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Sue Holland -- December 1998 -- Walt Disney World (BVR, HHI)


Dates: December 18 - 29, 1998

Cast of Characters: Sue (me - 40), DVC member and Chris (12), my son

INTRODUCTION:

It’s become a tradition for us to take a vacation to WDW during December to see all the holiday decorations. When Chris was younger, we’d go earlier in the month to take advantage of a greater chance for a MKC discount, and avoid crowds. Now that he’s older, and since we’re DVC members, I prefer the week leading up to Christmas so he doesn’t have to miss school. With DVC, there’s no need to worry about getting discounts - my lodging is already taken care of! The plan is to spend Friday & Saturday night at Coronado Springs rather than use the high # of dvc points it takes on the weekends. Originally the trip was to begin Sunday night, but I never seem to take a trip to WDW without adding at least a few days on either end. For this trip I ended up adding the 2 CS nights to the beginning, and then added 5 nights at Hilton Head to the end! On Sunday we’ll move into the Boardwalk Villas for our first stay there, and then on 12/24 we move to Hilton Head for our first stay there. We’ve lost both my mother and my grandmother (who lived near us & with whom we spent all the holidays) this past year, so this trip may be the start of some new traditions for us - by actually being away from home on the holiday.

DAY 1 - FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18, 1998:

Chris spent the morning at school, while I (I had taken the day off) met a fellow dvc aol’er who was visiting relatives in my town for breakfast. I consider that the official "start" to this vacation. Although we weren’t at WDW, we both were wearing Disney clothing, and of course the conversation included lots of Disney/DVC stuff! I picked Chris up from school at 12:30, and we were on the road to WDW.

We arrived at Coronado Springs at 3:15, and although the parking lot was pretty full, the check in line was not too long. A CM from the guest services desk came over & took the next 3 parties in line to check in over there (I was the third). All my requests were met - Cabanas section, top floor, non smoking room - and we were out of there within 15 minutes of arriving! We drove over & parked near the building, and moved into our room - #8202. Although there are 4 buildings in the Cabanas section, on each of my 4 stays at CS so far I’ve been in the same building - #8A. I really do believe it is the perfect location, since the bus stop is at one end, the main pool is at the other end, and the food court/main building is a short (and very pleasant) stroll away. Coming back from the MVMCP late tonight will be a breeze, since we can get off the bus just steps from our room! Since there was time to kill before our 6pm priority seating at the Grand Floridian for dinner, I decided we’d take bus to MK, walk to the Contemporary, and then use the monorail to visit each of the resorts to see their holiday decorations.

We left our room a little after 4, and took an enjoyable walk around the main pool and then to the front bus stop. The little bridge that used to be a short cut from the Dig Site over to the main building was gone, so the walk was longer than I had planned. Suddenly my room is not so convenient to the Pepper Market! We had a 5 minute for the bus, and must have gotten the absolute slowest bus driver in all the World. There was only 1 other guest on board, a British man with whom the driver was engaged in a conversation about boring (non-Disney) stuff. I guess he was concentrating on his conversation, because that bus just crawled! I sat there and watched every car whiz past us on either side. Finally we got to MK & were able to get off that bus! The driver said his good-byes to the other guest, and then turned to his clipboard as we passed - no greeting whatsoever. We walked over to the Contemporary, which deserves the prize for ugliest Christmas tree in the World. It’s a huge silver thing with strings of multi colored large stars for garland. It’s really hideous. We looked around inside, but there was nothing holiday-related going on, and there didn’t appear to be any other Christmas trees, so we went up to catch the monorail.

After a few minutes, the monorail arrived - but without a driver. The driver was in the car at the other end, and must have driven the thing in reverse to push it in there. They wouldn’t let us board, while they checked a bunch of things on it, but eventually we got on. There was a group of 3 new dvc members in line behind me. They were staying for their first time as members over at Old Key West in a grand villa. Talk about being spoiled for the future - they started with the top of the line! On the way to the TTC, the monorail stopped again, then resumed slowly. Once in the station most guests got off, and the driver came on the intercom to announce that they had a problem with the computer, and would need to run more tests before continuing on. It didn’t take too long, and we stayed in our car while they shut it down completely & then started up different things. Finally we were off to the Polynesian, where we got off, looked around the lobby, and were back on the same monorail before it left. Final stop was the Grand Floridian.

Now this hotel knows how to decorate for Christmas. We’ve been here several times, but it’s always impressive to walk into the lobby and see that huge Christmas tree. They also had a gingerbread village with the toy monorail running through it just as you entered from the real monorail station. It was now 5:15, and I had a pair of the Santa Mickey ear hats for a friend who had a 5:15 priority seating at 1900 Park Faire, so we headed over there to see if I could find her. Fortunately, we arrived at the same time. I got to meet 3 regulars from the aol boards - Pnote4, SnoWhite, & rlms56. We chatted a bit, I handed over the hats, and then they were seated. I decided to let the cm know we were here, even though our priority seating wasn’t until 6pm, and they were able to seat us immediately! Right away, Minnie came by, followed by Snow White. Last time I had dinner here it was only Mickey & Minnie, so it was a ice surprise to see Snow White as well. Our waiter was Dennis, and he did an excellent job for us. Unlike at Chef Mickey’s, at this restaurant the 2 sides of the buffet are each different. It tends to cause longer lines, but it wasn’t a major problem. I had some great cheese ravioli, caesar salad, and of course that delicious strawberry soup. I lost track of all that Chris ate, but I do remember grouper, chicken fingers, ziti, chicken thighs, and 2 bowls of strawberry soup. That soup is so good, but so filling - it did us in! I tried a piece of key lime pie, but it was just okay - not worth a stomach ache from over eating, so I left it. Chris saw Mickey & Snow White pass each other in the aisle, and Mickey unknowingly whacked her in the head with one of his ears! I guess they need wider aisles in there. Dennis brought us each 2 chocolates with the check. Dinner was $21.95 each, minus 20% for my Disney Dining Experience card, plus tax & tip.

After dinner we sort of rolled ourselves out to the lobby. I stopped at the rest room to put on a 2nd turtleneck hoping I wouldn’t be cold tonight. We looked at the gingerbread carousel over near the GF Cafe. That is always so amazing. Still feeling quite full, we sat in the lobby to enjoy the Christmas tree & the holiday music until it was time to head for the MK. Some carolers wandered through on the 2nd floor while we were there. We got to MK around 7:15 and were the 3rd party in line at our turnstile. Guests were admitted promptly at 7:30, and we waited near the train station for the aol/dvc friends we were meeting. Right on time, IluvDvc (Darla), ASAladdin (Teresa), and Spigglet (Sue) arrived with their families. Darla took a picture of each family for her web site, and then we walked along main street in the soapy snow. It was really beautiful! Between us we had 5 boys between the ages of 6 & 12 (no girls), so the first stop was Buzz Lightyear. One of the boys had a gun that did not work, so the boys all rode a second time while we waited for them outside. About half of us did the Astro Orbiter, and then we headed to our first attraction with a line - the Grand Prix Raceway. The sign said 10 minutes, but that line was moving so slowly I don’t believe the time estimate was accurate. I ended up bailing out of the line to go ride Big Thunder, and our big group was splitting up soon so we could each do our own things. I figured the fastest way to get to Big Thunder from Tomorrowland would be to walk to Toon Town and take the train over to Frontierland. That would also give me the opportunity to ride the Barnstormer. I did that, and as I left the Barnstormer saw that the train was not operating during the party. Earlier I noticed the Tomorrowland Transit Authority & the Skyway were not operating either. I always thought all the attractions were open at this party.

