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Old 04-25-2005, 03:10 PM   #1
Hilary
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Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Swansea, UK
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Hilary's resurrected TRs - NYE 2000/01

These reports were lost in the DIS boards crash of long ago, but I've been asked to re-post them (I won't say who asked me as I wouldn't want them to attract too much hate mail ). To avoid taking up the whole TR board, I'm posting each set as a single post. Here goes:

Cast:
Me (Hilary) Trip organiser, obsessive planner
DH (Jeremy) Trip funder, obsessive eater and drinker when on holiday, active angler given the opportunity
DD1 (Rhian) age 16, shopaholic tendencies, addicted to bathrooms, not keen on thrill rides
DD2 (Amy) age 11, likes thrill rides, addicted to stuffed toys and pressed penny machines

Background stuff:
This was our fifth trip to WDW. We last went in October 1999 and hadn’t planned to return again until 2001, but Jeremy had a fit of Disney-withdrawal last spring and I booked this trip before he had a chance to change his mind. We were limited to one week because of various school commitments, but planned to cram a lot in! Jeremy didn’t want to be away for Christmas, but we fancied the idea of seeing all the holiday decorations, shows, parades, etc., so we planned to be there for the New Year celebrations.

We were leaving for WDW straight from Jeremy’s brother’s house near Luton, where we were spending Christmas, so I went into super-obsessive planning mode trying to pack for the various parts of our time away from home. NATO would have been proud of the military precision that went into my allocation of clean underwear for the designated packing areas on the bedroom floor. There were bags for Florida only, bags for Luton only, bags for things to wear travelling, bags for things which might do for both Luton and Florida, spare bags for the things to leave behind, and yet more bags for things to be transferred out of Luton and in to Florida category once Christmas was over. Oh, and then there were all the Christmas parcels to fit in somewhere as well! I don’t recommend this as the ideal way to unwind before enjoying a relaxing Christmas break with your family.

Another thing I wouldn’t recommend is spotting a large black blister on your younger daughter’s gum on Boxing Day morning when you are due to leave for WDW early the next day… especially when you are away from home, and don’t know any of the dentists in the area. The blister wasn’t bothering Amy (she didn’t even know there was anything there) but I had visions of this thing popping at 33,000 feet over the Atlantic and the plane having to make an emergency landing in the Arctic Circle to get Amy to the nearest hospital to deal with the uncontrollable bleeding. I tried to stop thinking about the plane evacuation procedure for an emergency landing on water (I remembered I should remove high-heeled shoes and not to inflate the life vest until outside the aircraft), whilst my sister-in-law tracked down a dentist on the emergency duty rota, and we set off to interrupt his Boxing Day lunch.

I’m not very tall anyway, but when the dentist told us (very, very nicely) that it was nothing to worry about – just the site of a new tooth coming through, and nothing a tube of Bonjela wouldn’t put right – I felt about six inches tall and wanted to disappear down the spit-and-rinse plughole. Well, better safe than sorry, I say…

So the 27th dawned and we got ready for collection by the mini bus to take us to Gatwick. The bus arrived nice and early and we piled in. This was to be our first thrill ride of the holiday, and I began to wonder why we’d bothered with the trip to the dentist when we clearly wouldn’t live to see the airport anyway. The phrase ‘bat out of hell’ springs to mind. As if the white-knuckle element wasn’t enough, when I tried to strike up a casual tone of conversation to let the driver know we wanted the North terminal at Gatwick, he told us that finding the North terminal would be a first for him as he’d never been to Gatwick before. Months of preparation and planning flashed before my eyes as I wondered “why us?”

Anyway, we arrived at Gatwick at about 8:20 am and I silently marvelled at having made it in one piece as we piled the luggage on to a trolley and waved the driver goodbye. We pushed the trolley through the doors and paused, wondering why everyone else seemed to have chosen navy blue travelling outfits – some with natty gold stripes on the shoulders – before we realised the stupid driver had deposited us at the crew entrance. We quickly backtracked and manoeuvred the trolley out along the pavement, up and down several kerbstones, and eventually into the main terminal building.

The whole check-in area was absolutely packed and I left the others stationed with the luggage whilst I went to find out which desk we needed. On my way back to retrieve the family I was aware of a gruff voice nearby grunting “’ello darlin”, which I (naturally) chose to ignore. Someone grabbed my elbow and said “oi! Darlin!”. I was about to swing at him when I realised it was our friend Paul who lives near us. Unknown to either of us he and his family were flying to Orlando today as well, and turned out to be sitting about ten rows in front of us on the plane.

We checked in at the BA desk and the conversation followed the usual format:
”Here are your seat numbers, madam, they have been pre-booked for you.”
“…but we asked for three seats and one across the aisle…”
“…the request from your agent asks for three and one in front, madam….”
“… and we asked for a child’s meal…”
“…your agent didn’t say anything about a child’s meal, madam…” etc., etc. But at least we had four seats, so I wasn’t going to complain too much.

Having got rid of the bags we set off for refreshment and couldn’t believe how slowly the queues were moving, or how expensive a bit of bread wrapped around some cheese could be. Well, it got rid of some of that heavy sterling, I suppose.

The plane eventually took off about 45 minutes late and the flight was uneventful apart from poor old Amy feeling pretty unwell most of the way and managing to fill more than her fair share of air-sickness bags (so it didn’t really make any difference that she didn’t get her child’s meal!). Rhian and I had both ordered vegetarian meals (and the agent had noted it this time!), but when they arrived they were marked as ‘vegan’. I guess this makes sense as they can double up for either requirement, but if I ever needed a reason for never going vegan, this would be all I needed! – if you think vegetarian food is boring, you should try vegan some time! No offence meant to any vegans out there, but how do you eat that all the time?

Despite the delay taking off we still managed to land a bit early and were pleased to hear the pilot tell us the temperature in Orlando was 70 degrees. Whilst we were waiting at Passport Control (behind the yellow line) I said to Jeremy that the man at the front of the next queue looked like that chap on the television. I was still struggling to remember his name when Jeremy said “I think you must mean Mike Smith, because the woman with him is Sarah Green.” We all tried to look super cool about being next to someone a bit famous (with lots of whispering and nudging going on) and then set off on the famous Orlando Double Luggage Quest.

As we emerged into the second baggage hall we could see the Tiffany Town Cars driver holding a sign with our name on it. I was tempted to do a Homer Simpson “Oh look, Marge, there’s someone else with the same name as me over there…” but excitement got the better of me and I rushed over to tell him we were there.

We enjoyed a hassle-free trip to the All Star Movies Resort (love the huge star that you drive under as you arrive) and set about checking in. I’d faxed through a room location request and was so excited when we got what we’d asked for! Our room was quite near the front desk area, so we decided to take the bags ourselves and basked in the last of the afternoon sun on our way across to the Dalmations buildings.

Our room was really nice – lots of great touches, such as the Popcorn box light, star covered carpet, a dalmations border, hundreds of stars in the bathroom and dressing room lights around the vanity mirror. We unpacked (this is, of course, the Royal ‘we’ and actually means I did the unpacking, but it would be churlish of me to say so) and then went to the food court to get our refillable mugs and something to eat. At the entrance to the Food Court there was a table set aside with children around it decorating gingerbread men for $1 and we noticed there was a gingerbread village scene on display as well. There were some Christmas decorations around, but not as many as I had expected to see. The food court is decorated as a cinema entrance hall from the Hollywood era – lots of chrome and bright lights – and on one of the counters you are given a replica cinema ticket to hand in when you collect your food order. The refillable mugs here cost $8.99 plus tax and now come in two different shapes (one is designed to fit the cup holders in US cars) but apparently they both hold the same quantity. Refills available included cola, diet cola, sprite, orange maid, pink lemonade, cherry cola, lemon drink, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and probably a few others I can’t remember!


We were pretty tired by now, so after our pizzas and salad and filling up the mugs again, we headed back to our room and decided to have an early night ready for a busy day tomorrow. I think I was probably asleep by about 8:30pm (well, it was 1:30am to us – and yes, I did put my watch back on the plane, but I just couldn’t help mentally converting back to UK time!) but not before switching on the Weather Channel to see what tomorrow’s forecast would be – 72 degrees and possible thunderstorms.

Last edited by Hilary; 04-26-2005 at 04:06 AM.
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Old 04-25-2005, 03:20 PM   #2
Hilary
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28th December

I was awake by about 4:30am (well, that’s what you get for going to bed so early the night before ), but I tried not to wake anyone else as I crept around making tea and reading up on the day’s plans. We were all up and raring to go by 6:00am and as we still had to buy our passes before we could get into the parks, we set off for the bus stop at 6:50am and were surprised to see how busy it was already. Now I realise some of you may well be thinking “they were at the bus stop at WHAT time?!”, but believe me it was absolutely no hardship and not remotely like trying to get the kids up for school every day! We certainly weren’t the only ones up at the crack of dawn, and the bus to the Magic Kingdom was packed. If you’re wondering about the title to this report you’ll have to keep reading, but suffice it to say that the forecast was for 72 degrees with a risk of thunderstorms, so we had put on our shorts and carried sweatshirts and rain ponchos with us.

As soon as we got to the Magic Kingdom I went to the Guest Relations window to buy our park passes. We had decided on Annual Passes for the first time as we knew we’d be back within twelve months and it seemed the best value, but I was nervous about spending so much money all at once. I was asked for lots of information about names and dates of birth, etc. and handed over my VISA card before I was presented with four very ordinary bits of credit card sized cardboard in return. I was disappointed that they didn’t look a bit sturdier, and wonder why they couldn’t be plastic at least. Anyway, along with the finger scanning process, they worked and got us into the park, so I suppose that was the important thing. Every time we entered a park and I had to put my fingers in the scanning machine along with my AP, I felt as though I either belonged to some bizarre secret society or else I was entering a Star Trek convention.

