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Old 01-06-2011, 05:03 PM   #1

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BirdsOfPreyDave's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Portsmouth, VA
Posts: 5,407

Our 2010 Disneyland Christmas Trip: Why it sucks to be a newbie

We've called Disney World a second home for many years, spending two-to-three weeks there each year. This year, we decided to finally see Disneyland.

One of the unfortunate planning restrictions for us is that, with a school teacher in the family, we always seem to be in the parks during peak seasons. Our Disneyland trip was Christmas week, and boy was it crowded.

We live in Virginia, so the first thing that was really different for us going to Disneyland over Disney World was the travel. We're used to a short, 2-hour, direct morning flight from Norfolk to Orlando, a quick hop to the resort on Disney Magical Express, and being able to be in the parks by lunchtime on our travel day. I'm also accustomed to our airline tickets being a much smaller portion of the overall vacation budget.

Our first newbie issue was trying to figure out which airport to fly into. I knew John Wayne was closer, but chose to fly into LAX so we could use South West. (Probably TMI, but I have a travel consideration that most others don't. Flying with SWA is a huge cost advantage to me because of my weight. I'm very much Pooh-sized, and need to purchase two seats for myself. SWA is the only airline with a workable policy for me. I must purchase the two seats for myself, but if there are any open seats on the plane when it takes off, they'll refund the cost of the second seat. Other airlines won't refund the second ticket unless you purchase an unrestricted refundable ticket, which usually costs three or four times the cost of a typical fare.) Flying SWA into LAX also meant we had to make connections. On our flight west, the connection was in Nashville. Coming home, it was in Denver. I was particularly wary of this when I booked because of the possibility of one of these airports being snowed in that late in December. Three non-refundable seats on another airline, direct flight into John Wayne, were about $300 more than the three seats on SWA into LAX. I really debated spending this and just being done with it. I was concerned about delays or even cancellations with the connections, and being at the farther airport. I also figured that travel on Christmas week would be crowded, and I probably wouldn't get the extra seats refunded by SWA because planes would be packed to capacity. In the end, I went with the SWA tickets. I'm particularly happy with the decision now, as I just talked with SWA's customer relations and got $628.50 refunded for the extra seats. It turned out none of our flights were in an oversold status. This was almost $1000 cheaper than flying into John Wayne would have been.

We didn't have any problems with the connection, but did have some issues at LAX. There was torrential rainfall at the airport when we got there, and they'd closed the airport for departures. This meant there was a plane at the gate we were scheduled to use, so we sat on the tarmac for about 40 minutes. When we claimed our bags it was about 3:30 or so. I found an information desk to ask where to find the "Disneyland Resort Express," and was directed out to the little island in the street outside the arrival doors. We waited there for more than 90 minutes before our bus finally arrived. I don't know if the delay was because of the rain, but this was a far cry from the level of service we're accustomed to with DME at WDW. The little island was also very crowded as we waited because this is also where all the cruise line buses and rental car buses were loading. Cars were also splashing up water from puddles onto the island as they drove by. One of our first videos for the trip is of me, standing on the island with pouring rain in the background. I say to the camera, "Welcome to sunny California! Isn't it magical?" I was in a really foul mood at this point, and was sorely regretting not spending our Christmas trip in Florida.

While we were waiting, several small vans pulled up with "Disneyland Express" on their doors. When we asked, they claimed to be who we were waiting for and were going to take us -- until they found out we'd pre-paid as part of a package. Then they wanted nothing to do with us. The actual bus, operated by Gray Line Tours, finally arrived. There was an issue with a language barrier with the driver that led to some confusion, but we finally got onboard and were heading to Anaheim. When the driver stepped on the bus, he said, "it's only 30 miles, but it will take us an hour or two to get there." I thought he was kidding. He was not. It was rush hour and we sat in stop-and-go traffic most of the way.

The first stop was the Disneyland Hotel, where a Gray Line supervisor boarded the bus and collected vouchers or cash from passengers. (This was what was confusing me at the airport -- that he didn't want to take or scan our tickets.) We were on a Good Neighbor hotel package, so -- of course -- our hotel was the last stop. It was a very long travel day. We left for the airport at 4:30 am Eastern Time, and finally arrived at our hotel about 6:30 pm Pacific Time.

