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Janice O'Hanley -- December 2004 -- Walt Disney World (ASMuR)


The Cast of Characters

  • Janice - Former Disney Store Cast Member, Disney fanatic; Favorite character is Belle
  • Marianne - Former Disney Store Cast Member, Good friend of Janice; Favorite Character is Donald Duck

Main reasons for going:

  • Spending my first holiday trip to WDW with a good friend
  • Candlelight Processional
  • Osborne Family Lights
  • Checking out the Character Outlets
  • Mickeyís Very Merry Christmas Party
  • Checking out Christmas decorations at resorts

Preview:
I have wanted to go to WDW during the holidays for a very long time. After I booked my November trip (2nd weekend over 4 days), my friend Marianne suggested a short trip down to see the holiday decorations. She had been years ago and was anxious to go again and since I had never been during this time, I was excited to go also. Luckily we were able to get a very low airfare on Southwest ($115 RT from Providence to Orlando - non-stop). We couldnít pass up that price! Then I got an email from WDW for a code to book a room. This was great! We booked All-Star Music for only $55 a night. This trip was going to be done a lot cheaper than I thought. I also booked Mickeyís Very Merry Christmas Party for that Sunday night and once the tickets were available we also booked the Candlelight Processional for the Monday night. I knew that I wanted to see the Osborne Family Lights at MGM, so that would probably be done on the Saturday night. We discussed going over to Universal CityWalk later Saturday night but that didnít work out. We will be renting a car but will probably only be venturing offsite when going to the outlet stores. Also one of my goals for this trip was to try and find some Hidden Mickeyís, so I brought along my Hidden Mickey book to help locate them. We will see how many I am able to find. All in all, we will have a very busy weekend.

Friday - December 3, 2004

Our flight does not leave until 7 pm with Southwest out of Providence. Both Marianne and I will leave our respective jobs around 2:30-3pm. Marianneís husband will drive us to the airport, so they plan on picking me up around 4pm, I will be ready by the door.

We brought only small roll-along pieces of luggage and another carry-on, so as not to have to check anything in. Marianne printed out the boarding passes for us, which let us go directly to security. We arrived at the airport at precisely 5 pm, preceded straight through security and right to our gate with plenty of time to spare before it was time to board our plane. We brought sandwiches to munch on for our dinner knowing full well that our flight would only provide peanuts and/or Ritz crackers.

Our flight was uneventful and since Marianne had an abundance of Southwest drink coupons, we both ordered something. I ordered a Baileyís Irish Crème on the rocks and she ordered a Merlot. If we didnít have the coupons, I would never have ordered a drink because at $4.00 a glass, I donít think that is worth it and I donít really need anything to calm me down while flying. There was a small child in the back of the plane that would shriek at the top of her lungs every few minutes, so if you tried to sleep - forget it! Her little voice would definitely wake you up.

Before we knew it, the plane was landing and we were in one of my favorite places - Orlando. Our plane landed a few minutes early so we were down at the Budget Rental desk at around 10:10 pm. Marianne had booked the car online before we left and got a terrific deal with her AARP card. For the entire weekend (Friday night through Tuesday night) our cost for the car was $110.00. We were even given a free upgrade, which was very nice. Another great deal for our trip! We found our car very easily and drove off towards our destination - All-Star Music. I am so glad that we opted to rent a car for this trip. First of all, it will be great to be able to visit the outlet stores in the area and since we were staying onsite, we were able to get into the parks free. Marianne didnít mind doing the driving; I had only the easy task of keeping my eyes out for signs and keeping her in the right direction.

When we arrived at the resort, it was about 11pm and there was no wait at all to see the next available Cast Member. We were told that our Candlelight Processional tickets would be ready for pick-up after 8am the next morning. We were given a room in the Rock Inn building #4 on the 3rd floor. I wasnít crazy about being on the top floor but later in the trip I became thankful for that location due to the younger guests staying here. We drove down towards our building and saw that the last couple of rows of parking were blocked off with gates, even though a lot of cars were still parked in them. It took us about 10 minutes, but we finally found an empty space and dragged our luggage and ourselves up to our room. Once in our room and after unpacking, we hopped into bed to get some much-needed rest. Our plans for tomorrow were to go to Animal Kingdom for the first half of the day and then head over to MGM and stay until we saw the Osborne Lights. Plans for after that will be decided later. See you in the morning.

Saturday - December 4, 2004

We woke up between 6 and 6:30am and Marianne needed to take a quick walk to the food court for her first cup of morning coffee. This gave me time to jump in the shower and decide on what to wear for the day. When she came back she said that it was quite cool, so I opted to wear a light jacket but still keep on shorts, hoping that as the day goes on the weather will warm up some. We had breakfast of oatmeal and coffee at the food court, which was quite filling and inexpensive. We got our belongings for the day and drove off to the Animal Kingdom for our first park of the trip.

Our parking spot was far enough away where we had to take the tram to the entrance. It was just about 9am when we got there. I was expecting to see some characters directly inside the entrance but I guess they donít do that now that they have the characters on their caravan at the bottom of the bridge directly in front of the Tree of Life. They do their opening and countdown and then off the guests go in all different directions. Our first stop was to be the Dinosaur ride for me. Marianne doesnít care for rides that toss you around and I didnít want her to not feel well. She decided to meet me in the Chester and Hester area. I had to wait about 5 minutes before they opened up the ride but it didnít take long after that to board my jeep and go back in time to bring back Alladar to our century. After getting off the ride I went down to where you can buy the pictures and saw a Hidden Mickey that was described in the book. I walked towards TriceraTop Spin and found Marianne enjoying the atmosphere. She told me that while she was waiting, she discovered a path that brought her to a large life-like dinosaur lying on the ground. I had to see this, so we took the path and there it was. I had to get a picture of it and I noticed that when walking towards the Dinosaur ride coming from Donaldís Breakfastosaurus, if you look towards your left, you would see him. I canít believe that I miss this every time I come. I must be so intent on going to that first ride on Dinosaur that I have tunnel vision or something! Sometimes it pays to just take some time to explore; you never know what you may find.