It was just after 7:30am as we headed down Main Street trying to see all the Christmas decorations, and wondering whether the cinnamon smell really was coming from the Christmas tree (as we’d been told) or just from the sweet shop. The tree was huge and covered with giant sized decorations, including outsize balls of popcorn threaded on strings, and all down Main Street were green and red garlands strung across the road. The shops were decorated with Christmas displays and the usual Main Street music had been replaced by a collection of seasonal songs. Aaahhhh - Christmas, Magic Kingdom style! I had wondered whether the castle would be decorated, but all we could spot was one fairy modest holly wreath above the drawbridge – very understated.

We decided to try the Fantasyland rides first as they always seem to get the biggest queues early on, and although Rhian and Amy may be 16 and 11, Dumbo is still a must-do ride for them if there isn’t a queue. Jeremy and I declined the opportunity to be swung around in a fibreglass elephant for two and a half minutes and stood by with the camera instead. I am always amazed at the time kids are prepared to stand and wait patiently for this ride, and by the time our two had ridden there was already quite a line. We planned to go and pick up Fast Passes for Winnie the Pooh next, but as it was a walk-on we didn’t bother with the FP and hopped into the next Hunny Pot. Cute, but I couldn’t smell the honey this time. Another must-do for us is Peter Pan’s Flight, so we nipped back to do this before heading over to Tomorrowland to pick up a FP for Buzz Lightyear. We’d never used FPs before, so we wondered how well the system would really work.

Jeremy was in need of a coffee by now (and the girls and I could manage a muffin or if pressed!), so we had a quick refreshment stop outside Buzz. As we were getting up to move on, Amy spotted two Park Hopper tickets on an empty table, so we handed them to the nearest CM and felt very sorry for whoever had lost them – they would probably be blissfully unaware that they had left them behind until the next time they tried to get into a park. Next we went on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. This is still one of my favourites (sad, I know) as it never has a long wait and it lasts for quite a long while – a good value ride in my book! By the time we came off the TTA we were into our Buzz FP period, so we put the system to the test and were VERY impressed! So simple and so effective – so why doesn’t everyone use it? By the way, in case you were interested, I had the highest score on Buzz. Jeremy reckoned his gun couldn’t have been working properly. Oh yeah…

We didn’t have anything else in Tomorrowland on today’s wish list, so we crossed over to Adventureland and the Pirates of the Caribbean. By now it had started to rain a little, but as we planned to be under cover on the ride we didn’t get the ponchos out, and got a bit wet on the way. I was sure it wouldn’t take long for us to dry out in the Florida sunshine – but just where was the Florida sunshine? A lot of guests were in long trousers today, and I had to admit I certainly wasn’t hot in my shorts!

We had a 10:00am PS for breakfast in Tony’s Town Square Restaurant at the park entrance, so I was a bit concerned that we would take too long on the Pirates, but we only had to wait two minutes before we were on the next boat. We all (yes, even Jeremy) like the shops at the end of this ride, but we only had time for a short browse before we had to backtrack up Main Street to Tony’s. By now there were yellow ponchos everywhere and the sky was looking quite gloomy.

We didn’t have long to wait before we were seated in Tony’s, and we all had plenty to eat and drink for a total of $24. It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to come here on our first MK morning each trip, and sometimes I wonder whether we should try something different. Then, once we’ve eaten here again, I remember why we book it every time! Fortunately we didn’t find the air-conditioning here as fierce as it sometimes is, but we were still glad we’d brought our sweatshirts with us. Jeremy had his customary five minutes sitting in one of the rocking chairs on the porch outside Tony’s whilst the girls and I had a look in the Main Street shops.

It was about now that it suddenly dawned on me that when I had bought our passes at the gate this morning I had completely forgotten all about the Disney Club discount! I was so cross – it’s the savings on the passes which really make the cost of the card worthwhile for us, and to have forgotten on such a major expenditure as the Annual Passes was a really dumb move! I decided I had nothing to lose by stopping at Guest Relations on our way out of MK and looking pathetic (alright, even more pathetic) and asking if they could give me the discount retrospectively. I practised looking pathetic. I was pretty good at it.

After our re-fuelling stop we felt fit enough to set off for our first ‘big’ ride of the trip – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, so we headed back along Main Street. Outside the Barbers’ Shop half way down Main Street there was a photo spot with a red sleigh surrounded by Christmas decorations, and we went over to take a photo of the girls. We already have shots of them here with Halloween and springtime backdrops from previous visits, but this morning the sleigh seats were a bit wet and we decided to leave the photos for another day – a big mistake as we never did get back there until after the sleighs had been taken away!

By the time we got to BTMR the rain was definitely WET and we succumbed to the call of the ponchos, and flapped around the queuing area. The sign said the wait was 20 minutes but it was nearer 30 (this was the only time during the trip when a sign gave a shorter time than we actually waited), and when we’d ridden we decided to leave MK as the crowds were building fast. I now had a mission to fulfil at Guest Relations and practised the pathetic look again.

Well, I needn’t have worried – the CM was very helpful, she didn’t make me feel like a complete idiot AND she gave me the discount I should have asked for at the start. It was a big relief, I can tell you, as for the four passes the discount was around $60. I tried to stop looking pathetic, but this proved surprisingly difficult – too much practice, I expect.

Next on the agenda was a detour via the Polynesian resort – partly to see their Christmas decorations and partly because we keep saying we must have a look around here, but never have. We got the monorail and tried to look as though we knew where we were heading as we got off at the Poly stop. Fortunately there were plenty of other people to follow and we easily found our way into the main building. There was a lot of dark wood and vegetation everywhere (and a very attractive Polynesian-style nativity scene – slightly bizarre), and if the weather had been a bit more tropical I might almost have believed I was entering a South Seas resort! The pool area here was under refurbishment, so the view was obscured by hoardings and we just had a quick walk round the marina area outside. We looked in the shops and bought some snacks from the cafeteria (after all it must have been at least an hour since Jeremy had eaten breakfast!) before getting the monorail back to the MK and then the bus back to ASMo. The Poly has long been on our list of ‘I’d love to stay there one day’ resorts, but nice though it seemed, now that I’ve had a look around I think I can happily manage to live without it.

We planned to stay back at ASMo for a couple of hours relaxation before an evening in EPCOT, so Jeremy went for a swim in the Mighty Ducks ‘quiet’ pool (despite the, by now, heavy rain) and the girls and I spent our time refilling the mugs and looking round the shop. The ASMo shop had a good selection of clothes, souvenirs, postcards, CDs, snacks and drinks, as well as a small section with medicines and sun-tan lotions, etc. I had mixed reactions to discovering they also sold copies of the Daily Mail printed in Florida especially for the British market, so I bought a copy of the Orlando Sentinel instead! When Jeremy had dried off after his swim, we had a snack from the food court and filled the mugs again ready for our return later this evening.

After our rest it had stopped raining, but was still a bit chilly so we thought we should change out of our shorts and into long trousers and fleeces for the evening, and at about 4:30pm we set off for the bus to EPCOT. Test Track is Rhian’s favourite Disney ride and had been number one on our list for EPCOT, but it wasn’t working when we arrived. Disappointed, we spent a while soaking up the atmosphere in Future World and then headed over to the huge Christmas tree at the end of the bridge between FW and World Showcase for the 5:55pm ‘tree-lighting ceremony’. The big EPCOT fountain didn’t appear to be working tonight, but just behind it there were some very unusual decorations like enormous silver dandelion puffs and we took a few photos here. Behind these puffs and leading down to the tree was the Lights of Winter archway which looked pretty impressive, even with the lights off!

By now we were getting a bit cold and spent a while looking in the shops to keep warm until it was time to take our places for the tree-lighting. I’d imagined it would be a quick announcement and then someone would throw the switch, but I was forgetting this was Disney! There was a bell-ringing group and a solo singer and it looked as though they would be in full swing for quite a while, so we decided to bail out and return once the lights were on. Well, when we went back, there were lights everywhere! The tree lights hadn’t shown up at all when they were unlit, but now we could see that the tree was absolutely covered with them! The Lights of Winter were absolutely stunning - there were about a dozen huge wrought-iron arches across the pathway, each linked to its neighbours to form a kind of arcade down the bridge. These were all covered in tiny coloured lights, and the lights changed patterns to the music. It looked fantastic.

By now we were really quite cold and very hungry, but our PS for Akershaus in Norway wasn’t until 7:00pm. We decided to try checking in early in the hope that we could be seated sooner, but there were a lot of people already waiting ahead of us and we were given a pager so that we could wander around the pavilion whilst we waited. There had been some kind of special event with a famous Norwegian (I think) perfume designer earlier in the day, and the whole place smelled beautiful! We didn’t have to wait too long for our table and then we were led into the restaurant. We hadn’t been here before, so didn’t know what to expect, but the buffet certainly looked good.

There were both hot and cold selections, with plenty of salads and vegetables. The girls and I stuck mainly to the salads, with Amy making several trips up for the macaroni cheese, but Jeremy tried pretty well all of the meats on offer – making up for the rest of us! After a particularly crunchy mouthful of pork, however, he looked a bit shocked and said he’d just lost part of his tooth on the pork crackling! After Amy’s ‘emergency’ dental treatment on Boxing Day, this was our second tooth scare of the trip and it seemed like a 50 / 50 bet on either Rhian or me being in line for the next one. Anyway, Jeremy’s tooth (or lack of it) wasn’t causing him any discomfort so we just hoped it would stay that way. The bill for three adult and one child’s buffet plus drinks came to $90, which was to be the most expensive meal of the holiday. It was enjoyable, but certainly not the best EPCOT ‘dining experience’ we’ve ever had, and I don’t think I’d be in too much of a hurry to go back. We wondered whether it would become an even more expensive meal if Jeremy’s tooth needed attention!

We were all tired by now and getting even colder (have you noticed the word ‘colder’ cropping up rather a lot?), so we set off for the bus stop and stood freezing whilst we waited about 10 minutes for the bus back to ASMo. It was a case of hot chocolate all round (so much for filling the mugs with iced drinks earlier, ready for when we returned this evening) and then straight to bed! We were asleep by about 10:00pm after our first full Disney day.
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Old 04-25-2005, 03:22 PM   #3
Hilary
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Friday, 29th December 2000

I didn’t wake up until 5:00am this morning – well, at least it was later than yesterday . We were all ready to set off by 7:00am, but even though the Weather Channel predicted highs of 64 degrees, we decided against the shorts and added another layer on top just for good measure!

