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Hitting the Disney trifecta! a Nov 2013 PTR-and then some!(2/21-Trip #3 return!)

Discussion in 'Pre-Trip Reports and Plans' started by skier_pete, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    A quick note before I get into the trip plans. To make this PTR more interesting, I have tried to add some pictures throughout. These are not MY pictures, but are publicly available pictures from the internet. I do not intend any copyright infringement or look to profit from their use in any way. If the site wants me to take them down, I will gladly oblige.

    One of the things that keeps the ABD – BSM trip more affordable than most, besides the fact you don’t leave the country – is that it is fairly short. While it’s listed at 6 days, 5 nights, it’s really only 4 full days, with two very short days. The trip itself starts on Sunday, June 9th with a welcome dinner at the Lowe’s Hollywood hotel at Hollywood and Highland, and ends with breakfast on Friday, June 14th. But, I am very paranoid of air travel delays, and I would never risk flying out to the trip the same day as it starts. Plus, we want to take advantage of having a trip without DD.

    Our original plan was to expand the trip as much as possible, fly out on Saturday and return the following Sunday. My mother-in-law, who’s retired, had agreed to watch Adriana Then I realized that Sunday was Father’s Day, so I at least wanted to be back for that.

    We fly Southwest whenever we can. This is partly the price, but mostly because we use our Southwest Visa card to build points. If you calculate it out, the rebate is about 2 %, and we are usually able to drive a lot of points through it each year. We already got one free flight to Arizona in February to visit my parents, as well as one of these existing flights. Since Southwest doesn’t fly any red-eye flights, we are returning on Saturday late. The initial price $398.20 round trip for the one flight, and I was later able to get a $35 credit later, bringing the price down to $363.

    We leave Buffalo airport at 10:45 AM. Our daughter goes to a Ukrainian school (learning the language and culture) on Saturday mornings, and I think it will still be going for the year. Since that starts at 9 AM, we may drop her off to school in the morning. Either way we will head to the airport shortly after that. We haven’t figured out if DMIL will drop us off, or if we will take our own car to the airport. Our arrival back comes in late on the 14th, so we will likely need to take a taxi home if our car isn’t at the airport, and that will cost almost as much as leaving the car here.

    Our flight has one change in Phoenix, and we arrive in Los Angeles at 3:20 PM Pacific time. I’m hoping for a nap on the plane, but I may be “Too excited to sleep!”

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    Upon arrival we have a few options. ABD will provide transfer from the airport to the hotel only on the starting day of the adventure. That first hotel for Sunday night is the Loew’s Hollywood Hotel (The Hollywood Hotel? Wait a sec…my last trip to DHS I tried staying there. Something was wrong with the elevator!). Unfortunately, this hotel is rather cost prohibitive in my view. The lowest price I’ve seen there was about $250 a night, and current pricing for that night starts at $379, so staying there an extra night is NOT in our budget. Alternate to that was to rent a car and stay at a different hotel, coming back to the airport the next day to get the transfer shuttle to the Hollywood Hotel.

    (Side note: Quite honestly I have a vacation philosophy of not spending a lot of money on hotels. We won’t stay at a Motel 6 or anything, but I try to keep hotel expenses down most places we go. My feeling is a hotel on most vacations is a shower and a place to rest your head. We don’t need high end service or expensive sheets. It is extremely rare for me to shell out more than $200 a night for a hotel, and I am typically very good at finding up a quality mid-level hotel in any city we travel to. My greatest coup was getting us an apartment back in 2002 on Nob Hill in San Francisco not 1 block from the Fairmont Hotel for $105 / night, including indoor parking. It was actually such a good deal I was nervous but the place ended up being fantastic.)

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    The other issue was how to get around. As I was researching rental cars, I stumbled across the fact that the Loew’s Hollywood has a Hertz rental car center right on site. This made the decision on what to do much easier. We are renting a car from Hertz and then staying at the nearby (to the airport) Hilton LAX hotel. I was able to get in for $108 a night including tax, with another $15 for parking. The rental car will only run about $50 because we only need a single day.

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    So, we check into the hotel. Right now we do not have any specific plans for the night. I suspect we will mostly take it easy as we know that this trip will be a non-stop thrill ride. We are not high energy people, but have decided we are going to find a way to get as much out of this trip as possible, even if it means we start drinking coffee! (Neither of us do!) But, for this one night, we only have one plan. We want to eat dinner at the Hard Rock Hollywood.

