The Marvelous Magical Mask's Disney World Trip December 14-19, 2000: Part I

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by disneynovice, Jan 31, 2001.

  1. disneynovice

    disneynovice Earning My Ears

    Feb 14, 2001
    The Marvelous Magical Mask's Disney World Trip December 14-19, 2000

    And it only took me six weeks to write it all down!

    The Cast of Characters:
    Bob, 33, and Tori, 30 and their kiddos, Nicholas, ALMOST 8, and Samantha, 5.

    We began planning for this trip in early 1998, pinched our pennies, sold like crazy on eBay, and finally got to go on our first trip to the World Dec. 14-19. After two years of planning, things got pretty iffy the days before the trip. Bob got very sick the weekend before our departure, but recovered by Tuesday. Tuesday night, however, Samantha came down with the same thing (102 fever included), and was feverish right up until our flight left Thursday morning, the 14th, when it miraculously disappeared and never returned (thank you Lord!). The night before we were to tour Epcot, my son came down with it, fever and all, and was miraculously over it by the next morning. I waited all vacation to wake up throwing up and feverish, but never did.

    Meanwhile, back at the airport. . . We arrive an hour and a half before take off only to find our Northwest flight to Memphis had been delayed until the afternoon, killing our chance to catch the connection to Orlando. AUGGHH. We wait in the long line to get up to the ticket agent to find out what we can do, or how long we will get to sit in the airports, reminding ourselves of our family meeting we had had before we left. Our agreement was that everyone was to get along and be in their very best mood, no matter what. So we kept telling ourselves, "It will all work out" as we waited for our turn. Guess what? IT all worked out. The ticket agent put us on a non-stop Continental flight leaving in 30 minutes, getting us to Orlando two hours ahead of schedule! We were thrilled, boarded immediately, and got to enjoy our kid's first plane ride. We even got lunch! Okay, so it was airplane sandwiches, but in our elation, it could have been cardboard and we'd have been happy.

    We arrived at MCO at 1:15, and called Tiffany Towncar who was supposed to be picking us up at Northwest baggage claim two hours later, to find out what we could do or if we needed to wait. The Tiffany rep answered immediately, and said, and I quote, "If your driver isn't at the Continental Baggage Claim in two minutes, call me back." We trucked down to baggage and found the driver there before the luggage. A big WHOOP for Tiffany Towncar! The cars are new and spacious and can handle five passengers and lots of luggage. We didn't need the grocery stop, so we were taken directly to the Wilderness Lodge in half an hour.

    We arrived at the Lodge, checked in with no waiting, and found our Gifts of a Lifetime order ready for us. Actually, it was about to be sent to our room when the counter agent stopped it and brought it to the front desk. As a surprise for my crew I had Guest of Honor Badges waiting for us, as well as Epcot Passports for each of the kids. The kids sat in kid-sized rockers and watched Lion King while I checked us in.

    I had logged our room preferences with CRO when I confirmed two weeks before our arrival and then faxed the Lodge room controller the night before we arrived, just as a last minute hope. We got more than we could have ever wanted. It was a sixth floor, right wing courtyard room, #6121, right over the waterfall that runs to the pool. The lights on the evergreens for Christmas shimmered below us at night. We could see the fireworks over the opposite roof from the MK, and we had a great view of the Electric Water Pageant from our balcony at 9:35 every night. The kids got bunkbeds and their is now a light over the beds (in a great deer motif) so you don't lose lighting in place of the bunks. I had read it got pretty dark because the regular light had to be removed, but the Lodge has certainly remedied that situation. The T.V. was hidden in a wonderful "wardrobe" piece. We had a table and two chairs to collapse into when someone else had collapsed on the bed, and we had a table and two chairs on the balcony. The queen size bed was very comfortable. He bathrooms had marble-topped dual sinks. Can you tell I loved our room?