We had hoped that during the busy Christmas and New Year weeks the Surprise Morning programme (when Disney Resort guests can get into one park each day an hour and a half before the advertised opening time) would be extended to every park every day, and we weren’t disappointed. So although today was scheduled as an EPCOT early entry day, we decided to go to MGM, hoping that not everyone would have read the very small print on the ‘World Update’ leaflet which gave the information about all the parks being open at 7:30am. Sneaky, huh?

When we arrived at MGM we thought the Christmas decorations here were even nicer than the ones in EPCOT and MK, with the tree in front of the Chinese Theatre being particularly spectacular. Amy and Jeremy wanted to get on the Tower of Terror straight away to beat the lines, but Rhian didn’t want to go and I wasn’t bothered, so Rhian and I went to collect Fast Passes for the Rock ‘n Rollercoaster whilst the other two went on TT. Rhian wasn’t sure she wanted to do RnR either, but we got an FP for her as well anyway so that she could decide later.

We didn’t have long to wait before Amy and Jeremy returned from their ride on TT. Jeremy had managed to try out an experiment he’d been cooking up for a while – he had heard that if you put a coin on your lap before the drop you could catch it in mid-air during the drop because you dropped faster than the coin. Well, he could now report that the coin just fell off his leg and he couldn’t catch it, or find it again! Good job it was only a penny or I would have had to send him back to look for it .

Rhian was happy to look around the RnR shop to start her planned plectrum collection (currently standing at a total of one) whilst we went on the ride, so we arranged to meet up with her afterwards. As we wound through the FP entrance I was aware that Jeremy was talking to the man coming in after us, and then I saw the man head back out and leave his daughter (who looked about 8 years old) with Jeremy! Apparently the little girl, Melissa, wanted to go on RnR but no-one else in her family did, so her dad had asked Jeremy if he’d mind looking after her. I tried to make a bit of conversation with Melissa as she looked slightly uncomfortable at being thrust into the care of this unknown family (and who could blame her?) and asked her if she’d enjoyed it when she’d ridden RnR last time. Then she told me she’d never been on it before! So here we were, taking care of an unknown 8 year old on one of the biggest rides in WDW and now we find out she hasn’t been on it before. It may sound unkind, but I made Jeremy sit next to her – well, he was the one who’d agreed to look after her! I had been on RnR once before and really enjoyed it (much to my surprise), but this time I didn’t like it at all, and kept my eyes closed the whole time. Fortunately, Melissa didn’t scream, did look as though she had had a great time, met up with her dad at the end of the ride, and then went merrily on her way. I have to say there’s absolutely no way I would have done that with either of my two, (and they wouldn’t have let me anyway), but it obviously worked for Melissa’s family. I suppose we’re all different.

Well Rhian hadn’t been on a ride today yet, so we went over to Star Tours as she loves this one. It was a walk-on and we got the front row for the first time. I thought being in the front made for a better ride, but unfortunately this is a ride which does suffer from familiarity, and I don’t get as much out of it as I used to.

Breakfast next, and we went to another favourite (not much choice for brekkie in MGM really) at the ABC Commissary. Feeling refreshed we went to the Great Movie Ride next, and as this was also deserted we reckoned maybe a lot of people hadn’t cottoned on to the early entry in all four parks this week (smug expression here). We had a browse around the shops and then left the park to hop to the Magic Kingdom to have lunch and catch the afternoon Christmas parade.

We had an early lunch booked at the Liberty Tree Tavern and arrived just before they opened at 11:30am. We hadn’t eaten here before, so didn’t know what to expect, but we were really pleased with everything – except the inadequate ladies restroom facilities! We had a great server, Ron, who helped to make this an excellent meal. He told us he likes to get postcards from all over the world, so we’ve now sent him one to add to his collection. He gave the girls WDW pens and some Mickey confetti, and as we were leaving he gave them a cookie each and asked us if we wanted to take coffees in cups ‘to go’ as it was so cold today to stand around watching the parade. It was a pleasure to give this guy a tip, he worked so hard for it!

In the past we always seem to have ended up watching parades from the Frontierland end of the route, but today we’d decided to try to find a spot on the balcony outside the train station near the park entrance. On the way back up Main Street we tried in a couple of shops to see whether there were any woolly hats as Jeremy’s ears were hurting from the cold wind, but it was difficult to see through the crowds of shoppers trying on sweatshirts and fleeces everywhere! We eventually found some bobble hats right at the end of Main Street, and we bought our first batch of handwarmers here, too. I heard several people asking for gloves and scarves, but they’d sold out. The hats were very un-Disney with no pictures of Mickey or any sign of characters, so I assume they’d bought in a batch of something cheap and cheerful as they wouldn’t normally get such demand for all this warm clothing.

Jeremy had found a great viewing spot on the balcony and we all had a fantastic view of the Christmas parade. I got the camcorder going for the first time and was really pleased that I could film everything with no obstruction. The parade was amazing! It just kept on coming – more and more of it, and all of it so well done. We’d seen the Easter parade a couple of years ago and weren’t very impressed, but we thought this Christmas parade was a good enough reason on its own for us to come to WDW at this time of year. It was a big hit with all of us. It was a bit strange to have Father Christmas with an American accent wishing everyone “Happy Holidays” though!

We left Mk after the parade and went back to ASMo for more hot chocolate (no swimming for Jeremy today) and a rest. We even made a token attempt at writing postcards, although they stayed unposted for a few days! I went to the ASMo shop and bought long-sleeved tee shirts for Jeremy and Rhian as they both said they would like an extra layer of warmth for the evening, and at least these were things they’d get use out of at home anyway.

Jeremy had taken his telescopic fishing rod in case there was any possibility of doing a bit of fishing at ASMo, even though we didn’t know whether there would be any water around that could be fished (believe me, it doesn’t have to be much more than puddle for Jeremy to think it would be worth a try!). He went off for a couple of hours this afternoon, but came back with nothing to report except some men passing him and saying to each other incredulously “Hey, did you see that guy? He was fishing!” Needless to say, he didn’t bother again this trip.

At around 6:00pm we set off again for the MK bus, but instead of going straight in to MK we hopped on the boat over to the Wilderness Lodge Resort. The driver was a real character and kept up a running commentary all the way across. He got everyone singing and telling jokes and it was a shame when we got to WL and had to disembark! It’s definitely people like him and Ron, our server in the Liberty Tree Tavern, who manage to add that extra bit of magic to things.

The Christmas decorations at the Wilderness Lodge were just as spectacular as we’d hoped and we spent a while looking around the lobby and in the shop here. We thought we’d try to get a bus back to MK as the wait for the boat had been uncomfortably chilly, and as we went out to the bus stop we could see the new Wilderness Lodge villas (is this what they’re called?). We were a bit disappointed that they had taken away some of the natural woodland area to build these (inevitable, I suppose), and wondered how the WDW transport system would cope with all the extra guests. There didn’t seem to be a bus to MK, so we went back to the jetty for the bus and joined everyone else huddled into any sheltered spot available away from the cutting wind. We didn’t get the same driver back to MK , but I guess it wouldn’t have been as much fun second time around anyway.

We just had time for a quick bite to eat in a packed Cosmic Ray’s café before getting the train around to the park entrance to try to find a spot on the balcony again for the first Main Street Electrical Parade of the evening at 9:00pm. We were out of luck this time around as the crowds were already three or four deep on the balcony, but we’d seen this parade before and didn’t feel we would mind missing a good view this time. We ended up on the steps under the station and had a great view of everything at ground level, but couldn’t see the tops of any of the floats!

As soon as MSEP finished we left the park and went over for the monorail to the Contemporary Resort as we’d decided to try to view the fireworks at 10:00pm from their 15th floor viewing platform, as we’d heard this was a good spot but we’d never done it before. Unfortunately we picked the wrong monorail platform and had to battle against the traffic to get down the ramp and back up to the right one. Not to be recommended just after a parade when everyone (except us) is heading for the TTC!

We soon got to the Contemporary and managed to find our way to the lift and up to the 15th floor without too much trouble. Then we had to find our way round to the viewing platform. We had been told we shouldn’t walk through the restaurant, so we were a bit wary, but we found an automatic door to the outside quite easily. What we weren’t sure about was whether we’d be able to get back inside the automatic door from the outside! Jeremy and Amy volunteered to test it out, with Rhian and me staying inside (in the warm) so that we could let them back in if they couldn’t open the door themselves. Well, they could open the door, but only by pressing a pretty obscurely placed button about six feet behind them, so we were glad we’d been a bit cautious about it. Bear this in mind if you ever go there! It was too cold to wait around outside any longer than we needed to, so we waited indoors until we heard the Fantasy in the Sky music start up in the nearby restaurant and then braved the elements and went to the end of the walkway.

The view over the Magic Kingdom was spectacular, and as there were only a few of us there I got another uninterrupted bit of camcorder filming of the fireworks above Space Mountain with the castle changing colours at the other side of the park. I can imagine that this would be a great place to spend a balmy summer’s evening, but to be honest we just wanted to get it over with so that we could go back in the warm! When the fireworks finished we headed for the door and saw that the Electrical Water Pageant was just starting at the Contemporary marina, so I had to film that as well! My fingers were absolutely frozen by this time, but I wouldn’t have missed it. This was definitely a worthwhile excursion and I’d recommend trying it if you can, but I hope it’s a warm evening if you do.

We got the monorail back to MK and then the bus to ASMo. MK wasn’t closing until midnight tonight, so the crowds hadn’t yet left MK and we were back by about 11:00pm. It had been a long and busy day, but we’d managed to cover quite a few new things (even though we hadn’t done many rides), and felt we’d managed to get 110% out of our time. A big thumbs up from all of us – and I’m sure it was all helped by the planning and tips from the boards.

Could we please have a lie-in tomorrow?
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Old 04-25-2005, 03:25 PM   #4
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Saturday, 30th December 2000 (Forecast today – 50 degrees and sunny.)

