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Sheri Niklewski -- November 2001 -- Walt Disney World (YCR)


November 21-25, 2001

This is my most emotional trip report. It's the first time I've been to Disney World since September 11th and we went over a truly American holiday. I've always been a patriotic person and when I saw our country's reaction to the attacks, I was proud of us. I've been reading for the past three months of how people don't want to go to Disney World in these times. How they wouldn't feel right. Go - it's the best thing you can do. Somehow, this trip restored my faith in America and our future.

Participants

  • Me - Sheri (39) - the planner and report writer. I'm the Disney freak in the family. I'm basically making my husband go on this trip. Accountant at a manufacturing firm.
  • Devoted Husband - Rich (41) - Enthusiastic collector, sports freak, and all around great guy.

When: November 21 - 25, 2001. It's Thanksgiving weekend but we'll manage.

Where: The Yacht Club

How: Personal vehicle from Georgia

Experience: Veterans

Why

Rich and I did a Labor Day trip to Disney World. It wasn't that bad driving down there since it takes about seven hours. We can do it with one stop and a change of drivers. On the way back from that trip, I thought about the next holiday. Well, Thanksgiving would be a four day holiday for me. Why not go? I brought up the subject with Rich and he didn't say no. He did say that we would probably be invited to his parents' in Maryland. But I said that was a 10 hour drive, Disney World would be just seven hours. And we would have to put up with his sister, a prospect neither one of us wanted to face. I brought up the fact that we would have a better time at Disney World then in Maryland. Rich didn't disagree. So I went forward with my plans.

Background

As I said, Rich and I are veterans. Here's the rundown on our trips:

  • January, 1982 - our honeymoon - offsite
  • August, 1985 - family trip with our son - offsite
  • November, 1985 - family trip with our son and the in-laws - offsite
  • June, 1993 - family trip with our son - we finally got it right and stayed at Dixie Landings
  • November, 1994 - family trip with our son and the in-laws - Shades of Green (we were military at the time) and offsite
  • June, 1996 - family trip with our son - Caribbean Beach
  • October, 1998 - just us since I "forced" my husband to go earlier than planned - All Star Music
  • June, 1999 - family trip with our son - Boardwalk studio
  • September, 1999 - trip with my dad and stepmother (delayed thanks to a hurricane) - Disney Institute bungalow
  • June, 2000 - family trip with our son - offsite for my solo time, Beach Club and Contemporary
  • September, 2000 - totally solo trip for me - offsite
  • November, 2000 - trip with the in-laws - Boardwalk one bedroom (still my favorite), Coronado Springs
  • May, 2001 - just us - offsite for my solo time, Swan (I love this place for the discounted price)
  • July, 2001 - me with the in-laws and our niece for just two non-consecutive nights - offsite and Swan
  • August, 2001 - just us - offsite
  • September, 2001 - just us for Labor Day weekend - Coronado Springs

As you can see, after that October 1998 trip, I became a Disneyholic. The only reason for that trip was I couldn't wait until June of the next year to go so I convinced Rich to go for a week. That was when I started writing trip reports so you can go back and read all the old ones if you want. Once the Disney bug hit me, I was unstoppable. We now live close enough for shorter but more frequent trips.

Resort/Hotel

With all this, I had to convince Rich that I could do this cheaply. I am going to report a lot on expenses because I believe we will be under $300. The hotel has a lot to do with that. I use www.floridakiss.com and www.travelocity.com a lot to try and find hotel rates. I did that with this trip. Except I wasn't getting good rates since it was the holiday. I haven't stayed at the Howard Johnson or the Travelodge at the Maingate yet so I was interested in checking those out. I used the Howard Johnson website (www.hojo.com) and was able to get a rate of $27.50 per night for the three nights I needed. That was incredible considering it's a holiday. But it came through and I'm more than happy with the arrangement.

I did the reservation to start on Thursday and we'd leave on Sunday. And then I started thinking. If we left on Thursday morning from Buford, GA most of the day would be lost to travel. Why not leave Wednesday night? We could go halfway and then do the rest on Thanksgiving. I mentioned this to Rich and again, he didn't say no. So I booked a Quality Inn in Valdosta, GA for Wednesday night. Cost of $38.66 for the night made through www.choicehotels.com (free membership). We can stay here and then get up refreshed in the morning and be at a Disney park by noon.

I'm never satisfied with what I have. Yes, Howard Johnson was fine. It's a decent chain and it's close enough to the parks so we can drive without a hassle. The price certainly was fine. But then I started to think one day at work in mid October. You know that can be dangerous.

I guess my biggest mistake was going out and looking at www.mousesavers.com. Really, those Annual Passholder rate codes are just too good. I resisted the urge to call 1-407-WDISNEY for about five minutes. And then I called. All Stars at $49 were booked up. Well, what's another $40 a night? So I tried for a moderate, specifically Coronado Springs. Booked. But Port Orleans Riverside was available for $89. I booked it. I reasoned that it was better to be on property than off. I have stayed offsite several times and I have never had any issues with it. Now that the construction on 192 is finished, the commute has been fine. And with living outside Atlanta, I know what a horrible commute is. But getting on property was kind of like a treat for me. I'm in a new job and learning things rapidly and this trip will be a true vacation for me. I want to be spoiled a little.

Well, maybe my biggest mistake wasn't just looking at mousesavers. The biggest mistake was printing out the information. And looking at it the next day. Gee, let's look at the deluxe resorts. Why shouldn't I try? I did first try www.wdwinfo.com and DreamRes for the Swan. But they didn't have the Disney Club rates out there. I love the Swan and the location is great for us. We can walk to Epcot and MGM or take the boats if we feel lazy. Those two parks are where we spend the majority of our time anyway. OK, let's make a call to Disney and see what they have. I tried for the Contemporary at $139 but they were booked. I tried the Animal Kingdom Lodge for $134 but they were booked too. However, the Yacht Club was available at $169. Oops, Rich would kill me. So I passed.

And I thought about it again. Why not give us some space? So I called again. For Fort Wilderness Cabins. Booked. How about the Disney Institute? Booked. Darn it, I waited too long to get the "gotta stay in a Disney resort" bug. Thanks anyway.

Then I thought yet again (can you tell absolutely no work was getting done this day?). I'm going to try again. This time, I just asked what was available. I got the Yacht Club option again. Why the heck not? We've never stayed here but have stayed at the Beach Club. I thought the Yacht Club was quieter than the Beach Club. And we'd get Stormalong Bay which we only went into once but I'm not repeating that mistake this time. While I was on the phone with the Cast Member, I was emailing Rich at home. His reply? Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhh. But that didn't stop me at all. I booked it.

So in two days I went from $27.50/night to $169/night. Quite a hike but I think it's going to be well worth it. So much for reporting on expenses because it's going to be a cheap trip. I'm just blaming it all on pixie dust.

Tickets

Rich and I both have Annual Passes. Between that and living so close, I think I will go insane with Disney trips. The shorter trips keep me satisfied and don't break the bank that much. Of course, Rich will disagree with that but who cares?

Dining

It's Thanksgiving. Where to dine on Thanksgiving night? Especially this year. I thought about it a lot. We'll more than likely be at Epcot. We spend just about every evening at Epcot. The only place we haven't eaten at are Japan (we've done that experience in Omaha so it wouldn't be that special), the Garden Grill (not really interested in preplated stuff), and China (a possibility although I've heard it isn't that great). So I thought about the other countries. With all the mess in New York and at the Pentagon while I was thinking about this, I really wanted to spend Thanksgiving with other "countries". To thank them for supporting us. If there was a Poland pavilion, we'd be there. The closest I could come was Germany. It's perfect. We both have that ancestry and we will both like the food and the buffet. I called and made the priority seating well in advance (like three months) so we are in. I did make the seating for 6:30 in hopes that it's in between Off Kilter performances.