    The Lodge is very convenient to the monorail, via the 5 minute ferry ride to the Contemporary, and about 12 minutes by ferry to the Magic Kingdom. The ferry rides were very nice and rarely crowded. The dock was about an 8 minute walk from our room, but we always had to go to Roaring Forks anyway to fill the mugs, so it worked out perfectly. We bought one of the fatter mugs for Bob and one of the taller mugs for me. Each morning we'd wash them out, and put the two in one gakllon size ziplock bag and put them in the bottom of the backpack. When we returned to the Lodge for a nap, we'd take them out and fill them up on the way to our room. I was in hog heaven wince the dispenser was stocked with Cherry Coke! After naps, we'd repeat the drill so we could fill them up at might when we returned. We ate at Roaring Forks three times for lunch/dinner and LOVED those cheeseburgers and fries. We ate there once and twice we got it to go to our room: very fast service and, for WDW, not very expensive. The burger/fries combo was about $5. We never ordered anything for breakfast, but there were plenty of grab and go muffins and pastries for those ready to eat on the go.

    The Lodge, itself, was just magical. Words cannot do this place justice. I can't imagine staying anywhere else, especially at the holidays. The tree soared to the upper floors, the fireplace was majestical, the bridge over the beginnings of the geyser stream a favorite of the kids. The decor and theme was right up our alley and carried out throughout the entire place: rugs, artwork, wood walls and furniture, even the fire extinguishers are covered in a Northwest themed red glass!

    We found the bus system to be flawless. Two mornings we had the bus to ourselves from pick up to drop off at Epcot and MGM. Both arrived very quickly (one as we were walking to the bus stop, another 5minutes later) and got us to the parks in a matter of minutes. Heading home at night was crowded, but my daughter and I were always given seats by gentlemen and their sons. The rest of the time we used the ferry/monorail system and loved it. The Unofficial Guide rates the WL transportation system as convoluted, but we found it to be very simple and efficient.

    Here's a tip that we stumbled upon to our great delight the first night we were there. Not wanting to waste a day of our Hoppers, we had planned a dinner at Chef Mickey's. We waited for the ferry at 5:50. One came along within a minute, but the driver informed us she was making the circuit to the Contemporary via the Fort Wilderenss dock. The other family waiting decided to wait for the other ferry that would be direct, but we were in an adventurous mood, and, being two hours ahead of schedule, we were not in any big rush, so we hopped aboard. After the stop at the campgrounds we were the only folks on board (besides the driver, of course) and right as we got under way the sky was lit with the MK fireworks! It was 6:00 and the park was closing to get ready for a night of MVMCP. WOW. The reflection of the fireworks off the bay and the private "cruise" all the way to the Contemporary left us near tears. After the crazy start this trip had given us, that 10 minute boat ride under the fireworks sky all made up for it. We literally skipped to Chef Mickey's that night.

    We checked in at 6:15 for our 6:30 PS and by the time we did our picture and met Goofy, our little flashing thingee went off two minutes after we sat down to wait. Our table was off to the back, so it was quieter than the main room. For us, this was not a bad thing. Chip appeared before we had even sat down, followed by Minnie, Dale, and Mickey. We were novices at the character interaction thing, but we did manage to get photos and autographs. Being suckers, we bought the $25 picture package (which they bring to your table). Two 8x10s each in folders with an 8x10 of Chef Mickey, plus two 2x3 magnets make up the package, and the picture was pretty good, so we added it on to the bill. Now, for those of you who want to get great FOOD for this $75 meal ($100 after the picture, remember) this is NOT the place to be. Yes, there was a pretty decent prime rib, but most of the food was bland, the peel and eat shrimp were either soggy or frozen solid, and the salad bar just OK. Nicholas ate two miniature hot dogs, Sam said the mac and cheese didn't taste right and just nibbled on her cheese pizza. It looks pretty good on paper when you check out the menu but the best part of the meal was the simple little make-your-own-sundae bar. Still not worth the $$ for characters you are going to meet in lots of other places and at lots of better character meals. We might try the breakfast at Chef Mickey's once but we won't do this dinner again.