This was supposed to be a quiet day to build up our reserves of energy ready for a very long day tomorrow, New Year’s Eve. I’d asked a few times at Guest Relations (whenever I’d passed by and there wasn’t a queue) about the format for NYE as I’d heard some horror stories about last year and wanted to get things right, but so far I hadn’t gleaned anything much from the CMs. They all seemed just as unsure as we were, and they had all told me that EPCOT would open at its usual time of 9:00am, which I was sure couldn’t be right.

Although I was just as keen for a lie-in as anyone else I woke at 6:00am and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I crept out to the laundry down by the smaller ASMo pool. I can’t say I enjoy doing the washing when I’m on holiday, but I suppose if it’s got to be done, then the Disney laundries make it fairly painless. **Warning** – very boring domestic details coming up (but someone might find it useful)! A wash takes about 35 minutes and a dry around 30 minutes – so you don’t have to waste much more than an hour of your valuable vacation time, and the whole thing (soap powder, one wash and one dry) costs $3. If you want to be totally organised take a couple of tumble drier sheets with you from home. End of domestic detail.

While I was waiting for the washing I did manage to get some useful information from a CM about the arrangements for New Year’s eve. He said that all the parks would open at 7:30am. (which at least made me more confident that he knew what he was talking about) and that EPCOT (where we planned to be) had filled up within 5 minutes of opening last year! I really can’t see how that can have been physically possible knowing how long it normally takes for everyone to get their passes accepted by the entry machines, but I got the general picture that he advised arriving EARLY and staying there! He said that this year there would be no facility for leaving the park and getting back in for the evening – if you chose to leave then it was at your risk whether the park would be full and you might not be allowed back, and there would be no preferential treatment for guests staying on site. We’d hoped that we’d be able to get in early, have a few hours back at the resort and then return for the evening, but that sounded unlikely now.

By the time I got back to the room Amy had woken up, so we left the other two snoring away and went to find the pressed penny machine in the All Star Music resort next door. Amy was trying to collect as many of the special 2000 edition pressed pennies as she could find, and she knew there were some in each resort. She was worried that all the machines would disappear on the stroke of midnight tomorrow, so was extra pleased that we managed to find the Music one quite easily. These are pretty easy souvenirs to collect (especially for kids) and they are a great way to help use up all the change that we seem to amass throughout our trip. I swear my purse weighs twice as much by the end of each day, just from all the coinage.

By 9:00am Jeremy and Rhian were awake too, so we had a leisurely breakfast in the food court and then got the bus to Downtown Disney. We had an idea of a few things we’d seen around the parks, but wanted to buy in the World of Disney shop to get the Disney Club card 10% discount! I’d also had some spending money for Christmas and was hoping to put that to work here too. Jeremy set off to find the Virgin store for a look at the CDs and the girls and I worked our way round the various sections of the huge Disney store. When we met up with Jeremy we hadn’t found half of the items we’d hoped to buy, and Jeremy hadn’t got as far as the Virgin store before deciding he couldn’t be bothered – so not really a very satisfactory shopping trip (Janice would despair of me!).

We got the bus back to ASMo, had a drink and a wander around the resort, and then headed off to Animal Kingdom. We were looking forward to spending some time here in the cooler weather as usually we bail out after a couple of hours because it’s so hot everywhere in this park. We especially wanted to do the safari at dusk as we’ve previously only ever been first thing in the morning, and we’d heard that the evening trip was very different.

Our first task was to get Fast Passes for It’s Tough to be a Bug, although Rhian said she didn’t want to do this again. We all did this a couple of years ago and Rhian was NOT impressed! I had told here it was bound to be Disney cutesy, but she’s got a real phobia about spiders, so she spent the whole show worrying that something was going to come and crawl all over her. Okay, I admit I was worried too, but having done it once I was looking forward to seeing it again knowing that there was nothing too awful going to happen, and I just love the ending.

We got four FPs in case she changed her mind, and then went to marvel at the number of people going down the Kali River Rapids in the freezing cold. I’m not keen on getting wet at the best of times (unless I’ve got my swimming kit on), but none of us were tempted to do this ride with the prospect of walking around soaking wet in sub-zero temperatures. I don’t know whether they were additions since we’d last been, or whether they’d been brought in because of the cold weather, but there were a couple of industrial hot-air blowers at the KRR exit and these did give people a bit of a chance to dry off after the ride. And it was nice walking past them for a blast of hot air even if you weren’t wet!

There was a showing of Flights of Wonder about to start as we walked past, so as we hadn’t seen this for a while we went in. We were sitting on the tiered benches towards the back and had a good view, but we couldn’t hear a thing because there was a group of teenagers behind us who spent the whole show running up and down the metal steps, or banging their feet on the benches in front of them. What do they get out of it? I was hoping a CM would come and have a word with them, but they didn’t. I tried a Winnie-the-Pooh style Hard Stare, but it didn’t work.

By now it was time for our FP on ITTBB, so we left Rhian in the shops and went towards the FP entrance, but couldn’t get through because it was blocked by a crowd of about 30 teenagers all being turned away by the CM for trying to use their FPs before their allocated time. I don’t normally have too much of a problem with teenagers, but today they were really getting on my nerves! Anyway, we went straight into the theatre and enjoyed the show before coming out to find Rhian who was weighed down with all her purchases – making up for this morning’s unsuccessful DD trip. We were chatting to the CM in the shop (Rhian was probably the best customer she’d had all day) and she recommended getting FPs for the special night-time safari, but said they wouldn’t start giving out the FPs for that until later. She was also able to confirm what I’d been told earlier about strategies for NYE and getting to EPCOT early and staying there.

Amy had requested a visit to Restaurantasaurus for some McDonald’s chips , but as we were right outside Pizzafari we decided to make the most of it and promised Amy we’d go to Restaurantasaurus another time. I can’t remember what we had to eat, but I can remember being impressed with the number of tables about, and loved the décor here. When we’d eaten we thought we’d better see whether the safari FPs were available yet, but they’d all gone and the standby time was over an hour! We were very disappointed, but as it was getting colder now that it was beginning to get dark, we didn’t want to wait in the standby line and decided to have an early night instead.

We wanted to be ready for a very long day tomorrow!
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Old 04-25-2005, 03:26 PM   #5
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Sunday, 31st December 2000 (Forecast 50 degrees and sunny)

I’d booked a wake-up call this morning (if you stay on site and haven’t done this, it’s worth a go!) for 5:45am. Yes, I agree this sounds cruel (after all this was supposed to be a holiday, after all!) and as we were now well and truly in US time, it was cruel and none of us wanted to get up. However, ‘No pain, no gain’ was today’s motto and I knew we should make the effort if we didn’t want to risk spending New Year’s Eve sitting in our room. I agree this would be better than sitting at home in the UK, but I didn’t want all the months of planning to be wasted for the sake of another hour in bed. I’m a hard taskmaster when I put my mind to it :D . We were even less enthusiastic about getting out of bed when we checked the Weather Channel and saw the current temperature was 30 degrees and there was frost on the grass outside! We added another couple of layers to our already rather round bodies – I was now wearing two tee-shirts, a sweatshirt, a fleece waistcoat and a fleece jacket, tracksuit trousers and two pairs of socks as well as gloves, hat and scarf – not that I’m expecting sympathy or anything…

Without too many moans and groans we were at the bus stop at 6:45am and we boarded the bus for EPCOT wondering how long we’d be stuck in traffic and what time we’d get in to the park – or whether we’d be allowed in to the park at all, as it may already be full when we arrived. We needn’t have worried – we were at the gates by 10 past 7, the park was already open, but there was no queue at all and we went straight in!

Our first mission was to get on Test Track if it was working, so we headed over and walked straight on. This good fortune was short-lived, however, as we stopped half way around the ride and sat for about 20 minutes before it started up again. At least it was nice and warm inside the ride! We thought we’d get FPs on our way out, but the return time was too soon and we decided to do Ellen’s Energy Adventures next. We hadn’t been on this for a few years, and although we enjoyed it, I still think it’s too long and I could do without quite so much of Ellen.

We went to get our TT FPs and then went over to The Land pavilion as we had a breakfast PS in the Garden Grill. There was time before our PS to see Food Rocks, another show we hadn’t seen for a long time. I remember now why we don’t do it very often! When we came out of Food Rocks, we reported at the podium for our PS and Jeremy took the pager while the girls and I went to the restroom. We joined quite a few other people sitting in the waiting area outside the Garden Grill, and after a couple of other families had gone in, Jeremy asked if I knew what the flashing lights were that another man had in his hand. I said that was what the pager looked like when it was triggered. Jeremy looked very sheepish and fumbled under his jacket to find our pager– which was flashing away! He’d been waiting for it to start beeping! .

The character buffet was very good, and even though Jeremy was the only one eating the meat we managed to make a good effort at clearing the plates, and even asked for a second serving of eggs and potatoes. Chip & Dale and Pluto were good fun, but I was a bit disappointed with Mickey (I was sure it was a girl behind those ears). The bill came to about $60 which seemed a lot for breakfast, but we ate so much we didn’t plan to eat again until the evening.

By the time we’d finished breakfast, World Showcase was open so we began to work our way around (well, we had at least another twelve hours to fill somehow!). I had seen a couple of items of entertainment on the park schedule which I wanted to catch if possible, but I didn’t want the whole day to be tied to a timetable, and thought it would be simpler to just see what was happening wherever we happened to be. As we got to the UK we could see that there was some kind of entertainment about to start, so we stayed to watch. There were three performers who did a sketch something like the Monty Python version of King Arthur, with the aid of various audience ‘volunteers’ and lots of audience participation generally. It was hilarious, especially when they were rude about some of the other countries in World Showcase! Standing watching this, I felt the NYE party had started.