We then headed back to ride Primeval Whirl. This is one ride that Marianne is able to enjoy. There was no wait time at all and we had a great time spinning through this attraction. Walking out of DinoLand, we detoured to see the progress of Expedition Everest. It looks like it is going to be a good size roller coaster and I canít wait to get the chance to ride it when it opens. This brought us near Flame Tree Barbecue, which wasnít opened yet because it was still too early but we meandered down to the outside seating and checked out all of the animal detailed seating areas, fountains and flowers. It is really beautiful and you can see across to where the new ride will be, so that will be fun to see the next time we come here to have lunch. Our plan for todayís lunch was to eat at Tusker House in Harambe Village. First we headed to the Flightís of Wonder show. Iíd seen this once before but it was Marianneís first time. The show was a little bit different from the last time I saw it but still very informative and fun to watch. We then went to the Maharajah Jungle Trek to visit with the bats & tigers among a variety of other animals. We found about 5 or 6 Hidden Mickeyís from the book, which was a lot of fun. Some are a lot harder to find than others, so it can be a challenge.

Just to let you know, the temperature so far today has not gone up much. I think the highest itís been is 68 degrees and my legs are starting to get goosebumps. We will definitely stay away from the Kali River Rapids this trip. I sure wish I had put on my jeans!

It was now time for lunch so we headed towards Harambe Village. One of the things that Marianne had on her list was to see ĎDeVineí, the walking vine/tree. Iíve seen her a few times and have told Marianne about her, so she was crossing her fingers that we would see a special piece of Disney magic. We were almost in the village and at the area where Baloo and King Louie usually have a meet and greet. Under the big fence to the right (heading into the village) I saw some viney legs so I knew she was coming out. Marianne and I waited a few minutes and around the fence she came. Marianne was so excited and she started to snap a few pictures. A crowd started to gather around, so it was time for us to say good-bye to DeVine until next time hopefully. We walked over to Tusker House and both of us ordered the Grilled Salmon served with rice and fresh green beans for $7.99. We both agreed that this was a great meal, especially for the price. With our bellies full, we headed over to Rafikiís Planet Watch and Conservation Station. This was a first time for this for both of us. We enjoyed the train ride over and once we got off the train we went straight into the main building that housed all of the displays and some character interaction. We saw Rafiki, Stanley and Pocahontas. We went from one glass case display to another. We saw everything from beautiful butterflies to a large boa constrictor. Any kind of snake gives Marianne the willies, so she avoided those displays. We didnít check out the petting zoo; let the little ones enjoy that! Hopped back on the train and back to Africa. We decided to do one more attraction and that was Pangani Forest Exploration Trail - I wanted to see the Gorillas. We could see the Bachelor group but the families on the opposite side were nowhere to be seen. On our way out of the park we stopped in the shop in Harambe Village that is located directly across from the Tusker House. Marianne bought a few African ornaments and I bought a shirt for my son. Right in front of the shop on the ground is another Hidden Mickey. Checked that off in my book and proceeded to the exit. Outside of the park we took pictures of the Christmas tree, which was beautifully decorated in an African theme. We took the tram back to approximately where the car was parked and Marianne decided that the fastest way to find our rental was to push the button to the trunk and let it pop up. Well this was the way she found our car for the rest of the trip and it was more or less a running joke all weekend long!

Before heading back to our resort to change into something warmer (it was still the same temperature as it was early this morning), we stopped off at Animal Kingdom Lodge to see their decorations. Of course, when you walk into the lodge, you are overwhelmed by the size of the lobby. Now with the decorations and the Christmas tree, the lobby looks so elegant. I ended up taking a few pictures of the tree from different angles, so I could get it in good light. We went out back to the Savannah to see what animals were out and ended up talking to two CMís for about 10 minutes. Then heading back inside we saw a family looking for the Hidden Mickey on the iron stairway on the outside of the resort and it took us a few minutes but we all found it, which felt like an accomplishment. Time to go downstairs to Boma to check out the chocolate candy African village on display. I love things like this and we will be checking out what each resort has on display for the holidays. At this point we wanted a little something, so I suggested going into Jiko to share the pistachio crème brulee and coffee, but unfortunately they were closed until 4 pm and it was only 2 pm. Oh well, something to do for the next time. We walked out by the pool and strolled into Mara to check out their quick service eatery. When walking by the pool, I was reminded of the fact that it was still cold outside (by Florida standards), so we felt it was time to leave and head back to AS Music to change into pants and a warmer jacket. We will be heading to MGM for the rest of the afternoon and the evening to see the Osborne Lights. I wanted to make sure that I was warm enough for the occasion.

We didnít stay long at the room and before we knew it we were on the road to MGM. Our first intentions were to go and ride Tower of Terror or at least get a FastPass for it. I was only going to ride Rock Ďní Roller Coaster if there wasnít much of a line. As we were walking down Sunset Blvd. we saw a gathering in the middle of the street and stopped to see what was going on. It was the Streetmosphere performers doing a skit, so we found a spot to watch. They were singing Christmas Carols (each one in a crazy get-up) and you can just imagine how they sounded. It was quite funny and entertaining. Their finale was the 12 Days of Christmas and it was just hilarious! Whenever I see these cast members performing at MGM, I make it a point to watch their skits. Definitely worth the time to stop and enjoy. We proceeded down towards ToT and saw that the wait time was for ď13 minutesĒ. We decided to get FastPasses for later and go on the ride now anyway. This is my favorite ride down here in WDW and I couldnít wait to get into our elevator. The line moved along in a timely manner and before we knew it we were shooting up and down the elevator shaft. I probably could ride this for the rest of the afternoon without stopping but Marianne needs a break after our first ride. We walked over towards Rock Ďní Roller Coaster but the wait time was 25 minutes, so I decided to pass on this attraction. Marianne is not a fan of this ride so I felt it was not fair to her to make her wait just so I could ride it. I do enjoy it but can do without it this trip. I have always wanted to see 4 for a Dollar, the group that performs as the opening number before the Beauty and the Beast show. When we got to the theater I asked the CM if they were performing today and he said that they had already performed for the first 4 showings and usually that is all they do for the day but he told me they may still come out because of the holiday season. I asked the CM to sprinkle some pixie dust and I hoped that they would come out. Well I guess the PD worked because they did perform and I was glad that I made the attempt to stop by the theater to see them. They are great and I would definitely come back to see them perform again in the future. We didnít stay for the Beauty and the Beast show, since we both had seen it before and we had other things on our agenda.