    Still, the first day was a great start. We headed back to the Lodge and settled in for a good night's sleep for our first park day on Friday. It was on this night, around midnight, that Nicholas woke up throwing up and feverish. We got him back to sleep and by morning he swore he was fine and ready to see Epcot. Although he seemed to move at a little slower pace that day, he never ran a fever or got sick again. Go figure.

    December 15: Epcot
    At the start of the Unofficial Guide the writers liken touring strategies to a dance that you can go over and over again until the steps come naturally. Well, I needed more practice with Epcot. Swan Lake it was not. We arrived at 7:40 so the first Test Track EE folks were already out of sight and there was NO ONE ANYWHERE. The picture we took in front of the ball looks like the place had been deserted. We rented a stroller (hey! It's not deserted, there are two stroller attendants!) and then realized we didn't have the first clue where to go. We knew test track was open, but we weren't riding that, which is where everyone else had gone to get in line. We rode Spaceship Earth and my daughter, who was unsure of the dark, decided she really likes it. We played around on the games at the end. Now there were a few folks milling around. We had packed clothes that were too warm for the 80 degree weather that day, so we stopped at Mouse Gear and shopped for t-shirts. Samantha decided to spend her day's money on a Princess hat. She was irritated that she couldn't wear it in the stroller because it was too tall and we couldn't figure out how to collapse the canopy.

    Remember the dance metaphor? This is where it really gets bad. Mommy has left the guidebook at the Lodge because it took up too much room in the backpack. What mommy forgot was that her handy dandy laminated index card with the day's itinerary was IN the guidebook. Mommy has not read much about Epcot and can't remember what's what. So in we go to "Honey I Shrunk the Audience." Sam was out of there in five minutes, terrified. And that was only after the mice. She missed the lion and python, thankfully, but she still spent the rest of the day asking if anything would pop out at her on all of the rides we went on. She was pretty tense when we tried Muppet Vision Sunday because of this, too. My son and hubby came out raving about it, but Bob told me Nicholas nearly dove over the back of his seat when the python came out. When we exited, one of the CMs said she had seen 15 year olds come out freaked from the show. She probably wondered what kind of mother I am to even try this with a five year old. (What makes it worse is that Samantha has Russell Silver Syndrome, which makes her VERY small. She looks about 2 and weighs 30 pounds). While we waited for Bob and Nicholas outside, Samantha was calmed by the really cool jumping fountains of water that leap over and under all the walkways and plants.

    We headed for the Land Pavilion, where our PS at Garden Grille was. We had enough time to see all three attractions: Living With the Land, Food Rocks, and Circle of Life. Living with the Land might have been interesting if we could have understood the guide. There must have been something wrong with the sound system or he maybe was just mumbling unintelligibly. Food Rocks was about as corny as it gets, which was amusing, but my kids didn't recognize a LICK of the music. We did all enjoy the Circle of Life film, once Samantha realized nothing was going to jump out at her.

    Garden Grille Lunch got mixed reviews from our clan. My hubby thought the food was spectacular, and I agree it was good, far better than Chef Mickey's, but the four of us were SO cramped at the little half moon table. The circulating restaurant was OK but you couldn't see much, and people were always squeezing past each other trying to get by. The character interaction was better here. Chip drank Sam's soda and she had to check and see "if there was any left." Mickey and Pluto signed her coloring page, since both of them were on it. The Pluto pic I have in my signature was from there, too. Sliding around the booth four times to get out to take pictures when people were trying to get by was not so fun. Just not set up with enough room, IMO.

    Nicholas was looking a little green around the gills after lunch, so we did the Living Seas and took him back to the Lodge for some rest. We rode the monorail to the TTC, then the monorail to the Contemp, and then the ferry to the Lodge. This was probably the long way, but we'd never been on the monorail, so we had fun getting there. We didn't get to go back for World Showcase or the rest of Future World, even though we had planned to, so our Epcot experience was pretty slim. Next time I may talk Bob and Nicholas into trying Test Track. No one is interested in Body Wars thanks to squeamish stomachs, and we still need to do Journey Into Your Imagination. This does give us another good excuse to go back, though!