We'd chosen the Embassy Suites Anaheim South as our hotel, and I honestly can't say enough good things about that choice. We were really happy with this hotel (even despite some of the transportation issues I'll go into later). We’re DVC owners, but I’d decided not to use our points for this trip. I thought the points required were far too high, and wanted to save them for our summer WDW trip, instead. So, we paid cash for this trip. In the end, I’m very happy with the decision. One of the most welcome perks of the Embassy Suites that night was the manager's reception. We put our bags up in our room, and immediately headed down for it. The reception included snacks like popcorn and chex mix as well as free soft drinks and cocktails. After a Bloody Mary or two at the reception and a long hot shower in the room, I was back in the vacation spirit again. Disneyland was open until Midnight that night, and since the rain had dropped off to a light mist, we decided to forgo sleep and head on over.

This led to our next transportation issue - figuring out the Anaheim Resort Transport (ART) system. I stopped at the front desk on the way out of the hotel, and was directed to a series of benches across from the portico. There was indeed a sign for ART near these benches, but it didn't give any details regarding operating hours or frequency. We sat there about 40 minutes, and then began to wonder to ourselves if the buses had stopped for the night or something. We walked up to the corner to see if we could hail a taxi, but couldn't find one. Then we noticed several other families waiting at the ART stop, so we headed back there. A bus arrived a few minutes later. It was a quick trip, and we were soon at the park.

As a WDW vet, the first thing that struck me was how small the train station looked. We were even more surprised when a train arrived to see how small it looked.

Main Street was familiar and welcoming. In fact, I'm going to give Disneyland the slight advantage over Magic Kingdom on the overall Main Street look. After many pictures of the buildings in the square and the Christmas tree, our first-ever Disneyland attraction was Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. This is a really well-done show that we really enjoyed. We also enjoyed the exhibits in the waiting area. Seeing the actual bench where Walt came up with the idea to build Disneyland was particularly special.

We took our time walking up Main Street and making note of the differences between California and Florida. (I noticed that some of their fake business names are a little more risqué in Disneyland. I didn't care one way or another myself, but wondered if the palm reader has ever been considered controversial. We saw in the Steve Martin video at the Opera House that there'd once been a brassiere shop.)

As we reached the end of the street, we noticed crowds were beginning to form. After asking a cast member, we found out we'd just happened across perfect timing for the fireworks.

Sleeping Beauty Castle is beautiful -- especially with the Christmas icicles. The fireworks show was wonderful! We were in WDW for Christmas two years ago, and I was trying to remember if it was the same show. I don't believe it was. I remember there being more Disney characters talking in the WDW version. The DLR version was mostly Christmas songs.

At the end of the fireworks, they turned on snow machines to make it snow along Main Street. Unfortunately, the machine adjacent to us wasn't working. However, we could still see the effect farther up the street. It was funny, as people didn't seem to know to stay until the end of the "White Christmas" song or start dispersing.

By this time, we were really hungry and began to look around for somewhere to eat. We happened upon the River Belle Café and had one of the absolute best meals of our whole trip. I had the pork loin, which was absolutely fabulous. My friend had the turkey, which he said was good, but I could tell he was jealous of what I’d ordered. This is a counter service restaurant, but we enjoyed ourselves more here than we did at other restaurants we tried later in the trip.

We were then pleasantly surprised to nearly walk right onto many of the rides – probably due to the rain. In those few hours, we went on Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Pinocchio’s Daring Journey. Our last picture of that night shows one of the Main Street clocks at 11:40 PM. When we made it back to the hotel and fell into bed, it had been 23 hours since we’d gotten up for our flight that morning.

We’re not morning people, and when in Florida don’t typically get up for rope drops. We sleep in, hang out at the resort pool, and don’t head to the parks until mid-afternoon. In California, I thought the time difference would work in our favor to get to the parks early. Wiping ourselves out on the first day, though, took care of that. We slept in, enjoyed a wonderful complimentary breakfast at the hotel (a huge buffet with eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, pancake, omelet station, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal), and made our way to the parks around Noon.

