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Old 12-21-2009, 10:38 AM   #1
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 1

Quick Trip Report from December 12 thru 18

Just got back from a week at the World (December 12th thru the 18th). I learned so much from this board, I thought I would give some back. Here is a short summary of our itinerary and some notes on things that we discovered that do not appear to have been widely discussed on Disboards (I apologize if something has been discussed over the past week, I did not check the boards while we were on-site)

Cast: Me (DH) – 44, DW - ??, DD – 12, DS – 9

In general, we had a wonderful time!!! We had been to WDW 3 years ago, so it was not new to my kids, but it was also not routine. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and opted for the deluxe meal plan.

We love the Lodge, my kids call it “our hotel”. I do all the Disney planning, DW wants nothing but to be told what the weather will be like. DW runs a very successful home staging business and takes care of the kids, so I am the one who can steal some time during lunch at the office and at night to assemble the game plan.

We are not real big eaters, so the deluxe plan did not seem to be a logical choice, but one of the things I wanted to enjoy this trip was as many of the best restaurants we could. We planned to use snack credits for bagels and muffins for breakfast, have a table service meal in a park, and a signature or event package meal at night. Generally, this worked out very well, but some of the signature dining turned out to be frustrating (only negative of the whole trip).

We used Small World Vacations as our TA. They were very helpful. Caylie is great!

We also subscribed to Tour Guide Mike. Using his least crowded parks schedule and itineraries were incredible! So worth the $20.

I know most people want to know about the crowds…when we followed TGM, they were very manageable – we never waited more than 20 mins for anything and most waits were just a few minutes. When we deviated from his green parks, they were sizable – but I am sure still far less than peak times.

Also, everyone asks about the decorations. This was our fist trip during the Holidays, so I have nothing to compare it to. In general, I would say they were good. Not dripping with holiday spirit, but enough on Main Street to show that they put a lot of effort into it. Off of Main St, the decorations were much less noticeable.

So, off we went on Saturday, Dec 12! We rented a car this trip (full size for $15 per day on Priceline). If you have room in your budget, I highly recommend renting a car. It was great walking past the huge line of people at the Magical Express station to the rental car counter. 10 minutes later, we were on our way! That alone probably saved us 2 hours. We arrived at the Lodge at about 2 and had ressies at Cali Grill for 5:30, so we headed to the MK. Big mistake! It was packed!!! We could hardly move. We rode the Tea Cups and FP Pooh, and that was it.

Dinner at Cali Grill was great. Their food is very good. Yes, you can probably get better back home for less money, but for resort food, it is top notch. Here we experienced the first of many frustrating signature dining experiences. The meals take way, way, way too long. For a three course meal, 2 hours and 15 minutes is an eternity. Now, I appreciate not being rushed, but the amount of time spent sitting and waiting for something to happen (either a course to come out or settling the bill) is much too long. My 9 year old crashed almost every dinner.

Maybe we did not go to the right places at the Contemporary, but the decorations there really did seem sparse. The Contemporary just seemed incredibly busy, almost like at train station (well, it is part train station), but everyone was in a rush. Not relaxing at all.

Day two, back to MK for rope drop. For those who do not think rope drop is important, think again! It makes a tremendous difference. This was the only rope drop we made. The rest of the days, we showed up 5 or 10 minutes after, and were really at a disadvantage. I will not bore you with which rides we went on, etc. But, by getting to the park at rope drop and Fast Passing Space Mountain, we had a huge jump on the rest of the crowd. It felt like we were at the base of a wave the whole morning! Ahead was a big empty park, behind were masses of people (relatively speaking). We worked our way all the way around the park (riding everything but Jungle Cruise, Pirates and the very little kid rides) before lunch. We had lunch at Liberty Tree – excellent!

Next observation…I really feel badly for people who do not plan their Disney trip. Liberty Tree has a person standing on the front steps turning anyone without a ressie away. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to just wander around from line to line when the park is crowded, and not be able to eat at a sit-down restaurant if you wanted to. Congrats to everyone who reads Disboards – you are doing your family a huge service.

After lunch, heard the Presidents talk, rode Big Thunder and Space Mt via Fast Pass and headed back to the Lodge around 2:30. We had 7:30 reservations at Narcoossee’s (sp?). Went over a little early to see the lobby. Very beautiful!!! The gingerbread house was really impressive. I sat there for 20 minutes watching people take photos and listening to the piano while DD and DW shopped. Those 20 minutes left me with quite a different impression of the GF than when I walked in. At the end of 20 minutes, the lobby felt more like a shopping mall than a hotel lobby. I know may people just love the GF, and there are lots of good reasons to, but the Wilderness Lodge has such a dramatically different pace than the Contemp or the GF. It’s like they say when you enter the Lodge – “Welcome Home” – that’s the pace you have – like home. It is much smaller and much more quiet, and that is how we like it.

BTW, dinner at Narcoossee’s was another marathon. Way too long, but it was delicious.