    So we nap at the Lodge until 4:30 and get up to head to our first trip to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. We had 5:40 PS at Crystal Palace. I nearly had a heart attack when we went to go through the turnstiles and only had three party tickets! We found the other one after slowly going through the millions of cards we all carried. We had photocopied the backs of all our tickets, just in case, but it was still a flip out moment for me there for a minute. By this time, it's 5:35 so we just checked in on time. I could see us getting bumped and having to leave the park until the party, so I breathed a sigh of relief when we were immediately seated in a corner looking out the front windows. Sure enough, at 6:00 we had a sit-down view of the MK fireworks, this time right over the castle.

    The Crystal Palace food was identical to Chef Mickey's (sigh) but the character interaction was much better. We met with all the characters (Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore) at least three times. It helped that we were there for an hour and 40 minutes, I'm sure. My daughter drew a picture of the four characters and three of them signed it for her. It's on display in our scrapbook with our pictures.

    At 7:20 we were allowed into the park. We were there on the very last night MVMCP was offered, which was also a Friday. Imagine walking into Fantasyland and NO ONE is there! We rode everything with no wait, had our picture taken, took a picture of Cinderella's carriage with no one around. We also got several pics of the front of the castle with NO ONE in the pics but us. The free picture arrived at our home two weeks (on Christmas eve!) later and was nice and close, but don't expect much from the backgrouns. Cheesy green butcher paper with some cheap Walmart stuff pasted on it. Guess you get what you pay for.

    Our first ride in MK was, appropriately, Dumbo. My daughter and I rode a pink one and my son and husband rode the more macho purple, although their hats were covered up with red Christmas Santa hats! We soared above the nearly empty Fantasyland for 90 glorious seconds.

    We then rode Pooh and Pan, no waiting for either, and loved both. Soaring over the rooftops of London just can't be beat. We rode Pan twice in a row.

    It's a Small World was another story. This ride illustrated how BIG the world really is and much shorter we wanted the ride to be. But it's one of those things you HAVE to do once. And only once.

    We all loaded onto the carousel (there were about three other families on at that time) and rode to "When You Wish Upon a Star" which was quite appropriate, since our hearts had desired this trip for years! My son and husband both wanted to ride the war horse, but hubby grew up enough to make way for the prince. There are four horses across and I rode on the inner most one. I got a great picture, leaning back, of my three and their horses and the lights of Fantasyland.

    We all tried pulling the sword from the stone and I took a pic of each with that look of constipation on their faces and made a cute collage of them.

    My daughter was feeling adventurous and agreed to give Snow White a try. She did not like this one, although she perked up at the dwarves and the happy ending seemed to make it all OK, but the dark and the witch, especially the part with her about to drop the boulder on us, freaked her out.

    We had front row seats at the Belle Christmas show, and this was showing up for the show 15 minutes before it was to start. Everyone but mom was asked to be in the show. My chicken kids refused, although my daughter was dismayed to find out she could have been the angel who lights the tree. Dad got to play the beast, and the best part, he said teasingly, was that he got to hold hands with Belle. Priceless video here. One note, don't forget the still pictures - I was too busy capturing everything on video and didn't have any pics for the scrapbook. Once I figure out how to capture still images from the digital video, I'll be able to insert them, but those that don't have this capability should remember to snap!

    By 9:40 there was all of a five minute wait for Haunted Mansion. We all trooped in and by the time the lights went out in the pre-show room my daughter was done for, so she and I took the chicken exit and waited for Bob and Nicholas to emerge. Nicholas and I then rode while Bob and Sam cooled their heels. At 10:00 we were headed around the bend near Liberty Tree Tavern when the fireworks started. WOW! The end had fireworks going off 360 degrees around - you could spin in a circle and see them everywhere. The view near the Hall of Presidents was awesome.