We started at Disneyland again. We started off exploring the shops along Main Street, and then headed to Tomorrowland. The crowds that had been kept away by the rain the day before were out in force, and wait times were way up there. We started by going through Innoventions – fascinated to see how they’d converted the Carousel of Progress building. We spent more time than I thought walking around the first floor and playing with the Microsoft House equipment, then went up and saw the Honda presentation on their walking robot, Asimo. After leaving there, we were going to go on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Before getting in line, though, we decided to visit the restrooms. After wandering around for a while, we eventually found one on the far side of the Matterhorn Mountain. As with the fireworks the night before, we had the happy circumstance to stumble across the fact that the Christmas parade was about to begin when we saw them putting up the ropes. We found two seats on the bench near the restrooms, waited about 20 minutes, and had a perfect view of the parade. (We weren’t right up on the front row, but stood on the bench when the parade started and could see everything.)

When the parade ended, we realized our dinner reservation for that night was at Ariel’s Grotto, so we decided to head toward California Adventure. Wanting to kill two birds with one stone, we went to the Toontown train station to take the train around to the front of the park. What a wait that turned out to be! Not many people were getting off the trains that came in, so the line wasn’t moving very fast. We eventually got there, and enjoyed the ride. It’s so fun that the train goes through the It’s a Small World Christmas display. The Grand Canyon display… a little underwhelming. (I guess it’s on par with the scenes along the WDW Railroad, though.)

As a WDW vet, it was funny to see hand stamps in use at the park exit. Disneyland doesn’t use the same biometric system WDW does.

Once in DCA, we paused at the entrance to take lots of pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge (funny, because the second half of our trip was to San Francisco) and the obligatory pictures with the several “Greetings from California” signs.

I absolutely LOVE the theming of the bakery and ice cream shop near the entrance. The train is so cool! I took so many pictures… and of course we had to stop and buy something there. We had a snack of gingerbread men, sugar cookie snowmen, and coffee. (Ok, quick side story… I can’t believe the gall of some people! While putting sugar and cream in our coffee, someone walked in from outside and filled a baby bottle with milk from a pitcher in the coffee fixings area. I couldn’t believe it! I guess they figured it was easier than paying the couple of bucks for a carton of milk from the bakery.)

We didn’t take the time to look at the DCA map and just picked a direction to walk. We wound up at Tower of Terror. This is one ride where WDW really has the better attraction. The outdoor waiting areas weren’t themed nearly to the extent of the DHS version, and the lobby wasn’t quite as impressive. The ride itself is also much different. The drops were essentially the same, but the car doesn’t move around like the one in DHS before the drop. You basically go up, see the movie, and then immediately start up and down on the ride. Also, when loading into the car, you walk through the elevator door and then down a small hallway before getting into the car. It somewhat ruined the storyline that you were getting into the elevator itself.

After TOT, we walked over to get in line for the Aladdin show. Because we’d booked our package through the Disneyland web site, we had a coupon book with a “premium seating” voucher for the show. Essentially, they put us in a separate line and we were the first ones into the theater, and could choose any seat we wanted. We were 2nd row center, which was great for everything except the scenes that involved the flying carpet. Wow! What a show! At 45 minutes, it was more like a full Broadway production than the short show I was expecting. Although I love that show as well, this was a much more impressive production than the Beauty and the Beast show in DHS.

After the show, it was time for us to make our way to Ariel’s Grotto. As we walked through the park, we came across a series of Tron-based performances called “ElecTRONica.” This was like a disco scene with go-go dancers in lycra outfits, flashing lights and lasers, and temporary bars selling alcohol set up. It didn’t really appeal to us, so we moved on through – that appeared to be the reaction from most people, as it was one of the least-crowded areas in the park.