We were both hungry by now so I suggested that we go to the Docksiders Diner and get a couple of giant filled-pretzels. I had one of these for the first time last month when I was here for the Soap Opera weekend, so I knew what to expect. I wanted another cheese filled one and Marianne decided on the apple cinnamon. Then we shared them and had a terrific snack that was very satisfying. I wish I could find a place near home that sold these. Our FastPasses for ToT were good now so we headed back down Sunset Blvd and rode the elevator one more time. This time a girl was crying uncontrollably while the ride was going on and I thought it was a little girl that a parent made come on but when we ended the ride I saw that the girl was about 15 yrs. old. She was in such a panic while everyone else in her party was having a grand time laughing at her. I think that if someone is scared to go on, donít make them. No one should be forced to do anything that they donít feel comfortable doing. Marianne wanted to do the Backlot Tour so we walked towards the Sorcererís Hat and down onto Mickey Avenue. We just missed a showing of ĎWho Wants to be a Millionaire?í but that was all right with me since I did it so many times last month. We continued towards the Backlot Tour but when we got there we noticed that it was blocked off and a CM was standing there saying that they closed it at 5 pm due to getting ready for the Osborne Lights. We ended up walking towards the NY/San Francisco area to see the lights before they lit them up. I showed Marianne where the new stunt car show is going to be, so she could see why the Backlot Tour was going to be different now. We had about 45 minutes before the Osborne Lights were to be turned on so we decided to go see one more show. We opted for The Little Mermaid and there was quite a line for it already but it was moving along slowly. We got in line and after about 5 minutes we knew that we were going to have to wait for the next show. A mother and her two little daughters needed to use the bathroom so we told them that we would save their spots for them. They would be part of our family for this attraction, if anyone asked. The line started moving again and we were close to the doors when we saw the mother and daughters so we called them over and they were able to get back in line. We went into the waiting area, squished like sardines, and in a few minutes the little girls and their mom squeezed up to where we were standing. The girls wanted to sit with us, how cute! I ended up chatting with them about the show and what they should expect and the girls were so excited and they wanted to even sit on my lap. I told them that my lap was only big enough for one of them so the youngest got to sit with me and her older sister sat on her momís lap. The youngest sang her heart out during the whole show because she knew all the words. The show was very enjoyable mainly because of this little family and I wished them a great rest of their trip. Marianne and I headed back towards the center of the park to get in line for the Osborne Lights. It looked like the line was going to take forever to get through but we found out that there wasnít a single line and that we would just follow the crowd towards New York Street. These lights are amazing and I was so excited to see them for the first time. I even brought an extra camera with 800 speed film to use for just this occasion. I took almost a whole roll of film from every angle and couldnít wait to have this roll developed. This was so well done and the ďsnowĒ falling from the sky added the perfect touch.

It was time to head out of the park, mainly because we were starving and wanted some dinner. We had originally planned on going over to CityWalk at Universal but decided against it. We didnít feel like driving off property and were trying to think of a restaurant that wouldnít be too crowded on a Saturday night. I suggested going over to Shutters at the Caribbean Beach Resort. This ended up being an excellent choice. We only had to wait about 10 minutes for a table. We were hungry but not for a big meal, so we both decided to have the soup and then split a dessert. The soup of choice for both of us was the Charred Corn and Crab Soup. It was so delicious and the rolls that they brought out with it were a little crusty on the outside and soft inside. This was perfect for our needs. We then ordered the Passion Fruit Crème Brulee and shared that. This came with a passion flower on the side and tasted out of this world. I plan on trying all of the different flavors of crème brulee that the Disney chefs offer as time goes on. So far I have only tried the regular crème brulee and the chocolate one from the kiosk at the France food booth during the Food and Wine Festival last month (Remember earlier we tried to have the Pistachio flavor at Jiko, but the restaurant wasnít open at the time). We paid our check and decided to head over to check out the decorations at the Epcot resorts. We parked at the BoardWalk and strolled into the Inn. The decorations here are fabulous! In the lobby they had two beautiful Christmas trees and a display made of candy of an amusement park. It was very festive and nicely set-up for all to see. We then ventured out to the BoardWalk and since it was so close to 9pm, decided to watch IllumiNations from the International Gateway Bridge. We waited and waited and nothing happened and it was getting to be around 9:10 pm, so we headed towards the turnstiles at the IG and asked the CM. We found out (as Iím sure all of you know by now) that the fireworks werenít starting until 9:30 pm with a special Christmas addition at the end. We were going to stay but decided against it and walked right back out. Back towards the bridge we headed in the direction of the Beach Club. We went in and checked out the tree, which was nicely done, and saw the extra large chocolate carousel. This impressed me and I sure wish that I could ride it then eat the milk chocolate one. After taking pictures, we moved on to the Yacht Club. Their tree was decorated with small sailboats along with the usual type of decorations. They also had a small display depicting a quaint old-fashioned general store. We then walked over towards the Dolphin and along the way we saw a small wedding party strolling along the walkway. Also at this time we did see some of the fireworks from IllumiNations. The Dolphin had a giant lobby poinsettia tree, which had a large Christmas train set around it. We continued to our last stop of the night, which was the Swan. The giant swans in the lobby each had a beautiful bow attached to their necks and there was also a cute Christmas scene that looked like the North Pole. Of course we took pictures of everything including each tree. I sure hope that we can tell which tree is which once our pictures are developed!