I walked over to Big Thunder, and the sign said a 20 minute wait. Since Chris hadn’t arrived yet, I got in line and this one actually moved faster than expected. It was a fun ride, and when I got off Chris was waiting at the exit. One strange thing - the family in front of me in line had a boy I would guess to be preteen/early teen. He was a little taller than me, and looked perfectly normal except that he was sucking his thumb! I was so shocked to see that, and the parents didn’t say anything to him! Yuck! Anyway, back to Chris. We were going to do the family portrait at Pirates of Caribbean, but the line was huge, so we walked back to near Pecos Bill & that family portrait place had a very small line. We took care of that, got our hot chocolate & cookies, and went to see the Christmas Country Bear show. However, the show would not be run until after the parade (which was close to starting), so we continued on to the New Tiki Room. I chatted with the CM there while I finished my hot chocolate. She showed us where to sit so we’d get Iago’s feather when he got exploded by the tiki gods. Sure enough, right on cue, this bright red feather lands almost in Chris’ lap. As the show was ending, I showed her we got the feather, and we waved good-bye to her. We rode Peter Pan (lines were forming now that the early parade was done), and then saw the fireworks from outside Pinocchio’s restaurant. The fireworks were pretty spectacular, being shown 360 degrees around us! We rode Haunted Mansion, getting in quickly, and when we got out the line was jammed back outside the gate. We returned to the Country Bear thing, and were one of the last few admitted. Our seats weren’t the greatest, but it was ok. By now it was 11, so we headed back to Main Street hoping to find a spot for the 11:30 parade. We found one near the tree end, outside the candy store. Disney was recommending Frontierland & Liberty Square as the best places to see the parade, but at this party, for this parade - I really think seeing it on Main Street where it will be snowing is by far the best place! I just love this parade, no matter how many times I see it, and will watch it on tv on Christmas day. The crowd was not too bad, about 2 deep where we were, and exiting immediately following the parade was easy.

We walked right onto the Coronado Springs bus, but had to stand. Right near us were 3 seats that were each occupied by 1 adult and 1 very small child. The kids were small enough that they really couldn’t even see out the window. I think those adults should have put their children on their lap to allow for more guests to have a seat! The bus wasn’t the worse I’ve ever seen, but there were a lot of tired people standing in the aisle.

We got back to the room, and Chris was asleep almost immediately. We’ve got a room that connects with the one next door, and their light was on when we walked past, but we don’t hear any noise at all. I’ve never had a problem with noise at this resort, which is one reason I enjoy staying here. Tomorrow = Keys to the Kingdom tour for me, and another aol/dvc meet in the evening.

DAY 2 - SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1998:

I woke up around 7 - just couldn’t sleep for some strange reason. Normally at wdw I sleep like a log, and everything was quiet & perfectly comfortable last night, so I imagine my sleep deprivation will catch up with me later. I left a note reminding Chris of his instructions on when we were to meet, and then left the room around 8:30. Rather than walk, I decided to take the first bus that came & rode to the main building. It only took a minute or 2, and was very efficient. After grabbing a quick breakfast to go (bagel & cream cheese $1.59) from the Pepper Market, I looked at the gingerbread village display and then ate half the bagel at a table outside by the lake. It was very pleasant, and very quiet. The other half of the bagel I saved for lunch, and then took the next bus to MK. We arrived MK at 9am, just as the ferry from the TTC was unloading. There was a huge crowd, but I got through the turnstiles much quicker than I expected. The park was much busier than it would normally be at 9am, but not bad. By 9:30, though, it was a nightmare. If I wasn’t doing the Keys to the Kingdom tour, there’s no way I’d ever come to the MK on a Saturday - especially the Saturday before Christmas!!

I headed to Tomorrowland and rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, since it was not running last night. After the ride, I shopped along Main Street and went to wait for the tour. I really like what they’ve done to the candy store. It’s now occupying a lot more space, and there’s lots of room to wander around. The camera store has moved over to where the 25th anniversary stuff was, and it has added some interactive stuff, and other things worth looking at. I checked in at 9:45 for the tour, was given my name tag & told to report back at 9:55. The guide said there’d be 6 guests taking the tour. At 10 another CM came out & apologized, but there was a delay. We finally got going around 10:15 - more on that later. Taking the tour was an older couple and their 23 year old grandson, a late teen/early 20 yr old male, me, and an exceedingly irritating young man who was shorter than me & looked much younger than the minimum age requirement of 16. Our guide was Eric, and he was super. I won’t cover everything we did, partly not to spoil the secrets for anyone taking the tour in the future, and partly because others have already covered this in their trip reports. To summarize, we learned the 4 Keys, the definition of TEAM, we walked Main Street and discussed examples of the 4 keys, rode Tomorrowland Transit Authority (which I would have skipped earlier had I know the tour would ride), and tried to dodge the intermittent rain! While on TTA the ride shut down, most likely due to some fool standing up or trying to jump out of the car. Eric said this happens at Spaceship Earth, too - guests jump out of the car to take a photo of certain scenes. When I asked what happens to those guests, he said they are escorted out of the park (good). After TTA we wandered towards the castle, and entered the utilidors. This was very interesting, and we got to see the cm’s cafeteria, the costume shop, wig & makeup, and even saw the brinks truck driving through. After going back on stage Eric led us to Liberty Square & gave us 30 minutes for lunch. He suggested Columbia Harbour House, but when I went in there the entire restaurant was jammed full of people waiting to order, or looking for seats. I headed upstairs with my bagel & finally found a seat. The bagel was not too appetizing cold, but I don’t think I could have ordered anything else & gotten it in the 30 minutes. Afterwards I stopped at Sleepy Hollow and bought just a tollhouse cookie (not on the menu) for $1.33, got a glass of water & sat in a rocking chair to people watch until the tour began. Our next stop was the Haunted Mansion, which I have never seen so crowded! The entire line area was filled in, people were snaked back & forth outside the gate, and the entire area back to Columbia Harbour House was a solid wall of waiting HM guests. Luckily, we entered through the exit, and bypassed the waiting. Eric rode with me, and I asked him about the irritating member of our group (using his real name, not referring to him as being irritating). Eric filled me in on what had happened, which is why we got a late start.