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    DW has been collecting Hard Rock shot glasses for longer than I’ve known her. She has about 15 so far from different Hard Rock’s around the US, Hawaii and Australia. But, somehow she has never managed to hit the LA Hard Rock. Now, I know this location is literally around the corner from the Loew’s hotel at Hollywood and Highland, but I still think that we will try for it. Alternatively, she may decide she wants to stop at both, so we could hit the Universal one on Saturday night and hit the other one on Sunday or Monday. I will leave that up to her. I let her know about the options the other night and she said "Let me think about it."

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    I believe we will not stay out very late, as we will be tired from the time change and ready for an early morning the next day.
     
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  3. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    Because this trip is themed around “Backstage Magic”, I wanted to get a little extra magic before the tour started with another backstage tour of some sort. Unfortunately, the number of studios tours running on Sunday’s is very limited, especially seeing as we only have the morning. (We have to drop off the car off by 1 PM.)

    Therefore, I am choosing the Warner Brothers VIP studio tour ($49 per person) with an 8:45 AM start time.

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    This includes seeing the sets of TV shows like Big Bang Theory and The Mentalist. (Sets vary depending on what’s available, but weekends nothing will be in production, so there’s a pretty good chance we’ll get our choice of what to see.) They also take you through a props area where you get to see stuff from the Harry Potter movies and the Central Perk set from the TV show Friends.
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    The tour is about 2.5 hours long, so I was thinking for a 8:30 AM start time (seems early but I think we will likely easily be awake by 7 AM if not earlier). This will wrap us up around 11 AM and give us time to get some lunch.
    The lunch location will hopefully be the LA Farmer’s Market.

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    Kevin from the podcast recommended it very highly, and while I am not much into shopping, his mention of “the best corned beef sandwiches anywhere” at Magee’s Kitchen in a post has convinced me to give it a try. Hopefully we won’t have an issue with getting the car to the hotel in time if we stop there for an hour or so.

    Check in at the Hollywood Hotel is probably later in the day, but with luck our room will be ready when we get there.

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    Oh wait, wrong picture.

    The ABD adventure starts this night, with a “welcome” dinner. It will be fun putting faces to the names (or screen names) that I have been meeting over the last 12 months, as well as meeting Pete and Walter and any other podcast folks that come along. I always think it must be funny for them in that in developing the DIS and the surrounding businesses they have become mini-celebrities, probably not something that was expected early on. While most of the time being able to be very anonymous, but amongst the right group of people (DISers) they are quite famous. A level of fame that I think would be much more appealing than being a Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie where you can’t go anywhere without everyone knowing who you are. But for trips like these they probably feel they have to be “on” the whole time, acting as hosts and spending time with everyone…so I’m sure that can’t be easy.

    Anyways, the evening spent meeting new-old friends. I have no idea of the timing of the night, but I am not making any other plans for the evening. In fact, I have no “plans” of my own made for the next 4.5 days. This is very unusual for me, because I tend (like many here) to be a big-time planner. But, we’re paying ABD for the experience, I am going to let them make the plan.
     
  4. PrincessInOz

    PrincessInOz Thanks for my avatar, Mary Jo!

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    I like the Farmer's Market. There is a wide diversity and choice of food there and I think you and DW will like it too.


    Great plans.
     
  5. Aussie Wendy

    Aussie Wendy DIS Veteran

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  6. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    While I purposefully have not looked into specifics of the trip from any previous TR, for those that havent ever paid attention to what goes into the trip, Im going to provide a description which is directly from the ABD web-site, so there are no spoilers here. This is exactly what anyone would know going into the trip.

    Private Hollywood Excursion: See Hollywood aboard an open-air vehicle with an expert guide. Snap photos of world-famous iconsincluding the El Capitan Theatre, Pantages Theatre, Crossroads of the World, Sunset Strip, celebrity homes and more!

