Walt Disney World, December 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 1:56 AM

Truth is, I'm not going to write a bunch about our trip. I've gotta say, I'm less motivated to write about the trivial goings on in my life right now, and the bigger things require some down time to write about.So I'll make some bullet points.

  • One of our motivations for the trip, going back to last year's November trip, was that I wanted Diana to see the Christmas stuff in full force, and the Osborne Family Christmas dancing lights in particular. Sure enough, Diana actually wept when she saw it, and I had my brief hero moment. We actually went back toward the end of the week for a second time. I shot some decent video of it all, but like much of what I've shot so far with the 7D (including stuff from CP), I need to take the time to do some color grading and tweaking.
  • The "new" Space Mountain is not appreciably different. Even after reading the Wikipedia article on it, I'm left scratching my head abouthow they spent $10 million on it. The paint, the video game in the queue (which I passed completely in the FastPass lane), and the closure of the loading area from the ride above were obvious to me only because I knew to look. The ride itself doesn't feel different to me other than being a little smoother in places.
  • The new Hall of Presidents is solid, not because of the Obamabot or any of that stuff, but because the film so much better, and apparently projected digitally. Morgan Freeman narrates. Even Dubya is painted ina positive light. I think they still need to make some tweaks to the lighting in the Presibot portion, because it's hard to follow the introductions.
  • Amusing: Pirates has two lines, one for each of the two boats that load simultaneously, one from each side. The crowds simply funnel into one side, causing a long line, while those willing to go the other way walk right on.
  • Saw the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse finally. Neat.
  • Diana got to dance with Mr. Incredible, and we have photographic evidence of it.
  • Finally did the Carousel of Progress, and it's horribly dated in Tomorrowland.
  • Because we never got back to Magic Kingdom beyond that first morning, we never did get to Haunted Mansion, Tiki Room or the Magic Carpets. No biggie.
  • Spent tons of time at Epcot, as usual. Managed to miss most of Future World outside of The Land, where Soarin' is.
  • Did the Raytheon exhibit in Innoventions with the Microsoft Surface tables and the robot simulators was kinda cool, and there was almost no wait for it.
  • Our three month advance reservation for Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion was so worth it. I generally theorize that the place is popular because the food is fairly standard meat and potatoes. While standard elements, the preparation is way above standard. Diana felt her steak was possibly one of the best she's ever had. My chicken was marinated and seasoned in a way that was perfect and not dry at all for pan searing. The moose mousse was delicious.
  • Other, more standard food at Epcot included the Japanese restaurant(the real stuff, not the hibachi junk), and of course Restaurant Marrakesh, which had good service for a change.
  • Did one night where we paid for dinner outright (dining plan would've swallowed up two credits) so we could get preferred seating for the Candlelight Processional. John O'Hurley was the reader. Yeah, Peterman from Seinfeld, and he was amusingly good.
  • Also at Epcot, we did a few Kim Possible missions, where you get the Kimmunicator and run around the various countries looking for clues and setting things off. The stories were a little hokey, but I can see how kids would be into it. Heck, we did three countries! Lots of neat things they do, like setting off animated things in shops, or taking a picture of you and sending it to the Kimmunicator.
  • We missed Illuminations. :(
  • Hollywood Studios were of course a blast, and the lights were a big part of that. We also hit favorites like Toy Story Mania and the stunt show.
  • The American Idol Experience was not nearly as lame as you'd expect. The set is beautiful, and they run it like a live TV show, complete with SteadiCam® operator. The make judges were silly caricatures of the real ones, but the female was kind of a goofy blonde Meg Ryan-ish woman who embraced being a redneck, and she was funny.
  • The Beauty and the Beast show at the studios is the single worst show I've ever seen at a Disney park. It's just awful. Two live singers on a tracked show with the queerest choreography ever. Avoid.
  • The 50's Prime Time Cafe is a real gem if you get the right server.Our "mom" could have in fact been our mother, or maybe even grandmother, and she was hilarious. The decorating was great, the food was average, and if you really got into the arrangement with the role of the waitress, lots of fun. She gave me a clean plate club sticker.
  • Animal Kingdom was a lot of fun, even though we didn't spend much time there. We did the safari, but then didn't do the walk-through trails because I'm a moron who acted like I remembered where everything in the park was. As a result, we didn't see the gorilla habitat, which is one of the coolest things I've ever seen at any zoo.
  • We did the Asia Trek walk through early enough that all of the tigers were hanging out, napping in view. Those animals are just amazing. We also spent a surprising amount of time checking out the giant bats there on our second visit, because they were cold and wet and active (heavy rain that day). They're really cute animals if youcan get past their creepy wings.
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical was again a highlight. Having the soundtrack, I'm pretty sure that Nemo, Dori, Crush and maybe Gil were the people who did the recording. It's amazing how that show can kick so much ass several times a day. It's just ****ing brilliant. Diana gets pretty misty for the show as well, less because of the story and more because she misses theater so much. Imagine knowing what you like to do and not being able to because it simply turns your life into a single-purpose endeavor.
  • We spent the Friday morning at AK again, and unfortunately, it was a steady cold downpour. After 70's and 80's, all sun, all week, I suppose it was inevitable. That I was trying to recover from being sick did not help, but we bought two ponchos for $15 and made the most of it. Had lunch at Yak and Yeti, an "Asian fusion" place, and it was excellent. Also picked up a zip-up hooded jacket that is of an appropriate weight for 40's and 50's with rain in Seattle.
  • So how'd the pregnant lady do? Mostly pretty well, as she has a molded brace/sling/belt thing that the doctor prescribed, making walking around all day a lot easier. We did theorize, however, that later in the day, after eating, it contributed to the acid reflux that made her miserable (and sick on two occasions) at night. The nights where she pulled it off after dinner were much better. Unfortunately, we ended up not being in any park much past 8 any night.
  • And on Thursday night, it was because of me. Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat, I thought from my own bout of acid reflux all night. Thursday it felt more like a conventional cold-in-progress. After seeing the lights at studios, we went back to the hotel for a quick nap. By the time we got up, intending to go back to Epcot for Illuminations, I was starting down the fever chills/overheating cycle. That sucked.
  • Bus and monorail transportation was generally pretty easy to deal with, and we only waited long once, for the bus from AK to Epcot. Except for one dumb redneck, people were more than willing to give up their seat for Diana.
  • The Magical Express kind of pissed us off the night we got there.We arrived around 8, but our bags didn't get there until 12:30. Every time I called they said it took longer. It's a nice service and perk,but I think it should have some kind of SLA attached to it, free or not.
  • Pop Century again proved to be adequate. At $59 a night with the free counter service dining plan, upgraded to the table service for another $100 for the entire week for two, it was a steal. The only big expense is still the tickets themselves. The hotel has comfortable bedding, and it's kept very clean. I think it's a great value.

