Robin Goble -- November 2002 -- Walt Disney World (PR, YC)
November 13 - 17, 2002
When I went to WDW in June of this year with Michael and his mom and dad (my sister and brother-in-law), I vowed that it would be my only trip to Orlando this year. However, as most of us that are addicted to Disney know, such rash vows are made to be broken; especially when we can justify a trip because of bargain airfare, great hotel rates, business in the area...the list goes on and on.
My justification for this trip was bargain airfare. In July, Southwest Airlines had a great rate of $220 roundtrip from Midland, Texas, to Orlando. Of course, we don't *live* in Midland, but it's not too far of a drive for us.
I had been bemoaning the fact that we were going to miss the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot for the first time in 2 years, when I came across the cheap airfare (we usually pay around $300-$350). With the plane tickets not costing so much, I argued that we could take a shorter trip without feeling guilty about spending so much money. A shorter trip also meant cheaper hotel cost and fewer days to have to take Michael out of school. Mother was easy to persuade and Michael was a pushover.
Since this was going to be a shorter trip, we thought that my dad might like to join us (he doesn't like to take time off from work), and, surprisingly, he immediately said, "Yes!" Woo hoo! There's planning to be done!
I decided to fly out on a Wednesday night and return on Sunday. Michael would be able to attend almost a full day of school and Dad and I could both work half a day on Wednesday before we had to make the drive to Midland. We would not be arriving in Orlando until 11:30pm, so we decided to spend the first night at the Hyatt hotel located in the Orlando airport. Mother, Michael, and I followed this same plan last November when we took a late flight, and it worked out well. It's very convenient to wake up at the airport the next morning, grab your rental car, and be at Walt Disney World ready for a full day of fun. I couldn't find as good a rate at the Hyatt as I found last year ($124/night plus a $50-off coupon), but was able to book a room for $144 with the understanding that I would keep checking their website for specials.
I tried to make reservations at the Beach Club for the remainder of our stay since our trip would center around Epcot, but they had no discounted rooms available on the concierge level. (I decided to do concierge again because Dad always complains that we stay at the nice hotels when we travel without him, but go to flea-bag motels when he is with us.) The Yacht Club (YC) was available, however, so I booked three nights there for the rate of $996 (lagoon view, concierge) with a discount code rate. A month or so later, the annual passholder (AP) rates were released and I was able to have the new rate applied to our reservation. The new AP rate lowered our room to $962 ($289/night plus tax).
When I told Michael our plans, his first comment was, "But when are we staying at the Polynesian?" I explained that, since this was a quick trip, we didn't really have time to switch hotels like we usually do (we usually stay at the Polynesian (PR) for the first half of a week, and switch over to the Beach Club for the last half). He was okay with that but it got the wheels in my brain to turning (which is a nice way of saying, "I'm chunking my original plans and am about to spend more money"). The room I booked at the Hyatt had two double beds. While this arrangement was okay when there were only three of us last trip (Mother had a bed to herself), I was apprehensive that she and Dad would be crowded sharing a double bed.
So, I checked AP rates on the Polynesian and for a mere $20 more ($164/night) we could have two queen-size beds plus a day bed *and* the added bonus of having our Disney magic start even sooner! It will be great to hear that "Aloha!" again, even if it is just for one night.
For admission media, I have an annual pass and Mother had three days left on her 7-day Park Hopper Plus from last November, but Michael and Dad needed tickets. I ordered one adult and one child 4-day Park Hoppers from Ticketmania in August. The adult pass was $196 and the child pass was $156, for a total of $352 (which included shipping). This was cheaper than I could find the passes anywhere else, even with a Disney Club discount. I had used Ticketmania in June when I purchased tickets to Disney Quest on their website and had no problems with their service or tickets. I received the Park Hoppers in about a week.
I reserved a full-size car with National for $144 (including taxes and fees) using the Disney Club discount and a Disney Club coupon for a free weekend day. I kept checking National's website for lower rates and was finally able to get the car for $109 for the four days, including taxes. I am a member of National's Emerald Club so we will be able to pick any vehicle from their Emerald Aisle. Our luck has been spotty when using the Emerald Aisle. We were able to get an SUV last November and I have seen pick-ups, PT Cruisers, and Mitsubishi Spyders before, but I have also only had full-sized cars to choose from on several occasions. Of course, we are always guaranteed at least a full-sized car, so anything above that is a bonus.
As I had done in the past, I once again called Walker Mobility in Orlando to rent an ECV (scooter) for Mother. The total for 4 days is $117. Walker Mobility delivers the ECV to our resort before we arrive and picks it up after we leave. We have used them twice before and were pleased with the service both times.
Since we were going to be taking full advantage of the Food and Wine Festival, our priority seating (PS) needs were minimal. I made a PS for 'Ohana at the Polynesian, since it is one of our favorites and Dad has never eaten there, and a late PS for a character breakfast at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for our first morning in case we want to sleep in and have a late breakfast. I also wanted to do an Illuminations Cruise again this trip since Dad has never experienced one, so it was several mornings of waking up early and dialing WDW on the house phone and all available cell phones until I was finally able to book one for Saturday, our last night there.
A couple of new things that I would like to be able to do on this trip include shopping at the new Once Upon a Toy store in Downtown Disney and playing mini-golf at Fantasia Gardens. Our tentative schedule looks like this:
Since I roughed out our schedule, Disney has started the Extra Magic Hour for resort guests. Each day of the week a certain park opens to resort guest an hour early with limited attractions in operation. Since Thursday is early entry at the Magic Kingdom (MK), depending on how late we get to be the night before, I might try to sneak out while everyone else sleeps in and catch a few attractions. We'll be at the Polynesian, so it would be easy just to grab the monorail over to the MK. We'll see how it goes.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
"What day is it?"
Plan: work until 1:00, pick up Michael at school, drive to Midland, arrive in Orlando at 11:30, check in at PR.
My original plan was to work until 1:00pm. I bravely made it until noon, and then decided the call of Disney was too strong to stick around any longer. We were driving Dad's car to the airport in Midland, so by the time I got home, we got the car loaded, got the oil changed, grabbed some lunch, and picked up Michael at school, it was 2:00. We made it to Midland by 4:00, stopped at a 7-11 for a bathroom break, and then continued on to the airport. Dad parked the car in long-term parking while the rest of us dragged the luggage inside.