I forgot to mention that this weekend they were shooting the ABC Disney Christmas Parade at the Magic Kingdom, but because of the schedule we planned out, we never saw or heard any of the excitement. Iím not sure if it was a good thing or not? Crowd-wise I think it was better to stay away from the ďgoings-onĒ. I will watch it on Christmas Day just like everyone else.

We were exhausted by this time, so we headed back to our resort and unwound. We stayed up a bit to watch some TV and plan the next dayís activities. Tomorrow would be a little bit of everything. We will hit the character outlet stores, visit more resorts and then go to the Magic Kingdom for Mickeyís Very Merry Christmas Party. Until tomorrowÖ

Sunday - December 5, 2004

This morning we got up about 6:30 am and Marianne quickly made a trip to the food court for her first cup of coffee of the morning. When she came back she said that the temperature was much warmer than yesterday morning, so that was a good sign. After we finished getting ready for the day, we went to have our breakfast of oatmeal at the food court then took a quick walk over to All-Star Movies. Marianne had never seen this resort before and she wanted to check it out for a friend who was staying there in a few weeks. She wanted to take a few pictures of this resort but didnít have her camera handy, so we decided that before we leave on Tuesday morning, we would go around and snap pics. Before leaving our resort we went to guest relations and the special holiday event line to pick up our Candlelight Processional tickets for tomorrow evening. There was a couple talking to the cast member already so we waited patiently. Well the time just ticked away and before we knew it we were waiting at least 15 minutes. The other guest relations cmís asked us if they could help us, but realized that they couldnít because they didnít have the capabilities of giving us CP tickets. Finally after standing in line for 20 minutes, the couple left and we were able to get our tickets in 3 minutes flat. Why donít they have a separate line for ďwill-callĒ pickups? Itís not fair to those of us who already called ahead and picked out our times for the show and where we wanted to eat. This is about the only un-magical thing that happened to us all weekend.

I had printed out a few maps of the outlets in the area and with a regular map of our own we headed off to the first one that is parallel to Interstate 4. It isnít too far from Crossroads and so we arrived at the Premium Outlets just around 10am. The Character Outlet was just opening up and we had a good time checking out all the stuff and ended up doing a little bit of damage. How could we resist? We walked around the outlet to see what other stores they had. I wish we had the time and a lot of extra cash, because I would have loved to shop there. We decided to try and find the Belz Factory Outlets next. They were a little farther from Disney but not too bad. We eventually found them and noticed that they had just about the same products as the one at the Premium Outlets. But none the less, we still were able to buy a few more things to add to the packages in the trunk already. BTW, yes we have been finding the car a lot quicker by using the button on the remote.

The temperature had risen to about 79 degrees by now and we finally felt like we were in Florida. We had about 40 minutes to get to our priority seating at the Kona Café in the Polynesian Resort for lunch. So we just hopped on the highway and were there with time to spare. We brought along with us a change of clothing for the evening, since we were not planning on going back to our resort. We sat down at our table and right away I noticed the display of desserts on the counter. I knew that I was definitely going to have the KoKo Puffs but also noticed a few other choices that I would love to try. As always my eyes are bigger than my stomach, especially for sweets. Back to the menu, we decided on appetizers for our meal. We both ordered the crab soup (it was different from last nightís soup at Shutters, but just as good). Marianne had the Kona Salad with the Maytag dressing (we had a laugh at that) and I had the Sticky Wings. Both of us enjoyed our selections and were ready for dessert. Iím sure you know what I ordered but Marianne decided to order the Caramel-Banana Crème Brulee. We shared these treats and I wasnít disappointed with our choices. I was thoroughly stuffed because I couldnít leave any of my KoKo Puff left on my plate. Waddling out of the café I headed over towards the Kona Coffee Bar to find the Hidden Mickey on the counter. It took a few minutes but we did discover it. We now checked out their Christmas tree and the display, which was a tropical paradise gingerbread workshop with Santa sleeping in a hammock. Very cute.

We got on the Monorail and got off at the next stop, which was the Grand Floridian. We saw the huge tree in the middle of the ground floor, along with the life-size gingerbread house. It is so fun to see that this is a store selling cookies and candy. We walked around a bit taking more pictures and then it was time to go onto the next stop for us. We go off the Monorail at the Contemporary and even though this resort was sort of a disappointment in the decoration category, we still had fun looking in the shops downstairs. They did have a Christmas display like the other resorts but I wasnít impressed at all. Marianne said that she remembers this resort had more decorations in the past. Oh well, times have changed, I guess.

We thought that we would take a walk to the Magic Kingdom and catch the ferry to the Wilderness Lodge. I know, we could have taken a ferry from the Contemporary, but sometimes you just feel like walking a bit and I did want to see how long the walk to the Magic Kingdom actually was. In a matter of minutes we were on our ferry and sailing directly to the Lodge. I had been here last month and it was decorated then but Marianne was anxious to see it all ďdressed upĒ. The ferry ride over was quite enjoyable and we just soaked in the sunshine. We arrived at the Lodge and went inside and explored. While I took a break, I was in desperate need by this time, Marianne went upstairs and took some pictures from up above. We went into the Trading Post store and then stopped in Roaring Forks for something to drink. It was around 5 pm by this time and we decided to head back to the Polynesian to change and try to make it to the Magic Kingdom by 6pm. We wanted to get there earlier than opening time, so that we could have the free picture taken first.