But then President Bush made his speech in front of Congress and Tony Blair was there. So I made another seating for United Kingdom. I had to give a credit card number for this one and need to cancel within 48 hours or be charged for it. That was a change in policy. I was told that it was because the day was a holiday. I totally understand and will be able to get Rich to commit to either Germany or United Kingdom before that. I will definitely cancel the one we don't need.

I decided on United Kingdom and cancelled the Germany reservation. Thank you so much, Tony Blair. I find it ironic that the only reason for our Thanksgiving is because the Pilgrims came to this country to escape religious persecution. Only 400 years ago. And we fought a horrible war for our independence from Britain just 225 years ago. Barely four generations ago. But now we are allies and on the same side. I just hope that it doesn't take that long for the US and Afghanistan to settle this whole thing and just live in the same world without violence.

All the other food choices will be counter service and not planned in advance.

Except that Rich's parents were here for a few days and we were telling them all about Boma. We have a family reunion thing coming up in January and I guess you know where I've planned that. Rich's brother, Dave, is a very picky eater and is worried that I scheduled Boma for their first night. So Rich and I talked to Bobbie, Rich's mother, a lot about the buffet and how much we liked it. I got hungry for it again. So I had to get a seating for the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We're in at 6:45 PM. I can taste those zebra domes now.

We usually get up the last day and just head home. But I thought, why? It's only seven hours so even if we left at noon, we'd be home in plenty of time for a relaxing evening. And the cats will be taken care of through Sunday (it's a wonderful, personal service and it gives us extreme peace of mind with the three cats). We don't do breakfasts unless it's later. I looked at all the menus (www.wdwig.com) and decided on Kona Café for 9:30 on Sunday morning. We can eat and maybe take a nice monorail ride to end the trip. Or visit Main Street at Magic Kingdom one more time.

Touring

Extremely relaxed. We've been to Disney World so much that we just take in a lot of entertainment and some attractions at each park. We're not going to be running from ride to ride. We'll see Off Kilter as much as we can and do the other offerings when we can. We loved Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It! over Labor Day so that's going to be a must. As well as Rock N Roller Coaster and Twilight Zone. That's about all on our "must" list.

I will try and get us over to see the Osborne lights since they will be going on during this time. As kind of a scouting mission to take the in-laws over there in January. And we'll see about getting into the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. For the first weekend, the narrator will be James Avery. It's not high on the list of things to do but we'll see if we're in the area at the time.

And Oh How Things Change

On Monday, November 19th, I logged onto Steve Soares' site (http://pages.prodigy.net/stevesoares/index.htm) to verify the Off Kilter schedule. They are a high priority for us. They were only playing Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday for the week. So Saturday had to be dedicated to seeing the guys. They were only doing four shows but each show was lengthened to 30 minutes instead of six shows at 20 minutes. I told Rich about this and his reaction really didn't surprise me at all. He used to be a Disney scoff but I've turned him. I think his words were "well, I guess we are spending Saturday in Canada". Darn right.

With this trip report, I am going to try and add some descriptions of the restaurants and the entertainment. I know the veterans might be bored but a friend who's only been to Disney World once and likes to read my reports says that the trip report writers have their own language and it was hard for him to figure out just what we were talking about. So if you're a veterans, just skip these parts.

Off Kilter Description - "High-energy progressive Celtic music". This is a five man band with the main feature being rock music and bagpipes. They take traditional Celtic music and add rock to it. And they have fun with it. Don't let the rock aspect throw you off. One word of warning, though. It's loud so if you don't like that or have smaller kids, don't sit in the front row - stand behind the benches. We've heard Jaime, the bagpiper, being described by another bagpiper as the best he's ever seen.

I had to cancel the seating at Boma for Saturday but rescheduled it for Friday night at 5:00. I looked at when the Candlelight Processional was and it starts Friday and has three shows. I'm hoping to get into one of the later two shows.

Candlelight Processional Description - "A re-telling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a glorious mass choir. "

I liked the Tapestry of Nations parade (actually "liked" is too conservative - maybe "loved" would be better) and I wanted to see the new Tapestry of Dreams parade. But I like seeing this at Epcot in the dark. Once the Candlelight Processional started on Friday, this parade would be on at 4:00 and 6:10 which was too early for me. So I need to work this in Thursday night after our dinner. That shouldn't be a problem. Illuminations might as well follow it up since we'll be there.

Tapestry of Dreams Description - "Epcot's magical parade, "Tapestry of Dreams," celebrates children, dreams and the legacy of Walt Disney. The spectacle begins with Dream Seekers dancing alongside the Dream Catcher -- an enormous "float" that interacts with guests. The parade is a "visible dream," in which ideas, images and emotions are evoked through a series of extraordinary puppets and music. " This parade always brings tears to my eyes. However, it's not for everyone so you either love it or want to get away from it.

Illuminations Description - "Dancing flames, cascading fountains and eye-popping fireworks synchronized to a dramatic musical score. " This impresses a lot of people and it grew on me during the trip. This takes place nightly at Epcot on the World Showcase lagoon. You can see it from anywhere around the lagoon. Some guidebooks overplay having to get a spot along the railing an hour before show time. We've done that if we're in the area at that time. However, we've also gotten there fifteen minutes before show time and had good viewing. Our favorite spot is in Germany.

There is a tree lighting ceremony starting Friday at 5:55 at Epcot so I'm going to try and fit that in during our Off Kilter sessions. I have no idea if and/or when we'll get in the Osborne lights.

Osborne Lights Description - "Those famous Osborne Family lights are back on the Studios backlot once again. Now they're 5 million strong. Come stroll down Residential Street and feel the holiday glow of Mr. Osborne's over-the-top and all-down-the-street display. Put on a pair of our complimentary holographic glasses and the spectacle takes on amazing new dimensions. The "snow" falling nightly on New York Street gets you ready for a snuggly stroll with hot chocolate as you admire the twinkling lights."

Did you take notice that all this planning and all the changes don't involve many attractions? That's one of the things I can't get other people to understand. There is so much more to Disney World than the rides. My main priority is Off Kilter and then all the holiday happenings. If we go on attractions, fine. But if we don't, we've still gotten our money's worth. Disney is not a common theme park. There's so much more there.

BTW - a special thanks to Steve Soares for maintaining his site. He updates it every week and the information on there is very accurate. In fact, it led to one of my most favorite moments of this entire trip. The descriptions above are taken from his site. I hope he doesn't mind.

Kid of the Day/Dedication

I had put in a Kid of the Day in some of my later reports but hadn't lately. My friend, Adrienne, has a son, Rudy Jr. (they call him little Rudy but I can't because he's bigger than I am!) who likes to read my reports. He asked if I could put the Kid of the Day back in there. I was so pleased. So the Kid of the Day is back. It's a person or people, not always a kid, but someone who is just enjoying a little pixie dust during the day. It could be that little toddler I saw carefully walking around while his mom fretted about him getting in the way and his dad eagerly taping the little guy. Or it could be a grown man who stops and smells the roses at Epcot.

Adrienne then emailed me that she told Rudy that the Kid of the Day would be back. He asked about another thing I used to do - Sense of the Day. He wanted that back too. The Sense of the Day will be a touch, a sound, a smell, a taste, or a sight that defines what Disney does best.

This report is dedicated to Rudy, Jr. Thanks for being a teenager and still having the Disney magic. I hope it stays with you forever. Sprinkle it on everyone you can and the world will be a better place. I am so honored to have Rudy, Jr. and his brother, Alex, as friends. These kids, as well as my son, Chris, and our niece, Shanna, will make contributions to this country in future. And I am so relieved. Thanks again, Rudy, Jr. Here's your report....