Evidently, the kid’s father signed him up for the tour, and since the kid looks so young the cm’s asked how old he was. The father said the kid was 16. The cm’s asked for id, and the father said he was some diplomat or something, and started yelling. In the meantime Eric was making conversation with the kid, and asked him what grade he was in, and the kid admitted he’d lied & was really 13, not 16. That caused Dad to start yelling again, saying the kid has ADD & was confused/scared - but he is really 16 (yeah, right!). Dad was yelling about how he’s staying at the Grand Floridian, yada yada yada, and his kid was going on the tour. The cm’s manager told dad the kid could start the tour, but dad would have to return to the hotel & bring back proof that the kid was 16 before he’d be allowed in the utilidor part of the tour. Before we went to the utilidors, Eric had to leave us to go call & see what the outcome was. Turns out Dad isn’t staying at the GF like he said, but is staying at All Star Music. He provided proof that some kid was 16 (Eric doesn’t think it was this kid, but they couldn’t prove it), so the kid was allowed to stay on the tour. The kid kept interupting Eric when he’d be explaining something - either asking a question just as Eric was about to answer, or just after he’d already answered it. If Eric was talking to another guest, and the kid wanted his attention, it was "Eric, Eric, Eric" louder & louder until the original conversation was disrupted. As we’d come to a doorway the kid would rush forward and practically push you out of the way in order to get through first! He was totally annoying, and I really wish I could have left him tied up in the utilidors somewhere! Eric said as a result of this they may begin requiring photo id on any one who looks to be under 20, which is a shame.

After leaving Haunted Mansion, we walked to the parade float storage area. We got to see both the Christmas parade floats, which were being lined up for the 3pm parade, and also the Spectromagic floats. Boy, those Spectromagic floats don’t look like much in the daylight and without their lights on! We ended outside Pirates of Caribbean, and after thanking Eric we were done. I headed out of the park & caught the waiting bus to CS. Chris met me outside our building. He had planned to spend his day in Innoventions, with instructions to be back at CS by 2:30 (it was now almost 3). As it turns out, he slept until 12:18, got up, showered, went to Epcot, and then couldn’t get in! I had put his pass in his wallet, and told him that before I left, but evidently he didn’t hear or didn’t remember, and didn’t think to check his wallet - so he thought I had forgotten to leave him his pass! He returned to CS, walked around the lake a few times, and just waited for me. He lost his tv priveleges due to unacceptable grades on his last report card, so he couldn’t even watch tv (I know he didn’t sneak any tv). He said he was starving, so we headed over to the Pepper Market. He had plenty of money, but he knew we’d be eating when I returned so he didn’t get anything for lunch.

Chris got the taco salad $6.99 and I got the kid’s portion of pasta with alfedo sauce $2.50 - total was $11.06. He finished off his meal, but I was unable to finish the pasta (must have been that tollhouse cookie). We went to the marina so he could rent a kayak for an hour, and I sat at a table in the shade to update this report on the laptop. Chris became buddies with the cm working lake patrol, and had the guy "chasing" him with the Boston Whaler speedboat, and circling around to make waves for him! He was loving every minute of it, judging from the laughter. The morning clouds & rain had disappeared, and it was a beautiful sunny afternoon. I would have gone to the pool, but our swimsuits were in the other suitcase in the trunk of the car. Tomorrow we move to Boardwalk for 4 nights, so packed just enough for our 2 nights at CS in a small bag - and we left everything else in the trunk. He finished up his kayak around 5, and we returned to the room to get ready to head to MGM studios to meet some dvc/aol friends.

We took the bus to the Studios and immediately went to the fountain outside Muppetvision. Within a short period John (go2dvc) and his son (also John) arrived, and then Darla (iluvdvc) and Steven arrived. The 3 boys were pretty wound up, running around like maniacs, while the adults chatted and tried to make sure the boys didn’t disturb any other guests. After dark, we walked through the Osbourne Lights Spectacular together. They had the soapy snow blowing out quite hard, so there was lots of it. It looked really nice. The special glasses they handed out make you see angels when you look at lights. They were pretty cool, but I found them to be somewhat distracting when viewing the Christmas lights. Too many angels is not a good thing! Afterwards we stood around chatting a while, and then separated. I dropped Chris off at Star Tours (no wait) while I went to call the Comedy Warehouse. I have 4 more nights at wdw, and knew I’d be at Comedy Warehouse at least most of those nights. However, if my favorite actor was off any of those nights, I thought I might do some park activities, since I’d be staying at Boardwalk. The person who answered the phone checked the schedule, and my actor will be working all 4 nights, and 2 other favorites will also be there Sunday & Monday. I’ll probably stop over for part of all nights. I waited for Chris at the Star Tours exit, and then we left the park.

We took the bus to Epcot, since the boat to Boardwalk had a huge line. We checked out Test Track, but when I saw that the wait was 110 minutes we said "no way". We may not get to do it this trip, but that’s okay - we’ve got a lifetime to ride this attraction! We stopped at Electric Umbrella to share some french fries, and then Chris walked over to Boardwalk to play games in Community Hall. I rode Spaceship Earth and then went to see the Lights of Winter and the Christmas tree. As I was walking towards the International Gateway I ran into Sue (Spigglett) and Teresa (ASAladdin) so we chatted for a while. Eventually I exited Epcot and walked over to the Boardwalk to catch the bus back to Coronado Springs. I packed up what little bit I’d brought into this room, so moving out in the morning would be fast. Chris arrived on the next bus, and reported meeting another (dvc member) kid who’s staying at BW until 12/27. They played ping pong & some of the other games together. Who knows, maybe they’ll run into each other again!

Total miles walked today: 11.43

DAY 3 - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20, 1998:

After a good night’s sleep (finally) I got up early & got ready for breakfast with a bunch of aol friends. Chris was still sleeping, so I put in for an 8am wakeup call for him. He was going to eat at the Pepper Market and meet me back in our room when I returned. I drove over and parked at Boardwalk. I didn’t have time to check in yet, so I walked over to Yacht Club to meet the others. There ended up being 9 of us (no family members allowed at this meet) - including Gail (Jdocter7), Nancy (Snowiit - I spelled her name wrong on day 1), Bonnie (Simba521), Elin (PNO4TE - spelled her wrong on day 1 also), Roxann (RLMS56), Liz (Deschepper), Sandy (BETHSG), & Melissa (Mburley1). They were all wonderful, fun, gorgeous, intelligent, witty, and very nice. You would have thought we’d been friends for years, and we ended up spending 2 hours at breakfast. Between us we had quite a few dvc members, and quite a few cast members. Bonnie works at Test Track, so she brought us all up to date on the latest goings on over there, plus she lives in Celebration, which was really interesting to hear about. Gail brought us Christmas ornaments to remember the day by - Thank you, Gail! We ate at the Yacht Club Galley, which is just off the lobby in the Yacht Club. It was not too busy, and the food/decor/service was excellent. We all opted for the buffet, which at $10.95 was a very good deal. I didn’t quite understand the section that had rice, miso soup, and sushi at 7:45 am, but I guess they must get a large Asian population there. Anyway, it was lots of fun and hopefully something we can do again!

I walked back over to Boardwalk and checked in. The cm did say "welcome home", which was nice, but I didn’t get one of those big envelopes of stuff I always get at OKW. I don’t need another envelope, and don’t need the stuff in it, but I thought it was strange. At first I thought BW didn’t use them, until I saw a man with one later. Oh well, it’s not enough to ruin my vacation! Of course the room was not ready, but she did confirm that it was a no-smoking room. I drove back over to CS, and Chris wasn’t in the room. I walked all the way over to the Pepper Market to look for him, and couldn’t find him, so I walked all the way back to the room! He was laying on the bed when I walked in - we must have missed each other! We drove back to Boardwalk for the last time, and walked into Epcot.