    We headed for Main Street and enjoyed the flakes of "snow" fluttering about, and browsed the shops. About 10:30 we secured a spot curbside for the second parade near the corner of the Emporium. I took the kids across to the Confectioners' shop and bought yummies to munch on, although we had a time finding a nearby vendor for something to drink. We also bought Bob a Captain's hat embroidered with Cap'n Bob across the front. He was delighted.

    The Christmas parade is wonderful, especially with the "snow", but plan on napping that afternoon so you can stay up late enough to catch the second parade -- at 11:15, it's a stretch for the younger ones. The parade was filled with wonderful floats: the mirrored castle with all the couples, the giant Hunny Pot (to Pooh, from Pooh, the card reads), the Toy Story float with EVERYONE and their toy counterparts stacked on the back, Mrs. Claus' gingerbread kitchen SMELLING of gingerbread, Santa way up in his sleigh with a huge stuffed Mickey on top of all the other toys. . .it's a must see, and we caught part of it on another afternoon in the daylight and it wasn't as magical, so be sure to catch the Christmas parade at night.

    By midnight we were worn out and already near the exit, so we high tailed it back to the ferry landing and collapsed back at the Lodge.

    Our plan to use EE the next (Sat.) morning was useless. We HAD to get a bit more sleep. We got to MK the next morning at 9:45 to check in for our Cinderella PS. A HUGE thank you to Michael Cognovich who helped us out with a PS when there were no more to be found. When we arrived I heard the hostess say to the woman checking people in that that morning they had had over 100 no shows and had seated about 97 walk-ins! So if you have your heart set on the castle, try a walk-in when you get there. You may have to wait a bit, but IT IS WORTH IT.

    We entered to wait for our name and there was the Fairy Godmother on a great throne, holding court next to a beautiful Christmas tree. Samantha hopped up on the throne before the Godmother could even reach down to help her up. They visited for a good while and we were called within 10 minutes for our table, up the stairs and into the BRIGHT morning sunlight streaming through the castle windows. WARNING: DO NOT attempt to take pictures with this light anywhere behind the subject - they will NOT come out. The food was good but Samantha couldn't eat a bite. She just watched her princesses come around to her. She met Jasmine, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella. Our favorite was Snow White, who was marvelous, and Cinderella, of course. We headed out at 11:00 to catch the Sword in the Stone ceremony. Merlin is said to always pick the quietest child, so my kids were SILENT. Unfortunately, my son is tall and a bit older than the boys that seem to get the nod the most often. It was still a fun show, and after Sir Charlie (the 20 something that was unsuccessful) had to hold Sir Brandon's (the e5 year old who pulled the sword up) cape and march around behind him, Merlin then called up another young man (maybe 18?) who was mentally retarded but mesmerized by the show and had him pull the sword, too and wear the cape, etc. It was very cool. We headed for Frontierland, by way of the Mickey Ice Cream bars (another photo op). Save the wrappers if they aren't too chocolaty. I cut the fronts of them and put them in our scrapbook alongside the pictures. Bob and Nicholas tried out the shooting arcade, and Nicholas bought his Disney hat. (Pin fever will start shortly and the hat will become the proud bearer of the pins.) We caught the Country Bear Jamboree's Christmas show next, with a 10 minute wait. This was the hottest afternoon, by the way, so we were glad to wait in the air conditioning. I do not understand how folks stand it in the summer. Texas is bad enough and I could never see spending thousands to languish in the Florida sun in crowds. God bless those of you who do it. The show was great fun - all Christmas carols - and the wall heads were decked out in Christmas hats while the bears were in various snow costumes.