Day One - Wednesday, November 21, 2001

This week, even though it was only three days, was extremely stressful for me. My company, which shall remain nameless, is in a severe cash situation where we get an allocation every day and have to pay the vendors that scream the loudest. Our payroll is always met but we have to field calls all the time from less then happy people we owe money to. The person that manages the cash is on vacation but I've been cross-trained to do the reports that she normally does. Unfortunately, Amy didn't give me all the little details so I spent the whole week putting out the little fires. I couldn't wait for today at 3:30. I was out of there no matter what. I made sure everything was taken care of before I left. I did take a break at lunch and ran out to gas up my car. There's a Texaco station near my work that had the supreme unleaded stuff (93 octane) that my car needs for just $0.98.9/gallon. I love Georgia gas prices right now. More than makes up for the almost $2/gallon this summer. Take that bin Laden.

I had to stop for cat food on the way home but ran through Kroger and did the U-Scan thing and got out of there in a hurry (the U-Scan is wonderful!). I was home by 4:15 and listened to the traffic reports along the way. I thought we were in good shape to get out of there without too much difficulty. If you don't know Atlanta, then you don't know horrible traffic. I called Rich on the cell phone and made sure he had everything packed that I needed. I usually am more prepared but the job just got a little, well, off kilter.

Once I got home, we loaded up the car (1993 Bonneville) and said goodbye to the cats (Todd, Gus and Belle). They will be taken care of by Debra and we left out the check for her ($72) for the four days. Definitely worth it to make sure our children don't get lonely. Rich drove us out of the neighborhood at 4:50. Into Atlanta traffic.

Did I tell you I was stressed? The traffic wasn't that bad and once we got south of downtown, I just crashed. Rich ran into traffic on I285 but for the day before a holiday, we didn't lose that much time. After a couple of hours, we both needed a rest stop so we did that and I took over driving. We made it to Valdosta by 9:00.

The Quality Inn is at exit 16 on I75 and it's fairly decent for the price. Check in went smoothly. The room is sort of strange in that it has a back door to it. We're in room 105 and it's fine for us. Far enough away from the lobby and also far enough away from the pool. We have non smoking and a king bed so both of my requests were met. There's also an easy chair plus desk and dresser. I was waiting to see if this place was OK before I made arrangements for the end of December. I think I'm going to come back here. There's a free continental breakfast until 9:00 in the morning so we can check that out tomorrow morning.

Rich had gotten us a meat and cheese tray and a shrimp tray for dinner so that was the plan. But the shrimp were still frozen and they'll continue on in the cooler with us. We noshed on the meat and the cheese (crackers were included) for the evening. We watched some TV ("Law and Order") and then just relaxed.

Sense of the Day - that feeling I had laying there in the car and just knowing that tomorrow I'd be at my most favorite place in the world. I had to smile. We've had some tough times in this country since September but we need to tell these cowards that we will go on.

Kid of the Day - Rudy, Jr. Definitely. I was having such a bad day when Adrienne sent me an email and told me that Rudy wanted the Sense of the Day back in there and he was glad I was putting in the Kid of the Day again. His words just made my day. How can you not think America is back with kids like this in the world?

Day Two - Thursday, November 22, 2001 - HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I had set the alarm for 7:00 and, unfortunately, it went off on time. The bathrooms here do not have the sinks outside so I had to wait until Rich was totally done. Why does it take him longer in the bathroom than it does me? Aren't women infamous for long showers? I quickly did my thing while Rich loaded up the car. The Quality Inn offered a continental breakfast but we weren't too thrilled with the doughnut choices, we aren't cereal people, and neither one of us wanted toast. So we just got some juice and headed out right before 8:00.

Our first stop was right across the street for a fuel top off. We wanted to take advantage of the good Georgia prices. There was a Shell next door but they were $.05 higher then the Stuckey's across the street. Stuckey's it is. I pumped while Rich went in to get his morning supply of Diet Coke. I think we should get stock in Coca-Cola since Rich easily goes through a six pack every morning. It took forever thanks to, gasp! - no Diet Coke! He had to settle for Diet Rite. Pepsi is not an option in our house - not one of us likes it. Sorry to Pepsi.

Then I headed us south on I75. As I drove, I was thinking about Thanksgiving and the things I'm thankful for. My husband and my son, that's a given. My family and friends too. But the one thing this year I'm so thankful for (and I have been every year) has been to be able to live in this country. As a female, I'm thankful for being able to do what I want, when I want. I can work, I can go to school, I can have children if I want, I can marry who I want and when I want. Rich complains about taxes and things like that. I always tell him that if he wants to move to another country, he's certainly free to do that. I am thankful that we can vote people into office. I did not vote for George W. But I'm thankful he's there for us now. I saw so many signs saying "God Bless America" on businesses. I saw one hotel sign that had me teary-eyed (that would become a common theme today) - "God Bless Our Troops, God Bless President Bush, Thanks for Traveling". I don't think I'm ever going to forget this day.

About an hour later, I was almost dozing behind the wheel. It had been an exhausting week for me. Not only at work but I had to get up at 5:00 AM on Sunday and see the meteor shower. That was a once in a lifetime sight and I had to participate. I did go back to sleep but it interrupted the sleep cycle when I needed it most. Rich said something about "arriving alive". I took the hint, pulled over to the side of the road and we switched drivers. I told Rich I was trying to make it to exit 68 which is where the Disney Information Center was. Then I fell asleep until that exit was coming up. Rich asked if I still wanted to stop and I did.

We pulled in there and Rich realized he's never been here before. If you need some nice bathrooms, stop here. We browsed the shop a little and then Rich drove us south once again. I dozed quite frequently and figured I was going to have to monitor my energy level for a couple of days.

For the very first time in my Disney trip history, I was not the one who drove us on property for the first time. Rich is getting better with driving around Disney property. He even remembered that once we got off World Drive, he'd have to slide left immediately to make the turn into the Yacht Club. The car actually wanted to turn into the Swan lot since that's where we usually park but Rich persuaded it to go straight. This was right around 11:00 so my timing was perfect. I wanted to check in after the official check out time.

When we pulled up to the guard shack, we got our first dose of security. I had forgotten about it but I knew we needed to show a photo ID. Rich was surprised since I hadn't mentioned it to him. I just assumed I would be driving. Rich told the guard we were checking in and we were asked for our last name. Fortunately, ours is such a weird name that I always just spell it instead of pronouncing it. We were in the computer and were given our parking pass at the gate. That's new. You usually get a parking pass when you check in at the front desk. Then Rich had to show a photo ID. Not a problem at all and we went in to park. One other thing - there was a sign out at the gate that said "We're sorry but we can not allow parking in this lot for entrance to Epcot or MGM".

The lot was fairly crowded but we got a spot and went into the lobby. We left everything in the car but Rich was worried about the walk from the car to the lobby and to the room with the cooler. Of course, we had to bring the huge one. I was hoping our room would be near a side door so we didn't have to walk through the elegant Yacht Club lobby with a Coleman cooler that's more then 20 years old.

And we had our second dose of security. The first person I saw was a security guard. Standing in the lobby but right at the doors. I had just a little bit of a wait to check in. There were a ton of people waiting for Guest Services. I'm hoping they weren't trying to get dinner reservations for that night. I was the next person helped to check in.

I had faxed my room requests on Monday and my first two were met. Non smoking and king bed. The last request was for a nice balcony and view. The Cast Member said that I had a standard view. I had put the last thing in there hoping for an upgrade but no go. Not a big deal. The room wasn't ready which I had figured on anyway. We got all the information stuff and since I paid with American Express, two more fanny packs. I now have four. I use one at the parks and the other three are still unused. I'm going to take them with us in January and see if family members want them.

We took the informational stuff back to the car and then decided to head to Epcot for the afternoon. Rich had told me earlier that his foot was acting up. He had been hobbling around the week before with his right foot. Now his left foot was doing the same thing. The pattern was that it would be a little hurting for a few days and then really hurt for two days. This would have been the really hurting first day. We actually talked about renting a wheelchair for him. I had thought about going to MGM but I didn't want to be that far away from the Yacht Club if Rich's foot started to make him lame. I did tell him that as soon as he thought he wasn't doing very well, to let me know and we'd immediately return to the resort.