There was no line at the International Gateway ticket booth, so I stopped to renew our Annual Passes. Our current ones expire in January 1999, and in 1999 we’ll use our "free" dvc passes, but I wanted to get the renewal rate (and beat any price increases) but not activate the AP’s until 2000. The cm wasn’t sure I could do this, but she checked with a cm who was more knowledgeable who confirmed that I could. The renewal price with FL resident discount and MKC discount is $218 per person plus tax. It was pretty hot, and we were wearing jeans and long sleeve shirts - since the forecast a couple days ago called for the temperature to be only around 70 degrees. It was much closer to 80!

We rode the Maelstrom in Norway twice, and then rode Horizons. As we got to the rooms where the giant screens our, we lost all audio/video. It was pitch black in there, and a little unsettling. Eventually we passed through, and saw that all the audioanimatronic figures were perfectly still. It was kind of eerie! As we got to the undersea section they got it working again. Test Track was not open, but was expected to open for 6:30 to 9:30 tonight. They did the same thing yesterday & I heard people were in line shortly after 3pm! We went to Wonders of Life & did some of the exhibits, and then Chris went to Innoventions while I shopped at Centorium. We went to Electric Umbrella for a light lunch. We shared a chicken caesar salad ($5.50) and french fries ($1.70) - total was $7.64 with tax. We took the bus to Port Orleans, and walked over to Dixie Landings. I called to check on our room, but it was not ready yet (2pm). We went to the food court to buy some of the big cookies there to bring back to BW. We picked out 4, and the cm working at the register told me to get 2 more since it would only cost a little bit more. The cookies are $.99 each, or $4.89 for a half dozen. I was able to use my Disney Dining Experience card, so the total was only $4.15 for 6 huge, delicious cookies! I wrapped them up for the trip to BW.

We waited for the boat from DL to Downtown Disney, and had a very nice ride. We walked all the way through the Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and into the West Side. Chris wanted to see the skating rink, which is larger & in a new location this year. He plans to skate some evening while we’re here, as usual. We waited for our bus at the West Side stop, and returned to BW. By now our room was ready, so we set off to find it. We ended up with #3107, a studio overlooking the grassy area out front. It’s about half way down the long hall, so it’s not too bad. The room itself is not bad, but not as pretty as I remember when I saw the model, and not as pretty as the studio at OKW. I do like the sleep sofa instead of the 2nd queen bed, but this sofa looks kind of dirty. Not stains or anything, just heavy wear & tear. I like this kitchen area better (it’s not the full kitchen, just the mini), but that’s probably the only part that I like better than okw. The storage space for our clothes & stuff consists of 2 tiny little drawers under the tv. Even at the value & moderate resorts you get 4 larger drawers! Thank goodness it’s only 2 of us, and we’re only here for 4 nights. There is a closet, but in there is a porta crib, suitcase rack, and a vacuum cleaner. Not much room for anything else. Laying across the top shelf is the ironing board. The bathroom seems smaller than okw (it’s really tiny), but I like the shower curtain and the pretty tile work. Chris loves being just a short walk away from Community Hall, rather than having to take a bus to get there. He’s made some friends already, and is looking forward to spending as much time as possible there. I could probably stay here & not bother to have a parks pass for him! I most likely will stay here again, after 1999, but I’ll be at okw most of my trips.

Chris went to Community Hall while I updated the trip report. When he returned we walked over to the Swan, where we had 6pm reservations for dinner at Palio using my $50 coupon from Rita Aero’s book. We were seated immediately, and the service was great. I didn’t tell them about the coupon immediately, and noticed no difference in the service before & after I mentioned the coupon. Our server was Tony. Chris looked at the menu, and commented out loud - Wow, look at the prices for the pasta! I guess the kid doesn’t get out much, but I don’t normally order him $20 plates of pasta! He decided on the Pizza Margherita with sausage ($12.95) and a coke ($2.00). I ordered a glass of wine ($6.00) and the Veal Scalloppine Limone ($22.95 - veal medallions with linguine & lemon butter). They brought us a large portion of 2 breads - regular Italian and focacchia, along with butter & 2 other toppiings. A small salad also came with my dinner. The bread was great, and when our dinners came they were absolutely wonderful! Chris tried my veal, and liked it. We each ate about half of our dinner, and Tony wrapped up the rest for us to take "home". We went to the dessert table, and Tony came with us to explain each one. As wonderful as the dinner was, these desserts were even more unbelievable! We decided on a piece of cheesecake that had chocolate, caramel, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, nuts, & reese’s pieces on top. Of course, when it came, it was on a beautiful plate with chocolate sauce covering half the plate. There was also a big strawberry that had been dipped in white and then dark chocolate, and also some sort of cookie with an almond filling - all for $4.95. It was heavenly, and it would definitely be worth a walk over from the BW to see if you can just get a dessert to go! During dinner there was a strolling violinist, who did a fair number of holiday songs. When Tony brought the check, the total was $1.57 - I had to laugh! This dinner was easily worth the $51.76 it would have cost without the coupon. We left Tony $10 to cover the check & his tip, and were on our way.

Chris dropped the leftovers off in our refrigerator, and then went to Community Hall to play with some of his new friends. I took the bus from the Swan to Pleasure Island. Unfortunately, it stopped at the Dolphin, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Marketplace, and then finally Pleasure Island. I think it took about an hour to get there! Luckily Pleasure Island was not busy at all, so I got in the short line for the Comedy Warehouse for the 2nd show. I was seated down front, and enjoyed the show. It was not their best work, but it was not bad. After it was over, the line was short for the 3rd show so I got back in line. Being a party of 1, I got a seat left right down front again. This show was much funnier! Sometimes it just doesn’t click, and the actors have to work really hard, and other times it appears effortless. I started to wait for the 4th show, but decided to head back to the room & finish up this report. After watching the weather, it will be lights out in here!

Total miles walked: 11.27

DAY 4 - MONDAY, DECEMBER 21, 1998:

Being on the 3rd floor of a 4 story building, we did get noise from the people staying in the room above us. Nothing too bad, but this is why I always request "top floor". The only footsteps I want to hear over my head are Santa’s! I woke up early, and went to the front desk in search of a resort newsletter and a list of the activities at Community Hall. I couldn’t get either - at OKW I always get both at check in. They said they were out of the newsletter, and even went out back to look for one, and suggested I stop at Community Hall to see if they had a list of their activities. They did give me a piece of paper listing the DVC Special Member Offers. These are all valid through 3/31/99, and to get them you’d have to show either your dvc member card or your resort id that says "dvc member". There are 7 special offers:

  • 20% off admission to Disney Quest & 10% off the food in there
  • Free admission to Atlantic Dance (age 18 & up), 20% discount on Spoodles wine bar, and 10% discount on the Belle Vue Room
  • 10% discount at the Spa at the Disney Institute
  • 20% discount at Seasons dining room at Disney Institute
  • 20% discount off Disney Institute single and full day visitor programs (classes)
  • 10% discount at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. 1-800-BE-PETTY discount code DVC001
  • Free "sweet" gift with each purchase of $10 or more at Ghiradeli soda fountain and chocolate shop.