We left the UK and managed to catch the Living Statue in France, but unfortunately we didn’t think this one was as good as some of them. It was still very impressive, though, and I still haven’t worked out how they manage to look as though they don’t blink. As we approached the American pavilion a Fife and Drum Band were just finishing and a Gospel choir were just starting their performance, so we got two-for-the-price-of-one here. I thought the choir was especially wonderful. We didn’t find any more entertainment as we continued round World Showcase on this circuit, so we just had a look around and eventually bought a coffee and sat on one of the benches on the corner of the bridge between Mexico and Future World. As we passed Mexico I looked at the blankets on sale outside and saw them disappearing fast as more and more people joined the queue to buy one. I was feeling quite smug that we had so many layers of clothing on today I was sure we wouldn’t be needing to buy blankets (I think you could usefully quote ‘Pride Comes Before A Fall’ at this point).

The bench we had occupied was next to a pool which was home to a flock of flamingos. I bet there isn’t a more photographed flock of birds anywhere on this planet. Just about every group of people who walked past stopped and admired them, and then took either a photo or video of these flamingos! It was quite a sheltered spot here, and Jeremy took the opportunity to get twenty minutes rest while the girls and I people-watched. One of the most interesting sights today was the number of people camped out at the railings ready for Illuminations tonight. There were little groups all around the lagoon who had obviously staked their spots as soon as the park opened and were taking it turns with others in their group to spend some time ‘on guard’ and some time off duty. Dedication, eh?

Amy had had a bit of a sore throat this morning, so I was on the look out for one of the shops to sell throat lozenges, but hadn’t seen any so far. While we were taking out time out on the bench I went for a stroll and came across the First Aid centre, so thought I’d call in to ask where I could buy some lozenges. Well, it was like walking in to an A & E department on a Saturday night – there were bodies stretched out on benches all around the room! At the desk, one of the two CMs in white coats was dealing very efficiently with a family who were obviously having difficulty understanding the language, but who appeared to have been given some medicine for their daughter and were taking instructions for repeat doses. The other CM was helping a lady and her disabled daughter to the changing rooms behind the reception area. They were clearly very busy and I felt my request was trivial compared to the needs of some of the other people! I needn’t have worried as they dealt with me most politely and gave me six lozenges for Amy and also said that I might be able to buy some nicer-tasting ones in the Babycare centre next door. Well, I wouldn’t have thought of asking for throat lozenges in the Babycare centre, but I went in and walked into an oasis of calm compared to the First Aid room we’d just left. There was an area with chairs and bean bags and lots of toys to occupy little ones, another room with highchairs and kitchen facilities for feeding babies and toddlers, and a changing area as well as a small shop with all sorts of baby foods, nappies, clothes and other pharmaceutical goods – including throat sweets. I was even more pleasantly surprised when they only cost me $1! I was impressed – if only I’d found somewhere like that when my two had been little!

After our time-out we went back to Future World and to the Living Seas and Sea Base Alpha. Then it was on to Imagination and to send some e-mail photos. We didn’t have to wait too long to get a vacant e-mail station, but we didn’t manage to send as many photos as we wanted because there were others waiting for their turn.

By now we thought we should go back to World Showcase to find somewhere to view Tapestry of Nations, as we’d never seen this all the way through – we’d only ever caught bits of it here and there – and I wanted to see it before it was gone for good. As we walked along we could see areas every so often where there were CMs setting out tables with hats and hooters to be given out later, but they weren’t letting anyone take any just yet. There were crowds everywhere and no-one could move far in any direction. There were CMs trying to direct everyone, but if anything they seemed to be making things worse. Eventually we got as far as the UK pavilion and then the CMs stopped anyone moving while the TON parade came out to start on its way around the lagoon. We didn’t mind as we’d stopped in a good place to see the parade, but all around us was chaos with people trying to get round the CMs and the CMs trying to stop people ‘breaking ranks’. I hoped this wasn’t a taste of things to come for the rest of the evening as until now we hadn’t had any real problems moving about the park.

Once TON had finished the crowds dispersed, but we didn’t want to stray too far from the UK as we had a PS for 6:00PM in the Rose & Crown. I waited in the line to report at the podium and heard someone being told they could go straight in if they were prepared to sit at one of the tables outside on the terrace. As it was absolutely freezing by now I made sure I asked for a table NOT on the terrace and was told we might have a 30 minute to one hour wait. We were given a pager and went to watch the British Invasion while we waited. The girls and I didn’t last long outside and left Jeremy with his beer and went inside the UK shop to wait where it was a bit warmer. While we were waiting we could hear lots of hooters outside, so I guessed they’d started giving them out, but we weren’t near any of the stations to be able to get some, and we couldn’t leave the UK pavilion because we had the pager.

At about 6:45pm the pager started flashing (not in Jeremy’s pocket this time) and we were led to our table by the surliest (British) CM we’d encountered all week. All he did was moan about how early he’d been up that morning and how cold it had been at that time of the day and that we should be grateful we hadn’t been up then too. He took us to a table on the partly covered patio, so I asked whether there wasn’t a table inside we could have. He just told us that this was a really good table and that the people inside had been waiting a long time to sit there, so Jeremy muttered something about us having booked our PS three months ago, but it didn’t have any effect! The patio had a roof and there were plastic sheets pulled down to form ‘walls’ to enclose the patio as far as was possible. I imagine these were usually put to use if it rained – not to keep out the teeth of a gale in sub-zero temperatures. There was an elderly American couple at the table next to ours and they both had blankets over their knees and still looked frozen. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant before (not even on a skiing holiday) and kept coats, gloves, hats and scarves on while we ate – and still been cold! On top of that the food was nothing exceptional, BUT the saving grace was the unscheduled extra showing of Illuminations at 7:30pm.

We’d booked our PS to try to ensure we were at our table as the clock struck midnight at home (i.e. 7:00pm Florida time) and hadn’t expected Illuminations until 11:40pm. The countdown to the UK midnight had everyone joining in and once the CM declared ‘Happy New Year’ the place absolutely erupted with cheering and people blowing hooters.

Shortly after ‘midnight’ one of the servers came around to all the tables on our patio area and started to unhook the rolled-down plastic walls. He explained that he would roll up the walls out of the way so that we had a great view of Illuminations. Now, this was a great idea, I agree – but there was still a good 20 minutes to wait before Illuminations started, so we persuaded him to leave the walls down a bit longer. Eventually we couldn’t restrain him any longer and the walls disappeared, giving us a clear view right across the lake, (and a freezing gale blowing across our table!). Illuminations began and we saw everything at water level perfectly, but the roof over the patio did mean we missed all the fireworks in the air! It was a real treat made all the more special because we hadn’t known Illuminations would be on at that time when we booked our PS.

The server told us that the later showing of Illuminations would have extra fireworks at midnight and would be like no other fireworks we had ever seen. I believed her, and I couldn’t wait! As we left the UK we tried to get our hats and hooters, but all the hooters had gone, so we made do with a couple of plastic top hats and I wondered how were we going to get those home in the suitcase without squashing them. The girls also bought some glowing Mickey Ears each, which certainly made them easy to track down in the crowds!

There were still four hours left before midnight, so our strategy was to spend as much time as possible inside the World Showcase shops to try to keep warm (honest!). We started with Canada (looking longingly at the warm woollen shirts, etc.) and took in Japan, China and America before deciding we fancied a sit down in the American Adventure theatre. We were not alone! It was packed, and Rhian said she’d looked around during the show and reckoned about two thirds of the audience were asleep! It was beautifully warm, though and I was tempted to stay for another showing, but we didn’t.

As it was now about 11:00pm we thought we should start to head for a viewing spot for Illuminations. As we continued round World Showcase there were a few disco stages set up at intervals with video screens and dancing areas in front, and there were quiet a few people dancing away – probably trying to keep warm as much as anything – and adding to the party atmosphere. As we passes the Mexican shop I looked out for the blankets as I had decided I would get one if there were any left, but the shelves were stripped bare! Serves me right for not getting one earlier.

Because we’d already seen the water-level part of Illuminations from the Rose & Crown we weren’t too bothered about getting a view of the lake, but wanted to be sure we could see the fireworks. We went to the bridge linking Mexico to Future World and once we found a spot we were happy with (outside the First Aid Centre) we settled down to wait. The crowds weren’t as bad as I had expected, and even down at the railings they didn’t seem any deeper than some other times we’ve been there, so I wondered whether some people (especially young families) had left after the first Illuminations rather than waiting for midnight.

The girls had managed to keep going really well all day, but Amy was starting to flag a bit now, so she sat on the pavement until Illuminations started. I was so pleased that they hadn’t found it all too tiring to be able to enjoy themselves. The hooters and cheering around the park had been getting louder and livelier all evening, but as the park lights dimmed and the music began, everyone was quiet and turned to watch the lake, and Amy perked up too after her little rest. As Illuminations ended, the ‘EPCOT voice’ came over the PA system and counted down to 2001, and amid a wave of people shouting “Happy New Year” and blowing on the thousands of hooters all around the park, the next lot of fireworks began. It was absolutely breathtaking – and worth the very long day’s wait to be a part of it!

Jeremy wanted to rush to the exit as soon as the last firework finished, but I’d rather fancied hanging around to soak up the atmosphere for a while. I had to admit though, that it was so cold I wanted to get back to the hotel a soon as possible too! However, bearing in mind what I’d heard about last year’s NYE, I was determined that we must all visit the restroom before we left the park! As the girls and I came out to find Jeremy, we were nearly swept off our feet by the wave of people streaming past. Jeremy wasn’t happy – all these people would now be in front of us in the bus queue ( rolleyes ) so we tagged along behind everyone else and headed for the exit.

There were CMs all the way along the walkway from the exit to the bus stops making sure everyone knew which direction to head in, and as we got to the ASMo stop there was a bus just leaving. Before Jeremy had a chance to say anything about wasting time in the restroom, another bus appeared at the stop but it wasn’t a Disney Transport bus, so we weren’t sure it was for ASMo. The people in front of us asked the CM standing nearby and she told us that Disney had contracted in a whole fleet of extra vehicles to help get everyone out of the parks. In her words “If its got gas in it, Disney have hired it!” We got on board, sat back and hoped we wouldn’t be stuck in traffic but, unbelievably, we were back in our room by quarter to one! It was about the quickest exit we’d ever made from EPCOT! Ten out of ten to Disney for organisation today.