We got on the next ferry to the Contemporary and then went up to the Monorail to ride it to the Polynesian. This took a little longer than we had hoped but we made it back to the Polynesian by 5:30 pm. We went to the car and got our belongings and went inside to the restrooms and changed into jeans and long sleeve tops. Back down to the car to drop off our bags and back up to the Monorail to head to the Magic Kingdom. Believe it or not, we made it to the turnstiles by 6:10pm and received our wristbands. We went directly to Tomorrowland, which is the designated area for those staying for the party. We got in line for our free picture at the Timekeeper location. The line moved along and before we knew it we were done. I did take a picture of Tom Morrow from the attraction, thinking that I may never get to see this attraction again. We decided to take a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, which is a great way to start our evening. We checked out the flyer for show schedules and noticed that Mickeyís ĎTwas the Night Before Christmas was playing in the Galaxy Theater in about a half-hour, so thatís where we headed next. I donít think Iíve ever seen a show in this venue before. It seems that they donít use it very often, so this was something new to add to my list. We got decent seats and since we had to wait a bit for the show to start, Marianne decided to try and find some hot chocolate. I had to put her coat on the bench to hold her place. The theater was starting to fill up soon, so I hoped that Marianne would be back soon. She did manage to come back shortly before showtime. What a cute show with a lot of characters, even a few that you donít see too often (especially the reindeer). Marianne was disappointed that Donald Duck wasnít in the show. We planned on checking out Mickeyís Toontown Fair but for some reason it wasnít open. This is where Marianne was going to look for Donald Duck; I guess weíll find him somewhere else later on tonight. We saw that the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh had only a 10-minute wait, so we got right in line. Iím not a big Pooh fan but I do enjoy Eeyore, Tigger and Piglet. I was looking very carefully for the deed that Mr. Toad hands to Owl and I do believe that I saw it. I caught it in the corner of my eye at one point and I think that was it. I will have to double check the next time I go on this ride to see if I was correct. Thatís hard to see! I think that the best part of this ride is bouncing with Tigger, and Marianne agrees. We left this ride and walked right onto Snow Whiteís Scary Adventure getting into Dopeyís mine car. I do agree that this attraction is a little too scary for the young ones for the most part, but I still enjoy it. We wanted to see Mickeyís PhilharMagic at this time but it was down for now. I sure hope it is up before the evening is over. Next was Peter Panís Flight, with only a 15-minute wait. As we entered, a CM gave Marianne a lanyard to wear to track the time to see if it was still accurate. As we were winding around in line, we saw Donald Duck selling Christmas trees (he was really there for a photo-op) near the entrance to the old Skyway ride. Now you know that we had to go visit that area after Peter Pan. When we got to the loading CM, Marianne handed her the lanyard and we climbed into our flying ship. We flew over London with only one stop in our journey for about 30 seconds. Once we got off we walked towards Donaldís Christmas Tree Lot but he was taking a break, so we would have to come back later. Next stop was The Haunted Mansion. Another favorite of mine, especially at night. It was a complete walk-on and this time we had a female CM in the stretching room. The room was full with guests and I always try to keep an eye on the CM during this section because most of them are so ďin characterĒ. Usually when the lights go out, the CM stands behind someone to spook them when the lights come back on. It is very funny. This time, once we looked up and saw the body hanging on the noose, we heard a chilling scream. It was very authentic and ear piercing. Iím not sure but I do believe it was the CM. It definitely put everyone in the mood for the doombuggy ride to come. I always look for the Hidden Mickey in the ballroom scene and also the Hidden Donald located on one of the high back chairs near the floating chandelier.

Time for a break. We went to the Columbia Harbor House for hot chocolate and cookies. The cookies were superb and the hot chocolate was hot but delicious! The first parade had already started and was on its way to Liberty Square, so we took this opportunity to ride both of the mountains with no waits. We needed to find a restroom first and located one near Splash Mtn. On our way there we saw Woody and Jessie doing a photo-op with hardly anyone in line. Now onto Splash. This is one of Marianneís favorite rides and though I do like it, I donít like getting too wet unless I am super hot. Well a night in December does not consist of being hot, but I braved it as long as I could sit in the last row on the left side. From my experience this is the dryest seat in the log. As soon as we could walk up the queue, we were in our log which was almost to ourselves. Yes I got my favorite seat. We didnít get that wet at all, but I also believe that they tone down the splash factor on cool nights. We moved onto Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, another one of my favorites, especially at night. I feel that it is a whole different ride at night and have heard the same from most others. Just about walking onto our train, we rode in the second to last row and I held my arms up the whole time. What fun!

It was now time for Wishes, so we hurried over to the hub and staked our spot in front of the castle but more under where Tinkerbell flies. I really do enjoy this fireworks show and even though I liked Believe, I think that this show tops it by a landslide. As Tinkerbell flew, I wondered if I would have enough guts to play that part and fly across like her, uh probably not!

It was around 10pm and I still had a list of things that I wanted to do. First on this list was Buzz Lightyear. I usually do alright with my score on this ride but not as good as I would like because I canít seem to hit some of the bigger scoring targets. Well, this would be my night to finally hit the arm on the giant orange robot. I felt like I accomplished something. It just about made my night. I was so excited that I donít even remember what my final score was, but I do know that I beat Marianne. Iím sure she would like a re-match someday. Iím up for the challenge whenever we are here again.

It was now a good time to go on Space Mountain, but that is one ride that Marianne doesnít care for so she rode the TTA again and we decided to meet up shortly after our rides. As soon as I walked up the ramp I was escorted into my vehicle - front seat. I loved this ride also. It is so fast and exhilarating! Before I knew it I was done with my ride and I actually had to wait for Marianne to meet me at our designated spot. We were famished now, so the first place we located for food was Cosmic Rayís Starlight Café. We both ordered the Cosmic Creation which is a ¼ pound cheeseburger with either french fries or carrot sticks. This hit the spot and we sat outside with our burgers and watched our surroundings. It felt so good to sit there and enjoy the atmosphere.