We walked over to Epcot and got another dose of security. Checking the bags. I had the little fanny pack and my camera bag. I knew you had to have these open and ready to go. Unfortunately, the three little old ladies in front of me had much more stuff and none of them expected this. Not even after the first one spent a ton of time opening every single zippered pouch she had. Why didn't the two behind her get the hint? I even had my stuff totally open. The guard was being very thorough. He wouldn't touch the bags at all but needed to see everything in there. Rich had already gone through the turnstyles and was patiently waiting for me. And this was at the International Gateway where there's not a lot of traffic. I am going to dread the other parks. I understand this precaution and, to be honest, Disney isn't doing as much as they could. So I'll just bear with it.

And then I'm finally in a park! World Showcase was not yet open since it was before noon. We slowly walked through United Kingdom and Canada but we weren't slow enough. We got to where the ropes were and still had ten minutes to wait. We grabbed a bench because I looked over to where Future World joined with World Showcase and there was a horde of people waiting to cross over once the ropes were dropped. We would have had to wade through them.

While we were waiting, there was a family at the rope expecting a couple more people. It turned out to be a mom and her son, about five years old. The Cast Member at the rope was talking to the other family members while they waited. I guess Max, the son, had had a horrible temper tantrum and Mom took him for a time out. Mom and Max showed up with Max still being a little upset. The Cast Member greeted them with a big "Hi Max! I heard you went on the cruise. Did you like that?" It calmed Max a little.

The rope was dropped and people flocked towards World Showcase. We wanted to continue on to Mexico but we were salmons swimming upstream to get there and once there, I knew the crowds would be high. So we headed left and into Future World. I wanted to browse in Mouse Gear for beach towels for Christmas presents. The fountain show went off so I had to watch that. Unfortunately, during the show, the music was stopped and the announcement came on. A lady from Philadelphia was being paged. I know those announcements usually mean bad luck. I hope everything was OK with her.

We checked out Mouse Gear but they only had the beach towels in one style. They were nice towels for $20 but I wanted to get 11 of them and I thought I could do better at World of Disney with the Magic Kingdom Club discount. We left the store and went to continue on with our World Showcase stroll. We were on the way and then saw a marching band. Flocking our way. As in full gear, full march heading towards us. Rich marched in his high school band and loves this stuff. We kind of were stuck, though. If we stayed where we were, we'd be in their way. So we turned around and practically ran back to get to safety. But the band was good. Forest Park from Indiana, I believe.

Then we leisurely walked around the Showcase. It took us quite a while. We each got beers in Norway for $20 total. We waited here for Spelmanns Gledje but once they started to play, we realized it wasn't our type of music so we moved on. Spelmanns Gledje Description - "Lively Norwegian folk music. " Wasn't lively enough for us or maybe it was the folk aspect. But it wasn't us.

We read all the Holidays Around the World signs and enjoyed those quite a bit. Rich was very interested in seeing what China's sign had to say. It was about a Monkey King and didn't relate to any Christianity at all. Which we thought was appropriate. We also noticed that there were no Christmasy things in China at all. All the other countries had different plants or decorations. Just a little detail that Disney tries to do authenticate things. One other thing (and I'm not going in order now) - we didn't see any Holidays Around the World sign in America. Rich said that if we had, it should have read "Duh!" I thought that was pretty funny.

Holidays Around the World Description - "Throughout the holidays, World Showcase comes alive with the legends and lore of the season. Come listen to the stories of France's Père Noel, Italy's LaBefana, and Santa Claus at the American Adventure. Discover richly diverse holiday traditions from the far corners of the world, celebrated each evening in a tree-lighting ceremony. Also enjoy the Lights of Winter - a dazzling canopy of lights glittering with holiday cheer. " Each country in the World Showcase has a sign to describe their Christmas traditions and then they have performances by a Christmas character.

We did stop in Italy and had the extreme pleasure of being there when the Character Masquerade came out. Rich thought the music sounded interesting so we got a couple of chairs (there's a seating area here) and decided to watch for a while. There are two guys doing the music and then five Characters. I'm not sure of the history here but it looked like each character (who wore those white masks) had a different personality. The Characters interacted with the audience quite a bit and clearly won over some people. I even got touched on the nose by one of them. The performance went on for a half hour and we were so entertained. We kept watching for the Characters and where they were in the audience. They went all over the pavilion. But the best thing was what happened at the end. One of the Characters had been talking with a little girl, about 10 years old. Rich said she was doing that for quite a while. Another Character came out with some paper made flowers and gave them to the little girl. Who was so pleased. The Character kissed the girl and the girl ran back to her parents. The parents were beaming. So was the girl. The Characters went into their closing and they all motioned for the girl to come up with them and to bring her camera. She did. The Character went to take the picture and I was going to get up and offer to take everyone but the Dad came up and took it. I thought the girl was going to burst from happiness.

And then more kids wanted pictures and the Characters posed with all of them. There was a group of severally handicapped kids and they were able to get a nice group shot. The Characters spent so much time with everyone. I didn't leave here with dry eyes at all. This is just an example of why I love Disney World. We didn't plan this, didn't even know this was going on, it wasn't published in the official literature (thanks to Steve, though, I knew about them), but we had such a nice half hour. And a kid's day might have been made thanks to these performers.

We continued on after this, and I wasn't sure that anything could top this. Did the day get better? Would this be my all time great Disney day? It's Thanksgiving in 2001. You bet it could. We stopped in America and I wanted to go into the shop there and see if there were any new patriotic things. I glanced at the performance schedule and saw that American Vybe was just starting. ("Nine member contemporary a cappella vocal ensemble, accompanied by acoustic upright bass, performs 20th century popular American music. ") So we went in. Great performance and one that we had never seen before. Such enthusiasm. They announced they had just released their first CD and it was available in the shop. Where we were originally headed anyway. There was a lot more American stuff in the shop this time. I found some things that I had to have but didn't get them yet. I knew we'd be back. Oh, and the American Adventure was starting right after the American Vybe performance but I honestly didn't think I'd be able to handle that on this day. I bawled in May when I saw this. What would I do today?

We made the complete circuit of World Showcase and ended up back in Canada. For what else? A couple of beers. Rich used the excuse that we were waiting for 3:00 when we knew the room would definitely be ready. We took the beers and were ready for a rest. Where to sit? I toasted the empty Off Kilter stage and we sat there. Rich didn't let me sit in "my seats" since they weren't shaded but that was OK. We sat and talked for a while and did some people watching. This is one of my favorite things to do at Epcot. Sit, relax with the one that you love and will always love, and take life easy. I really needed that after the last week.

Then we walked back to the Yacht Club and went back to the front desk to get our room assignment. I was helped right away and we were in room 3109. We went there to check out the location. We do not mind being away from the elevator and things like that. We prefer our privacy and quietness. Guess where we were? Is this a good day? Again, all the way at the end of the hall. Wonderful. A bit hard to get luggage up but we'd manage.

Now, here's where compromise in a marriage comes into play. Rich and I had the great Boardwalk Unloading Fiasco of 2000. That's when we decided not to use Bell Services and take all our things in with one trip. If we didn't divorce over that, we never will. Rich was concerned about the stupid cooler. I told him I'd just drop him off in front of the Yacht Club and he could carry it in. But he wanted to do everything in one trip. Again. I reminded him of last year and said there was no way I'm repeating that. I was a little forceful and we ended up doing what I wanted. But then he grabbed the laptop too and struggled with those two items. I returned to the parking lot and pulled out the suitcase (thankfully on wheels) and our purple bag which was a heck of a lot heavier than I thought. There were a couple more items but I managed to get up to the room.