I wasn’t aware of all these discounts, so hopefully they’ll help someone out there! We had a good night’s sleep, and didn’t get any noise from outside the room. With the door closed, you can’t even hear the buses. I like that they deliver a free copy of the Orlando newspaper. It’s another warm day - 63 degrees before 7am - so I’m glad I now have my shorts & tee shirts! We had breakfast in the room, and then rode the boat over to MGM, arriving at 8:50. We ended up just missing the boat from the Boardwalk (we could see it sitting at the dock at the Yacht Club), so we walked to the Swan/Dolphin & caught it from there. The end of Hollywood Boulevard was roped off, and no one allowed past until 9am. We went to the Great Movie Ride. The line was backed up all the way to the ruby slippers! We enjoyed the ride, though, and got the western side (our favorite). Next we went on the Backlot Tour, and were seated in the 2nd row of the first tram car. The guide was good, but she spoke a little too fast. I think if it was my first time on the attraction I would have missed a lot of what she said. Chris wanted to do the Backstage Tour to see the Mortal Kombat set, so we did that next. He was chosen to participate in the blue screen section, but didn’t want to so they picked another kid. After the tour it was almost 11am, and getting very busy so we decided to leave. On the way out I stopped in the Celebrity 5&10 to get our free gift. We had a card in our room that we turned in & received a glass ball MGM Studios Christmas ornament ($7 value). I wasn’t expecting anything so nice, and was very happy to receive it. I also stopped in the camera store & bought myself a new camera case. I gave my current one to Chris to replace his case that got lost during the Osbourne Lights the other night.

We rode the boat back to BW, dropped our stuff off in our room, and walked into Epcot. This BW location sure has it’s advantages! We walked to Morocco for lunch in their restaurant and got right in. I ordered the Oasis Chicken Salad $9.95 and Chris ordered the kid’s chicken meal $4.95. A couple of my guests in November had ordered this salad, and it was so good I decided I’d come back during this trip to get it myself! It was a bed of lettuce, a pile of diced cucumber & tomatoes, and 3 (thin) chicken breasts that were nicely seasoned. I guess they could be considered spicy, but not bad. Chris’ meal consisted of 2 chicken breasts (not spicy), french fries, a soda, some carrot shavings, and ice cream. We both were extremely happy with our choices, and ate every bit! After the 20% discount for my Disney Dining Experience card, it was $12.64 plus tip. The belly dancer permformed during our meal, and got 2 little girls up on stage with her. Before we left, our waiter stopped by with this funny little bottle, and asked us if we wanted rose water. He sprinkled it into our hands, and we rubbed it in. Chris was not thrilled to have his hands smell like roses, and almost immediately went to the rest room to wash his hands! The smell couldn’t be washed away, however!

After eating we walked around World Showcase, primarily to see the train display in Germany. Chris watched the train and I watched a squirrel running around digging up a nut he had hidden along the tracks. Continuing on, we paused for Chris to get misted at the Refreshment Cool Post (before China), and then left Epcot through the International Gateway. We stopped at the DVC sales office, to say hi to my guide (Randy Krueger). Randy was in, so we got to talk for a little bit, and we went back to see the new office set up & the Hilton Head model/pictures. We returned to the room for a little while, but Chris was itching to get to Community Hall to play pingpong again with a cast member who was coming on duty at 2pm. I let him go, and he was out the door in a split second! He decided to forego the ice skating and the parks (including Innoventions) in order to spend the rest of his day at Community Hall. I posted day 3 of the trip report, and then caught the bus to Downtown Disney. At Pleasure Island I transferred to the OKW bus, and met Kathy (Dznynut) there. I had met Kathy last month, but we didn’t really have much time that trip. This time we got to visit for around 2 - 2.5 hours, which passed as if it were only 10 minutes! She’s such a sweetheart! John (go2dvc) and his son (John the smaller) stopped by for a while before heading to the Candlelight Processional, so it was nice to see them again. I was sorry to see our time come to an end, but eventually I needed to get to Pleasure Island (and Kathy needed to rejoin her family), but we continued chatting all the way down the steps of the marina!

At the Marketplace I wandered quickly through the Christmas store, and then headed to Ghiradelli to see about the "free" gift. On the way I ran into Gail (Jdocter7) and got to meet her family - including the daughter who refers to Gail’s online friends as her "pretend friends" - LOL. Her whole family seems really nice. At Ghiradelli I bought some chocolate, and the "free" gift was my choice of the small candy bars (value $1.10). Final stop was World of Disney so I could buy the wdw screen saver/wallpaper for the laptop. I haven’t loaded it yet - will do that when I’m at home & have more time to kill. I entered Pleasure Island, and joined the not-to-long line at the Comedy Warehouse. I talked to a really nice family from Rhode Island, who was at wdw for the first time since 1977! They were staying at Caribbean Beach Resort, and weren’t very impressed. The wife said everytime she enters the room she thinks it just looks depressing & run down. The kids (college & high school kids - 2) room next door is a corner room with the extra window, and she said that one wasn’t as bad. Since they’re just sleeping there, though, they said they’d manage with it. I ended up not being seated with them - as a party of 1 I was seated on the floor (in a chair, of course) while they were up a row. The people seated next to me were from St Lucie, Florida, and were big Comedy Warehouse fans. After the first show I got right back in line, and so did they! We spent the line time talking, and then were seated separately (me in 1st row, them up back), and then we were all in line together again for the 3rd show! It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who sees these shows over & over again (each show is completely different from any other show), and these people seemed quite normal - LOL!

I left Pleasure Island around 10:15, and there was a huge crowd at the BW/CS bus stop. I’d say there were enough people to pretty much fill the seats of an empty bus (and there’s not much chance of an empty bus arriving from the Marketplace at this time of night). Finally a Swan/Dolphin/Yacht/Beach bus arrived, so I hopped on that & walked home from the Swan, getting back around 11. I let Chris open the 2 Christmas gifts I’d brought in. One was a pair of shorts & a shirt to wear tomorrow (84 degrees expected), and the other was a Disney Quest admission. I taped the card to a Tide box, since I can use the Tide when I do laundry later in the trip. At first he thought he was getting Tide, so it was pretty funny!

One last thing - on the 11pm news there was a story about central FL theme parks. Despite record total attendance, the # of guests at each park is down (or so they say) since AK opened because so many guests with limited time are skipping some of the older parks (including Sea World & Universal) in order to have time/money for the new one. They’re concerned how much this will worsen when the new Universal park opens.

Total miles walked: 8.59

DAY 5 - TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 1998:

The alarm went off at 5:00 am, so we’d be sure to get to Animal Kingdom by opening. It’s a pretty foggy morning, so I doubt we’ll do the safari first thing. We ate breakfast in the room - corn pops for Chris, leftover veal & linguine for me. It’s not your traditional breakfast food, but so what! We were at the bus stop by 6:45. At 7:10 I called from the bus stop to complain about the lack of bus service. I told them they had a lot of people out here who’d been waiting much too long for an AK bus, and that getting up before dawn in order to get to a park at opening and then ending up missing the opening because we’re sitting at a bus stop for over hour really takes away from the magic of a vacation! They checked with transportation for me, and said they were sending a bus over. We’d already seen a TTC and then a MK bus - which surprised me since MK doesn’t open until 9 today. Why do they need a bus at 7???? At 7:20 another MK bus arrived, along with a "special" bus. The "special" took us to AK, so I guess they really did call. The bus was really old & run down - not sure where they dug it up from, but at least it would get us to AK. There were so many of us at the bus stop that this previously empty bus was now standing room only!