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    The Jim Henson Company: Not open to the public, The Jim Henson Company was built in 1917 by Charlie Chaplin. An historic icon, visit this charming studio featured prominently in the Walt Disney Pictures movie, The Muppets (2011).
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    Lunch at Tam O'Shanter: Eat lunch at one of Walt Disney's favorite hangouts! Rich with showbiz history, Tam O'Shanter was established in 1922 and is one of the oldest restaurants in Los Angeles. See the booth where Walt Disney used to sit and savor the Scottish-themed restaurant's Old World favoritesincluding their famous prime rib and Yorkshire pudding.

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    On Your Own in Hollywood: In the evening, you're on your own to relax or enjoy the wide variety of restaurants and activities in this vibrant area. Your Adventure Guides are available to make recommendations


    My comments: The Hollywood tour is sort of interesting. Ive done one before many years ago, I expect they might take us into the El Capitan as that theatre is Disney owned. The looking at celebrity homes doesnt excite me much, so hopefully we dont waste too much time on that. The highlight of this day for me will be the Jim Henson Company. I consider Jim Henson on a level of entertainment geniuses with Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg. My age is exactly in the wheelhouse where almost everything he did, from Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, even The Dark Crystal had influence on my pop culture taste. The idea of spending even 20 minutes in that studio leaves me in awe. And if I could meet a muppet! Oh man! I can probably safely say that there wont be anyone on this tour more excited for that portion than I.

    Im pretty sure ABD has some options set up for the evenings entertainment, but since I dont know for sure what they are I wont talk about them here.
     
  7. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    More words from the Disney web-site.

    Walt Disney Imagineering Tour See how the magic of Disney theme parks and resorts is made. Get a first-hand look at some of the creations conjured up by the architects, designers, engineers, technicians and others who make up the Disney Imagineers.

    Walt Disney Studios and The Walt Disney Archives Enjoy lunch at The Walt Disney Studio commissary and then browse through an assortment of memorabilia at the Studio Store. Afterwards, you'll learn the story of The Walt Disney Studio during a privately guided visit, which includes The Walt Disney Archives.

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    Disneyland® Resort Head south to your next home base, Disney's Grand Californian Hotel® & Spa. This Craftsman-style hotel is within walking distance of both Disneyland® Park and Disney California Adventure® Park, as well as the Downtown Disney District—a promenade with shops and restaurants. After you're checked in, you'll have time on your own to relax by the pool or go shopping.
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    Disneyland® Resort Welcome Dinner Dine on fine family fare at Steakhouse 55 and get ready for a night in the park!

    Evening at Disneyland® Park Enjoy a priority entrance into the Disneyland® Park with a special VIP experience prior to spending the evening on your own.


    My Comments: This is THE day of the trip. I mean, lots of neat stuff the other three full days, but, c’mon…this is IMAGINEERING, the Studios and the Archives, as well as a stop in Mickey’s of Glendale. Disney geek nirvana! This morning alone may be worth the price of the trip.

    Then we get a ride to Disneyland and check in at the Grand Californian. You know how I mentioned we rarely pay more than $200 a night for a hotel? Well, this place starts at $500. This will be the most expensive hotel we’ve ever stayed in by a long shot. I am curious to see what it’s like. I may well take a quick dip in the pool if there is time! Then to dinner AND a VIP experience in the parks – what exactly is “Priority Entrance into the…Park” mean? I’m guessing it is to see Fantasmic, but I am not sure. We didn’t get to see it on the previous trip because DD finds it scary, so we need to catch it at some point this trip.
     
  8. ymxbfalcon

    ymxbfalcon Mouseketeer

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    I think that I may give you a run for your money on this one. As evidence, I refer you to my signature. ;) It should be a fun morning.
     
  9. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    Hey Angie, and you may remember me commenting on that quote back last summer on the ABD thread! It'll be nice to have someone else to geek out over this stuff. (My DW likes the muppets a lot, but not to my level.)

    I have no clue whether we get to see actual muppets there...but it SHOULD be the case, right? They wouldn't not have muppets at Jim Henson studios, right?

    Don't tell me, though. No SpoilerS!
     
  10. ymxbfalcon

    ymxbfalcon Mouseketeer

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    I do remember you making that comment; it seems like a long time ago now, doesn't it?

    I'll be more than happy to "geek out" with you over anything related to Jim Henson. (If you need something to tide you over until June, do a search for videos of his memorial service; if you're at all like me, you'll spend hours watching and re-watching the performances that were given that day.) As for spoilers, I have no idea of what we will or will not see, but, whatever we come across, I'm sure it will be interesting.
     