We got to Ariel’s Grotto around 7:45 for our 8:10 reservation and were told they were running way behind. They asked us to come back at 8:00 before they’d even check us in. We walked around the boardwalk for a while, then went back and checked in right at 8:00. They gave us our pager and we went back out. World of Color was going on, but we didn’t try to push our way up to a place where we could see it, because we were doing a WOC dining package and would get to see it later that night in the special area. It was really getting cold at this point and the wind breaker I had on was becoming less and less effective. It was nearly an hour before we were seated. We’d missed the start of the WOC show we were supposed to get tickets to before we got our seat, but were assured we’d get a ticket to the last show. I was just happy to finally get inside to get warm. Unfortunately, our table was right next to a door. The staff was prepping the outdoor seating area to close and kept coming in and out through the door. We were uncomfortably cold for the whole meal and kept our coats on.

I really wasn’t impressed with Ariel’s Grotto. I ordered the steak (mainly because the waitress warned me against the two other entrees I was originally going to try). There wasn’t anything that I “really” wanted on the menu, though. I found the choices very limited. The appetizer tray we got was good (we went with the one that has meats and seafood), and the steak was good, too. My side dishes, however, were cold. I might have sent them back, but didn’t see our server again for a good 20 minutes after our plates had been dropped off. The desserts were good, but very rich. We couldn’t finish the plate. I thought the bill was a bit high for what we’d received. Sorry, but this place just wasn’t on par with WDW’s restaurant caliber.

World of Color was a nice show that we both enjoyed. I have to admit, though, that I was starting to get a little bored with it by the end. (That may just have been my sore feet talking.) I wish they didn’t have to close the Paradise Pier attractions for it, though.

The next day, Christmas Eve, we followed essentially the same morning routine. We went down for the breakfast buffet, and then came back up to the room for a short nap. We got to the park entrance around 11:30 and decided to head back into California Adventure. After stopping at Blue Sky Cellar to see the Imagineering display (wow, big things coming), we headed back to Paradise Pier to explore it during the day. We got a FastPass for California Screamin’ and got in line for Mickey’s Fun Wheel. We were in one of the moving cars on the fun wheel, and I wondered if the stationary car might have been better. The ride didn’t really have a “Ferris wheel” feel to it. California Screamin’ was a FANTASTIC roller coaster. In fact, I think it’s my favorite of all Disney roller coasters. (Rockin’ Roller Coaster has slipped into a close second place.) We didn’t want to brave the line for Toy Story Midway Madness, but didn’t feel too cheated, thinking it would be essentially the same as the Florida version.

We took a tour of the Mission Tortilla Factory and the Bakery Tour on our way back toward the front of the park. What in the world are those two attractions all about? I’m guessing Mission and Boudin are sponsors? The Bakery Tour movie with Rosie O’Donnell and Collin Mochrie is really funny – we enjoyed that.

We had some more cookies at the California Zephyr, and then it occurred to me that I hadn’t checked our master planner before we left the room that morning. I knew we had a reservation for the Blue Bayou, but didn’t remember what time. We stopped at the information booth right next door and asked them to help us find out. Ok, here’s something that WDW does SO MUCH BETTER than DLR – dining reservations. Had I asked this question at a WDW information desk, they would have been able to look it up and give it to me in a minute. At DLR, I was told they’d have to call the restaurant. He tried the number and told me it was busy, I’d have to check back with him later. I asked if there was a number I could call the restaurant directly and he said there was not. A while later, I tried the actual Guest Relations area, where I asked the same question. At first, she thought I was trying to make a reservation and told me she couldn’t help me – I’d have to call the dining reservation number. (Ok, didn’t realize that. At WDW, Guest Relations can make reservations for you.) I re-explained to her, and she called the restaurant for me. After about five minutes, they told me our reservation was for 6:00. It was time for us to head for Disneyland. While in the Guest Relations, I asked her about the locker we’d rented, and if I could transfer it from DCA to Disneyland. I’m fairly certain at WDW that if you rent a locker you can show your receipt at another park and get one for free. (I’ll have to research that, but I think I remember doing it.) At DLR, that is not the case. If you want a locker in the second park, you have to pay a second time.