Not surprisingly it was straight to bed for this family – after a pretty amazing end to the year 2000, and a great start to 2001.
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Old 04-25-2005, 03:27 PM   #6
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Monday, 1st January 2001

Despite our very long day yesterday I was awake by 7:30am, and the others weren’t much later. We hadn’t planned anything definite for this morning, so we had a leisurely breakfast in the ASMo food court. Amy checked to see whether the 2000 penny press machine had been taken away, but it was still there, so she hoped we might still find some more in the other resorts. The food court was very busy this morning, and we struggled to find an empty table, but this was the only time we had any difficulty getting in. As we left the food court Amy spotted that the pressed penny machine had disappeared! It had definitely been there earlier, so they must have taken it away whilst we were tucking into our breakfasts! It looked as though that would be the end of Amy’s 2000 collection.

Now all the advice I had ever read said that the parks were noticeably quieter immediately following New Year’s Eve, and I assumed that New Year’s Day would be especially quiet as everyone would be having a day off after a late night last night. I fondly imagined we would be the only ones energetic enough to be out and about today, and that we’d have the Magic Kingdom all to ourselves. Naive or what? Mind you, I also believed we’d be able to wear shorts and tee shirts in December so I shouldn’t have been surprised to find MK just as busy as ever! (Yes, I do know the weather was unusual  )

We strolled down Main Street and went to the photo spot to take a picture of the girls in the Christmas sleigh scene – but it had gone. Next we went into one of the Main Street shops for Rhian to buy a crystal Mickey head bracelet she’d seen at the beginning of our week, and had now decided to buy. Guess what – they’d gone too! The CM in the shop suggested we try in the Castle shop as they carried some of the same stock, so we beetled up there straight away. We were in luck this time and Rhian got the last one in the right size and colour, so we breathed a sigh of relief and got Jeremy onto It’s a Small World before he noticed what was happening. We spotted the three Welsh dolls up on the moon, and debated whether they were recent additions, as we were absolutely convinced the first time we saw this that everywhere else in the UK was represented apart from Wales. Can any of you shed any light on this?

Amy wanted to go to the beanie shop in Frontierland to get the Tomorrowland Mickey and Minnie she’d decided to buy, and I kept my fingers crossed that these wouldn’t have gone like everything else seemed to have done! Success – a whole shelf full of them, so Amy parted with her pocket money and we went to get Fast Passes for Jungle Cruise.

As I walked over to the FP machines I could see that the normal route had been roped off, so I tried to go around the side, but the CM stopped me and told me that the FP system for the whole of the Magic Kingdom was down for the day! Do you ever get the feeling that you should go back to bed and start again? We decided to wait in the line anyway as it was only 20 minutes, and looked forward to the cruise, as I’d heard it had only recently re-opened after renovation and some additions. I shouldn’t have told Jeremy this, as all he kept saying was “Where are the new bits then? I didn’t see anything new. What have they changed?” etc., etc. Well, I enjoyed it anyway, even though it looked exactly the same to us.

Next on my wish list was a pineapple dole whip from the shop opposite the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, as I’d heard these are a must-do. They are. You must. We shared a chocolate and vanilla swirl and a pineapple and vanilla swirl, but next time (yes, there will definitely be a next time) I think I’ll go for the straight pineapple. There wasn’t a lot of conversation as we ploughed through these, and afterwards my lips were a bit numb from too much, too cold, too quickly. But it was worth it! :D

As we started to head out of the park, one of the little jitney cars came up to the castle stop, so we hopped on board and had a ride back down to the end of Main Street. I was a very nervous passenger as we swerved this way and that through the crowds walking unsuspectingly along Main Street – I expected to see a trail of maimed and bleeding children in our wake, but apart from a few startled looks as we ‘parp, parp’ed our way along there were no casualties as far as I was aware. That’s what I’d call a stressful job!

After some of the luck we’d had so far today I expected to find the busses cancelled for the rest of the day, but we had hardly any wait before we were safely back on our way to ASMo. Things were looking up.

After an hour or so back at base we set off for MGM as we had a few things scheduled for our evening there. So much to do, so little time…

First stop – Muppet 3D, which always manages to get at least one of us in an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. Then we had time to do a spot of browsing around the shops and buy a couple of pressies for the folks back home before reporting in for our PS at Mama Melrose for the Fantasmic dinner Package. We had a great meal here, but I’m afraid my note-taking was getting more and more sparse by the day and I can’t tell you what we had or how much it cost! But I can remember we all enjoyed whatever it was :D We were given our Fantasmic seating voucher and told where to enter the stadium, and that we should be seated 30 minutes before the show started.

Our next port of call was the Osborne Lights Spectacular. It was only just beginning to get dark as we headed over towards the end of New York Street, and although the lights were on they didn’t really show up very well. Just then the lights all went out! Was this a continuation of our luck this morning? No-one else seemed at all phased, and we gradually became aware of a stage area around which people were beginning to gather. On the stage was a mock-up of a huge electric light switch, so we guessed there would be some switching-on ceremony taking place here. There were a couple of CMs standing on the street corners with trays full of the holographic glasses and we stood behind two girls aged about 10 as we waited to get our glasses. The conversation in front of us went like this:
“Could we get some of the glasses?”
“How many do you need?”
“Ummm, twenty six”
“Twenty six? Try again”
“Well, alright, but it’ll still be twenty six because that’s how many there are in our group.”
“How about I give you two, and if the others in your group want some, tell them to come and get them themselves.”
Nicely done!

We had about ten minutes to wait for the switching-on ceremony to begin, and then we’d have to do a quick tour of the lights before shooting off to get our seats for Fantasmic. I was a bit concerned that it would be too much of a rush, and wondered whether we should come back after Fantasmic to see the lights in our own time. The lights were scheduled to stay on for an hour after the park closing time, which would give us about half an hour after Fantasmic finished. The flurry of activity on the stage indicated that the switching-on was about to start and I got the camcorder in operation, wishing they’d get a move on so that we could see the lights! I should have known better, especially after the tree-lighting ceremony in EPCOT, and the ‘pre-show’ lasted a good ten minutes. The highlight of the ten minutes was the SNOW :D Rhian and Amy had been moaning ever since we left the UK that just as we were going away it was snowing at home and they’d miss it. Well, now they had their holiday and the snow (okay, so it was fake, but hey, this was Disney).

As soon as the lights had been switched on – it was worth the wait – we scurried along with everyone else, trying to take in everything at once. These lights are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and make the over-the-top Christmas displays around our home town look very restrained indeed! There are so many lights absolutely everywhere that it would have taken us another couple of tours round to have had a hope of seeing them all, and we came out of the street reeling with sensory overload. I didn’t really put the holographic glasses to the full test, but back home they’re pretty neat on the street lamps! I know, I should get out more…

And so to Fantasmic. We got some great seats, second row from the front, right on the aisle, and I thought I’d landed a terrific camorder spot until I realised that the top of the railings would be right in the way of most of the action unless I wanted to hold the camera up at eye level for the duration (which I didn’t). Because we knew the seats in this stadium were metal and therefore very cold in the seating department , we’d brought a couple of newspapers with us to provide a bit of insulation (how’s that for planning?) We’d shared it out between the four of us, but as the girls got up to go and buy some popcorn, the bloke behind took half of the papers they’d been sitting on and put it on his own bit of bench! My jaw dropped and I thought Jeremy was going to bop him one, but the bloke just grinned and said something like “You don’t mind, do you?” Guess what – he was a Brit! I was NOT impressed, but too cowardly to do anything about it, I’m afraid.

The pre-show was fairly dire – not a patch on some we’ve had before here – but the show was just as terrific as ever. My camcorder film ran out after about ten minutes, but I was quite glad as it gave me a legitimate reason to abort the filming process and enjoy watching the rest of the show unhindered. This is still Rhian’s favourite show in all of Orlando.

We decided we wouldn’t try to revisit the Osborne Lights before we left, as it would be too much like hard work to get through the crowds leaving the park, so we went back to ASMo and had an early night. We were all in bed by 10:00pm, but we knew we had another busy day tomorrow as it would be our last full day in WDW this trip.
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Old 04-25-2005, 03:29 PM   #7
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Tuesday, 2nd January 2001

Mickey woke us again this morning with an alarm call at 6:00am and we were at the bus stop by 7:15am. I’m ashamed to admit that by this stage, although I didn’t want the holiday to be over, I was looking forward to being able to wake up and NOT have to get into route-marching mode straight away. It’s definitely more relaxing when you have longer than a week in WDW!

We planned to cross off a few things on our wish list today, and were starting out in EPCOT with a mission to get a good ride on Test Track (plans had been thwarted every other time we’d tried to do this ride this week). We were straight on, it didn’t break down this time, and we got FPs as soon as we came out. Next we went on Spaceship Earth because it’s a ride we feel we have to do every trip (a bit like It’s a Small Wolrd!), and then we went to onto Imagination. I’m not convinced about this ride, but I’m happy to do it if there’s no queue and if we don’t have to miss something else to do it. I do enjoy the Image works section afterwards though, and we often skip the ride and come straight in here.

We managed to send some more e-mail postcards today, and as there weren’t many people waiting we were able to take our time and mess around with the photo lab. Rhian went for the psychedelic look, Amy was a koala bear and I ended up as a tulip! Jeremy declined the opportunity. We were then into our FP timeframe, so we went back to TT expecting the ride to be down, but it was working and we got our second uninterrupted ride of the day. We’d agreed before we went on the ride that we would all make faces for the camera, so as the flash approached we all put on our most “Oh my! What’s going to happen to us??? “ faces and were not disappointed by the result! We didn’t buy the photo…

Breakfast called after this, and we had bagels in the Electric Umbrella before setting off into World Showcase. As we reached Norway, there was no queue for Maelstrom, so on we went, with Jeremy debating whether or not we should stay to watch the film as we were a bit short of time this morning. Every other time we’ve ridden this we have mentally “tut, tut”ed at the hordes of guests who unashamedly leave without experiencing the ‘wonders of Norway’ or whatever it’s called, but really wishing we had the front to do the same! We were just coming in to the end of the ride, with our boat coming alongside the night-time scene of the North Sea oil rig, when the ride stopped. We were used to this happening on rides by now , and I waited for the “Please remain seated, the ride will resume momentarily” announcement, but was a bit surprised when the announcement that came said “We cannot continue this ride. Please remain seated and a host will assist you.” As we were in a boat surrounded by water with no visible means of escape I wondered quite how this host (who was nowhere to be seen) was aiming to assist us, other than by fetching a few pairs of wellies. After a good ten minutes with the announcement repeated at annoyingly frequent intervals, someone somewhere switched on the lights, and we could see a very narrow walkway leading from near the back of the boat towards a hidden doorway. Jeremy was all for making our escape there and then, but I was less enthusiastic as I had visions of us all teetering along the walkway just as the ride started up again and the boat disappeared round the corner.

