26 - 2/2

Day 1: Monday, 1/26: travel time/F! in evening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Vacation Arrival Info / Transportation Plans:
Land in Orlando at 4PM. Take DME to AKL.

Dining:

Dinner – Hot dog and nachos while waiting for Fantasmic! to begin.

Entertainment – Fantasmic! 8:30PM showing (second show was added to schedule)

Comments: We had been booked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for a standard room due to 4 days/nights paid/get 3 days/nights for free. It was our first time staying at the hotel and we considered it a stretch, even at standard rate. (We typically stay in a moderate.) The hotel is currently experiencing construction across the way due to building of the Kidani Villas (Disney Vacation Club) and the plan had been to remove the animals mid-month from the neighboring savanna to acclimate them to the change. We were placed in a room on the Kudu Trail – a savanna view! Needless to say, I was literally moved to tears. (I was embarrassed, but DH said he thinks I made the cast member’s day with my response.) Ever since we made our first visit to AKL to dine at Boma, I had talked about how, at least once, I would like to stay in a savanna view room. We had always figured this would involve a split stay and now we were going to spend a whole week there!

It was hard to pull ourselves away from the view of our room, but we did want to make it to the Studios, to see Fantasmic! We finally got to the park and headed to the stadium, only to have a cast member tell us that the 7PM show was full… but that a second show had been added in the meantime. He suggested we check out the first finale show of the “American Idol Experience” and that would give us plenty of time to arrive back for seating for the second F! show. Before doing that, we took a peek at the Toy Story Midway Mania line, to see how to plan for riding it later on in the trip. It was an 80 minute standby wait – a “short” wait a friend told us later on! We then headed to see “American Idol” where we would eventually witness the first Dream Ticket (front of line pass to be auditioned for the actual show) being awarded. Then it was back to see that second Fantasmic! showing. While we waited, DH hunted up some food. (Who knew a plain old hot dog could taste so good after a day of flying?) The show was terrific, though I still finding myself loving the stadium seating and yet feeling underwhelmed by the steam boat finale as compared to Disneyland.

Having gotten up at 3-something Disneyland Time, I’m now looking forward to going to bed on Disney World Time!



Day 2: Tuesday, 1/27: Animal Kingdom/Epcot

Dining:

Breakfast – Food from the Mara. Ate outside on the balcony.

Lunch – Flame Tree BBQ, Animal Kingdom

Dinner – Garden Grill, Epcot

Entertainment – IllumiNations at Epcot

Comments: We enjoyed watching the animals during our breakfast on the balcony. How many places are there where you can wake up to seeing giraffes and zebras outside your window?

It seemed appropriate to start off our first full day with a visit to Animal Kingdom. It’s a gorgeous day outside.

We finally saw “Finding Nemo – the Musical” – wow! It’s really cool how the puppeteers aren’t meant to simply blend into the background with this show. At times, it was hard to decide whether to watch the puppet or the puppeteer!

Another first for us was eating at the Flame Tree BBQ. It usually seems to be closed the time of year that we go so it was nice to finally have a chance to check it out. We had a beautiful view of the waterway – and some added entertainment from the ducks and other birds who kept cruising, waiting (im)patiently to see if any crumbs might fall to the ground.

Around the time we finished lunch, some local friends arrived at the park to meet up with us. We rode Kilimanjaro Safaris and wandered the various exploration trails. We found that gorillas can be very stinky – pew! (When excited, they release pheromones.) We also got to see a meerkat on watch duty. This was especially a thrill for me as I am used to only seeing this on TV when watching Animal Planet’s “Meerkat Manor” show.

Eventually, we needed to make our way to Epcot for our dinner reservation. After saying goodbye to our friends and thanking them for the lift, we part ways.

We started off our visit to Epcot with a trip to Spaceship Earth. I really miss the previous version of this attraction. While I like Dame Judi Dench as an actress, I found Jeremy Irons’ narration much more awe inspiring. Additionally, I miss the animatronics from the second half. I would rather have seen the interactive portion of this attraction be an addition to the exit area or in Innoventions. After sending off a digital postcard and playing around with some of the exhibits in the exit area, it’s time to head to the Land for dinner.

Our dinner at Garden Grill is excellent as always. (The not so great part is that we tried several days earlier and even that same day to expand our reservation to include our friends – and then we get seated at a booth that would have accommodated everyone!) The characters come through a couple times. My husband makes a point of sympathizing with Pluto about how terrible it is that there are children who love to yank his tail or tongue. Not even a minute later, a kid walks by and demonstrates this very behavior, prompting a “See – you got it!” expression from poor Pluto.