Rich was already there and said as he was coming down the hall, the housekeeper stopped him and asked if everything was all right with the room. Rich said they chatted for a while, with Rich still lugging the cooler and the laptop. But he made a nice connection with the housekeeper. Would that pay off? Keep reading.

We relaxed in the room which is very nice. The standard view should be of the valet parking lot but there are tons of trees and green things so we don't see anything. The balcony is extremely nice. We both wanted a hot tub visit so we changed and headed to the quiet pool for a sit. There was another couple there and they got out and sat to the side after a couple of minutes. They were friendly to us and vice versa. The hot tub really made the day. We are hot tub veterans, having owned a full size one in Nebraska and then having the tub kind of one in Georgia. These jets were wonderful! Rich got his foot massaged and I worked on my back and shoulders. We only stayed through one cycle but it worked wonders.

It worked so well that once we got back to the room, both of us fell asleep! I wanted to check in at the Rose and Crown by 6:00 even though our seating wasn't until 6:30. I just knew Thanksgiving evening would be crowded. Rich finally woke me up at 5:38. I knew I was extremely tired because I was so out of it. I got a little testy with Rich because it was later than I wanted but I apologized later for it. We walked over to Epcot and the security check this time went a lot better. They had two guards and it wasn't as busy as before. Either that or the guards weren't as anal as the first one.

The line to check in at Rose and Crown was longer than I've ever seen it. It took about ten minutes to get up to the front. And then the server couldn't find the reservation. I had the confirmation number with me and was ready to give that to her when her supervisor came up, saw we were only a party of two, and said we could be seated immediately. And we were. We were outside all the way towards the lagoon at the end. Not a problem at all. Our server was Karen and she was great. She talked with us a bit before taking our drink order and then brought everything out in good time. The Rose and Crown did have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner so my thoughts about getting the prime rib went out the window. What a nice gesture for the United Kingdom to offer this up. Rich decided on the Fisherman's Basket which was fish, salmon cake, and a couple of prawns with chips. I got white and dark turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. More than enough for me. And mine came with dessert which Rich and I shared with Rich getting most of it (apples and berries - I can handle the berries but not the apples). It was a great meal. When Karen stopped by to pick up the plates and get our dessert order, I told her the reason I picked the Rose and Crown for this meal. I thanked her and her country for their support. She was pleased. She had said earlier on that she was just learning about the Thanksgiving tradition because she had never been in America before this opportunity with Disney. Someone at another table asked her how long she could stay here. She said between nine months and a year but she was hoping for longer than that because she was enjoying it so much. Did you think I got misty over that? You better believe it.

While we were enjoying our dinner, Tapestry of Dreams went off and I listened carefully to see if much had changed from Tapestry of Nations. The music I loved so much was still there so our plans were sealed for the night. After dinner, we went around and stopped in Germany to view the parade. There's a kind of overhang over the lagoon and I like viewing the parade from next to that. It's not directly on the parade route but you can see everything through an opening in the trees. And then you can turn around and see Illuminations right after. We got some beers from Germany ($20) and waited for the parade. The only downfall of the entire day was this group of females who were on the actual overhang. They were extremely loud and obnoxious. The ages ranged from probably 15-17 years old and there were no adults with them. I am all for letting older kids go off on their own at Disney World - it's safe as long as the kids are responsible. But there were probably 20 girls here. No, it wasn't the infamous tour groups. Unfortunately, these were some American kids that probably won't contribute too much to the world in the future. About ten minutes before the parade, two adult males showed up but I think they were more juvenile than the teens. Once the parade started, though, things calmed down.

The parade blew me away again. The new narration with the events of September 11th moved me beyond belief. "I want to live in a world without fear". That set me off. The music just added to everything. Another special moment in a special day. And then we turned around to watch Illuminations. We were in a prime spot and I warned Rich that we would have to guard it. But we didn't. The people around us were wonderful and we spent some time talking with them. Right before the start of Illuminations, Fantasy in the Sky from Magic Kingdom went off and we could see all the fireworks while our show started. And then the show. I was never overwhelmed by this but I think this time was different. I heard so many oohs and aahs from everyone that I really appreciated so much more. And the message was so profound through the parade and Illuminations - "We'll go On". And we will.

The crowd getting out wasn't that bad and we made it back to the Yacht Club in a decent time. When we got to the room, our TV was on. We always make sure that we turn out all the lights and the shut off the TV to conserve electricity. Much to our surprise, we had the bed turned down and mints on the pillow! Nice touch after the day.

It had been a long, long day but "ER" was on and we had to see that kiss between Carter and Lewis. So we watched that. I realized that the "Law & Order" episode on A&E that night was a Logan one (don't ask) and Rich claimed we got the channel according to the TV guide. So I was primed. Nope, no A&E. So we just turned in. Dang, I'll have to wait until Monday night, maybe to see Logan? Ack.

Sense of the Day - the overwhelming feeling that I had being an American. I've always been patriotic. That flag means a lot to me. I've served as much as I could and so did Rich. Was I directly affected by September 11th? No, I didn't lose anyone I personally knew. But we lost almost 6,000 innocent people. Adrienne's co-worker lost a husband. My two stepbrothers were called in to aid in the relief and rescue efforts since both are EMTs. Ron, who does the Disney trivia, was gone for two weeks since he's a New Jersey firefighter and got the call for help. Our friend, Jeff, back in Nebraska was called up from reserves to active duty. Our son, Chris, is 19 and draftable and has said that he will go if called and he won't look back. But would I live anywhere else? No way.

Kid of the Day - that little girl at the Character Masquerade. She had such a great time and I'm sure she will remember it for the rest of her life. And seeing her parents beaming. I just hope that the girl can grow up in a world where we have no fears, no security checks, and no terrorism. That's not too much to ask for.

Day Three - Friday, November 23, 2001

We really got to sleep in this morning. There was some noise in the hallways as usual. It was a little funny because we expect the kids to not realize just how loud they can be to sleeping people. This one little boy came out of his room and said something loudly. His father immediately shushed him. I thought that was good. But then the father yelled down the hallway to someone! Let's lead by example here.

Between sleeping in and me wanting to get the report updated, we didn't leave the room until noon. Rich had gone out to get some ice and talked to the housekeeper again. We planned on tipping her $3 anyway (we always do $1 per person and then one extra dollar) for the good service. I know the purists would say that you shouldn't but it's always nice to get something a little extra if you do a good job. I know at work an extra "atta boy" goes a long way.

I had a feeling that today was going to be extremely busy in the parks. The crowds yesterday were higher than we're used to, even in late June. But manageable. But today. Boy, oh boy, oh boy. We headed to MGM, using the walkway. Rich's foot was fine again. He said he tried to walk normally yesterday and then the sit in the hot tub helped as well. As we approached the entrance, I could see the crowds were huge. We went through security which was a little better and quicker here then at the International Gateway. It took a little longer than normal but wasn't that bad. Just have those bags open and ready to go and you'll be cleared.

Our "musts" here were Rock N Roller Coaster, Twilight Zone, Millionaire, and Rich added Sounds Dangerous. First off down Sunset Boulevard. Let's check out FastPass for the Coaster. We had that Boma seating for 5:00, surely we can get a FastPass for before then, right? Wrong. Return time of 5:00-6:00. Thank you very much, we'll see you next month. Standby time was 60 minutes and I really don't like that slow moving queue line. Next up, Twilight Zone. Return time of 2:40-3:40. Doable. So we did. As the standby time moved from 55 minutes to 75 minutes. OK, with FastPasses for a couple of hours away, what to do now? Check out the standby for Millionaire. We joined the line, hoping to get into the 1:00 show. Heck, we didn't even get close. So we ducked out of that line and decided that maybe we'd just do Twilight Zone and call the day a success. We went back to the Studio Catering Company and grabbed a couple of beers and sat for a while. Rich said that we could just do the AFI Store and the Animation Store, Twilight Zone and he'd be happy. Boy, did I turn this man into a "take it easy while at Disney" guy or what?