Now it was time for another show, hopefully. We headed across Fantasyland again and went to see if Mickeyís PhilharMagic was open now. It was, so we headed directly into the waiting area. We only had to wait about 10 minutes. While we were waiting a cute little boy stood next to me with his mom and we started talking a bit. When the doors opened the mom and her little boy followed me in the row that we got seats in. I love it when little ones sit next to me at this show. They are so much fun to watch when they try to touch the 3-D images. As always, this show brings a smile to my face. There are always a few surrounding guests at the end of the show that I have to point out to them Donaldís butt in the brick wall behind us! Back to The Haunted Mansion one more time. The same female CM answered the door and let us in. Here was my chance to see if she was the one that screamed the last time we were here. We are in the stretching room and Iím keeping my eye on her. The lights go out and then the body is hanging from the rafters and Ö..no scream. Maybe it wasnít her after all or maybe she doesnít do it every time. Oh well, it was fun suspecting her! The rest of the ride was as enjoyable as always and as we walked out of the Mansion, I bid Madame Leota a good night.

Since we were nearby, why not stop by Columbia Harbor House again for more cookies and hot chocolate? It was getting close to the end of the party and we were starting to feel the long day but I still had one more thing to do on my list - Pirates of the Caribbean. Thank goodness there was no wait for this ride but I did notice that the Pirate theme music was not playing going through the queue area (I hope this was just a glich happening at the time). This ride is always fun! Next time I go on this though, I will try to find some Hidden Mickeys. I was just too tired by this time to even think about it. When we left Pirates we headed towards the front of the park, and still saw guests getting in line for their free pictures. Iím so glad that we did that first thing. We headed out of the park and took the Resort Monorail to the Polynesian to retrieve the car. Finally got back to our resort around 12:30 am and went directly to sleep. Tomorrow will be an open to close Epcot day.

Monday - December 6, 2004

This was going to be another long but fun day. We have our Candlelight Processional tonight, eating at Restaurant Akershus in Norway. This will be my first time eating here (except for the Princess Breakfast one time), but Marianne has eaten here several times. It is one of her favorite places to eat because it reminds her of home. You see, she is from Sweden and has lived here in the United States for about 30 years now. Her mouth waters when she thinks about all of the cold buffet offerings. So I feel that I am eating with an expert who will give me a lot of good suggestions for my special dinner tonight.

We got up at around the same time as the past couple of days and Marianne did indeed go to the food court for her early morning coffee. She noticed on the way to the food court that the main pool area was trashed! I guess the cheerleaders and the Pop Warner players had a late night party and had the lounge chairs moved all over the place and towels were left everywhere. She said that a couple of CMís were already there straightening out the mess before too many other guests came by. Too bad the chaperones and parents here with these kids couldnít keep them from doing this, but I guess it could have been worse. After she got back to the room I let her finish getting ready for the day and then we traveled back to the food court and the pool area looked like nothing even happened. Once again the cast members did a great job! Once at the food court we had our usual breakfast and then headed out to Epcot for the whole day.

The temperature today was forecasted to be around 83 degrees. This excites me to no end. I love the warm weather and try to soak up every drop of the sun. We tried to park in the Swan but it wasnít feasible because they were doing some construction in the parking lots and suggested that we try the Dolphin. We decided to park at the BoardWalk and had no problems doing that. We walked into Epcot through the International Gateway around 10am. As we walked through the World Showcase towards Future World we had to take a few pictures of the Christmas tree that is located at the entrance to WS. Not many people around at this time so the pics came out pretty good. We went straight to Test Track, picked up a FastPass for later and then proceeded to the single riderís line. It was about a 15-minute wait and while we were in the queue I spotted another Hidden Mickey. (There are more listed in the book but I couldnít find them in the queue and the ones on the ride are very hard to spot, even after riding it twice in the same day.) When we got to our respective cars we had to wait at first because the ride went down. This took another 7-10 minutes but we were finally able to ride and enjoyed it immensely. Now I needed my Mission: Space fix. This is another ride that Marianne will not go on, so off I went by myself and she went to Mouse Gears first, then I was to meet her over at the Fountain View Bakery. I got to MS and proceeded to the single-rider line. With only a 5-minute wait I was in my spacecraft and heading to Mars. I did see the Hidden Mickeys in the screen right before take off. I love it when I can find them without any help. I left MS and walked across towards the Fountain View Bakery. Marianne must have seen me because she was walking towards me. At this time I wanted to go to the Living Seas (normally this would not be the case) to see the new Turtle Talk with Crush show. What a fantastic show and it is worth the time getting in to see it. Itís great if you have kids but if not, donít worry; you will love it just the same. We didnít stay for anything else in here because we had to go make our FastPass time for another Test Track ride. Our ride only had a ten-minute wait and before you know it we were heading towards World Showcase. It was around 1 pm now and we were hungry and wanted something small to hold us over before our dinner tonight. Our first choice was the Tangerine Café in Morocco. I have eaten in Restaurant Marrakesh before but never the counter service in this country. Marianne and I decided to split the Lamb Platter and we took it to the outside tables to eat. While we were eating, the Moroccan Storyteller came out to tell his story. From what I could hear, it seemed very interesting. I was able to take a few photos of him from my table. I hoped to have the chance to see all of the storytellers on this trip. Letís see if I can do it! After lunch we looked around Morocco and took some extra time enjoying the wares that they had in each shop. Marianne was dying for a glass of wine and I was dying for some chocolate dessert, so guess where we headed? We walked over to France and realized that the storyteller was coming out in about 10 minutes. So we went our separate ways (she got her wine and I got my chocolate mousse) and then sat down on a nearby bench to have our treats. We saw that Impressions de France was starting soon but decided to come back to see the movie later. We heard a bell ringing and knew that Pere Noel was coming. He had a similar look to our Santa and his story was very interesting. I really enjoyed listening to him and took a few pictures for my collection.

Next we went over the bridge towards the United Kingdom. We noticed that the storyteller here was scheduled to be here in about a half-hour, so we moved on to Canada and was able to catch Papa Noel just starting his story. He looked just like our Santa in a lumberjack outfit. When he was finished we went into the shop that sells the Roots merchandise and both Marianne and I made purchases. I bought a small travel bag for my daughter for Christmas and Marianne bought a slimming backpack. Both of these were made of the same cranberry colored material and were on sale. We were delighted with our purchases. As we walked back toward the UK we stopped briefly to hear Off Kilter, but the area was so crowded that we decided to move on because it was close to the time for the UK storyteller. We went over to the area where the British Invasion performs and found a spot. Then we heard the bell ring and out came Father Christmas. He was so regal looking and had a strong presence. His story was very entertaining and we both took a few pics of him holding his staff.