After we checked in, Michael decided that ice cream sounded good and we all agreed. After we had all finished our scoop of ice cream ($6.88 for 4 scoops), Michael decided that a soft pretzel sounded good so he had one of those also ($2.15).
We had a long time until our plane left at 6:45, so we looked around in the gift shop for a while before sitting down at the gate. Before we boarded, Michael talked me into getting him another pretzel, which he promptly ate. I swear that child is one long gut. Our flight to Austin was quick and the only disappointment was for Michael. He had been looking forward to Southwest Airlines' honey roasted peanuts and they don't have them anymore-just dry-roasted.
In Austin, we barely had time to get off the plane, walk to our gate, and walk on the flight to Orlando. Michael dozed on the long flight and our plane landed on time at 11:30pm. Our luggage was already waiting for us when we got to baggage pick-up, so we quickly claimed it and went downstairs, across the road, and back upstairs to the National rental car garage to pick up our car.
There were only full-sized cars on the Emerald Aisle that night (Intrepids, Galants, a Chevy Malibu, Camrys, and a Monte Carlo). We picked a silver Camry and were on our way by 12:09.
We pulled in to the Polynesian Resort (PR) and stopped at the guardhouse. The guard was sitting in his hut writing something. He never even looked up or acknowledged us. We waited there a few minutes, thinking that he was just finishing up a report or something and he would look up when he finished his thought, but he never did. After a while, we just drove on through-"Aloha" to you, too, buddy!
Valet parking was deserted too when we pulled up. It was kind of creepy with no one around. We left the car curbside with the luggage still in the trunk and went inside. The Christmas decorations and Christmas tree were already up. They looked very pretty. There were no Cast Members at the front desk either (cue the Theme from Twilight Zone). Thankfully, a Cast Member (CM) showed up fairly soon. There was the "Aloha!" we'd been looking for! We checked in and the CM informed us that our room was ready (ha ha!). We were in Samoa, room 3606. I asked if we could have a late check out time for the next day, and the CM said that we could have until 1:00.
Michael was hungry (actually, we all were since we'd had no supper). We had originally planned to grab something at Captain Cook's after we arrived (since they are open 24 hours), but there was a notice at the front desk that said Captain Cook's was temporarily closed while they fixed some drainage problems. It had been re-located to the second floor at the Kona coffee bar. Unfortunately, it closed at midnight and it was now close to 1:00am.
I went back out front to take care of the car and luggage. The bell services CM was back by this time. He explained that, after midnight, they usually only have one CM working valet and bell services. He had been taking some other guests to their room when we first arrived.
He loaded our luggage on a cart and drove me around to the back of the Great Ceremonial House (GCH-lobby) to pick up Mom, Dad, and Michael. Mother and Michael were waiting, but Dad had gone off to look for me. Mother said she would go get him and Michael and I could go on to the room. Michael and I went to the room with the CM, dropped off the luggage, and then went back towards the GCH to make sure Mom and Dad could find us. We met up with them right outside the Samoa building, so we all went up to the room together.
We checked the vending machine on the first floor for a snack for Michael, but it only had soft drinks in it. Back in our room, we discovered that the view from our balcony was great. We faced the volcano pool and were right in the center of it. If you leaned out over the balcony and looked to the left, you could see Cinderella's castle across the lake. We quickly got Michael into his pajamas and into bed. He fell asleep quickly, but not before a few more protests about how hungry he was. By the way, we found out the next morning that the vending machine on the 3rd floor (which we walked right by) has snacks as well as soft drinks in it. Oh well, live and learn!
The rest of us got ready for bed. Dad went to take his medicine before going to sleep (he has one of those pill dividers that are separated for each day of the week) and he couldn't figure out which compartment to open. "What day is it?" he asked. We finally decided that it was only Wednesday, although it seemed like it should have been at least two or three days since we left home! Mom and Dad went to sleep at once. I updated my trip report notes until 1:45, when I went to sleep. It was good to finally be here!
Thursday, November 14
Plan: sleep in, breakfast at Captain Cook's or 1900 Park Fare, swim, move to Yacht Club, Epcot for Food & Wine Festival, Tapestry of Dreams, mini-golf at Fantasia Gardens
I woke up at 6:30 (ugh!) and started getting ready for the day with the thought of the Extra Magic Hour calling to me. Mother was up at 6:45. She said she was okay with going to the Magic Kingdom (MK) or she didn't mind staying with Michael if he wanted to sleep in.
I woke Michael up at 7:00 and asked him if he wanted to go to the MK with me or sleep in. At first he said he wanted to sleep, but when I told him that I was going anyway, he immediately changed his mind and wanted to go. We woke Dad up at 7:15 and, while he and Michael got dressed, called Michael's parents to let them know we had made it safely.
We were out the door by 7:30. We walked to the GCH and went upstairs to the Kona coffee bar a.k.a. the temporary location of Captain Cook's. Michael got some toast and donut holes, Dad got an English muffin and a banana, Mother got a cream cheese danish, and I got a diet coke ($9.70). We carried the food onto the monorail (which was standing room only) with us and were soon at the Magic Kingdom.
Main Street was packed with characters this morning: Alice, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit, Aladdin and the Genie, Captain Hook, Smee, Friar Tuck, Little John, Mickey, Minnie, various assorted Country Bears (I don't know their names), Snow White, Pinocchio, Stromboli, Foulfellow, Suzy and Perla (mice from Cinderella), and probably several more that I've forgotten. Michael wanted to get some autographs but we also wanted to hurry to Space Mountain. Mother volunteered to stand in line for autographs, while Michael, Dad, and I went to Tomorrowland. Many of the guests were stopping to see the characters, but we were on a mission.
When we got to Tomorrowland, there was no line for Buzz Lightyear, so we decided to ride that first. Michael and I were in a car together and Dad followed in the car behind us. In the very first room with targets (the one with the big orange robot), Michael hit something that gave him 500,000 points! Then, before we had even left the room, I looked down and his score was 999,999-as high as you can get! I wish I had had a camera with me to take a picture of it. Michael swears that he shot the eyes of the robot for 500,000 points each.