After dinner, we decide we might as well hang out a little longer and catch IllumiNations. Just as great as in the past (aside from my forgetting that the globe does move out during the show so we were not able to see it for the later part of the show due to an obstruction.)



Day 3: Wednesday, 1/28: Disney’s Hollywood Studios/Epcot/Animal Kingdom

Dining:

Breakfast – Breakfast on balcony.

Lunch – Coral Reef, Epcot

Dinner – Took Mara food back to room.

Comments: We again started our day with breakfast on the balcony. It’s looking to be another gorgeous day…

Yes, we went through *three* gates today, but I figured it would be a nice trip on the boat between the Studios and Epcot.

I knew we would need a plan of attack if we wanted to ride Toy Story Midway Mania. The problem is that DH is the faster walker but doesn’t know his way around the World as well as I do. (I wanted him to get us Fastpasses and then we would wait in the standby line.) It ends up this wasn’t a problem at all as most of the crowd was headed that way anyway. He was making such good time, he didn’t even realize that Disney actually had cast members to guide the crowd so he actually had to slow down when he found out he passed the lead CM! Wow – what a fun attraction! I caught on instantly, much to the consternation of DH. I was far in the lead until the final game.

While waiting for our Fastpass window to open up for our second ride, we did the Great Movie Ride. I was amused that we clearly had some Oz fans with us, as they sang along during that particular section of the attraction. It is one of the best parts of the attraction, after all!

I would liked to have caught some shows before we left this park, but they were all scheduled too close to our lunch reservation or for the afternoon. (Neither of us is really into Tower of Terror or Rock ‘n Roller Coaster so we had already covered our rides.) My hope was to catch up on these later.

We arrived in Epcot in plenty of time for our dining reservation. The Coral Reef was a first for both of us. It’s really a very pretty restaurant besides having such a great view of the aquarium. Our lunch tasted fantastic as well and we had a great server.

I thought it would be appropriate afterward to ride The Seas with Nemo & Friends. I think the queue is particularly creative and well done.

We followed this up with Turtle Talk. I was actually fortunate enough to get in to the press opening of the attraction at Disneyland Resort and also saw Crush locally during the cross-country tour a couple years ago so I am well-acquainted with the show. DH, on the other hand, had yet to experience this so I was looking forward to his reaction. (I had prepared him by telling him to think of what kind of question he might have for Crush.) He was very diligent about continuing to raise his hand and, eventually, Crush did call upon him. DH complimented Crush on how great he looks for his age and asked how he keeps himself looking so well. Crush was, of course, flattered! (The secret, by the way, is salt water and turtle wax.)

Once we left this pavilion, I realized that this day might be our best chance to see Miyuki the taffy artist in action. She is just as incredible as everyone says she is. What I had not expected is how amazingly fast she is.

By this time, DH was feeling in need of our break so our intention had been to head to France to catch Impresions de France, only we spied a Japanese storyteller beginning to set up. She pulled DH from the crowd to participate and he ended up being quite the crowd pleaser, emoting the feelings and actions of the main character. As we began to finally make our way to France, a few guests recognized him and made a point of telling him what a great job he’d done.

The afternoon had flown by and soon it would be time for the evening Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom. The park was just closing to non-Disney hotel guests so we got to see a little send-off with Fab Five before we headed into the Oasis. We had just enough time before the extra Festival of the Lion King showing to catch Dinosaur. We didn’t stay for the full three hours, but I was looking forward to spending some time back at the hotel.

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed having some food in our room from the Mara and taking it easy until it was late enough to check out the night animal viewing. The night vision goggles are amazing! It looked as bright as day viewing through them and we could see a giraffe off in the distance.

When we came back to our room, there were a few animals on the savanna. We could not quite tell what they were, but it was so quiet that we could hear the munching as they chewed on the vegetation.



Day 4: Thursday, 1/29: Epcot/’Ohana meet

Dining:

Breakfast – Breakfast on the balcony.

Lunch – Tangierine Café, Morocco, Epcot

Dinner – ‘Ohana, The Polynesian

Entertainment – Wishes fireworks from ferry dock at the Transportation and Ticket Center

Comments: After breakfast on the balcony, I didn’t see any animals for a while. DH was still getting ready for the day and dealing with some family stuff back at home so I headed off to Epcot on my own.