At this point a host did appear from the hidden doorway and started shouting at us, but as we were right in front of a waterfall we couldn’t hear a word he said! He disappeared again and I began to think that maybe Jeremy’s escape plan hadn’t been so daft after all. I was also mentally weighing up the chances of us being offered some enormous compensation for the inconvenience and trauma we had suffered (well, this was the litigious USA we were in). Another guy came through the doorway and balanced along the walkway up to the boat to tell us that they hoped to get us out soon, but they weren’t able to allow us to exit via the walkway at the moment (they probably needed to consult their lawyers first!). Well, about twenty minutes after we’d first ground to a halt, they released our boat from the driving mechanism and we slowly drifted into the docking area – or almost. There wasn’t quite enough water power behind us to take our boat as far as the exit platform, so we had to climb over another boat and the barriers to get out. We managed this okay, but there was one VERY large lady with us who found it very difficult, but managed to keep her sense of humour (and dignity!) about it. For all I know the other boats are still in there…

We never did get offered any large sums of money to help us get over the incident but the silver lining to this cloud was that as we exited Norway, the Characters had all just arrived on the ‘Holiday bus’ and were waiting for autograph hunters. We duly obliged and then waved the bus off as it left to continue around World Showcase.

We did a bit of shopping in China and then went to the dock to catch the boat back across the lagoon to Future World. While we were waiting the CM on the dock was telling us she couldn’t believe how cold it was and how sorry she felt for anyone who’d been in EPCOT all day on New Year’s Eve, as that day it had been REALLY cold. Now, let me think…weren’t we in EPCOT all day on New Year’s Eve? Why, yes, we were - and it had been a mite chilly, now I came to think about it! Well at least it was nice to have it acknowledged by someone who should know about the Florida weather patterns. The boat arrived and we hopped on board for the short journey across to Mexico and then headed out to the bus stop for Animal Kingdom. We had a mercy mission en-route to stop in MouseGears to buy Rhian a pair of warm socks as (despite my venture into the ASMo laundry a couple of days ago) she was left with only very thin trainer liners to wear for the last two days and her little tootsies were freezing! Mission accomplished with minimum disruption to our schedule.

Once in Animal Kingdom we couldn’t decide whether to get our FPs for the safari or Dinosaur, but as the queue for the safari was a respectable 20 minutes we got FPs for Dinosaur and joined the standby line for Kilimanjaro Safari. The twenty minutes turned out to be nearer ten, but it was a disappointing safari today, without many animals evident. Whether this was down to the time of day (we’ve only ever done this in the early morning before) or the decidedly un-tropical temperatures, I’m not sure. We had time for some lunch before our Dinosaur FP timeframe, so Amy got her choice of Restaurantasaurus today. Don’t go here if you fancy a quiet, relaxing sit down. The room where we managed to find seats had metal chairs which not only scraped along the floor like nails down a blackboard, but also gave us all shocks from the discharge of static electricity The salad bar is great, though. I managed to fill myself up on all the extras picked up here to go with my limited veggie choice of fries! Why can’t they have these bars in the McDonalds at home?

All suitably Mcfilled we joined the Dinosaur FP line and whizzed through the waiting area. I keep waiting to be impressed by this ride, but I’m not. The rest of the family all like it, but it does nothing for me, I’m afraid. There was nothing else we especially wanted to do here, so after a bit more browsing in the shops we went back to ASMo as we wanted to sort out a few things about checking out tomorrow.

We had never done an e-ride night before, and it’s become ‘traditional’ for us to spend our last night in EPCOT to watch Illuminations. However, this time, because we’d been in EPCOT for a very long day on New Year’s Eve and been treated to two editions of Illuminations then, we’d decided to grasp the opportunity of spending our last night in MK with e-ride tickets. I have to confess to previously having rejected the idea of e-ride nights as unnecessary when you have access to Early Entry mornings, but I was prepared to give it a go – all in the name of research, you understand!

Magic Kingdom was closing at 8:00pm tonight, and we were surprised to find the bus pretty full when we set off at 6:00pm. When we arrived in Magic Kingdom it was packed, and Main Street was pretty solid with crowds waiting for the 7 o’clock Main Street Electrical Parade. We knew we had to exchange our e-ride tickets for wristbands once we arrived in MK, but the queue from City Hall was right out of the door and down the steps, so we thought we’d take the advice I’d picked up somewhere (these boards?) and go to the Tomorrowland Arcade instead. We had a job to get through the Main Street crowds, and Tomorrowland was really packed as well, so it was taking us much longer than we had anticipated to get across MK . We were starting to panic a bit now, as we had a PS booked in the Plaza, but wanted to get these bands sorted out first. Rhian eventually found the arcade, but we couldn’t see anywhere obvious to get the wrist bands, so the others waited outside whilst I went to investigate. I found the till where they were giving out the bands, but the CM there had to fix them on everyone’s wrists, so I had to quickly get Jeremy and the girls inside the arcade and in the queue as well. We’d got the bands – now we had to fight our way back to Main Street for our PS!

We didn’t need to panic – we made it to The Plaza in time and enjoyed our ‘sandwiches’ here. The desserts looked absolutely amazing, and Jeremy ordered the apple pie which I thought was a really boring choice. When it arrived I managed to persuade him to let me try some and it was the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted – not at all boring. The girls had both ordered milkshakes and I’m sure they must have had a least a pint each, and the bottom couple of inches were pretty much solid ice-cream. Not the place to go if you’re trying to watch your weight! As we were sitting near the window we had quite a good view of the MSEP floats as they went along Main Street which was an unexpected bonus.

By the time we’d finished our meal and waddled out, the parade had finished and a lot of people had gathered down Main Street to wait for the fireworks. We thought we’d head towards Tomorrowland to be on hand for the e-rides there once the park had closed. One of the girls’ favourite rides which Jeremy and I do our best to avoid every time is the Speedway. We’d managed to come up with valid reasons not to do it so far this trip, but we’d run out of excuses tonight, so we joined the queue with gritted teeth. As we stood in line the Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks began, but I missed Tinkerbell! The girls saw her though :D It certainly helped pass the time in the queue anyway.

The ride was closed not long after we’d joined the queue, and by the time our cars came back into the pits (I despair of Amy’s potential driving habits) the CMs were taking the cars round to the storage area for the night. For some reason (probably just sod’s law) this meant that we had to sit in those stupid little cars for ages, watching our e-ride time ticking away, until eventually we were asked to get out and walk back up the track to the exit. I can’t wait for Rhian and Amy to grow out of this ride! Mind you, as Rhian is 16 already I don’t hold out much hope…

And so (better late than never) to the e-rides! Tomorrowland was still really busy, so we decided to head for the Haunted Mansion and hope that it would be less crowded up there. It was much quieter, and we joined the small line outside the Mansion doors. After a few minutes the CM came out and, in suitably spooky voice, told us that there was a problem and the ghosts weren’t co-operating so the ride was down at the moment. I didn’t know whether this was all part of the act! It appeared it was a genuine breakdown, so we reluctantly left the line and headed for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad instead. It was now a good half hour since e-ride night had started and we hadn’t been on anything yet!

Big Thunder didn’t disappoint us – it’s especially good at night, we think – and we were tempted to go straight back on, but we’d heard that the Haunted Mansion was up and running again and wanted to get back to that. As we went past the CM checking wristbands, he grabbed Rhian by the arm and said (a la Vincent Price) “That was rather quick, wasn’t it?” referring to the way she’d shown him her band. He inspected her wrist and then said to me “Does that look genuine to you? It looks to me like something she’s run up on her kitchen table.” The family behind us were in fits, so he dragged Rhian’s arm over to them and asked them what they thought. Then he let her go and added as an aside “Hmm, not a bad idea, I could do that at home and sell them in the parking lot…” The Haunted Mansion CMs really do seem especially good at acting the part!

We were a great example of non-planning tonight as we back tracked again from the Haunted Mansion to have another ride on Big Thunder. Not at all efficient, but it was quite nice to just ‘go with the flow’. On our way to Big Thunder there was a show about to start in the Country Bear Jamboree. This had been on our list of things to do this trip because there was a special Christmas edition showing, but it’s not an attraction we would normally go out of our way to see! However, this was our last night, we didn’t have a plan (can you tell? ) so we went in. The place was pretty deserted, but there were a few obvious fans clapping and singing along, and it was one of those events that was so bad it was good!

We had another ride on Big Thunder and then set off for Toworrowland where the other e-rides were. We started with Buzz Lightyear and then Rhian debated whether or not she wanted to go on Space Mountain. Jeremy and Amy were going on it anyway, but I was happy to do whatever Rhian decided. Eventually she talked herself into not doing it, so whilst Jeremy and Amy went in, Rhian and I got hot chocolate and tried to keep warm. Next stop was Astro Orbiter for Rhian and Amy, but Jeremy and I declined – I really dislike this ride and it’s the only Disney ride that makes me feel ill!