In the time between asking about our reservation at the information desk and later returning to Guest Relations, we’d gone to the Hollywood Back Lot where we drew Tigger in the Animation Academy, and explored the rest of the Disney Animation building (we didn’t do Turtle Talk, figuring it wouldn’t be much different from WDW). The Toy Story Zoetrope is absolutely unbelievable. We sat through that show twice we were so fascinated by it. We then rode Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! The Monsters, Inc. ride was cute, but obviously not a big crowd drawer. The line was only 10 minutes on a day when everything else was 45-60 minutes.

After the stop in Guest Relations I previously described we headed to Disneyland. We got there just as the flag lowering ceremony was beginning. I love this ceremony at Magic Kingdom, and was glad to have a chance to see the Disneyland version. We then headed up to the train, and rode to New Orleans Square.

Once again, the restaurant was running a little behind, so we took a quick few minutes to run to the Enchanted Tiki Room for that show. (No waiting, just as in Florida.) I like this original version so much better than the remake in Florida. It was nice to see it again.

We then had a few minutes to explore New Orleans Square. I love this section of the park! While we were in the Christmas shop, my friend, Paul, said, “Take a picture of me on this staircase.” As he was standing there, Tiana and a Jazz Swing Band came walking down the stairs. We were able to grab some great pictures of them.

It was then time to head back to the Blue Bayou and wait in person. If I have any complaint about this restaurant, it’s wondering why they only have seating for 10 people in their waiting room. People were sitting on the steps, on the floor, and standing around. Even so, there wasn’t room for everyone who was waiting. It was very uncomfortable, and put me in a worse and worse mood as we had to wait.

Inside the restaurant I was again a little underwhelmed. I’d kind of built this experience up in my mind, thinking the Pirates of the Caribbean boats going through the restaurant was going to be really neat. Perhaps it was the fact that they seated us in the row of tables farthest from the water that influenced me, but I just wasn’t getting into it. I had the gumbo and the jambalaya, and Paul had the salad and jambalaya. Everything was good, and we did enjoy ourselves. Once again, though, I thought the bill was out of proportion to what we had and not a great value.

After dinner, we got right in line for the Indiana Jones ride. I knew it was a rough ride to go on so soon after a big dinner, but we fortunately had a good 45 minutes of waiting for our stomachs to settle. This ride uses the identical car that’s used in Animal Kingdom Park’s Dinosaur ride. The theme is a temple/tomb that you’re exploring with Indiana Jones. I’m not a big fan of Dinosaur because it really throws you around, and I’m uncomfortable on it – afraid I’m going to get hurt. Yep… same thing with Indiana Jones. It’s a neat ride – I especially like the queue area theming – but they need to tone it down just a little bit so it doesn’t throw you around quite so much.

We then left the park – no small feat as the fireworks had just concluded and thousands of other people were doing the exact same thing. I asked a cast member near the bus lines where we could find a taxi. He said we had to go all the way to the far side of Downtown Disney. Wow, what a jaunt that was – especially with the crowds. Paul is a fan of the Hour of Power, so a Christmas Eve surprise for him was that we took a cab across town to the Crystal Cathedral for their Candlelight Christmas Eve service. (I’d originally hoped to take him to their Christmas pageant, but their financial woes prevented them from having it this year.) The church is absolutely beautiful in person, although a little smaller than it looks on TV. The music with the wonderful pipe organ and full orchestra was inspiring. I missed not being at home to attend Christmas Eve services with my family, but the Crystal Cathedral service was a once in a lifetime experience and we were both really glad to have been there. After the service, we chose to walk back to our hotel rather than call for a cab. It was a little more than a mile back to the hotel, but that late at night it was a little eerie walking through the mostly-deserted streets. I should have called for the cab. In bed a few minutes after 11:00, I fell asleep instantly I was so exhausted.

We've decided to not allow the way it ended to taint our wonderful Christmas day.

We were up early for breakfast and to do laundry, but then went back to the room to relax and take a short nap.

We left for the park about 1:00, but got held up for quite a while waiting on a shuttle bus. When we finally got there, we put our things in a locker and headed to Toontown to get a FastPass for Roger Rabbit. The return time wasn't until 5:30.