Since Michael couldn't get anymore points, he worked the joystick to turn the car while I shot aliens. My final score was 70,100 (sadly, that's my high score to-date), making me a Ranger First Class. Dad had around 32,000, and, of course, Michael was the Galactic Hero.
After Buzz, we headed to Space Mountain which had about a 5 minute wait. I gave my sunglasses to Dad to put in his pocket since I didn't have one. He said that on the very first corner, my shades flew out of his pocket. He couldn't see anything in the dark so he just grabbed blindly and somehow managed to catch my sunglasses! He held them in his hand for the rest of the ride.
It was now 9:00. Michael didn't want to ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA) with me, so we started back toward Main Street to meet back up with Mother. She was able to get Captain Hook and Smee's autographs before the characters all took a break. The characters were just coming out again as we got to the beginning of Main Street. Michael and I went to get the Genie's autograph. Michael accidentally dropped the autograph book right as he got up to the Genie. After the Genie signed Michael's book, he dropped it at Michael's feet on purpose.
Next, we went to get Stromboli's autograph. After he signed Michael's book, he grabbed Michael by his shirt collar and dragged Michael behind him. Stromboli pointed at me and rubbed his fingers together to pantomime "money." He pointed at me, signed "money," then pointed at Michael. I said, "I have to pay you to get him back?" at which Stromboli nodded vigorously. I laughed and told him that he could have Michael for free. Disgusted, he gave Michael back to me and washed his hands of him. Finally, we got Suzy and Perla's signature.
People were pouring into the MK in droves and we were more than ready for some real breakfast by this time, so we left the MK and took the monorail back to the Polynesian. We had a priority seating at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian at 10:00 for their character breakfast, but Michael didn't want to take that long for breakfast (he was wanting to swim), so we went to Kona instead.
Mother and I both tried the Tonga Toast for the first time. It was delicious (but huge, we should have shared one order). Michael and Dad both had the Two Eggs Your Way. With a coffee, diet coke, milk and water, the total came to $37.88 before tip. After we were finished eating Michael was raring to go so Mother and Dad said they would stay and pay the bill while I took Michael to get his swimming suit on. He was in the pool by 11:00. While I waited for Michael to change clothes, I called the front desk and asked about getting soft drinks for the refillable mugs, since Captain Cook's was closed. The CM said that you could get coffee refills at the Kona coffee bar, but they didn't have the facilities for soft drinks.
I had just found a table by the pool when Mother and Dad joined me. Michael quickly found a couple of boys to play with. I went back to our room and filled our mugs with ice, bought some canned drinks, grabbed the USA Today for Dad to read, and went back to the pool.
We sat enjoying the sunshine until about 12:30 at which time Mom and I went back to the room to gather up our luggage. We called bell services to transfer our luggage to the Yacht Club. The CM said that, since we had our own car, he would put the luggage in our trunk so we would have it when we arrived instead of having to wait for the PR to transfer the suitcases.
One the way back to the pool, I stopped by the front desk to get a copy of our bill (there was no express checkout bill on our door this morning-I assume because we had a late checkout time). I browsed the pin cart in the lobby and found a Cinderella pin for my younger sister (who loves Disney more than life itself and was very upset at having been left at home). On my way back to the pool I noticed that some of the Polynesian music they were playing around the resort was actually Christmas carols.
We got Michael out of the pool at 1:00. He changed into his clothes, we picked up our car from valet, and drove over to the Yacht Club (YC).
We turned our car over to the valet at the YC and left our luggage with Bell Services. When I mentioned that we were checking in to a concierge room, the Bell Services CM gave us a key to use in the elevator to get up to the 5th floor so we could check in. The Yacht Club also had their Christmas decorations in place. I think that it is one of the most beautiful resorts on Disney property.
When we made it up to the 5th floor, CM Teresa checked us in. Mom, Dad, and Michael stepped into the lounge for snacks while I took care of the paper work. Teresa gave us a solid chocolate picture frame that had an edible picture of the YC lighthouse on a white chocolate slab. (Believe it or not, we actually made it all the way home with the picture and showed it to everyone before we ate it!) We also got American Express lanyards and pins for everyone since I paid for the room with my American Express card. Our room was already ready so Teresa called Bell Services to bring up our luggage while I went to the room to wait for it.
We were in room 5239 which had a fantastic view of Stormalong Bay and the Boardwalk. Unfortunately, it was one of the farthest rooms from the elevators that you could have. I had faxed a room request for a room close to the elevators so Mother didn't have such a long walk. After Bell Services brought our luggage, I went back down to the lounge and asked Teresa if there wasn't a closer room that we could have. She said that the concierge floor was 100% booked for at least today. She could move us to a room close to the elevators on a different floor (with the understanding that we would still have access to the concierge floor), but that was the only option.
I discussed it with Mom and Dad and we decided that we would just stay where we were. We would bring Mom's ECV upstairs and she could ride it to and from the room. With that settled, I joined Mom and Dad in the lounge. Michael was watching cartoons in the children's area. The snacks in the lounge were very similar to those that we had at the Beach Club on previous stays: popcorn, pretzels, goldfish crackers, chips, salsa, cookies, fruit, pudding cups, gummi worms, and a flan. We had some snacks and diet cokes then went to our room around 3:00.
Michael watched TV while Mom, Dad and I napped. Mother and I got up at 4:00 to get ready to walk over to Epcot, but we couldn't get Dad to wake up! When we asked him if he wanted to go to Epcot with us he muttered, "What Epcot!" and went back to sleep. He finally roused himself and we all went downstairs to pick up Mother's ECV from Bell Services. The handicapped access to the Yacht Club was certainly more convenient than at the Beach Club. At the YC you can go right out the back of the lobby and down a ramp in order to walk to Epcot (or the Boardwalk or MGM). At the Beach Club, you had to wind your way through several corridors and exit at either the quiet pool or Stormalong Bay. However, the walk from the YC was longer and took about 5 more minutes than from the Beach Club.