I enjoyed my alone time by checking out Mouse Gear, doing the single rider line at Test Track (where I got to take one of those red card lanyards to the loading CM and did indeed see the wait time change when I exited the attraction), and riding Journey Into Imagination.

When DH finally arrived, we took the Land boat ride. I don’t know what happened, but our boat slowed down and eventually just stopped for a while. I will say that, at one point, I heard the sound of a siren and it seemed close by. After a while, though, we began moving once again. DH missed out on the ride evacuation I think he was beginning to hope for. We both have a fascination with the behind the scenes stuff of Disney parks.

On our way toward World Showcase, we signed up for a Kim Possible mission.

By now we were getting hungry so I suggested we check out the Tangierine Café. We regularly eat Mediterranean, Afghani, and Persian food so this was more to our liking than our previous experience with Restaurant Marrakesh. Unlike our sunshine only of the previous couple days, we had to hurry our lunch inside when it began to rain on us outside.

After lunch, DH needed to make some phone calls so I told him he could catch up with me in Canada where I would be watching Off Kilter. The show was going well until the band launched into their last song and, partway through, a deluge came down. Everyone was scrambling for whatever shelter could be found. (I was amused to see one man running frantically with his hand over his glass of beer, afraid of the water diluting it.) I have never before experienced rain like this when visiting Florida – it was constant and went on for hours.

I had an umbrella so we decided to go ahead and embark on our Kim Possible mission in the United Kingdom, anyway. (Even if we had not done it, we still would have needed to return our Kimmunicator cell phone before we left the park.) Thankfully, all of tasks were under shelter, but we still had to go between shop to shop and my umbrella wasn’t really big enough for two. DH was stoic, but I decided it was worth it to just buy a poncho. (I had one back at the hotel, but with it as sunny as it had been earlier that day, it felt like packing the umbrella would be sufficient. Boy, did we get surprised!)

After we finished our quest, DH was trying to figure out an inventive way to get back to the hotel. He was sure that there would be less walking if he took at boat to the Studios and then a bus to the hotel from there. I said I thought it would be faster to just brave the trek back to Future World and catch a direct bus from the front of the park. He asked if I wanted to race, and I agreed. Even with having to wait a while for the bus, I beat him with plenty of time to spare! (He still insists that he was the drier party, though.)

After a break at the hotel, I had originally been planning to head to the Magic Kingdom to catch Spectromagic. I was sure that, if the rain didn’t stop, there would be no point. Instead we made our plans on how we were going to instead get to the Polynesian from our hotel rather than the park.

In the end, we caught a bus to Epcot with the intention of taking the monorail to the TTC. Once at the TTC, we were trying to decide whether to just walk to the Poly from there or take the local monorail. I began to hear the music from Wishes. I had sure that we were being psyched out, that this music just automatically plays at the same time each night…and then we heard the pop of the first fireworks. I guess it had cleared just long enough for the fireworks to get the go-ahead. We watched the fireworks from the ferry launch, which was actually a terrific spontaneous viewing spot.

We then had dinner at ‘Ohana with some other local friends. The meal was great, as always.

I was glad someone was able to give us a ride back to the hotel afterward because it was late and I was fully prepared to pay for a taxi rather than have to do the Downtown Disney transfer. I was definitely ready for bed!



Day 5: Friday, 1/30: Magic Kingdom/Animal Kingdom Lodge activities

Dining:

Breakfast – Mara food court, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Lunch – Starlight Ray’s Cosmic Cafe

Dinner – Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Event or Activity – Animal Kingdom Lodge culinary tour

Comments: It’s still really wet again this morning. It looks like we weren’t the only ones taking their time to get ready this morning. Even though I go to the Mara at a time when all of the parks are already open, the place is packed. Rather than try to find a table inside, I decide to join the other hardy souls who are out on the patio, under the umbrella tables. Not an ideal breakfast spot in this weather, but it works.

Originally, I was considering beginning the day at the Studios, to catch up on the shows, but I still felt out of sorts about missing Magic Kingdom due to yesterday’s rain. It just didn’t feel right to be so late in the trip and still not have visited. So, while DH takes care of the laundry, I head off to the Magic Kingdom on my own. (I’m the bigger Disney fan so we have learned to balance my eagerness to visit the parks with his own want to take his time getting ready in the mornings. I enjoy getting to ride the things he’s not so crazy about or doing a favorite over and over again while he can be leisurely prepping for the day.)