We arrived AK around 7:30, and rode Countdown to Extinction first. Next we rode the Discovery River Water Taxi. With the fog, it was hard to see anything distant (like the Tree of Life), but we enjoyed the ride & the skipper was very funny. After getting off the boat we headed to Asia. To my surprise, the Maharajah Jungle Trek was already open (it was rumored to be open at 10am, but it was only 8am now). We went in and did the trek. We saw lots of bats, and 3 tigers really close up. The Trek is very similar to the Pangani Trail over in Africa, but with Asian animals rather than African. People kept saying "where are the lions" and the cast members would say there are no lions in this country - they’re in Africa. Next we did the Flighs of Wonder bird show. I’d never seen this, but knew that an actor from the Comedy Warehouse had moved over here & figured it would at least be funny. The actor I remembered (Budge) wasn’t working at this particular show, and it’s not something I’d repeat. Chris enjoyed it, but I’m just not into birds. Some people can take them or leave them - I prefer to leave them!

Finally, the fog was lifting so we headed into Harambe to ride the Kilamanjaro Safari. At 9:15 it had a 10 minute wait. We saw the usual animals, plus the lioness & a couple of warthogs. No sign of the cheetah, and there were very few giraffes or zebra this time. We left the park, and were at the bus stop by 10. The park was really getting busy at this point, with long lines at the turnstiles. Anyone arriving to a NEW park 3 hours after is opens has got to have rocks for brains! This is the perfect time for me to leave a park, not arrive! We took the bus back to BW, and dropped our cameras off in the room.

We went back to the bus stop to wait for the Downtown Disney bus. We waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally I had had just about all I could stand of BW bus service, so we went back up to the room to get the car keys and we drove over to Disney Quest. Chris was keeping an eye out, and still no DD bus during this time. Disneyquest had a pretty long line, but it moved quickly. I turned in an old card with 44 points left on it, and got a new pass good for all day today. We turned in Chris’ new card that he’d gotten for Christmas (100 units, but with the price deal on at the time it only cost $10) & he got an all day pass as well. Not bad, the equivalent of $10 to get the both of us in. We entered around 11, and played some of the games with tickets. I had earned 700 points last month, which we planned to use towards a DisneyQuest sweatshirt Chris wanted (2000 points) - but they no longer offer that prize. The ticket games have been adjusted downwards, so you earn fewer tickets, and the prizes are really limited to junky toys. After about an hour we were up to over 1200 tickets, so I made Chris cash them in for some junk.

We shared a chicken caesar salad ($6.95) for lunch - very good and plenty for 2 to share. We did the Hercules thing. Up to 4 people go into a booth, each of you is a certain character, you all wear these goggle things, and have a joystick that cons your character. You have to collect lightning bolts & then use them to try to kill Hades. We were teamed with a couple of teen boys. Hades beat us, but it was interesting. After this DisneyQuest was getting much busier, with people waiting in line even for the basic arcade games. I like the old point system better, as people can’t hang around and play forever, so it keeps the crowds down. I imagine at night this place must be miserable! I bought a piece of cheesecake to take back to the room. Chris didn’t want to share one since he wanted to play the games. Around 2pm I left to return to BW to relax, update the trip report, check the boards, and watch my soap (General Hospital). Chris opted to stay. He says he wants to stay until it closes at midnight, but I don’t think he’ll last that long.

At 5pm I left BW to go check on Chris. This time the wait for the bus wasn’t too bad. I got off at Pleasure Island, and walked over to DisneyQuest (the West Side stop would actually be closer, but I didn’t want to have to back track & the walk is more interesting from the PI side). I found him playing some shooting arcade game with another boy. He was having a great time, had already been there 6 hours, and had no desire to leave anytime soon. We played for awhile, until it was time for me to head to Pleasure Island. I got in line at the Comedy Warehouse for the first show. A group of around 10-12 young adults had an infant with them (maybe 6 months or so), and were passing her back & forth, tossing her in the air, rubbing her tummy on the top of their head, and just generally over stimulating her. Eventually she stopped laughing & started screaming - duh! Their group was sort of split, with me & another family in the middle, so they let us go ahead. They even had her big stroller in line! These same people suggested a story in the show itself - about a farting contest, so you get an idea how wonderfully witty & sophisticated they were. I saw the St Lucie family from last night join the line, but they were too far back to say hi. The show was great, and I was seated down front next to the keyboard player (Carol - who is excellent). Afterwards I got right in line for show #2, and the St Lucie family ended up in line with me. They were leaving for home after this show. Show #2 was also excellent, and I was seated in the first row of stools. It’s great going as a party of 1 in terms of getting great seats. One thing that shocked me is finding out 2 of the actors (Paul & Peter) are twins. I never realized there was more than 1, and this show they were both working! They look identical to me, have the same voice, the same hair, the same size (both very heavy), and it was like seeing double. I’m glad I don’t drink until I get drunk! Paul wears a wedding ring, and Peter does not - that’s the only difference I could spot! They’re both very good, also. The line was fairly long for show #3, and I was concerned my seat might not be that great, so I decided to skip it so I could be in line for a great seat for show #4. I wandered around the street & saw a show in the Adventurer’s Club. It was a show I hadn’t see before, which surprised me, & it was lots of fun.

Around 10:10 I got in line for Comedy Warehouse show #4 (10:40). In line already were a family of 4, and a group of about 4-6 people behind them. Mentally counting them, that would put me in an excellent seat in the front row of seats on the floor, so I jumped into line! Another couple came in after me, and we were it for a while.Close to 10:30, a large group of people came out of BET Soundstage & were standing with the group in front of us. The lady behind me was getting nervous they were going to cut in front of us, since she & her husband wanted their seats down front (frequent visitors also). Eventually the cm’s told everyone the line was long the chain, and they started crowding in in front of us! The lady behind me told them the line was behind us (& others who had arrived), and this one little lady told us these were her family. About 2 of their original group (kids) went to the Rock & Roll Beach Club, so 4 of the originals were left, plus about 12 that had come from BET. I ended up saying something to her, words were exchanged, and things got pretty ugly for a while. I basically told her that having 4 people save spaces in line for another dozen people was not fair to the people who got in line hour ahead of time expecting to be able to get seated according to how many people were in line. She argued back, and I did tell her it was incredibly rude to introduce so many people into line ahead of others, and if one or 2 members of her family had to leave the line to use the rest room or get a drink, it would be no big deal. However, when most of them are off enjoying other clubs and then expect to cut right in to the front of the line, in front of people who have been waiting, that was not fair & was rude. She said something like "well, everyone’s different." I responded with "Yes, some people have courtousy & moral character, while some people don’t". She started telling her male family member that I was calling them rude, so they were all circling around arguing their point. The lady behind me jumped in to reinforce what I had said, since she agreed with it. Eventually we decided we each did not particularly like or agree with the other party, but they did let us go ahead of them in line - and I thanked them for that. While all this was going on, the cm’s were noticeably staying out of it! It was pretty funny. Anyway, the show was wonderful - probably the best one of the night, and my seat was excellent! They did one of my favorite items (where we "kill" each actor one at a time as they screw up) in the show, and it was well worth the wait and the confrontation.