We entered Epcot at the International Gateway and were soon in France and ready for the Food and Wine Festival (especially since we had had no lunch and it was getting close to suppertime). They were temporarily out of the Onion Tarts at France so we tried the Chicken Coq au Vin ($3.00) which was good and a big hit with both Dad and Michael. In Morocco we tried the Beef Shish Kabob ($3.00), the Lemon Chicken ($2.75), and the Vegetable Couscous ($2.00).
It was now 5:45, so we grabbed a bench in Japan to wait for the 6:15 Tapestry of Dreams parade. Dad went to the food booth and got a Golden Shrimp ($3.00) for us to try. I went to the Chile and Argentina booth and picked up Beef Panada ($3.00) and Creamy Baked Chickpea and Crispy Bacon Pie ($2.50). After we sampled those offerings, I walked to America where everything looked good so I had to get one of each of the Clam Chowder ($2.50), Crab Cake with red peach sauce ($3.00), Cheesecake with blueberry sauce ($2.00) and Bee Sweet Lemonade ($1.25). Loaded down, I headed back to Japan. Unfortunately the wind was blowing fairly hard and it caught the Crab Cake and blew it off the plate. I spent the rest of the evening wearing the red peach sauce on my white shirt. Everything else was good, though.
After the parade, we went through the stores in Japan to look for some Iron Chef merchandise to take back to my brother-in-law (Michael's Dad) who is a chef. Michael spent some of his money (he brought money that he had received on his birthday in October and I had given him some Disney Dollars for spending money) on Zoids (??) and Mother found a Monchichi (don't ask!) to take back to my younger sister.
We were all pretty tired after our late night/early morning, so we decided to head back to the YC. Michael was thirsty, so we stopped in France to get some water at the little crepe shop. While we stood in line, Michael decided that he needed a chocolate crepe also ($6.00 total, with the water). Michael and Dad went over to watch a street performer make balloon hats for the kids. Michael got a hat and Dad said that the performer made Michael work for it.
Dad went to the food booth where the Onion Tarts were ready ($1.50), so we sat for a few minutes and ate our tart and Michael's crepe before we left for the YC via the International Gateway. As we were walking along they began to play "La Vie En Rose." Mother remarked that it doesn't get much better than that-to walk along the International Gateway with your stomach full from food samplings, listening to "La Vie En Rose."
Back at the YC, the Christmas tree looked beautiful all lit up as you came into the lobby from outside. We were upstairs by 8:00 and we stopped by the lounge to get some desserts to take back to the room with us. Turn down service had been by and left chocolate mints for us and turned our TV on to the Disney promo channel. After our desserts, Mom and Dad went to bed while Michael watched TV and I updated my trip report notes. I made Michael go to bed shortly and I followed at 9:45. We never did make it to Fantasia Gardens to play mini-golf.
Friday, November 15
"You're going to be here a while!"
Plan: breakfast at concierge lounge, MGM/AK/or MK (Michael's choice), swim, dinner at 'Ohana, shopping at Downtown Disney
I woke up at 6:00 this morning. I quickly got a shower and dressed and waited for the rest of the family to follow. Michael finally woke up at 7:30 but said he was still sleepy. I told him to go back to sleep and I would go down to the lounge.
In the lounge for breakfast they had toast, bagels, English muffins, cereal, fruit, donut holes, various donuts, banana bread, cream cheese danish, oatmeal, grits, coffee, milk and juices. I hadn't been in the lounge for 10 minutes when Michael showed up in his nightshirt, shorts and tennis shoes with no socks. While we were eating breakfast, I noticed that the battery on my watch had gone dead and my watch had stopped.
We went back to the room at 8:30 and found that Mom and Dad were up and ready for breakfast. I stayed in the room with Michael while they went for breakfast. Dad came back after breakfast and said Mom's ECV wouldn't start. Michael and I went back down to the lounge with him and examined the ECV. There is a switch in the back that allows the wheels to roll freely (so you can move the back base when the ECV is dismantled). I jiggled the switch and the ECV started. It must have not been put together quite tight enough.
Michael wanted to go the MGM, so we went out to the dock to wait on the boat. Mother decided that she would take her ECV on the boat this time instead of driving it on the path that leads from the Boardwalk to MGM like she did last trip. She said the pathway was nice but it was lonely going by herself. While we were waiting, a small speedboat with two CM's on board came to the dock. One of the CM's would hold out his hand and call, "Harold!" and a bird would come and land on his hand. The kids were all amazed. The birds would also take food out of his hand.
We waited about 10 minutes for the next boat. On the ride over to MGM, Michael began talking with the people sitting in the seat in front of us. As it turns out, they were from Lubbock also. They were going to try to do MGM and Epcot in one day so they could watch the Texas Tech vs. University of Texas game on Saturday.
We arrived at MGM at 10:00 and headed straight to the Tower of Terror (ToT). Even an hour after the park opened, the wait time was only 13 minutes (meaning no wait at all) so we went first to get a Fast Pass (FP) for the Rock 'n Roller Coaster (RnRC). The stand by line at the RnRC showed a 5 minute wait. We got our FP and then returned to the ToT and walked right in. In the basement we took the right-hand path where our car still had the lap bars (I had heard before we left for WDW that they were taking out all of the lap bars and putting in seat belts on all the seats in order to prepare for their new drop sequences that are supposed to go into effect in January of 2003).
While Michael, Dad, and I went to the ToT, Mother took my watch to the watch store on Sunset Boulevard to see if they had a battery for it.
After our ride we checked out our picture. Dad decided to buy the picture, so we had it sent back to our hotel. We looked around in the gift shop for a few minutes and Michael spent some more of his birthday money.
It was now time for our FP for RnRC. The stand by wait had increased to 15 minutes but we were able to walk right on with our FP. Michael and I got to ride in the front car for the first time. I liked the front car but the ride was so windy in the front that I thought my contact lenses were going to blow out of my eyes! Dad said that he liked the ride but didn't want to ride it again because he didn't think his stomach could take it twice.