The bus doesn’t get very far before we have to slow down for a couple of birds crossing in the middle of the road. I’m still trying to keep an eye out for rabbits since they look so distinctly different from the wild bunnies in my own part of the country. Usually, we like to stay at Port Orleans Riverside where rabbit sightings are quite common.

This is also the day that I start to notice both the dance/cheer groups and football fans out in force. Thankfully, this actually doesn’t seem to have too much of a negative impact on the park crowds.

Main Street is buzzing with activity. As I peruse the books in one of the shops, someone stands next to me and comments that I have “discovered the lending library” and that, “with a deposit, you may take books.” It ends up the stores were full of costumed turn of the century characters and one of them had just crossed my path. Outside, the double decker bus has dropped off a group of dancers and they perform the welcome medley.

The longest wait seems to be around 20 minutes so I go on ride after ride. The one place that seems to be packed is Cosmic Ray’s.

Eventually, DH texts and asks where I am. He meets up with me at the exit of the Haunted Mansion, but I go ahead and ride a second time with him to see if I can spot the hidden Jack Skellingtons. Alas, I could not find either one, nor would I find them after a third ride later in the weekend. I seem to have better luck finding hidden things when I don’t know about them beforehand!

We head back to the hotel so that we will make it to the Animal Kingdom Lodge culinary tour on time. It seemed an appropriate day to take the tour as we would be dining at Boma a short while later. It was very interesting to learn about the various features of the décor at Boma and Jiko. (For example, ever having eaten with a large party at Boma, I would never have known about the two tables shaped like the African continent.) The food samples were delicious as well. Despite several visits to Boma, DH had never tried the famous zebra domes and now he is a big fan. It was nice to be able to follow up this tour by actually eating all of the wonderful foods we saw being prepared.

We took a break after dinner and then returned downstairs to catch a cultural safari. Our guide was from South Africa and talked about the “Big Five” – the five animals considered the biggest trophies by hunters and how we can protect them.

Though it was a bit cold that evening, we made a quick trip to the night vision lookout point. Not much to see tonight…



Day 6: Saturday, 1/31: Epcot/Disney’s Hollywood Studios/Spectro


Dining:

Breakfast – breakfast on balcony

Lunch – Yorkshire County Fish Shop, United Kingdom, Epcot

Dinner – Beaches and Cream, Beach Club

Entertainment – SpectroMagic

Comments: It was off to Epcot to check out Innoventions and finish touring World Showcase. The plan was to play around in Innoventions until about the time World Showcase opened.

At Innoventions, we were like little kids jumping up and down to slam doors and test hinges and making robotic arms play music. I thought Stormstruck was interesting because I come from a part of the country where earthquakes are a bigger threat than fierce storms.

Once in World Showcase, the plan was to work our way toward the International Gateway and a late lunch of fish and chips. Along the way, we rode the boat in Mexico, sampled school bread in Norway, watched the miniature trains between Germany and Italy, took in the American Adventure, and browsed the department store in Japan before making our way to the tin toy exhibit. After that walk, we were very ready for those fish and chips!

We then took the boat from Epcot to the Studios. We had a very entertaining boat captain – we exchanged Disney trivia with her the whole way.

Unfortunately, our time in the Studios was limited and the show schedule didn’t mesh well with our need to leave by a certain time for SpectroMagic. We mostly just browsed a few shops.

Off to the Magic Kingdom! While we weren’t early enough to camp out on the curb, we found a good spot to stand behind the earlier arrivers. While it doesn’t have the sentimental value to me that the Main Street Electrical Parade does, I like this parade - especially the finale until with its shift from white lights to color. Oh, and I’m also glad that the Spectro-Men don’t have those creepy masks anymore!

After the parade, we jet over to the TTC to get picked up by friends. We head over to the Beach Club for a late dinner and ice cream at Beaches and Cream – yum!



Day 7: Sunday, 2/1: Magic Kingdom

Dining:

Breakfast – breakfast on balcony

Lunch – Columbia Harbor House, Magic Kingdom

Dinner – Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Entertainment – Wishes fireworks, Magic Kingdom

Comments: Over the last couple of days of the trip, we have been on the hunt for a specific size and color of a polo shirt. While at least one cast member had suggested World of Disney, I had intentionally avoiding going as DH has repeatedly said prior to (and during) the trip to please “be reasonable” in regard to souvenirs. As much as I still want to check out the new T-Rex restaurant, I thought Downtown Disney would be just too much of a temptation! DH kindly offered to head to Downtown Disney while I headed off to Magic Kingdom to see if he could finally procure the shirt. Alas, the shirt was not there, either, but he did bring back a cute pull-over hoodie for me.