  11. PrincessInOz

    PrincessInOz Thanks for my avatar, Mary Jo!

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    Wow! Great sounding tour with ABD. That's a lot of "exclusive" items on that list. I'll be looking forward to your report and pictures.
     
  12. khertz

    khertz Proud member of the WHO DAT NATION!!

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    The Jim Henson Co. and Imagineering would be my two highlights as well. I would also love to see the Archives!

    Maybe the priority entrance refers to the separate entrance into DCA from the Grand Californian? :confused3 Priority seating for Fantasmic would be really great too since that show is truly luck of the draw where you will get to experience it from.

    This sounds like such a fun trip!
     
  13. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    My plan is the TR on here will probably be somewhat edited for content version, with the special surprises not covered. However, I write these reports as much for myself and my memory in a word document, so there will be a version that I would be willing to let people read outside the DIS if you are interested.

    The archives will be cool. Hopefully they show us some cool props. My guess is we won't get "run of the place" access.It's seems to me that morning that you could easily spend an entire day in any of those locales.

    There is a separate entrance into DCA from the GC, but again I don't think they are referring to World of Color here as that is the LAST night - maybe there's a back CM entrance into DL over by New Orleans Square or something. That would be sort of funny...the fact that we would be paying Disney to use an employee entrance...and be thrilled by it.
     
  14. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    I am not quite ready with an trip update - but I just wanted to put it on the record that yesterday was the first on-line CHAT for ABDers, and I have to say it was a blast. I hope I didn't come across as too obnoxious, because I was being pretty jokey. But, it was really neat to get to meet some of the people on the trip in real time.

    In particular, 4 of us stayed on pretty late after the others dropped off. One from UK, one from New Zealand, one from St Louis, and me. It was an international cartel! We just chatted about various things, the weather, time changes, Carsland, the different between DL and WDW, what rides we are looking forward too, and what rides were are not.

    I was also glad DW got to join into the conversation for a while. Part of the fun of this is that it's going to be a group of "friends" right from the start, and I really don't want her to be left out of that experience.

    We got some good info on the trip, but nothing I really need to mention here. Well, we found out about Guide Tipping (not tipping over your guide - how much to tip). They said $6-$9 per person per day per guide. My calculations say if we call it a "six-day" adventure that is $72-$108 per guide, so seems to me it's an even hundred each to make it easy. That is about what I was figuring anyways and I already had that money stashed away in my sock drawer. I only mention this for anyone that might be thinking of ABD in the future...you have to factor that tip into your budget. Seems like it could really add up on longer trips.

    I also was curious about how it starts out. Our guides will apparently be waiting for us at the hotel lobby from noon to 3 PM on Sunday - so that'll be easy. Looks like we might have a bit of "on our own" time before dinner.
     
  15. YodasMom

    YodasMom Dis Veteran

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    Good info on the tipping. Thanks for updating about that since I was uncertain. BTW, I did sign up for the October adult BSM tour!
     
  16. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    Yay! I'm sure you won't regret it!
     
  17. PrincessInOz

    PrincessInOz Thanks for my avatar, Mary Jo!

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    Sounds like you're going to have buddies on the trip! :thumbsup2
     
  18. disneykiwi

    disneykiwi Mouseketeer

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    It was great to be able to chat to a few people - it feels like we are really getting to know each other. It was so cool that we were all from different countries.

    Pete you definitely weren't obnoxious - your humour was great and I had a quite a few giggles.

    Was great to talk to Ulana as well.

    Will contact you closer to the time about the Tim Tams to see if there is a particular flavour you want. Anything else you remember from our side of the world let me know and we can bring it if allowed.

    Happy Easter
     
  19. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    Oh, just a box of the regular chocolate ones is good for me! After we talked about it we realized that we have a box left here from our trip last year. Gonna eat those up soon I think.

    Glad to know that at least one person found my humor OK. It tends to be a bit dry - so it doesn't always come across in text.
     
  20. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    Wednesday Day 5: Breakfast at Disneyland® Park Start your day with a delicious breakfast at the Happiest Place on Earth!