My favorite actor (Layden) was in all 3 shows, and during this last one he was the only actor to survive by not screwing up. It seems like every time I see this routine, when he’s working, he’s always the last one standing. It’s not rigged or anything, he’s just that good, and really quick!

I left at 11:45, figuring Chris was already home. There were 2 buses for the Swan/Dolphin/Yacht/Beach before a single Boardwalk bus came! People complain about OKW buses, but I’ve never had such pitiful bus service as I have staying at this resort. Thank goodness you don’t need buses to get everywhere. Chris ended up staying at Disney Quest until closing. He says a security guard came up to him and said "just a couple more games", and he asked the guy what time it was (thinking around 9pm), and the guard said 10 minutes to 12! He did take a break for dinner & got a couple pieces of pizza, that he said were excellent. Overall he spent 13 hours in DisneyQuest and had lots of fun. He also brought home another 700-800 tickets that he never took the time to turn in for any more prizes!

Total miles walked: 10.05

DAY 6 - WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 1998:

Okay, where’s the fog? Last night I decided that since dense fog was forecast for this morning again we’d skip getting up at 5am to do Animal Kingdom! Instead I set the alarm for 7am figuring we’d go to Epcot (no buses needed for that), and at 7am it was clear skies - no fog! Oh well, the extra 2 hours of sleep were really nice after getting in after midnight. Besides, I’ll take Comedy Warehouse over Animal Kingdom (or any other park) anyday!!!

We walked over to Epcot, and arrived at Future World right at 9am. We rode Living with the Land, then decided to catch the Circle of Life movie later since we’d just missed one and didn’t want to wait 15 minutes. We went to the Living Seas, and attempted to enter the back door (through the exit hydrolators - to skip the movie & ride), but were caught by a cm who asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I’d seen this a million times and wanted to skip the movie & just look at the fish. He told me to tell the cm inside, but to use the front entrance. The cm there said he wasn’t supposed to let people do that, but he would. He took us to a side door where we skipped the movie but still got the ride. I think in the future I’ll just enter like normal people do, and when it’s time to enter the theater I’ll just walk on through like we do at Norway. While there we saw the 10am feeding of the fish. It was pretty amazing, and those fish were all gathering around a good 5-10 minutes before 10! Afterwards we went back to see the Circle of Life, and then decided to do Energy & Horizons before leaving for the day.

On the way over we ran into Darla (IluvDVC) and stopped to chat for awhile. We then decided to just skip Energy & do Horizons. Today everything was working inside. We shared a kid’s chicken strip meal at the Electric Umbrella for a light lunch - $3.45 and they let me substitute orange juice for Chris rather than soda. After eating we walked back to the Boardwalk (one last time). Our trash/towel service had already been completed. We changed into our swimsuits and went to the quiet pool because they have a pool basketball hoop set up there. There were only a couple of other people there, and no one in the pool. Chris played basketball by himself for a little while, but then got bored so he ended up back in Community Hall. I walked over to Leaping Horse Libations at the main pool and got a Caballito, which is a virgin pina colada ($4 with tip). Around 2pm we decided to rent a couple of bikes and ride around the boardwalk. The dvc rate was only $4 per bike per hour. At the other wdw resorts I think it’s up to $6 now. We rode everywhere we could find pavement, plus circled the boardwalk 3 times in hour. I turned my bike in and returned to the room to shower & get changed. Chris kept his bike for most of the rest of his hour and then went to Community Hall again. For the benefit of you northerners, my bike riding outfit consisted of bathing suit, reeboks, & Santa Mickey socks. Keeping in mind today is 2 days before Christmas, the outfit just struck me as funny!

At 4:30 we took the bus from BW to Pleasure Island, and were seated in Planet Hollywood at 4:50. I had 3 of the Milky Way coupons - 2 for appetizers and 1 for dessert. I knew we could only use one, so we decided on the appetizer. The "free" appetizer is the Chicken Crunch - which is chicken tenders that have some Captain Crunch cereal in the batter. They sound strange, but are really quite good. I gave the dessert coupon to a family of 4 at a nearby table, and gave the other appetizer coupon to the couple who got seated at the table next to us. Chris had a coke ($1.95) and we ordered the L.A. Lasagna to share. This is really strange, but it was excellent. Rather than making lasagna by layering noodles, they take a large pasta tube (think manicotti, only bigger) and fill it with the ricotta cheese & other stuff. Then it’s lightly breaded, fried quickly, cut in half on a diagonal, and stood on it’s flat ends in a large bowl containing sauce and more mozzarella cheese. It was $12.95, and was so good we finished the entire thing. Total check was $15.80 plus tip.

After eating we stopped in the merchandise shop but didn’t buy anything. We walked to the West Side and looked in the magnet store, but they had the air conditioning set so cold I didn’t stay in there very long. I took Chris to the ice skating rink, and paid his admission. It’s $10/adult, $8 kids age 9 & under - and that includes the skates. They also rent helmets, walkers, mittens, hats, & some other stuff, but we just stuck with the skates. Chris did really well, and most of the people skating tonight knew what they were doing. There were even 3 girls wearing skating outfits practicing their jumps & spins in the center of the ice. I watched for about 30 minutes, and then continued towards Pleasure Island. I stopped at Starabilia, and saw they were selling Ty Beanie Babies for $8.49 each, and all bears & new releases were $60. What a rip-off! I guess no one’s reported them to Ty, because I’m pretty sure Ty requires all their retailers to follow the Ty pricing plan on original purchase beanies.

I entered Pleasure Island, following my usual routine - get wrist band, get hand stamp, go to restroom to wipe off hand stamp. No one has ever said anything about my not having a hand stamp, because they’re always just looking to see if I have a wrist band. The ink takes forever to dry in the humidity, and once I got the ink on my clothes. So, now it comes off as quickly as I can get to a napkin or paper towel! I was the first 3 shows at the Comedy Warehouse, and was seated on the floor in the front row for the first 2. After I took my seat for the 2nd show, a man’s voice behind me said "Sue?" I turned around and it was Dick & Ruth - a couple who’d joined us touring Animal Kingdom on 10/31/98, and the father/step mother of a friend’s husband. Talk about a small world! We chatted until the show started, and they left after the show - while I got back in line for the 3rd show. I left after the 3rd show, and took the bus back to BW. Tonight bus service was good. Chris was already asleep - the next morning he told me he skated until around 8:30, and then went to Community Hall for a while. I stopped by the front desk to check my bill, and had them remove a long distance call I never made, and a couple local calls (internet connections) that did not go through. Once that was taken care of, I paid the balance so the express checkout would have a zero balance. Each department had prepared a gingerbread house, and the winners had been announced. They’ve got some talented people working in that resort - they all looked like winners to me! I returned to the room & set the alarm for 5am. I’m hoping for no fog so we can enjoy the Kilamanjaro Safari for the last time before 2000.