Day 3 – Epcot. We arrived 10 minutes after rope drop, and waited 20 minutes stand by for Soaring. This is what happens when you miss rope drop, you lose 10 minutes at the first ride, then the wait times are compounded. It was tough to get back on track, so we just did what we could. We had another day in Epcot later in the week, so were not too concerned with covering ground.

Another note…In my family’s humble opinion, the best desert in all of WDW is the chocolate mouse at the patisserie in France (back in the alley). Share it, though, it is very rich.

We cut this day short so I could take the kids to Blizzard Beach. Lots of fun, but also lots of irate adults upon entering. Apparently, not everyone reads these boards and understands that the water parks are extra (either an extra entrance charge or an option on your park tickets). We saw several angry people on the way in who thought they had water parks included in their tickets. It must be a rude surprise to shell out almost $200 for a family of four. Otherwise, lots of fun. This was the only time we went. Next time, I will consider the water park option. It would actually be a great thing to do on a warm rainy day – you are wet anyway, right? The option on the ticket is about $10 more per person than paying to enter once. So, if there is a chance you might go more than once, it is a pretty inexpensive insurance policy.

Dinner this day was at the Yachtsman’s Steak House. Again, too long (and I am a slow eater!!!). Otherwise delicious and very attentive service in terms of getting our orders right and being friendly.

Next day (Dec 15th) was Animal Kingdom. We missed rope drop, here too, but it really did not matter. We rode Everest twice in a row, just waking on – no line at all at 9:30. Walked on Kali, Safari, Bug’s Life and virtually everything else except for the coaster in Dino land. Waited 20 minutes for that and would not recommend waiting more than 5. It is a very violent ride (and no, I am not a wuss, I let my 9 year old run over me in full football gear). Just really jerky… I felt lucky to get off without a wrenched back.

Lunch was at Tusker House. I really did not have high expectations here. Have never been a fan of buffets, but it was really good! Dinner was back at the Lodge at Whispering Canyon – kids needed to yell “KETCHUP” at least once. Early night.

16th was back to Epcot. Again, missing rope drop by a few minutes messed our touring plan up considerably. We felt like we did a lot of running around and backtracking to use FP when we should have ridden the rides if we had made it to the park on time (Test Track broke down right before our lunch ressies, which did not help – had to get our FP back and return later in the day for that one – DD told me she “hated me” for making us leave without riding. She apologized later, but it was not all magic this day). We ate lunch at Coral Reef, saw a bunch of acts in Showcase and did the Candle Light Processional dining package at Chefs de France.

I was born in France and spent a week in France last year, so please do not take this wrong, but Chefs de France epitomizes the French culture and its lack of organization. They did not have a reservation computer at the front, just a list. As people showed up, they crossed their names off the list. Occasionally, the working list would be sent back to the people who assigned tables and the hostess out front would start on a new list. So, if you got there right after they swapped lists, there was no way for you to be seated until the next list swap. We were right on time for 5:30 reservations and waited half an hour.

Important note here, many people were not aware that the CP dining package is 2 table service credits, not the traditional 1 for Chefs. So, the CP package is not free, it actually costs you what you will end up paying out of pocket for another meal later in the trip.

CP was very nice. We got in line a little later than we had planned due to the late seating at Chefs so we were not as close as I had hoped, but it was still very nice.

We saw Spectro from the reserved area for CP dining package participants. That worked out really well, since we arrived just as the show started and where able to stand on a little slope, so being right at the fence line did not really matter.

Next day was Studios, this is the hardest park to tour. DW and DD thought that it was only worth a few hours, but we were there all day. Just a few observations, Toy Story is a mad house – the FP line was 10 minutes at 9:15. We rode it once. Quite honestly, I do not understand the fascination. It is not that great a ride.

Jedi training is for 4 to 12 year olds, but really is for the younger in that range. DS (9) wanted to do it. We arrived 20 minutes early and just missed the cut off for the next show (for those of you who have not heard, they take 12 kids on a first come, first served bases now), so we rode Star Tours and came back to see if it was worth waiting to be in another show. For a 9 year old, it is not worth the wait. DS’ term was “cheap.” Younger kids may get a kick out of being that close to Darth, but after the 2nd or 3rd child doing the same routine and Darth just standing there, the excitement level is is drained.

One surprisingly fun thing was the American Idol attraction. My DD really wanted to do it, so I went along and it was actually really fun. We were lucky to have one really good singer in the group of 3.

Our last day, Friday Dec 18th actually turned out to be our best day at MK. Rain was forecast for the entire day, but DS and I headed out anyway. The park was completely empty and it never rained! DW and DD joined us around 10:30. Pirates, Jungle Cruise, Splash, Big Thunder, etc were all walk-ons. My son said it was the best day of the whole trip and we almost did not go!

Another benefit of having a rental is that we were able to leave the park about 3 hours before our flight (probably could have stayed a little longer). If we had taken Magical Express, we would have lost several hours of park time.

All in all a wonderful trip, but need to have ressies and use a touring plan, otherwise you will be fighting an uphill battle.

Disney wishes to all!

Last edited by fathermurphy; 12-21-2009 at 10:57 AM.
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