After the ride, we met back up with Mother. She said that the CM at the watch shop said that they didn't have watch batteries but we could get one at Downtown Disney. Since we were right by the Toluca Turkey Leg Co. and it was getting close to lunch time, I stopped to get Michael a baked potato with cheese and butter, a water, and a diet coke ($8.72) while Mom and Dad found a table. The potato came with nacho cheese (liquid cheese) instead of cheddar and Michael said he didn't like that kind of cheese so I went back to get him a plain potato instead. The CM working there asked if Michael didn't like the cheese. When I explained the situation, she gave me another potato at no charge which I thought was very nice of her.
When I got back to the table, Michael had almost finished eating the first potato! He had decided that it wasn't as bad as he thought it was going to be. Not to worry-he quickly began eating the second potato too!
After Michael finished eating, we walked back up Sunset and stopped at the candy store. Michael bought some cookies and cream fudge, which was good, but very rich. I found some chocolate coins with Disney characters on them for Michael to take back to his class at school.
Michael wanted to ride the ToT again so Dad took him back to ride while Mother and I headed to Tatooine Traders. I had promised a co-worker that I would try to find some of the Theme Park exclusive Star Wars robots for her husband if we went to MGM. On the way over we saw some characters outside of the Star Tours ride. Jafar, Frollo (from Hunchback of Notre Dame), Meeko (raccoon from Pocahontas), and a penguin from Mary Poppins were out. I got Frollo's and Jafar's autographs before we went inside the store. Jafar made me kiss his hand before he would give Michael's autograph book back to me.
We found the robots in Tatooine Traders and picked up some other stuff as well. Outside the store, even more characters were coming out. We saw Aladdin and Jasmine, Alice, and Mary Poppins. As we were watching, Meeko sneaked up behind Jafar, picked up the bottom of Jafar's cape and started eating it! I had to laugh out loud-it was so funny. Jafar was most disgusted when he discovered the raccoon munching on his robe!
We met back up with Dad and Michael on Sunset Boulevard. Michael said that they went to the left in the basement of ToT and their elevator had seat belts on all of the seats. Michael said he didn't like them as well as the lap bar because he didn't get as much air time.
It was 1:30 by this time and Michael was ready to go swimming so we took the boat back to the YC. I took Michael up to the room to change into his swimming suit while Mom and Dad went straight to Stormalong Bay to get a table for us. Michael stopped by the concierge lounge on the way to the room and got three sugar cookies, which he promptly ate.
Back in the room, housekeeping had left two birds made out of wash cloths for us. Michael and I both put our suits on (I put mine on under my clothes so I could stop back by the lounge for some cokes) and Michael ran ahead to go to the pool while I got some cokes, snacks, and a piece of delicious-looking chocolate cake to take with me. I also grabbed my refillable mug so we could get diet coke refills at Beaches and Cream or Hurricane Hanna's instead of having to come back upstairs for more cokes.
I ran into our housekeeper (Juliet) in the hall and she thanked me profusely for the tip I left for her (I usually leave $1 per person each day in an envelope marked "Housekeeping."). I thanked her for the towel animals.
It was 2:00 when I found Mom and Dad beside the pool. I dropped off the snack food, and Dad and I walked over to Hurricane Hanna's to get some lunch. Mom and I both got cheeseburgers, Dad got a hamburger, and we got two orders of fries to share since the burgers come with potato chips instead of fries ($22.00). We also filled up our mug.
Back at our table, we had lots of bird friends who wanted to share our lunch. Some of the birds could catch food in mid-air if you threw it to them. Mother said that she had seen two little girls come by singing "Heigh Ho!" and they were so cute she got tears in her eyes. This explains a lot about why I always cry at Disney parades, walking down Main Street, etc.!
After we ate, Dad went upstairs to get his swimming suit on and we both went swimming with Michael. It had been kind of overcast all day, but the sun came out while we were swimming and it felt really good. After a while, Dad and Michael went to get in the hot tub (Dad's back had been hurting him and he thought some heat might help it) and I got out to go back and talk to Mom.
Mother said that while we were in the pool, a squirrel came and sat on our table. He looked in her purse and around the rest of the table and, when he didn't find any food, sat staring at her. Mother opened a bag of the potato chips and offered one to the squirrel. The squirrel took the chip from her, took a bite of it, threw it on the ground in disgust, and stomped off. Mother related her story to a CM who was working at the pool and he said that the squirrel's favorite food was chicken strips. The CM said that he often sees the squirrel sitting in the trees and munching on an entire chicken strip that he has stolen from someone's table!
About 4:15, I went upstairs to take a shower and work on my trip report. Mother, Dad, and Michael came in at 4:45. Everyone got cleaned up to go to our 6:40 PS at 'Ohana and we left the room at 5:20. We looked in the lounge to see what kind of appetizers they had. There were bacon-wrapped scallops, fruit, cheeses, crackers, vegetable wraps, uncrustables, and vegetables and dip. Michael loved the bacon-wrapped scallops and ate several of them before we could warn him to save his appetite for supper.
We picked up our car from valet and drove to the Polynesian. We arrived at 5:50. Michael went to watch cartoons in the children's area while we waited for the torch lighting ceremony. We waited until 6:05, at which time I checked with a CM at guest services who confirmed that there would be no torch lighting ceremony tonight. We went upstairs and checked in at 'Ohana then looked around in some of the gift shops. We heard the MK fireworks starting and were able to watch them from the second floor of the GCH. As soon as the fireworks were over, our pager went off to tell us that our table was ready.
What can I say about the food at 'Ohana? This was my fourth time to eat here and the food has been consistently wonderful. Michael quickly scarfed down the bread that you get when you are seated and, as soon as our waitress came over, began clamoring for wontons. The CM made sure that he brought two bowls of wontons for Michael and three more loaves of bread. Michael particularly enjoyed the steak this time while I saved all of my room for the shrimp. In fact, I believe I ate 16 of them this trip (although, in my defense, I didn't eat any of the other meats)! As we were about to leave, the coconut races began and Michael had to participate.