    VIP Visit to Disneyland® Park: Discover the secrets of the Disneyland® Resort in this privately guided backstage visit that includes an iconic attraction. See areas that are off limits to other park Guests as you learn the fascinating history of Walt Disney and his dream—such as the Disneyland Dream Suite and Walt Disney's personal apartment.
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    Lunch at Your Leisure: Lunch is on us! So just relax, people watch and enjoy a great meal inside the park.


    Note: I am really looking forward to one of these from the Hungry Bear!
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    It’s a Fried Green Tomato sandwich – and it was fantastic!


    Private Ride on the Lilly Belle: Climb on board for a private ride in this elegant Victorian parlor car. This gleaming red beauty is quite the lady of the rail with its stained glass and gold stenciling. The Imagineers worked with Lillian Disney to create this precious car, which had been a longtime dream of Walt's.

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    Circle D Ranch: Walt truly loved four-legged critters and made them an integral part of Disneyland® Resort. Visit this behind-the-scenes home of the Park's furry—and feathered—friends! Pet the goats, see the majestic horses and more as you meet the charming occupants of the Circle D Ranch.

    Afternoon and Evening in Disneyland® Resort: Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening on your own at both Disneyland® Resort and Disney California Adventure® Park. Experience the thrills of fantastic attractions and spectacular shows, and be part of the countless magical moments around you. Your VIP experience includes special Disney's FASTPASS service and reserved seating for the afternoon parade.


    My Comments: So, when we were at Disneyland last summer, I spotted the Lilly Belle being towed on one of the trains going around the park. Knowing this trip was coming, I asked a CM: “So how do you get to ride in that car?” His response: “That’s reserved for special guests and VIPs.” Which are we? Combine that with seeing Walt’s apartment and the Dream Suite and that would be a hell of a day just there.

    I don’t really know any of the details on what “behind the scenes” stuff you get to see this day, and I don’t want to know. Backstage at the Circle D ranch sounds less interesting than the other stuff – “Pet the goats” really runs low on the list of exciting things on this itinerary. However, this is also the day for the one extra that was mentioned on the podcast – we get to watch the parade WITH the imagineers that designed the floats. How cool is that?

    Plus, our first day at a Disney Park without DD in tow in 13 YEARS! That right there deserves a happy dance. :dance3::yay::banana::cool1:
     
  21. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

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    Thursday Day 6: Character Breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen: Try the Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles or peanut butter and jelly pizza as you rub elbows with Goofy and his pals at this whimsical breakfast buffet.

    VIP Visit to Disney California Adventure® Park: Before Disney California Adventure® Park opens to regular guests, enjoy a privately guided VIP visit that includes a behind-the-scenes look at the inner-workings of the Park and an iconic attraction, as well as a private performance of "Turtle Talk with Crush."
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    Lunch and Afternoon On Your Own: at the Disneyland® Resort Spend the rest of your afternoon on your own, enjoying more of the exciting activities at both Parks.

    Farewell Dinner: Bask in the memories of your Southern California experience as you enjoy a special farewell dinner at the Resort in a private banquet room, exclusively for you and your newfound friends!

    VIP Viewing of World of Color: Watch the epic World of Color water spectacular from a very special VIP viewing area. With more than 1,000 multi-colored fountains, this bigger-than-life show is the perfect finale for your adventure!

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    My Comments: This day seems a bit underwhelming to me. A character breakfast. Ho hum. Private performance of “Turtle Talk with Crush”? Whatever! OK, just joking, I’m sure there’s going to be some cool stuff here. Again, no spoilers – but I really am hoping that we get a bit of behind-the-scenes of Carsland. I really liked this park more than I was expecting – but there is a limited amount of interesting stuff here. One personal goal is to ride Grizzly River Rapids at least once. We completely missed out on it last trip, so I figure if we get soaked, we just go back to the room to change. There is an entrance to the Grand Californian IN the park itself, so that’s pretty cool.

    The VIP viewing of World of Color should be neat. I thought it was a pretty amazing show, so I don’t think it will “get old” the second time. We had pretty prime seats though with the WOC package, so I’m wondering how good the VIP section will be.

    I also am finding it amusing that there is a “farewell dinner” which is not actually the last meal of the trip. Huh? Shouldn’t it be a farewell breakfast. (Edit: I am hearing now that this breakfast is sort of an “on your own” type thing as some people leave early that day, so this may be the end already.) One thing I AM sure of – this evening will come all too fast.
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