We walked back to Tomorrowland and got in a very long line for the Matterhorn. The sign said it would be a 45 minute wait, but it actually moved a little quicker than that. We were also able to see a little of the parade again from the line. The ride was actually really fun. (I hadn't had high expectations for it, and was pleasantly surprised.) Just as we were waiting to pull into the unload station, the ride shut down. It took about 10 minutes for them to get to us and walk us out. I felt sorry for all the people in the line, because they were announcing that the ride would be down for at least an hour.

It was about 3:30 when we got in the Finding Nemo Submarine ride line. The sign said 90 minute wait. We waited for 30 minutes of that before we did the math and realized it didn't work out to make it to our 5:00 dinner reservation at the Grand Californian. So we reluctantly hopped out of that line and got into the line for the monorail. What a tiny, tiny monorail! Oh my gosh, we couldn’t believe the inside of it.

Dinner was at the Storytellers Cafe inside the Grand Californian Hotel. The special Christmas buffet was wonderful. The most noteworthy features were a wonderful prime rib and an outstanding eggnog bread pudding. I also really enjoyed the corn chowder, which I understand is a staple at the restaurant. They also had some of the most potent horseradish I've ever tried. I laughed at Paul when it sent him into a coughing fit and turned him beet red. Then, wouldn't you know it, I took a fork full of beef and had the same thing happen.

Back in the park, we headed to use our Roger Rabbit FastPass only to find that Toontown was closing because of the fireworks. Oh well, chalk that one up to a newbie mistake. We decided to head back and get in line for the Nemo Submarines, again. There was a band playing on a nearby stage, so we were at least entertained while we stood in the 90 minute line. Just as we got to the front of the line, I started to feel a few drops of rain.

The ride is really well done -- so much better than the old 20,000 Leagues version with the plastic fish held up by strings. The new animatronics and the use of digital video underwater really make it realistic. The story line is essentially the same Epcot’s Nemo attraction. It comes off as lame there in the clam shell cars, but was neat in a sub.

When we exited the sub, it was downright pouring. I guess because California doesn't get regular rain, Disneyland didn’t seem to know how to deal with it as well as the Florida cast does. We decided to call it a night and head out… us and every other person in the maximum-capacity Christmas Day crowd. This is when the nightmare began. Flooded paths, shoulder-to-shoulder people everywhere, and a staff that was grossly ill prepared to deal with the possibility of everyone leaving at once. We stood unmoving at the hub for a good ten to fifteen minutes. I was actually beginning to panic a little. It took us about an hour to make our way up Main Street. This was really a newbie mistake. We should have found a restaurant or other dry place to wait a few hours before trying to leave. The other big mistake was that our ponchos and umbrellas were back at the hotel. We’d not realized it was forecast to rain that night.

Getting up Main Street and out of the park was only the beginning of the nightmare. When we got to the ART bus area, it was in a state of total mayhem. There are no line queues or shelters like there are at the Magic Kingdom. There is just a series of signs that tell you where the busses pull in. With people from the Toy Story parking lot and every resort all trying to crowd into the same area, it was impossible to tell who was trying to get where, or which line was which. We walked toward the #2 sign, which is the route that serves the Embassy Suites, and people pointed us back to a pseudo line that reached almost back to the bag check tables. It would have been so nice to have been under a roof while we were waiting for the bus. Alas, we had to stand there getting poured on. When not a single bus had come after 30 minutes, and seeing that we were at least three or four buses from the front of the "line," we decided to huff it back to the hotel -- about two miles. We were soaked to the bone and dead tired when we finally got back to the hotel. I’ve never been so frustrated and upset. I felt really let down by Disneyland for how that night ended.

We were checking out at 4:30 the next morning to head for the airport. We checked each of the three laundry rooms at the Embassy Suites that night, but each only has a single washer and dryer, which had all been claimed. We wrung out the clothes as best we could, and called down to the front desk for a half dozen plastic laundry bags. We hung the stuff out and dealt with it when we got to San Francisco the next morning. One disappointing aspect of the wet clothing is that Paul took off his soaked Mickey Mouse Santa hat and wrapped it in a towel. When we packed the bags, that got missed and he lost his hat. It’s one we’d purchased two years prior at our WDW Christmas Day visit.

