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Dave Stewart-- December 2002 -- Walt Disney World (CR)

December 6-8, 2002

Dave flew to Orlando from his home in Redwood City, CA and George drove down from his home in Daytona Beach, FL for this quick two-day trip.

We're both veteran WDW visitors. I've made a yearly trip for the past eight years, and George is the proud owner of a WDW annual pass.

The purpose of the trip was to get reacquainted after a year, see the Christmas decorations at the Disney parks, and (hopefully) avoid some crowds.

Friday, Dec 6

I flew in from San Francisco on American Airlines and headed for the Mears shuttle desk. I had visited the Mears web site a few weeks earlier and filled out a reservation request form.

When I arrived at the Mears desk in the Orlando Intl Airport arrivals terminal, the attendant asked for my destination and departing flight information again - the same info I entered into the web site. Here's a direct quote from the attendant: "I don't know why people bother using the web site when they have to come here to the desk anyway with all that information."

Hmmm. Uh, am I just jetlagged or was that an insult?

I decided not to think about that. I took the ticket and report to the Mears dispatch area outside. Although the dispatcher initially rewarded me with a remote control device meant to summon me when the shuttle was available (for some reason, I always crave Red Lobster when I get handed one of those), it wasn't long before I was whisked away to the Contemporary Resort in one of Mears' finest 15-passenger vans.

Every year, it seems I'm the last one to be dropped off by the Mears shuttle. This time was no exception. Fortunately, the driver was an older gentleman who loved to talk about Walt Disney World. His enthusiasm about WDW was welcome, particularly because we hit a mile-long stretch of bumper-to-bumper traffic on the single-lane road leading to the Contemporary Resort. It took us roughly 25 minutes to drive that stretch of road. We later found out that two Christmas parties were occurring simultaneously at the Contemporary Resort's convention center.

Check-in was a breeze. I made reservations through the Shades of Green. Because that hotel is undergoing renovations, they were kind enough to place me in a standard room in the north garden wing of the Contemporary Resort.

Upon entering the room, I was greeted by a friendly memo reminding all hotel guests that mosquitos have been known to carry the West Nile Virus and listing precautions to take when walking outside at night for extended periods.

My room contained two beds. When I removed the bedsheet on the first bed, I was greeted by roughly 50 tiny, dead mosquitos lying on the pillows. Upon further review, I noticed there were many more dead mosquitos lying on the top of the bedsheet. I couldn't have written a better horror movie!

Fortunately, the second bed was insect-free. I was too tired to complain so late at night, so I wrote a note to the housekeeper asking for new bedsheets on Saturday and quickly went to sleep.

Saturday, Dec 7

George drove down from Daytona Beach in record time, and we met at the entrance to Spaceship Earth.

We mostly talked about our jobs and our girlfriends during the weekend and hit surprisingly few rides. That said, this was probably the best trip I've had to WDW.

We headed to Test Track and grabbed a couple of Fast Passes. After talking awhile near the boat launch on the shore of the lagoon, we returned to Test Track, which did not disappoint.

We next rode Maelstrom, a personal favorite in the Norway pavilion, then headed for our favorite restaurant in Epcot, the Tempura Kiku at the Japanese pavilion. My recommendation: Try the sushi appetizer and tempura roll!

After lunch, we decided to take the Friendship boat to the Disney-MGM Studios and ride the Aerosmith Rock and Roller Coaster. We again grabbed Fast Passes and walked to the Star Tours shop and Animation store to kill some time. We returned for my FIRST ride on the Aerosmith coaster. I can't believe the acceleration at the start of the ride! It is amazing.

George wanted to experience the WDW bus system, so we hopped on an overcrowded bus back to Epcot (I think it's his last time on the bus - HA!). We walked to the Japanese pavilion for a few drinks at the bar next to Tempura Kiku. I highly recommend that bar if you want a quiet place to relax and look at the people walking by.

We rode the Monorail back to the Contemporary Resort as night fell, then drove to Macaroni Grille a few miles from Downtown Disney for dinner. We ended the day by enjoying a few more drinks at the Contemporary Resort's Outer Rim bar and watching the monorail sail by.

Sunday, Dec 8

We took advantage of the Contemporary Resort's proximity to the Magic Kingdom by walking there in the morning.

We first visited Alien Encounter in Tomorrowland. My recommendation: Sit in the first row to experience the maximum effect!

I've always enjoyed the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, so George and I rode it next. I worked as a ride operator at Disneyland in the early 1990's, and the Peoplemover was one of the rides I worked on. It's good to see that the Tomorrowland Transit Authority is still in business. Now, if we could only convince the Powers That Be to resurrect the Peoplemover!

After wandering around the MK a bit more, we rode the Monorail to Epcot for lunch. Another favorite restaurant of mine at Epcot, particularly for lunch, is the Nine Dragons restaurant at the Chinese pavilion. My recommendation: Try the Chinese sampler lunch! For around $15, you get plate after plate of Chinese entrees like honey chicken, sweet and sour pork, Mongolian beef, as well as dim sum, egg rolls, and wonton soup. This is not a buffet. Your server brings each entrée to your table. The sampler is all-you-can-eat, so you can ask for more of any specific dish you liked.

After lunch, no ride is better than Spaceship Earth. Smelling the smoky air during the burning of Rome portion of the ride is always a requirement for our visits.

We wanted to buy our girlfriends a few gifts as thank-you's for this "boy's weekend out", so we took the Monorail back to the Contemporary Resort, hopped in George's car, and drove to Downtown Disney. After that, it was time for George to head back home to Daytona Beach.

Having an hour or so before the Magic Kingdom closed, I walked over to see the Christmas decorations and catch the fireworks display. They were both fantastic. My recommendation: Stand between the Lunching Pad and the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway for a great, unobstructed view of the fireworks!

The culmination of the trip was my walk down Main Street with 5,000 of my closest friends after the park closed. Despite being wedged shoulder to shoulder along the width of Main Street, the crowd managed to make good progress toward the park exit.

All in all, this was the best trip I've made to WDW, despite the fact that George and I didn't visit many rides. My recommendation: Try visiting WDW sometime during the first two weeks of December. The Christmas decorations are out, and the crowds are manageable!

Dave Stewart


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