We had seen a lot of people being totally overwhelmed by the Disney experience. We heard some parents being harsh to their kids about the whole day. Rich heard "this is supposed to be fun, stop whining!" We saw families that really needed to take a break. Why push yourself? There is no way in one trip that you are going to be able to see and do all that Disney World has to offer. Choose the things that you want to do and do those. Our plan for the day was totally changed with the crowd level. While we were enjoying our drink, we heard this family behind us. "We'll next go to the Muppets and then to Star Tours and then we'll FastPass Indiana Jones". Well, what are you going to do if the Muppets has a huge line but Star Tours is a walk on? I wanted to go over and offer some advice but refrained. My brain is on vacation too.

We went into the AFI shop which usually has some good movie items and displays. We weren't too impressed this time. I showed Rich some of the Osborne lights which were unlit but with the crowds and our other "must dos", we won't see actually them lit this trip. They'll be here next month or next year. We'll be back (love that Arnold Schwannegger reference). I knew there was a Christmas shop here so we headed there. And made the purchase of the trip. About $60 worth of Piglet and Eeyore stuff. I am Piglet, Rich is Eeyore. I'm the optimist, Rich is the pessimist. I did embarrass Rich by also picking up a groom Mickey and a bride Minnie for next month. We had the package sent back to the room. Err, no I corrected myself and the Cast Member just burst out laughing. I said that it wasn't going to the room anymore, just back to the resort. She said something like I knew more than most Cast Members did. Thank you newsgroup, thank you trip reports.

Rich noticed Mama Melrose's next door to the Christmas shop and asked if that was a real restaurant. Cracked me up. I said it was but I didn't think he'd like the prices for a plate of spaghetti. I know Mama Melrose's has its fans but I do Italian cooking very well and I make the meanest lasagna so everything gets compared to that. We don't order much Italian when we go out. Go figure - a German/Polish American girl makes Italian food. Am I a melting pot or what? Oops, I went way too patriotic yesterday, don't get me started today.

We were passing Sounds Dangerous which we didn't have high hopes for. But I glanced up at the trivia and realized we'd only have a short wait. Yes, it's sad to say that I've been here so many times that I can judge when this show will let people in based on the trivia questions on the TV screens. This is one of Rich's all time favorites and he really wanted to see it again. We had to excuse ourselves around the people clogging up the entrance styles. Those "move all the way in and fill in every available space" speeches weren't happening today. I think we waited all of three minutes and then we were in.

The show was good as always although the Great Rinaldi is getting on my nerves. And doesn't Drew Carey want to redo this now that he has lost a ton of weight? I have to ask Chris if he's seen this. But I'm sure we'll be back next month. Some kids didn't get this show again. Please, if your child is under five, think twice about bringing them into this.

It was getting close to our FastPass time for Twilight Zone (where did the time go?) so we went over there. On the way, the new parade was starting. It features some celebrity and who was it today? Barry Bonds. We are such the baseball fans. We saw him and his family riding in the car and then moved on. Barry, please be a little nicer to your fans in the future. Take a lesson from Cal Ripken. It'll pay you back in more ways.

We had a few minutes to spare and used them for a bathroom break. I really think you need one of those before going on Twilight Zone. This was to be the best Zone experience ever. We walked into the lobby. Standby wait was 60 minutes but we walked on with the FastPasses. We had just about all first-timers on with us. The guy behind us in line asked if we had ever been on this before. Rich replied "many, many times". Now, this guy was over 6 feet tall (I'm 5 feet so everyone hovers over me) and very "sturdy". And he was scared! He wanted to know the best place to be. He also thought you stood on the ride. So we educated him that you stand during the preshow and then sit for the actual drops.

When we entered our elevator (sitting down), there was a family of five - Mom, Dad, and three girls. One of the girls was crying. The Cast Member asked her if she was OK and the girl said no. The Cast Member asked if she wanted to get off. The girl just cried. The Mom said that the girl just wanted to sit next to the Mom. So all the lap bars were released so the Mom could move. The Cast Member said she couldn't let us go if someone was crying. The girl said she felt better so we went off. I think we were the only veterans on this ride. I was next to the side again so I didn't have my usual shakiness. Plus, I enjoyed listening to everyone else's reactions, especially that huge guy that was now sitting right behind me. This was the first time I was "Whoo Hoo" ing and not screaming. Everyone survived. I thought about shouting "We're all gonna die" but thought that would be cruel.

Stand by times for Twilight Zone were 50 minutes when we left. I wanted to check out Rock N Roller Coaster since we still had time before our Boma seating. 75 minutes! Sorry, see you later. No more FastPasses available. We checked out the candy place on Sunset Boulevard. I had promised co-workers some chocolates. I found some things for under $5 but I knew I could get them at the Boardwalk on Saturday night or even on Sunday morning. I was just scoping for now. Then we moved on to the Animation Store and Rich found something that I might have to get him for Christmas. I'm not sure I like it so it'll take another look next month to decide. In our house, there is not one single room that doesn't have something Disney related in it. But it's something that Rich and I enjoy together.

After all this, we decided to head out of the crowded Dodge. I couldn't imagine what Magic Kingdom looked like today. On the way, we saw Barry Bonds again doing an interview. He seemed very relaxed and to be enjoying himself. OK, my opinion of the man is changing.

We got out of MGM and saw there was no boat in our immediate future so we took the walkway. In fact, the line for the boat was much longer than we've ever seen it. And we saw many more people on the walkway than normal for us. We easily beat any water vehicle back to the Yacht Club. We didn't have much time between coming back here and the Boma seating but we relaxed in the room and watched as the Colorado Buffalos totally racked up points on Nebraska. Rich got turned to the Nebraska side during our 11 years there. This Penn State fan will never root for the Cornhuskers. I was whooping it up, Rich was depressed. At 4:30, we left for Boma. And barely made it there by 5:00. Security again. We were prepared but the parking lot was very full so we had a bit of a walk. I had forgotten that Boma opens at 5:00 so there was long line to check in. We were given a pager and just waited for what I thought would be a long time. Not so. Five minutes later, we were in. Even before 5:00.

Boma Description - This is a buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is African-themed and does have a taste of Africa on the menu. But they also have traditional foods as well. I honestly think it's one of the best meals at Disney World. It does get crowded and it's getting more and more popular so make sure you make a seating for this one. Or be prepared to wait a while to get seated.

Our server was great for the beginning. She asked if we had been here before and we had so she didn't need to explain all the stations. But I listened when she did her spiel for other groups. Meat station (carved prime rib, flank steak and it's usually chicken but it was turkey for the holiday), American station (mac and cheese, chicken tenders, french fries), African station with more ethnic foods, soup station with five different soups, a couple of salad stations (a note here - the dressings for the salad is a little weird but the last time here I was advised to combine two of the dressings and I wouldn't be disappointed. I did and I wasn't), the bread station, and then the dessert station. You don't go through this like a cafeteria. Plates are everywhere so just grab and go. No need to stand in line.

I had three full plates of food before I even got to dessert. And those zebra domes. Heaven! We were so fully stuffed. I was trying to get to the 6:45 Candlelight Processional but it was not to be. The server just petered out on us about halfway through the meal. She had some bigger tables to deal with so we had to wait for her time. We didn't even leave there until after 6:30 which was not going to give us enough time to get into Epcot. Well, there's still the 8:10 show.

We charged the meal back to the room (American Express loves me this year) and then headed out. It was too dark to see the animals and I have to make sure I get the in-laws here a lot earlier next month. I love this place so much that I have a Sunday night seating with the in-laws and a Friday night or Saturday night seating with my dad and stepmother (I made two and we'll decide which one to keep based on what we are doing - and yes, I do cancel the seatings I don't need). I have never dined at one place twice in a week. I will do it here.