I knew there'd be some risk with going there, not knowing how Diana would feel, but for the most part, we did OK, even with me being sick. It was nice to kind of just pick up where we left off last year and take it easy. We really enjoyed the food, that's for sure! I think we probably won't return until junior gets older. Next year, after a long absence, I think a Universal vacation at Royal Pacific is in our future. The Potter stuff should be complete by then.

Last edited by Jeff, Wednesday, December 9, 2009 2:03 AM
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009 3:45 PM

I did not notice very much difference between the "new" and "old" Space Mountain at Disneyland either. I enjoyed the ride either way and the renovation seemed unnecessary, IMO.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009 6:28 PM

So Jeff, you'd reccomend Pop Century?

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Thursday, December 10, 2009 5:35 PM

If you want something basic and adequate, sure. It's clean and the beds are OK.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009 11:22 AM

Nice report, Jeff.

I'm still trying to surprise Jen with a trip in March/April - I've just found some decently priced flights, so I may get to go sooner rather than later.

Now, to look into renting some points... :)

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Friday, December 18, 2009 8:15 AM

I love Carousel of Progress in all it's out-dated glory. You just gotta chuckle at the thing.

I'm already dissapointed in the Space Mountain referb from what I'm hearing. We got on the new California version this year, and it is fantasic. They apparently didn't try to emulate that. I'll get a ride next month to see anyway.

Nice trip report.

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Friday, December 18, 2009 12:43 PM

I'm still trying to get that damn song out of my head.

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Friday, December 18, 2009 4:28 PM

Great Trip report! You should really make the time to see illuminations during the holiday season, they add a special five minute encore to Let There be Peace on Earth and it is stunning!

Funny you should mention Royal Pacific Resort! I am writing this post from a king suite at the Royal Pacific Resort! We were upgraded due to my loews status! My third favorite hotel in Orlando after the Ritz Carlton and my favorite The Portofino Bay Hotel.

Christopher

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Friday, December 18, 2009 8:01 PM

God, I hated Portofino. I paced off the distance from our room to the lobby, and it was an eighth of a mile, one way. On top of that, it took forever whenever we wanted to get our car. Oh, and every single shop or service was at least three times what I would expect to reasonably pay. I felt trapped, almost claustrophobic, the whole time we were there.

Although the canal boat to Universal was very sweet, and the 'bay' is admittedly gorgeous.

....Guess I'm just not a 'resort' kind of person. I imagine going on a cruise would be hell on wheels for me....or without wheels, I suppose.

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Friday, December 18, 2009 9:59 PM

Portofino is a huge hotel and a four star resort! The walk from the east wing of the hotel to the boat to Universal is quite the distance. If size is the issue and you plan to stay on property again, you may consider the Hard Rock Hotel. Much smaller property and closest hotel to the parks. However the pricing is going to be about the same as Portofino.

The trick to staying at Portofino is to understand where to request for your room to be located and what type of room to book. I prefer the villa wing (deluxe rooms), which place you next to the villa pool and the beach pool and close to the lobby. However, I also like staying in the east wing (Bay View Rooms) of the hotel and asking for the top floor to attempt to get a balcony. The only issue being less than 10% of their rooms actually have a balcony and are very hard to get in during certain times of the year.

Christopher

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Friday, December 18, 2009 10:35 PM

I've never stayed at Portofino... too far to walk from the parks, and not sure it's worth the extra money. I've only been in there to get a massage at the spa. I enjoy hearing Dr. Doom and Hulk from the pool of RPR.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009 2:53 PM

Great report and timely since I'm heading there the first week of January.

I keep threatening with my fiance that she better not do anything to upset me before we go or I'm taking her on the carousel of progress! I usually follow it up with a line or two of "It's a great, big, wonderful tomorrow!" to make my point. :)

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009 7:49 PM

Thanks for that. I was finally getting that freakin' song out of my head.

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