We waddled out of 'Ohana, picked up our car, and headed to Downtown Disney (DTD). I dropped everyone off at World of Disney while I parked the car, then I met up with them inside. The place was packed. We split up, unsure that we would ever see another member of our family again. Mother found some Disney stickers for Michael to take back to his schoolmates. Mother and I found some Nightmare Before Christmas pins that were really cute so we got six different kinds to take to my younger sister, Paula. Michael found a ball for himself and one for his best friend. After a few more trinkets, Dad and I had the dubious honor of waiting to checkout, while Mother and Michael went outside to get some fresh air. I asked the CM at checkout if they were always this busy at night and she said that this crowd was nothing! She said that the last weekend had been a zoo since there was four or five events going on at WDW that weekend (Super Soap, Food & Wine Festival, Festival of the Masters, and a few others that I don't remember).
Back outside, we split up again since Michael wanted to go to the Lego store and Mother and I wanted to check out the new Toy store. Dad went with Michael while Mother and I went to Once Upon a Toy.
Wow! What a great toy store! The store itself was huge-as soon as you walk in there is a Mr. Potato Head display where you can purchase all of the Mr. Potato Head accessories (and his body too) that you can cram into a box for $16. Besides the usual assortment of eyes, ears, and mouths, they had lots of Disney accessories that I had never seen before. They had a Mickey ice cream bar, an autograph book, a Mickey balloon, a Mickey Mouse ear hat, WDW sandals, a Mickey camera, and an Alice in Wonderland TeaCup. For some reason, the challenge of trying to pack the most items into a box for one price proves to be irresistible to most people. Almost everyone that came into the store immediately grabbed a box and started scooping parts inside. Obviously, I must include myself in this category because, before I even knew what I was doing, I had a box and was packing in noses and ears like they were going out of style. I don't even like Mr. Potato Head! HINT: Don't forget that Mr. Potato Head's body is hollow. Be sure to fill him up with accessories too. We saw several people that had obviously done this before. They each had their own systems on how to pack the most accessories in a box.
They also had several computer terminals where you could design a virtual Mr. Potato Head and then print him/her out on a postcard.
I heard several people ask CM's how picky they were about the Mr. Potato Head box being able to close. One CM would point to an empty, closed box on display by the cash registers and say that it had to stay closed by itself like the one on the register. I made sure I didn't get her when I was ready to check out. All of the other CM's seemed to be pretty lenient when it came to the box actually closing. The CM I had just waved me on through and said my box was fine like it was.
One middle-aged woman walked into the store and stopped dead in her tracks. "Mr. Potato Head!" she shrieked, " I loved him as a child!" When I explained the concept to her she immediately asked where the boxes and bodies were while her husband stood behind her and rolled his eyes. I patted him on the arm and said, "You're going to be here a while!" He nodded woefully in agreement.
The store also had a similar arrangement for Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, but those items didn't seem to be as popular as the Mr. Potato Head.
In another room, they had the entire monorail train display set up. The monorail runs through models of the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary hotels and they have many of the ride models displayed (Orange Stinger from DCA, etc).
Mother helped me gather Potato Head parts for a while then went outside to find a bench to rest on. I finished filling my box, picked up a Haunted Mansion Clue game, checked out, and then went outside to join her. While we waited for Dad and Michael to show up, I ran to the Gourmet Pantry and got a diet coke for us to drink ($2.33).
Before too long, Michael and Dad arrived. Michael had found lots he wanted to buy at the Lego store, but I had his wallet in my purse. Michael and I headed into Once Upon a Toy and Michael immediately grabbed a Potato Head box and began filling it up. Actually, I think he managed to get more accessories than I did. He was pretty good at packing them in. Dad browsed through a pin store.
After we finished in the toy store again, Michael got an Italian Ice (cherry flavored - $3.00) and then we went back to the Lego store for Michael to make his purchases. Mother and I were both parched so we each got a coke while we waited for Michael to finish up.
We walked back to the car at 10:45 and were at the YC by 11:00. We laughed at Michael because every time we came through the lobby, he ran over to the children's area and began watching TV. He usually got to watch for all of 4 seconds, until the rest of us had caught up to him and reminded him that he needed to come up the elevator with us. Every time he would complain that he didn't want to leave because they have Classic Disney cartoons playing in the lobby and you can't get that channel upstairs.
Turndown service had been by again. Michael went to sleep immediately and Mother followed shortly after. I updated my notes while Dad read the newspaper. I went to bed at 12:00.
Saturday, November 16
"What do you call a canary in a blender?"
Plan: breakfast at concierge lounge, Epcot (Future World and World Showcase), swim, Illuminations Cruise
We woke up at 7:00 this morning to overcast skies and pouring rain. We got dressed and went down to the lounge for breakfast at 8:00. While we ate, we tried to decide what to do for the day. Our original plans had been to spend most of the day at Epcot to finish up the Food and Wine Festival and ride some attractions in Future World.
We went back to the room at 9:30. Juliet, our housekeeper had already cleaned our room and left us a rabbit and a chick made from wash cloths this morning. We saw her in the hall again and spoke to her for a while. Michael played with his Lego's while I called the AMC theater in Downtown Disney to see what times were available for the new Harry Potter movie. Mother, Michael and I decided to go to the 11:30 show. Dad wanted to stay and watch football.
I purchased tickets over the phone and we left for Downtown Disney at 10:15. I dropped Mother and Michael off at the entrance so they wouldn't have to get so wet. I parked the car and met them in the lobby. We picked up our tickets, walked to theater 20 (which was at the polar opposite side of the building from the entrance we used!), and were in our seats by 10:50. Our theater soon filled up. Michael and I went to the snack bar and bought popcorn, two boxes of candy, and a diet coke ($12.50). We all shared the popcorn and candy, but no one wanted to drink the coke since the movie was three hours long and we didn't want to have to miss any of it to go to the bathroom! By the time the movie was over, I bet there hadn't been three sips taken from the cup.
The movie let out at 2:15. The rain was coming down in torrents so I put on a poncho that I had stuck in my purse ($.88 at Wal-Mart) and ran to get the car. I spotted it before going outside, but when I got to it I found that it wasn't our car after all. It took me a minute or two to finally locate our car and then go pick up Mother and Michael.