We walked back over towards Mexico to see what time their storyteller was coming out but it wasnít for a while. We decided on the time that was just after the lighting of the big Christmas tree around 6pm. So we went next door to Norway to see their storyteller. We were a little early so we went into the Stave Church and checked out the exhibit there. When we came out the storyteller arrived and it wasnít the typical ďSantaĒ character, but it turned out to be a Gnome. Since Marianne is from the Scandinavian area, she was familiar with the ďgnomeĒ story. To me he seemed like a large elf. Marianne said that gnomes can be mean and from the story that he was telling, that seemed to be the case. But when he told the story, he spun it a little softer to make it seem lighthearted and fun. As we passed Germany, I saw that near the storytellerís area people were taking pictures with a life-size toy solider that seemed human. We were pressed for time so we didnít stop (I wish that I had because we ended up missing the storyteller and the toy solider on this trip.) Next up was a trip to Italy to see Le Befana, the Italian witch, telling her tale. This story was enjoyable and she seemed to be a favorite of all of the guests in attendance. We also stopped for a few minutes to watch Imaginum: A Statue Act, which is always enjoyable and a crowd pleaser. We moved on to China and listened to the Monkey King tell his story. His costume was interesting with a mask. Our last storyteller in this direction was the one from Japan. She told a story that was entertaining and even had the kids in the audience smiling. We went into the shops here so that I could buy a few little trinkets (including a black lucky cat for my daughter to represent the new cat she got this year). On the way back towards the Christmas tree we stopped and saw our Santa Claus at the American pavilion. We saw the line for the Candlelight Processional getting longer for the first show and asked a CM how long in advance should we be in line for our show if we had advanced tickets? She said that a half-hour before performance would still get us seats. We figured that after our dinner in Norway we would have enough time for the tree lighting and be able to see the storytellers from Mexico and Germany briefly (if our timing worked out).

It was almost time for our priority seating at Restaurant Akershus but we had enough time to ride Maelstrom since there was no wait for the ride. This ride is actually fun, but I would probably not wait a long time to go on it. Maybe that is why they have FastPass for it. We didnít stay for the movie, mainly because the time for our dinner ressies was here. We went into the restaurant and were given a beeper just so that we would be escorted to our table in the order in which we checked in. Two minutes later we were seated in the main dining room. This restaurant has a terrific theme to it and every single cm that we encountered here was a delight to talk to. Since it is a buffet, we were able to eat as much as we could fit into our stomachs. We started off with the cold buffet, which entailed a lot of different cheeses, meats, seafood and salads. There were a few items that Iíd never tried before but took Marianneís advice and I am glad that I did. Of course I overloaded on peel and eat shrimp (I love it), but did save room for the two items that I ordered from the hot menus. I decided on the Atlantic Salmon and the Venison Stew. They donít give you very big portions so that if you want to order anything else, you may be able to fit it in. I couldnít at this point but I did find the room for dessert. I had the Flourless Chocolate Cake and I believe Marianne had the Rice Pudding. Everything was delicious and I am very glad that we decided on eating here as part of our CP package.

After dinner we walked towards the giant Christmas tree (it was almost 6 pm). We decided to view it from the walkway near the Odyssey building. We stopped there for about 10 minutes waiting for the tree lighting but all we could see so far was a character show and since we were so far from the stage, it didnít interest us. We wanted to see one more storyteller and then it would be time for our CP show. So we headed back to Mexico (missed the lighting by about another 5 minutes) and listened to the Story of Los Posadas told by a lovely woman and a CM from Mexico. It basically was the story of Mary and Joseph and they asked some children to participate in acting out the story. This storyteller even gave out candy to those who wanted it. We headed towards the theater across from the American pavilion. The line was long but seemed to be moving along nicely. We got to the back of the line and we ended up getting seats on the far right just past the covering. Good thing the weather was cooperating. We only had to wait about 7 minutes before the show started. What a show! The orchestra and the singers were phenomenal. Then our guest speaker came - Jim Caviezel (from the Passion of Christ movie). He was very moving and did an excellent job. I wish I had a camera with a better zoom because I would have loved to have gotten a better picture of him. At least I know who is in the photos that I took. Once the show was over, Marianne and I decided to shop a little more. We ended up in France and I still wanted to see the Impressions de France movie. This movie is wonderful and I truly enjoyed it. It made me yearn to go to their country. We looked around in their shop and knew that the time to close the stores was soon. Marianne ended up buying a candleholder for a Christmas present and had it shipped home. We left France and went over the bridge to secure our spot for IllumiNations. The fireworks were starting a half-hour later than normal due to the holiday season. We were anxious to see the special Christmas fireworks that weíve been hearing about all weekend long. IllumiNations was as great as always then came the special section. They were spectacular! It seemed that they were double of the usual amount of fireworks set off. They were very loud and I would normally have held my ears a little if not for the beautiful holiday song ďLet There Be Peace On EarthĒ playing. This is my favorite song during this time of the year, so I was smiling and singing right along. When everything was over, we took our time walking through the IG and through the BoardWalk back to our car. We got back to the resort around 11pm. It had been a long but fantastic day! Tomorrow we are going home; but first weíre doing some resort hopping and shopping.

Tuesday - December 7, 2004

Well itís our last day and we are not going into any of the parks today. What to do? Well letís resort hop some more! We could tell that today was going to be another warm day (It ended up being around 85 degrees and a little humid, sure wish I could have bottled up some of that warmth to take home. We decided to eat at the food court at the All-Star Movies for a change. I actually liked it better, they had a little better menu for breakfast so I splurged and got chocolate chip pancakes. Marianne got a regular breakfast with eggs, home fries, bacon, etc. We thoroughly enjoyed our early morning meal. Afterwards Marianne took some pictures of the icons in this resort then we headed back to our room to finish packing and check out. Like I mentioned earlier in the report, our third floor room ended up working out better than I thought because we didnít have any Pop Warner/cheerleaders above us, keeping us up all night long. Aside from bringing our luggage up and down (we used the elevators not too far away), the climb up and down the three flights were good exercise and not too bad on our legs.

