Florida & WDW Epcot - New Years 2K11... Good Times!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 9:10 PM

Took a last minute road trip from NJ to Florida for New Years. Here is a brief summary of the trip, with a focus on Epcot on NYE which was the highlight of the adventure...

Day 1 & 2 – Drive from NJ to Clearwater Beach Florida for some beach time in December. Total driving time = 18 hours (over two days). Since this is an “Amusement” related board, I won’t spend too much time talking about Clearwater Beach, other than if you are in Orlando, and have a car, an “excursion” to Clearwater Beach is a great option.

A little over an hour’s drive from WDW, Clearwater Beach is a pretty cool place to spend a few days at. The beach is beautiful and several of the hotels are right on the beach. We stayed at the Hilton Clearwater Beach for about $200 a night. The property is decent and they have a private beach and pool complex located right on the beach. If you want to get some credits, BGT and Adventure Island is “on the way”.

Days 3, 4 & 5 (New Years Eve) - Got to WDW late in the evening on December 29th. Checked into the Coronado Springs Resort. Traffic was light throughout WDW and the resort parking lot was ½ filled. Weird for such a busy time of year. This was our third time staying at CS and it is my favorite of the “moderates”. Newly renovated rooms, flat screen TV’s in every room and free internet. The food court is one of the best of the moderates and the pool complex is also very cool and well themed.

Since we didn’t want to “burn” one of our theme park admissions (we buy 10-day, park hoppers, no exp, at a time), we went to the Polynesian to watch Holiday Wishes from the resort beach area. AWESOME! In some respects, it is better than being on Main Street USA. They pipe the music score in, no crowds; and you can pull up a chair and watch while sitting. And best of all, the pool bar is open so you can have a cocktail while viewing Wishes! Simply awesome and something you have to try if you are a Wishes fan and the holiday version is really cool.

The next day we headed to Blizzard Beach in our quest to avoid the massive holiday theme park crowds. And as we expected, BB was empty, with no trouble finding a prime lounge chair location. Most slides were less than a 5 minute wait. A perfect day at the waterpark avoiding the mass hysteria of the theme park crowds. Again, for a 75F sunny day, it was surprising that BB was so empty. Our luck ended that night when we headed to Downtown Disney for dinner at Wolfgang Puck. Dinner was great but the place was packed beyond belief. Took us close to two hours to get back to the CS resort between waiting for several busses and gridlock traffic. Never again during New Years….

The final day was NYE at Epcot. All in all, it was an amazing and incredible experience. Something I would most certainly do again. Here are some highlights and general commentary:

• We arrived at Epcot around 3pm. Park was jam packed. Epcot was still open (for admissions), however there were signs that the MK and HS were closed for capacity.

• Soarin and Test Track Fast Passes were out (no surprise), and standby wait times were fluxing between 200min and 260min all evening. Sorry, no thanks! The Soarin queue was coming out of the entrance area at times and the Land pavilion was more crowded as I have ever seen. However the food service area (Seasons) didn’t seem to have long lines (keep reading)...

• We were able to get rides on Nemo (10 min wait, capacity cranker) and the Land Boat Ride (whatever you call it), which had a 40 min standby wait, but we easily got FP so it was around 10min for us. While slow, it is an interesting attraction if you manage not to fall asleep and actually listen to the narration…it really is interesting…

• Finally, we took a spin on Spaceship Earth. Even with a pretty full queue, it was about a 15 minute wait. That ride really cranks people through and is one of my favorites at Epcot…not sure why…

• I really love the WED Omni Movers…..the capacities on these attractions are amazing! You never seem to ever wait that long.

• Leading up to the 7pm Illuminations show, the park seemed get as crowded as it can get. Not quite “body to body,” but pretty close. The park actually opened up the grass areas around future world for “lawn” seating which I never saw before. Interestingly, after the 7pm Illuminations, Epcot seemed to “clear out” a bit. I guess that many parents with kids called it a night after the 7pm show.

• Bathroom lines…..not acceptable. Just about all bathrooms had a 10-15 minute wait, especially for the ladies. COME ON DISNEY???? With all of the resources that WDW has, they can’t find a way to add port o’ potties or something. The bathroom situation was really ridiculous and was the worst part of the night.

• Entertainment. From what I saw, there were three to four massive dance stages set up throughout the park, complete with DJ’s, pyros, and laser/fog displays. I am not a big fan of “club” music, but this was pretty awesome…and even this alternative music fan boy was tapping his foot and bobbing his head from time to time. Very well done!

• Food & Drink. Don’t plan on eating that much other than quick service locations. And if you do, plan on waiting 10-15 minutes for each location. Again, I don’t see how WDW doesn’t have a food and drink stand every 10 feet. It is so simple.

• For what it is worth, the bathrooms (by the Soarin entrance) and Seasons in the Land seemed to be the least crowded and we found ourselves walking there for bathroom breaks and drink refills simply because it was quicker. Interesting.

• Crowd Control. I was very impressed with WDW’s crowd control at Epcot. Disney basically made World Showcase a human “beltway”….think Capital Beltway in DC. The “inner loop” was flowing clockwise and the “outer loop” was going counter-clockwise. Complete with tape markings on the ground and cast members directing traffic with rope, it actually worked very well and there were little to no bottlenecks. Kudos to the manager who came up with this, probably while eating dinner at Perkins….

• International guests…. Just making an observation here, but there were a TON of international guests in the park. I would estimate that the park was filled with 60%-70% guests from outside the USA. Just making an observation….not sure what my point is, but I was surprised to see that many international guests.

• Now, to the main event….the NYE Fireworks…. Simply awesome. Around 11:40pm the park did a tribute to all of the countries celebrating their “specific” New Year complete with about 30 seconds of themed music and fireworks displays. That led into a fairly traditional Illuminations show followed with a countdown to the New Year.

• At the stroke of midnight, there was an incredible fireworks display for about 2 minutes that was simply amazing. You really have to see this!

• Then…around 12:04am, 100,000 guests headed to the exit….enough said. We stayed for a drink as the park didn’t close until 1am, and we were glad we did. We left right at 1am and it wasn’t that bad.

All in all, an incredible evening. Would I do it again? Certainly! And that pretty much sums it up! Happy 2K12!

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012 12:42 AM

It sounds like they didn't have all the NYE specific drink stands set up from your report, which is odd, because those things appeared to be doing crazy business even by 4pm last year. Did they not have some temporary restroom structures (they use them during the Candlelight Processional behind the American Adventure gate) out in the grassy areas over by Imagination? I think they also had them back at American Adventure as well, but I don't remember that for sure.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012 2:57 PM

Very detailed, thorough report. Nice job!

Incidentally, where in Jersey are you? I'm in Bayonne.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012 5:57 PM

Sounds like an awesome time. Thanks for sharing.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012 9:22 PM

A few additional notes.....

Yes it did appear that there were some additional drink stands set up throughout the countries. And I did see one portable bathroom set up in Future World...there could have been more. However it clearly wasn't enough. For the bathroom lines to be 20-30 people deep, clearly something has to be done different.

Just to qualify....I was there to drink, and have a good time....not ride rides. There is no reason that one has to get a fast pass to use the bathroom.

As for the additional drink stands....I was glad to see some additional....not enough. As with the bathrooms, most all of the drink stars were a 10-15 minute wait. Disney can clearly do better.

At food and wine, it just seemed to flow so much better. Perhaps Disney needs to apply the same operational principles to NYE.

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