We returned to the Yacht Club and I thought the parking would be bad. But we got a spot closer than where we were before. Terrific. We took in more Diet Coke (yes, he's that bad in the morning) and some wine for later. As we walked through the lobby, the TV was turned onto the Nebraska/Colorado game and it was such a blow out! I kind of whooped it up a little. The guys in the lobby were a little amused at my reaction and Rich's downcast face. I don't care who gets the national title as long as it's not Nebraska.

We dropped our stuff off at the room and I found my first towel animal! A rabbit. I had to take a picture. Then we headed out for Epcot and ran into the housekeeper. What are her hours? She asked if we got the animal and I said yes and that I loved it. She said we'd get another one tomorrow. This is just such a Disney thing. Comment on cutbacks and shortened hours all you want. You can't take the personality away.

Off to the Candlelight Processional. Yeah right. The 6:45 show was still on and the lines were forming for the 8:10 show even before the other one was done. No way. The crowd levels were too high for us. We did stand outside the ending of the Processional and realized this was not something we were interested in. So it fell totally off the "must do" list. I am not saying that it wasn't very well performed or anything. Everyone has their own choices and persuasions and this wasn't it for us. Now you know why I love to be an American.

We did another round of World Showcase without stopping anywhere. The crowds were very high so we just wanted to get out of Dodge for the second time in the day. We took the long way around Crescent Lake, going by the Boardwalk. A large crowd was gathering in front of the ESPN windows. For the third time today, we saw Barry Bonds. He was doing an interview that I believe was being telecast on ESPN. Again, he seemed relaxed and comfortable. He was answering questions from fans. One of them asked if he was going to be a Yankee next season. We didn't want to hear that answer, us being Oriole fans. And don't even get into baseball getting rid of two teams because some teams can afford to buy a championship and some have to struggle. Sports rant off. But Mr. Bonds changed my opinion of him with these sightings.

We went back to the room with sore muscles and decided that the hot tub would be a good idea. It was around 9:00 and I wanted to be back for "Law & Order: SVU" at 10:00. Yes, TV, dominates my life. So we headed to the quiet pool again. Stormalong Bay was closed already so that wasn't even an option. We met up with two women and talked with them for a while. We only did a cycle and a half but it was enough. We worked out the kinks in our bodies. Back to the room for the rest of "Thieves" (I do think John Stamos in his more mature days might go on the Laminated List) and then "SVU".

Sense of the Day - the taste of the food at Boma. Simply wonderful.

Kid of the Day - that huge guy at Twilight Zone that was almost terrified at the ride. This man could have eaten me for a snack but he was so scared! And his reaction? Priceless.

Day Four - Saturday, November 24, 2001

We really wanted to sleep in again today but those kind folks near us decided that yelling down the hallways was more important. This was the total Off Kilter day so I knew we'd be at Epcot all day. Yeah, no Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom for us at all this trip. Like I said, pick what you want and do what you want. Enjoy yourself. Rich enjoyed the paper outside on the balcony while I did the report and just struggled to wake up. Why is it that I can get up at 5:30 AM every morning for work but I find it hard to get awake by 11:00 when I'm on vacation?

We headed out and did another walk around of World Showcase before the first Off Kilter performance. This time, we saw the Christmas character performances - the Monkey King in China (OK, it's not Christmas - it's a holiday), Germany, most of Japan, and Father Christmas in the United Kingdom. We didn't plan any of these stops, they just happened.

We had seen a woman that we knew from previous Off Kilter performances earlier. She didn't realize the schedule had changed to 30 minute sets and only four performances. So she was there quite early. I need to pass on Steve's website address to her. We sat with her and her friends for the first three shows after our stroll. Not "my seats" but with friends. I have to say that I wish Disney would give Off Kilter the 30 minute sets. They really rock into these. The 20 minute sets are fine but I think bands prefer longer sessions. I was a good girl and didn't request anything special. During one set, though, a guy requested the "Chameleon" song. So the guys did "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club for a while. What the guy really wanted was "Run, Run Away" which was performed with an announcement to get the second CD at any Canada pavilion or at the Virgin MegaStore at Downtown Disney. During this Off Kilter marathon (I love doing this), they did many new songs and I can't wait for the third CD.

We had a long break between the third and fourth shows so we headed back to the Yacht Club for dinner. Just the meat and cheese tray and the shrimp tray (finally thawed). It was simple and easy and cheap. I love this location! Waiting on the bed was a washcloth turkey. Thanks housekeeping! We picked up the package that was delivered from our trip to MGM the day before. A warning - keep your green receipt because they will want to see that. And I had to show a photo ID as well. We also managed to get in yet another visit to the hot tub. Pure heaven. And then back for more of the guys in kilts.

But we needed a beverage. Our favorite is Canada for Moosehead beer but they have kind of a hit and miss thing with their kegs. Tonight was a miss. So we headed out to Norway. Along the way, Rich suggested margaritas in Mexico which was fine with me. But we had a stop. A good stop. We were walking and heard this very frazzled Mom behind us talking with her two daughters. She said something like "I'm getting frustrated because I don't know what I'm doing and where I'm going". I had to stop and talk to her.

From what she told us, she had ordered the Candlelight Processional dinner package for the night before. She showed up at the Living Seas at 6:45 which is when the Processional went off but I'm sure she had an earlier dinner seating. Of course, the Living Seas couldn't do anything for her. Her daughters (what is with the little girls this trip?), were tired and wanted entertainment. The Mom was so confused by all things Disney at this point. So we told her to not even worry about the dinner package and she could just go to the Processional on her own. She visibly calmed down. The girls were a little nervous at having strangers talk to their mother but we didn't try and approach them because we could see that. The Mom asked about Tapestry of Dreams but the parade had already gone off for the second time so we explained that it started earlier because of the Processional. Then the Mom asked about Illuminations. We told her that we thought Germany was the best spot and told her where we usually stand. We said she could do both the Processional and Illuminations that night without any problems. Both Rich and I participated in this conversation so if Rich ever says he doesn't know Disney, he's full of it. He knows. The Mom was so grateful to us and I hope it made the end of her vacation a little better. She looked beat, the girls looked beat, and all they wanted was a little Disney magic. I hope we gave it to them. Since I had been getting so much magic this trip, it's the least I could do - give some back.

We did make it to Mexico and got the Fiesta margharita which should have been strawberry, mango, kiwi, and lime. But we think two of the four were out so we just got what they had. $6.25 each but they were perfect for the night. By the time we made our way back to Canada, the seats by our friends were taken so, sigh, we had to sit in "my seats" (second row on the right). This was our first time to see the guys at night. We did chat with our seatmates and that's another thing I like about the Off Kilter shows. I tend to naturally chat with the people around me.

Off Kilter was great as always but it was hard for them to interact with the audience since they couldn't see them very well. I should mention that all four shows today were fairly packed. Usually the middle section in between the benches is open but people were sitting on the ground for all the shows. After the show, we said goodbye to our friends (they are locals and come over on the weekends) and we'll probably see them next month. It'll embarrass the daylights out of Chris when we actually know people here!

Rich suggested watching Illuminations again and I was surprised. We headed to Germany again and got our same spot. We again had people concerned about the view so we chatted with them for a while. I know this show has grown on me. I knew this was the last thing I was going to do at Disney World and that had me going. But the music made me go over. That and all the oohs and aahs again from the first timers around us. This has to be the all time crying Disney trip. And I was only here three days!

Rich and I walked hand in hand back to the Yacht Club where I began packing. It didn't take very long because I just had to throw the laundry bag and Rich's extra clothes (the man packs more than I do) into the suitcase and we were set. We had only made one purchase and that was still in the bag. I hit the bed early but Rich wasn't far behind.

Sense of the Day - the look of relief on the woman's face that we helped out with the Candlelight Processional. I hope she and her daughters were able to enjoy some Disney magic that night.