We drove off All-Star Music property and headed back towards the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Marianne knew of a little farm stand that sold oranges to be packed for travel to bring back to her husband. Thatís the least we could do for him since he was our ride to and from the airport. The farm stand was off one of the highways not too far from the Animal Kingdom area. After getting her oranges we headed back towards our first resort of the day which was Coronado Springs. Neither of us has ever been here and I was anxious to see the layout. We were both impressed with this resort and wouldn't mind staying here for a day or two. I loved the entryway with the fountain and the check-in area was big and airy and displayed their large Christmas tree. We stopped in the resort store, which was a good size and found it had a good selection with even some Mexican themed items. We walked outside and noticed that the set-up seemed similar to the Caribbean Beach Resort but looked bigger to our eyes. We went back inside and checked out the Pepper Market (got a free pass to walk around and see how it is set-up). We also saw the outside of Maya Grill and they had a small gingerbread village with a mini railroad on display. Before we departed, Marianne and I had our picture taken in front of the fountain in the entryway. I was just going to take her picture but a nice CM walked by and offered to take a photo of both of us. That was only the second picture of us together taken during this trip. The first one was taken sitting in front of the Grand Floridian Christmas tree. Another guest was nice enough to snap that picture for us.

We proceeded to drive over to Pop Century. When driving up to the security booth to enter the resort, the guard asked to see Marianneís driverís license. Now we have already been in and out of many of the resorts this trip with only our pass on our dashboard stating that we were staying onsite at AS Music. I donít know why we were asked for extra I.D. here but we complied and we parked in the lot close to the main building. I stayed here last month and wanted Marianne to see how they themed this resort. She thought it was very cute and colorful. A lot more to see than you would think. We walked around the resort taking pictures of all of the different icons for each decade. We stayed for about 20 minutes and then drove to our next destination, Port Orleans - French Quarter. I have stayed here twice before and really enjoyed the smaller resort. Marianne liked the idea that you could walk a few steps to the boat that takes you to Downtown Disney. We didnít stay long because of the smaller size of the resort and went directly to our next stop - Port Orleans - Riverside.

It was just a hop, skip and jump to Riverside, being that it was right next door to French Quarter. We parked our car and checked out the registration area, Boatwrightís their main restaurant and the food court. We then walked outside and looped around the main pool area and I showed Marianne the different style of accommodations. She liked this resort a lot due to the fact that it has a lot of good walking paths and also a boat ride to Downtown Disney. After our short walk we decided to head to Downtown Disney for lunch and a little shopping. We got there around 11am and had the hardest time finding a parking space. The place was mobbed and I couldnít understand why it would be on a Tuesday morning? We were able to finally get a spot after someone else pulled out and headed towards the Marketplace. Well this area was just as crowded as the parking lot. We stopped into the scrapbooking store, the 25 Days of Christmas store and the Disney at Home store (sorry to hear that this store is no longer open). Then went to the World of Disney but really didnít stay in there all that long because it was just so crowded. I guess all of the guests for the Pop Warner competition were shopping today? I wanted to try out the Earl of Sandwich for the first time, but they had a line almost out the door, maybe next time. We then went into Goofyís Candy Co. for a large size cookie each. That would hold us over until we stopped for lunch somewhere else. Time to leave Disneyworld, so we got into our rental and drove in the direction of Crossroads. There was still one more character outlet store to visit that wasnít too far away. We took a right at Crossroads and traveled a couple of miles down till we saw the Factory Store Outlets on the left-hand side. This outlet plaza was alright and if we had more time we would have looked around more but only ventured into the character outlet store. What a disappointment this place was! They had next to nothing that either of us wanted but I did find out that they were opening a bigger and better store across the plaza soon. Maybe I will check that one out the next time Iím down.

We had one more stop before heading to the airport. Marianne wanted to return a couple of things to the first outlet store that we went to on Sunday. We went back to the Premium Outlets and made her returns. Didnít see anything different that we wanted to buy, but we are so glad that we found this store for our future visits. Itís our favorite! We got something to eat for lunch at their small food court and then got on Interstate 4 towards the airport.

It was around 3pm when we arrived at the airport and dropped off our car rental with no problem. We had plenty of time to get through security and to have a bite to eat before boarding the plane. Our flight was supposed to leave at 5:55 pm but there was a possible delay due to very bad rainstorms in Providence. Luckily we boarded on time and landed around 8:20 pm. Marianneís husband was just walking in when we got down near baggage claim. It was pouring outside so we quickly walked to the car that was parked in the nearest lot. We were home in about 45 minutes time.

We did a lot in 4 days! Do you remember when I took pictures of the Osborne Lights with another camera that had 800 speed film? Well mistakenly I thought that I had finished taking all of the pictures on the roll and I opened up the camera. Stupid me! I lost those photos, but fortunately Marianne had taken quite a few pics and offered to give me copies. We were going to be sharing photos with each other anyway, so all was not lost.

The next time I will be in Florida will be for a long weekend in April to look at condos and to check out the job market. Yes, Iím moving to the Orlando area hopefully before the summer comes. I am selling my house and buying a condo and living one of my dreams. Another dream will be to work part-time at WDW. I will also get a full-time position elsewhere (hoping it will be in the travel industry - crossing my fingers). This will be an interesting year and a new chapter in my life will be starting. I may not get to the parks again until after the move. My daughter will be moving with me and will get her own place eventually; my son will be staying up here in the Boston area. The rest of my immediate family will be up here too, so I will visit as often as possible. I think that I may have a few visitors too, donít you think? Wish me luck!

Janice O'Hanley

ohanley@comcast.net


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