Like I said, we decided not to let the way the day ended ruin what was otherwise a fantastic Christmas and a wonderful first trip to Disneyland. Many people had told me not to set my expectation too high when I compared Disneyland to Walt Disney World. I have to disagree. They are certainly two entirely different places, but we really liked DLR. We’ll continue to vacation to WDW as our primary and preferred spot, but I’m sure we’ll go back to California again – probably soon.

Wow, what a long trip report! Sorry. Did anyone actually make it to the end?
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Old 01-06-2011, 05:42 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by BirdsOfPreyDave View Post
Many people had told me not to set my expectation too high when I compared Disneyland to Walt Disney World. I have to disagree. They are certainly two entirely different places, but we really liked DLR. We’ll continue to vacation to WDW as our primary and preferred spot, but I’m sure we’ll go back to California again – probably soon.

Wow, what a long trip report! Sorry. Did anyone actually make it to the end?
I'm glad you understand this. I hear a lot of comparisons between the resorts, and I often get asked which I like better. I give them this exact response. I love them both...they are different and each have their own pros and cons.

I read all the way through your report, and I found your thoughts very interesting and fair. If I may make a suggestion for next time, I highly recommend summer at DLR. My dad is a school teacher, my mom works at the school, and my brother and I are students, so we always have to plan trips on holidays. Summer at DLR is not as crazy as Christmas week (by far, especially this year DLR had some record crowds) and the weather is much nicer, especially in the evening. Plus, you can see the regular HM and regular IASW.

Glad you had a good time!
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Old 01-06-2011, 05:48 PM   #3
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Hi Dave! I love reading the TR's from WDW vets on their trips to DL. My entire family will be headed to WDW next year and I can't wait to experience everything that it has to offer.. We will be there for 14 days, so we won't be rushed for time (hopefully ).

We were there on Christmas night also and although I heard the forecast for rain, I just didn't think about it once we got to there and I left my umbrella and coat in the hotel room. Big mistake, HUGE! I don't remember the time, but we got stranded on pirates due to a power failure and noticed that all of the security and firemen were coming in pretty wet. By the time we got out, the rain was coming down in buckets so we decided to get some ponchos and do DL rambo style I have never been soo wet in my entire life! My kids and DH were on a hunting trip, and could not believe that we stayed in the pouring rain! I don't mind a little drizzle at DL, but flooded streets are hard to navigate in the dark. Since we were already wet, we rode autopia and dumbo in the rain and laughed the whole time.. I was amazed at the crowds that braved the rain and cold that night! We thought for sure that it would clear out and be a ghost town, but there were quite a few people there when we left at 11:30 PM. It may not have been the perfect trip for us, but it was definately one to remember and laugh about later...
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Old 01-06-2011, 06:24 PM   #4
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Wow with everything that happened I'm surprised you want to go back. /you really need to come when the weather is better and not so crowded. Try early fall, after school starts and before Halloween.
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Old 01-06-2011, 06:35 PM   #5
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We arrived on Christmas Day and were having Dinner with Goofy when that rainstorm hit. Just getting from the DLH to the ART stop we were so soaked that it took 7 days for my son's tennis shoes to dry luckily being a DLR vet he had another pair as at every hotel in the area dryers were non-existant. Glad it didn't spoil you on our Land forever.

Just a note on your Blue Bayou experience, I totally agree on the waiting area but next time ask for a waterfront table it only takes a few more minutes to get one (an extra 10 for us during the week after Christmas) and there is nowhere in the resort like a Blue Bayou waterfront table for ambiance after all that is what you are paying for as most of the food can be had at Cafe Orleans for less.

My 2010 Christmas TR is at http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2613318
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Old 01-06-2011, 06:38 PM   #6
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i think the op needed a map of DLR ahead of time!! it so makes navigating sooo soo much easier!! specially when you never been!! im sorry though they had a bad experience
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Old 01-06-2011, 06:49 PM   #7
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I love those rainy days with the decreased crowds
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WOW Dave, the longest I have read in a long time in one post. I have never been to WDW family just does not want to do, but I am glad you may be thinking of coming back. Try the summer, it will be a much different experience. I prefer to leave Indy the way it is, one of my favorite rides. oh, I would try to stay a bit closer the next time, may improve the experience. The Villas can not be beat.