Kid of the Day - all five of them - yep, Off Kilter. Thanks guys for defining the word "entertainment".

Day Five - Sunday, November 25, 2001

I set a Mickey wake up call for 7:55 so we could make the breakfast seating at Kona Cafe at 9:30. The trouble was, I wasn't very hungry. Neither Rich nor I are breakfast people and I just couldn't see us doing this one. So we just got up, got ready, and decided to leave and go home to the cats. I cancelled the seating. I insisted that we take one load down to the front and then I would go and get the car and while Rich was loading, I'd return to the room and get everything else. Yeah, we're at the Yacht Club, yeah, they have bell services, but you have to understand my husband. He'll tip the housekeeper but for some reason, he has a problem with bell services. Oh well, that's his way.

Rich started driving while I kind of dozed. But it wasn't a good doze. We had four major delays on the way. I have to say that no one should think that Americans aren't driving. They were all out this day. All the delays were for rubbernecking accidents. And I'm sure the accidents were because the drivers were speeding and changing lanes unwisely. But the rubbernecking bothered me. Why is it that humans have this need to look at other's misfortunes? Can you imagine if that happened in the animal world? Zebra: "Hey, Ernie, look at the gazelle over there. He must have been mauled by a lion. Let's go look". Who says we are the intelligent species?

We barely made it over into Georgia before needing gas. Rich was actually sweating it since the car had the "need gas" light on for about 20 miles. Gotta love those Georgia prices. The first gas station we pulled into was totally mobbed and the one across the street was as well. So we continued up I75. At that gas station, there was only one pump left. Since we knew it was going to be busy, I pumped while Rich went inside to get some Diet Cokes and use the facilities. I wanted to get the car moved away from the pump as soon as possible so someone else could use it. *Every* gas station was packed. Best intentions.

We were gassing up behind a minivan. That guy had started pumping before we did. I was done pumping and went inside to use the facilities. Rich was already at the register paying for the gas. I figured he'd move the car as soon as the minivan got out of the way. We couldn't back up because there was another minivan waiting for our pump. I did what I needed to do and then grabbed a bottle of water for the trip. When I came out, the first minivan was still at the pump! Why couldn't that guy have moved before he went inside? There actually was a line for the Men's Room and it was this guy in there. Then he came out and had to fish inside the back for a while. Some people have no regard for anyone else. That "me first" attitude has to go.

I headed us up I75 but not for too long. All in all for the entire trip, we had twelve major delays. All due to accidents and the rubbernecking. After two hours, I had enough and told Rich I couldn't drive anymore. My nerves were shot. Rich took us the rest of the way home. The topper of the drive was a backup of at least 15 miles between Macon and I675. I think our top speed was 15 MPH. What was the cause? An accident on the *other* side of the interstate that we couldn't even see! Rich, who has the patience of a saint, even got fed up with things. After we finally got to Atlanta, we had three more delays on I85. The only one we managed to avoid was right where we could get off at I985 so we did that. I only drove two out of the eight and a half hours (it took so long to get back) but I arrived home tense and with a headache. And we ended up the evening even worse. Rich ordered a pizza that was not going to be delivered. And we were hungry. We finally ended up with the pizza, two hours after we ordered it and after two additional phone calls. It was free but the darn place is only two miles down the road. I could have walked down there, cooked the pizza myself, and walked back in the time it took for this. Frustrating.

This was a bad day so I'll forgo the Kid of the Day and the Sense of the Day. They will return with the next report.

Final Thoughts and Overall Impressions

Crowd level - very crowded, especially the Friday after Thanksgiving. Aren't all these people supposed to be out shopping? We saw a large number of first timers based on the comments we heard and their reactions to things. I'll never forget that ride on Twilight Zone! And hearing the awe around us during Illuminations.

Weather - absolutely beautiful. We wore shorts and T-shirts the whole time. The nights were a little less warm but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle. We're still in our Nebraska state of mind so we usually are fine until the temperatures dip into the 50s. The days were sunny but not overly hot - temperatures in the 70s. Nights were in the 60s. Perfect.

The Yacht Club - I'd stay here again, definitely. The service was great (thanks again, housekeeping!), the lobby elegant, and that hot tub was to die for. We didn't use Stormalong Bay at all, even though that was something we both wanted to do. The reasons? Very high security at the gate which Rich thought was unnecessary and there were tons of kids there. So we just used the quiet pool and had a great time. As for the security, it's not because of September 11th. This is the one pool where everyone wants to go but it's limited to only guests of the Yacht and Beach Club. So they check everyone's room keys before admittance. Fine policy but what turned Rich off was this family of four that had a ton of stuff and had to drop it all while everyone fished for room keys. Yeah, you should have the room key if you're going to the pool but it just wasn't a Disney moment.

Attractions - we did two. Twilight Zone and Sounds Dangerous. Did that make the trip any less exciting? No.

Entertainment - I was blown away by what Disney has to offer. Except for the Candlelight Processional which just wasn't for us. Most people would be impressed but it wasn't our cup of tea. But Tapestry of Dreams, Illuminations, the Holidays Around the World, Off Kilter, and the Character Masquerade were more than enough to make this trip.

Security - it's there. Just be prepared to open up *everything*. Unzip the pouches beforehand and smile at the guard. It's their job to do the search. I didn't see anyone having a major problem with security and vice versa. The guards were nice (except for that first guy at Epcot who was being so anal about everything). Always have a photo ID with you, just in case. I think carrying around a driver's license isn't a bad idea anyway.

The Icing Moments

There's been a lot of grumblings about the cutbacks and closures. Here's my take on all that.

Our friend, Lindy, likened Disney World itself as a cake. All the extras you get are the icing. We did just two attractions so, to me, that was the cake. Everything else was the icing. Is some of that icing gone? Yes, it is. But there's more than enough for me. In fact, I think we got some sprinkles on top of the icing with this trip. My icing moments:

  • Off Kilter - the energy, the talent, the creativity, the interaction with the audience, the humor, and spending time with new found friends.
  • Helping that frazzled mom with her Processional problems. There's no where else but Disney World that complete strangers would feel absolutely comfortable stopping and talking to each other.
  • Having Karen as our server at the Rose and Crown. She made the meal for me. Hearing her say that she wanted to stay in our country longer was so refreshing after the past three months. Even in these times, we have people who want to be in America.
  • The housekeeper at the Yacht Club. She gave us turndown service and two towel animals. Since the rabbit was made of three towels, we left him there, holding the housekeeper's last tip. We took the washcloth turkey with us. He rode in the front of the car all the way to his new home. You don't have to have kids to feel special at Disney World.
  • The reactions of the people on the Twilight Zone ride and during Illuminations. I think Illuminations is the thing that impresses most people. It is so precise and so coordinated and the thing goes off every single night.
  • That little girl with the Character Masquerade. I cannot accurately describe what her face looked like during this whole thing. Beaming would be a good word but not good enough. What's more than beaming?
  • Not really planning anything and having a great, great time. We never even touched Animal Kingdom or Magic Kingdom and had a mobbed day at MGM. But we still came away with the magic.
  • Rudy, Jr. wanting me to put the Kid of the Day back in the report. His mom is a writer so having him wanting to read my report makes me feel so proud. Adrienne and I hooked up because of these reports and I've met her and the family at Disney World since then. Thanks again, Rudy.

Our next trip is December 28-January 6. It's a family reunion thing with Rich and I renewing our wedding vows. I will be the tour guide and vacation coordinator for about 20 people. I will probably get frustrated with the first timers and the not so experienced. I will show them as much cake as I can and the crowds permit. But what I really want them to experience is the icing. And it'll still be there. It'll never go away. Hopefully, I'll be able to add some sprinkles like I got on this trip.

Feel free to email me with comments or questions. Just put "trip report" in the subject line. Have a great Disney day.

Sheri Niklewski

disnut8@hotmail.com


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