After Astro Orbiter we decided to call it a night and go back to the hotel. We got to the ASMo bus stop just before 11:00 and were all in bed by midnight. We had a great evening doing the e-ride night, but I don’t know whether I’d go out of my way to do one every trip. It was an certainly an excellent way to make our final full day last a bit longer, and we still had a bit of time tomorrow to take care of…
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Old 04-25-2005, 03:30 PM   #8
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Wednesday, 3rd January

The Weather Channel told us it was 42 degrees at 8:00am this morning, but the forecast (now that we were leaving!) was for better temperatures over the next few days. Ah well, you can’t have everything…

We packed our bags and took a final photo of our Dalmations room before taking the luggage down to the storage area. I was quite pleased to note that we were out of the room by a quarter to ten, as usually it’s a fight against the clock to get out before we’re thrown out. Either we’re getting better with practice, or maybe it’s having only one week instead of two to amass all the extra stuff which we then have to get in the cases!

We got the bus to MGM and once at the park we went straight to the Backlot Tour. On the way we saw Piglet, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Pinocchio and Gepetto, so stopped for a couple of photos and autographs. The special effects part of the Backlot Tour was very tame – they didn’t use volunteers, but had models in place – but the bus tour was still good. It was interesting to see all the Osborne Lights during the daytime and without all the people walking through at the same time.

Time for a coffee and something to keep us going until our lunch PS later. We stopped at the World Premiere Food Court and couldn’t believe our luck as they had churros here – our favourite WDW snack. We’d only ever come across them at Universal Studios and the Mexico pavilion in EPCOT before, so it was a real treat to find another place that had them. If we hadn’t got lunch looming I think we’d have been back for seconds!

We headed for the Drew Carey Sounds Spectacular, but we’d just missed a show and didn’t think we’d have time to wait for the next one and still be in time for our PS. We went into the Sound Works area next door instead and enjoyed the sound booth just as much as ever, and the girls had fun doing some voice-overs. (If you haven’t tried this bit before, it’s worth a visit.)

Then it was off to the Hollywood and Vine for our character lunch with Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale. No wonder those chipmunks are a little on the round side – they must be in just about every character meal going! We hadn’t eaten here before, and I have to say I thought this was the best WDW buffet we’ve had, but I’m basing that on a vegetarian viewpoint and I can’t remember what the meat selection was like. We made the most of the eat-as-much-as-you-like principle here, especially as we knew our next meal would be whatever culinary delights we were served on the plane! The highlight of the afternoon here was Minnie and Goofy boogying away at the front of the restaurant every half an hour or so. When the music started, several of the servers went up to the front to lead the clapping and foot stomping, and everyone was encouraged to join in. Good fun!

After our huge lunch a sit-down was in order, so we went back to Drew Carey’s Sound Spectacular and enjoyed the show, killer bees and all (you’ll have to do it to find out!). By the time we’d done this we thought we should start making our way back to All Stars ready for the trip to the airport, but we reckoned we could manage a browse in the shops along the way .

Back at the hotel we collected our bags from storage, changed in the hotel restrooms ready for travelling, and Amy and Rhian went for a look around some other parts of the resort while we waited for the Tiffany Town Car to arrive. The car arrived about ten minutes early, but as the girls had disappeared we couldn’t go anywhere anyway. This suited me as I didn’t want to leave any sooner than I had to! Eventually the girls returned and we piled into the car. It wasn’t until we were in the car and the driver was chatting to us that I realised he had a Liverpudlian accent! Now I don’t generally have a problem with Liverpudlians, and this one was very friendly and helpful, but I was a bit disappointed! It seemed to take us back into UK mode before I was ready – I wanted to stay fully immersed in the USA way of life until the bitter end. It was the same kind of feeling as when I’d spotted the Daily Mail for sale in the hotel…

So we arrived at Orlando International, the driver dropped us right outside the BA desk and we didn’t have long to wait in the queue. I was hoping to get better seats than we’d had on the way out as the Tour Operator who’d booked the flights for us had put the request though wrongly. I also wanted to get Amy on the list for a child’s meal as they’d got that wrong as well I smiled sweetly at the check-in clerk and asked whether he could do anything to help. He could! He did! I have to say that on both journeys the check-in people were very helpful and gave me the impression they wanted to put things right if they could. So, mission accomplished, we went through to the main concourse and spent a fruitful 40 minutes in the shops there (Janice – did you hear that?). There was a Discovery Channel shop, which was a big hit with all of us and we came out with three t-shirts and something the girls bought which defies description, but which was in the toy section! If we’d had more room in the hand luggage I think we may well have ended up with a lot more from here! I also spent some of my Christmas present money in the airport Disney Store – on the ‘ WDW Official Album’ CD. All those shops in WDW all week and I ended up buying it in the airport…

And so, on to the plane and the beginning of our journey home. We had a better seating arrangement than on the way out and the four of us were across the middle section, but it didn’t help poor Amy who was unwell all the way back. She managed to sleep for quite a while, but every time she woke up she felt worse and again made good use of the airsickness bags! The ironic thing was that she did get her child’s meal this time – but didn’t eat any of it! And next time we go to Orlando she’ll be 12 and probably won’t get the chance of asking for a child’s meal – still, I suppose we don’t go to WDW for the airline food, do we? The flight was quite turbulent and pretty uncomfortable at times, and Rhian didn’t feel too good either, but both the girls were okay once we’d landed.

Our mini bus driver was waiting for us, and I was relieved to see it wasn’t the speed merchant we’d had on the way out! The weather was awful – cold, damp, and foggy/misty – so we were really glad we’d opted for the mini bus rather than driving ourselves down to the airport. The girls and I slept most of the way, but Jeremy was too nervous being a back-seat driver (men, eh? ) to let himself nod off.

We arrived back at Jeremy’s brother’s house at about 10:00am, had some good old British hot-buttered toast and a few cups of tea and then all collapsed into bed until 3:00pm. I know the recommended way of overcoming jetlag is to avoid doing this at all costs, but all I can say is that this way works for us! We went to bed at about midnight that night and from then on in we were back into UK sleep patterns without too much bother.

The next morning we drove back home and couldn’t help ourselves talking about our next Florida trip in October! That just left the photos to develop, scrap book to make up, camcorder tape to transfer to video – oh, and a trip report to write


Some final thoughts on our WDW New Year’s experience:

BA flight – no complaints about BA service, I’d happily go with them again.

Tiffany Towncars – excellent service and cheaper than either taxis or a shuttle for four of us.

Dreams Unlimited – the hotel and PSs were all booked by DU and I was very impressed with our ‘agent’. Any queries I had were dealt with quickly, and I never got the impression that I was being awkward, even when I wanted to switch things around at the last minute. It certainly saves on the transatlantic phone bills, but I did find it hard ‘letting go of the reins’!

All Star Movies Resort – I was really impressed with this resort. I had expected a poor comparison to the Dixie Landings, Caribbean Beach and Wilderness Lodge Resorts where we have previously stayed, but we thought ASMo was fine, and we’d happily stay there again. The rooms were great, the food court had a good choice of menus, the transportation was efficient and the overall feel of the place was really comfortable.

The WDW Christmas decorations weren’t quite as amazing as I’d expected, although they were still incredible and beat anything we’ve seen in the UK hands down! The Magic Kingdom Christmas Parade was an unexpected highlight, the MGM Osborne Lights were absolutely stunning and the New Year’s Eve celebrations at EPCOT were just fantastic. Are those enough superlatives to give the general idea that we enjoyed ourselves? :D

Crowds were no worse than at some other times we’ve been, but as we’ve been before we weren’t dead set on doing all the rides so queuing didn’t pose a problem for us – if we’d been first-timers we probably wouldn’t have managed to do as much as we wanted.

The weather was something else!!! Okay, I realise it isn’t always like that in December / January but (apart from a couple of hours on the first morning) we didn’t expect to be wrapped up all week in more layers than we’d been wearing in the UK! The plus side of the lower temperatures was that it meant we didn’t get as tired as we do in the heat, and it was no problem to keep going all day if we wanted to. On balance though, I’d have preferred a bit more of the warm stuff – oh, all right then, a lot more! That’s not really something you can plan for though, is it?

It was a really great experience to see all the Christmas decorations, and be part of the ‘Holidays’ in WDW, but it’s not something I feel the need to do again. If we had no choice, and Christmas / New Year was the only time we could go in future then I’d be there like a shot, but I’d prefer to keep it as a once-in-lifetime memory. Yeah, I know that’s what we said about our very first trip to WDW (don’t we all?), so maybe you’d better watch this space…
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Old 04-27-2005, 03:22 PM   #9
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I wish I had read this before our December trip Hilary
Did you think it was worth it for just a week? The long plane journey I mean
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Old 04-27-2005, 03:54 PM   #10
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Quote:
Did you think it was worth it for just a week? The long plane journey I mean
Definitely! It took a lot of planning and we had very little 'down-time' whilst we were there, but I'd be quite happy to do it again. (In fact, I went for another one-week trip later that year with my mum ).

I did have misgivings before we went about whether it would all be too much in too short a space of time, but it was brilliant!
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Old 04-28-2005, 06:37 AM   #11
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Thanks Hiliary, I very much enjoyed reading your report. Are Rhian and Amy going with you in July? My kids are 16 and 14 at the moment but I know there will come a day when they won't want to come on holiday with us but I don't know if Orlando would be an exception for them.
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Old 04-28-2005, 07:34 AM   #12
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Are Rhian and Amy going with you in July? My kids are 16 and 14 at the moment but I know there will come a day when they won't want to come on holiday with us but I don't know if Orlando would be an exception for them.
LOL! Yes, they are!

I've been thinking along the same lines as you for at least 5 years now - that each 'next trip' will be last one as a family. So far I've been wrong, but I'm still thinking it. I'm sure the destination has a lot to do with it - we had a week in a gite in Britanny last summer and, although we all enjoyed it, I would be surprised if both girls would choose to come with us again on that kind of trip.

Rhian and Amy are now 20 and 16, and my latest prediction is that, as long as mum and dad are paying, they'll continue to holiday with us to Florida, but it will probably be as well as doing their own thing, not instead of it!
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Old 04-28-2005, 08:07 AM   #13
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Very pleased to see they are going with you. It will be strange going to Disney without the kids that first time but sounds like I have a few more years yet before that happens.
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