Back at the YC, we stopped by the lounge and picked up some excellent coconut cake to take back to the room with us. Dad was still stuck in the football and Michael wanted to play with his Bionicles (Lego's). Mother and I were both itching to go to Epcot so we decided to just put on our ponchos and brave the weather.
Michael was hungry for some lunch so Mother and I walked Dad down to Beaches and Cream so he could get cheeseburgers and onion rings for he and Michael to eat in the room. We left Dad there (Michael had stayed in the room) and continued on through the Beach Club (to stay out of the rain for as long as possible) and out by the quiet pool on the end closest to Epcot.
Before we went outside, we both put on ponchos and covered up the control box for Mother's ECV. We wrapped my purse in another poncho and put it in the basket of Mother's ECV. Then, we headed out into the rain. The ponchos did a fairly good job of keeping us dry except that water would pool in Mother's lap as she rode her ECV. We got very tickled, as she had to stop and empty the water from her lap every so often. The water would usually run out on her socks and shoes.
As we were walking to Epcot, instead of going over the little rise before you get to the International Gateway, we took the lower path that runs alongside the lake. It was a very nice walk without the up and down of the hill. We had never taken it before but vowed we would use it every time after this.
Once inside Epcot, we headed to the right into France. We stopped at the Champagne booth and got two chocolate truffles ($1 each). I don't know how we missed these the other night. Epcot certainly wasn't very crowded with the rain, but everyone there was very cheerful. We decided that the rain keeps all but the true fans away, so all the grumpy people were still at the hotels. We put our watches in my pocket and plodded on.
We stopped in America to see the World Trade Center Flag that is on display, but the American Adventure was closed for a private function.
Mother and I were both hungry since we hadn't had any lunch and it was around 4:00. We went to the food booth in Italy and tried the Baked Rigatoni ($3.00) and Cannoli ($1.75). Both were good. In Germany we had to try the Apple Strudel in Vanilla Sauce ($2.00), which was also good.
It stopped raining while we were in Germany but there was still a solid sky of dark clouds. We went into the Teddy Bear shop to check out the Steiff animals. I was looking for the new miniature Steiff Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger set that was released this year. The CM that waited on us was not very knowledgeable about Winnie the Pooh (he thought Pooh was Piglet!), but he sure was cute. I don't know why the young, foreign CM's are drawn to me (I had a Moroccan CM named Adil pursuing me last year), but if this guy hadn't been so young, I would have been tempted to hook up with him-he was that nice-looking! Anyway, they did not have Piglet, Eeyore, or Tigger, but they did have Pooh and I did purchase him.
We continued on to the temporary Andulucia, Spain pavilion. Here is where the octopus that I had heard about was for sale. I had made such a big deal about the octopus to my friends and family that I had to try it ($3.00). The official name of the dish was "Octopus and Purple Potato Salad." It wouldn't have been so bad since the octopus was chopped up, except it looked like it was sitting on a big slab of tentacle. The "tentacle" was actually a thick slice of purple potato (which is somewhat scary by itself), but it looked pretty bad. The taste wasn't really *too* bad. It was very tangy. The texture was rather rubbery. Anyway, one bite was enough for me. At least I can say that I tried it.
In China, I had to get a sample of the Beijing Lau Bing ($2.75). I had tried it two years ago at the Food & Wine Festival and liked it very much. It was just as good again this year. We continued around the World Showcase, stopping in Mexico for a Chicken and Chorizo Quesadilla ($3.00) and a Taco al Carbon ($2.75), both of which were excellent. In Florida we tried the Citrus Roulade with Mandarin Sauce ($1.50).
We stopped in one of the Food & Wine Festival merchandise booths to look for Food & Wine Festival pins. The CM told us that they were sold out this year. We lapped around to Canada where we tried the Tomato and Sourdough Bread salad from California ($2.00) and a piece each of the Maple Walnut Fudge from Canada ($1.25 each).
We finished our lap through the UK and exited at the International Gateway to go back to the YC. We were back in our room by 6:00. Dad had taken Michael swimming while we were gone (after the rain had stopped) and they came back to the room soon after we had arrived. We all changed into dry clothes and Michael and I went down to the lounge to get some appetizers at 6:30.
Michael stayed at the lounge to play Sorry with some other kids. I took a plate for myself and one for Mother back to the room where I updated my trip report, Mother read, and Dad kept an eye on the score of the Texas Tech game (which we won 42 to 38 over #3-ranked Texas! Woohoo!).
Around 8:00 we changed Michael into some long pants, grabbed our jackets and went out to the YC Marina for our Illuminations Cruise. Aaron was our captain and he kept us amused by telling us about all the places in Orlando where he was going to try to eat huge amounts of food. He said that this week he had gone to Cheeseburger Cheeseburger where they have a 20oz hamburger. If you eat the whole thing, you get your picture on the wall. Being male and only 20-years old, he was easily able to eat the whole thing. He said there was another restaurant where, if you could eat a 64oz steak, you would get your meal for free and your picture on the wall. Kind of an unusual hobby, but it made for some good stories.
Once we were inside Epcot and parked under the bridge between France and the UK, Aaron and Jeff (the captain from the boat from the Boardwalk), who was parked next to us, had a bad joke contest. Jeff was the defending champion (they even had a trophy). You got points for groans, moans, dead silence and comments like, "I can't believe he told that joke." Points were deducted if someone actually laughed. The jokes were pretty bad.
After Jeff and Aaron had both told a joke or two, Michael raised his hand and asked if he could tell a joke. Mother, Dad, and I were all surprised that we had a closet stand-up comic in our midst. Aaron told Michael that he would have to speak loudly so everyone could hear him, but that was no problem for Michael. His choice of jokes was: What do you call a canary in a blender? Answer: Shredded tweet. (Rim shot, please) Actually, he got the biggest laugh of the night. After a few more jokes from Aaron and Jeff, Michael got up again and told another joke-go figure!
The voting for the contest was by applause only. If one of the voters shouted, hollered, or said "Woo hoo," then the person they were voting for was disqualified. Naturally, we all voted for our captain, Aaron. However, there were more people on Jeff's boat and it looked like he was going to win until someone accidentally shouted "Woo!" during the voting. Thus Jeff was disqualified and Aaron took home the trophy for the evening.