    We are already pooped and with the heat and the crowds, we decide to head for the Lodge, but on the way we run into Bob's two holy grails: Captain Hook and the Pirates of the Caribbean. We waited behind about five families before getting our group picture with both Hook and Smee. I had made a card for Hook, but did not have a Smee picture, which sent Mr. Smee aterrible depression. He made as though he were leaving before we coaxed him back for a picture. He sadly signed Hook's card. Hook hadn't made things better by preening with his picture and stamping his foot and excitement when he first saw it. Now to Pirates. Samantha absolutely refused, so she and I shopped while Bob and Nicholas rode. The wait by this time was 40 minutes, so we had an hour to look around and spend money.

    It was nearly two and we left for the Lodge and a nap. We picked up Cheeseburgers at Roaring Forks and ate in our room before hitting the sack. That evening we headed for Fantasmic at MGM. My info had one show, at 7:30. We arrived at 6:00 to get in line so we could have a great seat, only to find out there were TWO shows that night, one at 6:30 and one at 8:30. The MK while crowded didn't seem overwhelming, but the hoards at MGM that night were awful. We decided to try our luck at the standing room only for the 6:30 show (since it was 6:00 and this was all that was left, or wait two and a half hours in the masses) and were THRILLED. No one stood. We filled up the right side of the bleachers minutes before the show (right behind the Dinner Party folks) and there is NOT a bad seat in the house. As long as you are centered on a water screen, you are good. There are three water screens, left, center, and right. Try to sit in the far right, far left, or dead center for a great view of the projections. Words cannot do this one justice but I will try. The pre-show was finishing up when the SRO folks were let in, so we got to do YMCA (caught on tape, of course) and a wave, which, with nearly 10000 people, is pretty impressive. Then we did a wave in slow motion, which was even better. We sang the Mickey Mouse club closing and the lights went out. The show pits Mickey's imagination against the evil forces such as the queen from Snow White, the dragon from Sleeping Beauty, and the serpent (Jafar) from Aladdin. You get to see laser lights, water "perform" in different colors, fireworks, FIRE (won't spoil it more than that), and projections of most of Disney animated films on the water. The princesses come out on beautiful floats, John Smith swings across the mountain, Pocahontas makes a dramatic appearance, black light costumed animals on canoes, Indians with torches in canoes, it all flows together. Mickey appears as himself, as the Brave Little Tailor, and as Sorcerer Mickey. The serpent and dragon have their moments in the dark. A giant riverboat FILLED with at least 40 Disney characters floats by, and, by the end, you are left speechless. For us, this was worth trip. "Some imagination, huh?"

    We headed back to the Lodge (on a crowded bus), gave in to the kids' need for more cheeseburgers, and watched the Electric Water Parade from our balcony before turning in sp we could head back to MGM for EE.

    Look for Part II: Sunday, Monday, and (sigh) Tuesday we go home

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  2. Dani

    Dani Earning My Ears

    Mar 17, 2000
    Wow! Sounds like you all had a great trip. I can't wait to read part 2. And for all of us trip report readers thanks for taking the time to write it all down. :D
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  4. Marla Hellwig

    Marla Hellwig I'm not lost, it's called creative exploring

    Mar 25, 2000
    A great Disney time is being had by all. Thanks for posting!
  5. jesdmill1

    jesdmill1 Eeyore lover

    Jan 17, 2001
    Sounds like you had a magical trip! I bet the lodge was really beautiful at christmas time.

    August 2001 - Wilderness Lodge
    June 2000 - Port Orleans
    August 1999 - Disneyland
  6. pumba


    Dec 28, 1999
    thanks for the work involved in writing it ;)

  7. mommanne

    mommanne Mouseketeer

    Aug 22, 2000
    I feel like I was with you. Thanks so much!
  8. cprior

    cprior Earning My Ears

    Dec 15, 1999
    I agree with you about the tour guide on Living with the Land - I couldn't understand a word he said - was he an older, taller man, by any chance? Maybe the same one we had in May.

    As for Garden Grill, we sat on the outside, lower level with plenty of room for people to watch going by and a good view of the boat ride below. It sounds like you were in the top row.

    Thanks for sharing your trip report.


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