Meanwhile, some hometown friends had arrived in Florida the day before and they, too, planned to be in the Magic Kingdom that day. We caught up with them around lunchtime and then enjoyed a few attractions together. (One of those attractions was Splash Mountain. I *don’t* enjoy the drop on this one so the deal was if my husband, a Stitch hater, was going to make me ride, he would have to do Stitch’s Great Escape! I even warned him that Stitch likes chili dogs and is in Experiment 626 mode, but that did not deter him.) They left to take a break mid-afternoon, but we continued to enjoy our afternoon in the park.

Soon it was evening time. We checked out the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse and had a terrific view of the park all lit up. We capped our evening in the park with fireworks close to the hub.

On the bus ride back to the hotel, we had talked about picking up some dinner from the Mara. DH decided that he really, really wanted to see if we could do a walk-up for Boma. It ends up that other guests were either still at Magic Kingdom or watching the Super Bowl because we got seated easily. It was quiet aside from once in a while hearing excited shouts from the bar nearby.

::sigh:: It was our last night already…



Day 8: Monday, 2/2: Animal Kingdom/the flight home

Dining:

Breakfast – breakfast in room

Lunch – Sbarro, Orlando International Airport

Dinner – take-out from California Pizza Kitchen Express, LAX

Comments: This morning was the scramble to repack everything as we were flying out in the afternoon. Even the animals seemed to have packed it up! We really hadn’t seen any since about Saturday and it ends up that the watering hole on our savanna had been emptied some time overnight. I guess they were finally on the big move.

DH commented that we had not really gotten any pictures of the two of us so he decided to ask a cast member to take a picture of us in the lobby of the hotel. Funny how on that very last day we encounter someone from our own city! DH and the CM exchanged comments on how things are in the city these days, what part of the area we live in, and what part of town the CM came from.

It seemed like a good idea to me to bookend our trip with a visit to the Animal Kingdom. After all, it was our first stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Animal Kingdom was the first park we visited that week. We had just enough time to catch another ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris and leisurely browse some of the animal exhibits. On the safari, we saw both a baby giraffe and a baby elephant – so cute!

[Side note: The big hiccup this day is that, Southwest Airlines, who pleased us on the cross-country flight over, manhandled our luggage on the way home. We don’t know which airport it happened at, but a front pocket was partially torn from one suitcase, half the protective feet were ripped off a second, and other damage is evident. Unfortunately, all of the park guides and hotel map I had so carefully saved in a zip top bag were likely in the ripped luggage pocket because I have not yet found them during the unpacking. We will be contacting Disney to see if they can mail replacements.]

I am always sad when it comes time to finally leave, but DH has declared it one of our best trips ever due to our hotel location. I never could have imagined I would get to stay in a savanna view room for a whole week!
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Old 02-07-2009, 01:46 PM   #2
Diamondintheruff
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Sounded like a great time!

What a terrific dusting of magic to be upgraded to a savannah view!

Sounds like you and DH made some magic of your own as well.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 02-07-2009, 04:00 PM   #3
JenniBarra
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diamondintheruff View Post
Sounded like a great time!

What a terrific dusting of magic to be upgraded to a savannah view!

Sounds like you and DH made some magic of your own as well.

Thanks for sharing!
Oh, yes, it was definitely a great trip! Even if we had had standard room, we still would have had a good time, but being upgraded was the icing on the cake!

Thanks for reading my report!
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Old 02-08-2009, 12:25 PM   #4
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Great trip report!

You were so lucky to have received the room upgrade!
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Old 02-08-2009, 12:48 PM   #5
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Great trip report. We checked out of the lodge the day you checked in. It was our first trip there and we also loved it.
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Old 02-08-2009, 07:07 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DisneyNutzy View Post
Great trip report. We checked out of the lodge the day you checked in. It was our first trip there and we also loved it.
Thanks for the kind words, Lucille1963 and DisneyNutzy.

Ah, so you were one of those people I was jealous of, DisneyNutzy. Whenever I am on the last day of a Disney trip, I see those people checking in as I am checking out and I always think, "Oh, they are so lucky that their adventure is just beginning when mine is now ending!"
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