It was now time for Illuminations, which was as great as ever. After it was over, Aaron took us over by the Boardwalk before taking us back to the YC Marina by 9:30. We stopped by the concierge lounge for some desserts and then were soon asleep back at the room.
Sunday, November 17
"I wish we lived here!"
Plan: breakfast at concierge lounge or Cape May, Michael's choice until time to leave for airport
I got up at 6:30 this morning, showered and dressed, and went down to the lounge while everyone else slept in. Our express checkout bill was hanging on the door-boo hoo. When I got back to the room, everyone was stirring around, so I started the unpleasant job of packing. Amazingly, we got everything back into our original suitcases and one extra duffel bag (I always stick in a couple of collapsible bags for toting souvenirs home).
I went back to the lounge with Mother, Dad, and Michael at 8:30 and drank a coke while they had breakfast. After breakfast, we said good-bye to Juliet in the hall and called Bell Services to store our bags for us. Michael said that he wished we lived here. That way, he reasoned, we could save lots of money on hotel bills by just driving to the parks from our house. I agreed that it would be nice to be so close to WDW, but I think I would still want the experience of staying at a Disney resort-that is a large part of the magic for me.
Dad had still not been subjected to trying Beverly at Ice Station Cool at Epcot, so we decided to go to Epcot in the time that we had left. Mother only had three days on her park hopper and we had already used all three days this trip, so we had to purchase a one-day, one-park ticket for her. She volunteered to stay at the YC, but we wanted her to be able to come along with us.
It was cold and very windy today as we walked to the International Gateway, through the UK and Canada, and over to Future World. We made our way to Ice Station Cool while Dad kept protesting that he didn't understand why we were going to make him try something we knew he wasn't going to like. Needless to say, he was not amused at the taste of Beverly. Mother, Michael, and I all tried it again too just to be sure it was as bad as we remembered-it was. Mother actually talked several people into trying it including one couple from the Netherlands. I love watching people's faces when they take their first (and usually *only*) sip.
It was 11:00 when we came out of Ice Station Cool and Michael was wanting to ride Test Track since it had been broken down when we tried to ride it in June. I didn't notice the wait at the stand-by line, but it didn't look too bad. I waited with Mother while Michael and Dad rode using the Single Rider line. Michael said that they got to ride in the same car anyway.
It was 11:30 when they got off of Test Track and we knew it was time to start making our way back to the YC. Postponing the inevitable, we decided to walk back through the World Showcase clockwise, starting with Mexico, so we could sample some more food booths.
In Mexico, Michael got two Quesadillas, Dad and I got a Taco, and Mother, Dad, and I shared a Quesadilla. Michael also had to have some of the Watermelon Water ($1.50). In China I got another Beijing Lau Bing and we tried the Cold Sesame Noodles with Vegetables ($2.00) which Michael ate most of (the kid loves a peanut sauce).
Both Michael and Dad got a Smoked Polish Keilbasa and Pierogi ($3.50 each) in Poland. Michael said that the Pierogi was better than it was last year. Dad also got a Stuffed Cabbage Roll ($2.75). In Germany, Michael wanted an Apple Strudel and in America he got another Cheesecake with Blueberry sauce.
It was getting late by now so we sadly left Epcot behind. Michael needed a restroom break at the International Gateway so, while Mother and Dad waited on him, I went on ahead to get our car from valet and our luggage from Bell Services.
I had the car ready with the luggage loaded by the time Mother, Michael and Dad arrived. We left the ECV with Bell Services for Walker Mobility to pick up and were on our way at 1:00 for our 2:35 flight. The trip home was uneventful and long (as most trips home are). We made it home by 9:30 that night.
We all agreed that this trip was very nice, but too short. We've gotten spoiled to staying for 7 or 8 days at a time. However, any length trip to Disney is better than no trip at all.
We had two days of good weather and two days of bad. As luck would have it, they had been having unseasonably warm days in Orlando before we arrived and the weather was supposed to clear up and get nice again the day after we left. Oh well. Although the weather stopped us from spending all day in Epcot on Saturday, when Mother and I finally went out, we had a good time anyway. My advice on bad weather days would be to go to the parks anyway if that's what you had planned. The weather cuts the crowds to almost nothing and you get an adventurous feeling from plodding around in the elements. Of course, if I had very small children, I would reconsider.
As I stated before, I think the Yacht Club is one of the most beautiful resorts on Disney property. In comparing the Yacht Club to the Beach Club, I think the Yacht Club is the prettier of the resorts. However, of the two resorts, I think I slightly prefer the Beach Club over the Yacht Club because it's closer to Epcot and I thought the nighttime selections in the concierge lounge were better at the Beach Club. Of the two concierge lounges, the Beach Club's sitting area seems larger and less crowded, but the Yacht Club's food area was much larger than that of the Beach Club. Also, I think the Cast Members at the Beach Club were slightly friendlier than at the Yacht Club. It could just be that we've stayed at the Beach Club more times than at the Yacht Club.
Mother preferred the Yacht Club because of it's easier handicapped accessibility but agreed that she liked the food better at the Beach Club. That being said, I wouldn't hesitate to stay at either resort again, given the opportunity.
Once again, we thoroughly enjoyed the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot. This event seems to get bigger and bigger each year with more food offerings. We have yet to participate in any of the Signature Dinners or events (which would be a waste for us since we don't drink wine), but there always seems to be something available for everyone's tastes.
Our only sit-down meals were at 'Ohana and Kona, both at the Polynesian. Both meals were very good--we will definitely eat at both places again. I missed getting to eat lunch or dinner at Kona because they have such great desserts. The only counter service we had was Hurricane Hanna's, which has a very good cheeseburger for fast food, and Beaches and Cream (Dad and Michael). All other "meals" were either at the Food and Wine Festival or the concierge lounge.
We never did make it to Fantasia Gardens to play mini-golf. That will have to wait until another trip. New things we did this time were trying Tonga Toast and shopping at Once Upon a Toy...oh, yes, and eating octopus. Hopefully, we'll be back next year to try some more.
That's all till next trip. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions that you have.