Thanks again,

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Old 01-06-2011, 07:11 PM   #8
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Did you buy any chance eat at Napa Rose? I have never been there, but I hear it is the best restaurant at Disneyland Resort. I hope to eat there sometime.
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Old 01-06-2011, 07:50 PM   #9
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You unfortunately ended up being in Anaheim during the worse weather they'd seen in years.........I felt so bad for people that had planned their Disney trips during that week.......I live in Oregon & am used to the rain....but would be highly disappointed to go to Disneyland & get soaked!! You still seem to have a bit of humor about it all.......

I hate using ART......never really have enjoyed using them & have made it a point to stay very close to the park. Wait times & rude people make it a miserable experience.

I'm glad you enjoyed your motel....that's always a bonus......next time look into a rental car or check out a motel right across from the park so walking isn't an issue after being on your feet all day.

I was sorry to hear your experience at Ariel's went so bad. When we did it this summer, it was the best meal we had all week!! Everything was cooked perfectly, the service was awesome & I'm planning on doing it again in early March.

From your report it looks like DL just wasn't prepared for the crowds.....hopefully they are taking note of that & will have a better plan for next year.

I enjoyed reading your report & glad you haven't given up on Disneyland!!!
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Old 01-06-2011, 10:31 PM   #10
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Yeah, we went for the first time this year at CHristmas. We were lucky to be there a few weekends before the cold and rain. We were there during 80 degree hot sunny weather! We had a nice time... but it was SOOO crowded. Even monday when we thought we would see some relief was simply nuts.

This was the most crowded december ever for disney.

We usually stay on property. I am sad you didn't use your DVC I think you would have LOVED staying at The Grand. It is so convenient and it sounds like you wasted a lot of time on transport.

Also, when it's busy you have to take advantage to get there early. Unlike WDW DL caters to a large local fan group.

We usually stay on property, but have stayed off twice. ONce within close walkign and once we had to use ART. The lack of transport schedule drove me nuts. and on monday we were combined with another route, which made transport both diretions feel unbearably long to us.

THat being said, one the thing things I hated the most at WDW was the trasport between the parks. ALthough there was overhead shelter and switchbacks for long lines... that's just the thing, there was always a long line... and no where to sit down.

We didn't really park hop in WDW because transport seemed like a waste of our day.
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Old 01-06-2011, 11:28 PM   #11
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Thanks for the report!

I'm currently writing my sure-to-be epics long report of our first trip to WDW, which happened during the big freeze. Brrrrr.

Like you, there were good things, there were bad things...you can't really compare, and I'd like to go back!

I'm stunned that you were told to catch a cab at the end of DTD? There's a whole cab area right along Harbor that you can get to from the ART waiting area...maybe they don't pick up fares there, but I think they do...
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Old 01-07-2011, 09:55 PM   #12
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Best Place to catch a cab - The Grand Californian

One of the times we stayed off property my little boy fell asleep and we just knew there was no way we were carrying him back to the hotel... plus we were hungry. We went to dinner at Storytellers, then waited in comfy lobby while they called us a cab!

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Old 01-10-2011, 06:18 PM   #13
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Hi Dave

Just wanted to say thanks for your report, I really enjoyed your observations. Also, despite its length, I appreciated you doing it in one post instead of breaking it up into chapters and taking two or more weeks to post. That's just me though - old and impatient. Cheers.
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Old 01-22-2011, 05:32 AM   #14
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Thanks for a great report. Can you remember how much the Christmas Day buffet was at the Storytellers Cafe?

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Old 01-24-2011, 10:24 AM   #15

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Originally Posted by areweindisneyyet View Post
Thanks for a great report. Can you remember how much the Christmas Day buffet was at the Storytellers Cafe?

The charge on my credit card statement is $90.02. That's for two of us with one mixed drink each and the tip.
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