Total miles walked: 6.54

DAY 7 - THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24, 1998:

Today was another 5am day, and unfortunately the fog was thick again! We really didn’t have much choice, with this being our last morning - we wanted to see the safari one last time. We loaded up the car and drove to AK (it would be faster leaving if we didn’t have to catch a bus back to BW). At the turnstile Chris’ pass did not work. He’s got a FL Resident Seasonal Pass, which until this year was good through 12/24 before hitting the blackout period for Christmas. In 1998 they changed the blackout to start on 12/24, but his pass said 12/25. The cm took the pass into the back room, and came out with a comp ticket for him - and a sticker to replace the incorrect blackout dates.

We walked over to Harambe, and noticed a very long line at the safari. It was’t due to open for another 10 minutes, too, so we went and rode the Discovery River Water Taxi again. When we got off, we headed directly to the safari. The sign said it was a 30 minute wait, but we walked right onto the vehicle without stopping or slowing down (maybe 5 minutes total). It was a terrific safari, with a driver who did a great job. We had more animals right next to the vehicle than I’d ever experienced before, including an eland who would not move out of the road & kept looking at us as if we were disturbing him. Both cheetahs were out - 1 staring at us, the other rolling in the grass. We saw a couple giraffe running down the hill towards us - and some idiot lady in the vehicle asked her hubby if she should throw an apple at it, thinking giraffe’s eat apples. I guess she didn’t read any of the signs/literature about the animals being on a specific diet and NOT to feed them - duh! Anyway, the safari was a great end to the wdw portion of our vacation. On the way out we stopped at Pizzafari for breakfast. We shared a combo breakfast pizza, which consisted of eggs, cheese, bacon, & sausage. It was delicious, and total check was $4.62. I miss having a straw in my cup of water at AK, but I can understand their reasoning for not allowing them. After breakfast we left AK and hit the road for Hilton Head (approx 9am).

We got to Georgia by 11:45, and stopped for gas and lunch (Wendy’s). I was shocked to see how cheap gas is in Georgia - at Mobil I paid $.749/gallon for regular unleaded. It’s over $1 in Florida, and is $.989 here in South Carolina. I’ll be sure to buy my gas for the trip home in Georgia! We saw signs of the devastation from the wildfires last summer (in Florida), and in Georgia saw what looked like Fall foliage. It was really pretty, especially since we don’t have anything like that in SW Florida. The entire trip was driven in fog, mist, and gray, overcast skies. We left wdw around 70 degrees or so, & arrived Hilton Head at 46 degrees! We arrived around 3pm, after having taken the wrong road on the island (there are 2 278’s - one is new according to my map, and that’s the one I took) and completely losing my bearings. It turns out this new road is a short cut, and it put me past the Disney resort. The Disney resort is hard to find (or easy to miss) - as my guide had warned. There is no big sign, and it’s set way back behind Shelter Cove, but we found it. It’s very compact, and I was surprised everything wasn’t further away from everything else. My first chuckle came when I walked (shivering) into Live Oak Lodge to check in - there are a total of 3 check in stations! At wdw resorts, I couldn’t imagine only 3 people checking in at a time! Like at wdw, though, check in can take forever due to all the information they have to give you. Live Oak Lodge is beautiful, especially the big room with the fireplace, comfy seating, pool table, and hot apple cider. Out front is a topiary of a couple Disney characters, and they’ve got Christmas decorations scattered around nicely.

We unloaded the car & just dumped the stuff into our studio - #1814, and then headed to the local grocery store before it closed for Christmas Eve. The store is called Piggly Wiggly, and I’ve always wanted to be able to say I shopped at a Piggly Wiggly. I just think it’s a cute name. We picked up a couple frozen dinners, snacks & breakfast stuff, and returned to the studio to put it away. I grabbed the bag of dirty laundry, and we walked over to Live Oak Lodge (very short stroll, but it looks far away on the map) figuring no one else would be using the 1 washer & 2 dryers on Christmas eve - and I was right! I threw the clothes in, and we played a couple of games of pool while it was washing. While the clothes were in the dryers we rode our bikes around the resort, and considered going to the beach house, but it was starting to get dark. Plus, it was still misty/drizzly and not exactly optimum bike riding weather. We returned to get the laundry, which I put in the basket of our bikes & we returned to the studio to get settled in.

By the way, before I ever left home I checked out a Hilton Head website Donna (ILUVWDW) was nice enough to send me, and ordered bike rentals from Hilton Head Bike Rental. For this time of year the weekly rental was $18/bike, with baskets & lock free. They delivered the bikes to the resort before I got here, and they were locked to a tree outside our studio. They left the bill (charged to my credit card) along with the combination to the lock on the counter in my studio. They’ll come back & pick up the bikes after we leave. Disney also rents bikes to members for $20 right now, but I didn’t see any baskets on them, so I’m glad I got mine from this other company.

Ok, now to describe the studio. I got most of my requests - non smoking, not in the main lodge. I did not get the "top floor" request, but I’m not sure any of the very few studios not in the main lodge are on the top floor. In our building we’re next to a 1 br unit, and under a grand villa. We do get noise from the grand villa - I’m assuming they have hard wood floors like at OKW (I’ll see for myself after Christmas when I tour the models). I think the studio is a little larger than the studios at the other 3 dvc resorts, mainly because the kitchen is in a separate little room. It’s not a huge difference, but it definitely seems bigger. As you walk in, you’re in the mini kitchen. It’s got the usual size refrigerator, a large coffee maker, a larger microwave oven, a toaster (never seen one of those in a dvc resort), and lots of space to store groceries & stuff. I think OKW storage is the worst, and HH seems to be the best. Next, walking forward is the closet, followed by the bathroom. The bathroom is pretty standard - tub, single pedestal sink, toilet, and wooden cabinet with shelves to store toiletries. There is a large window, and it’s a "clear" window, meaning that you could theoretically be sitting on the toilet and watching (and being watched by) people walking by. I’m not sure why they didn’t use that glass you can’t see through, but there is a shade. Across from the closet you walk straight into the bedroom. There’s a queen size bed make of tree branches, a double sleep sofa, night stand between the bed & sofa, a table with 2 chairs across from the sofa, a floor lamp, and an armoire holding the tv and 4 drawers for clothing. There is a ceiling fan, but we don’t have it on right now! The porch is very large - it’s more of a porch, unlike the balcony sized porches on studios at the other resorts. We’ve got a rocking chair out there, and I don’t remember what else. The 1br & larger units have a picnic table and rocking chairs on their porches, which are twice the size of my porch. I strung up our Christmas lights along the railing. No one can see them but us, as our porch looks out to the marsh or something (hard to tell in the fog) - but there are no people out there.

There are hammocks, swings, and all kinds of places to sit & relax around this resort. I imagine it must be wonderful when it’s warm enough to enjoy that - maybe in another day or 2 it will warm up some! After unpacking everything we ate our frozen dinners and then returned to Live Oak Lodge for the arrival of Santa. Chris wasn’t interested in Santa, and a boy there asked if he wanted to play pool, so he played pool while I sat & watched Santa arrive & listen to all the kids’ wishes. When he was done, he gathered all the kids around to read "Twas the Night Before Christmas". They had hot apple cider, and yummy chocolate chip cookies, and each person who sat on Santa’s lap (there were some adults) got a candy cane. It was very nice. I set up our tree in our studio, and put the gifts under it - so we’re all ready for Christmas.

DAY 8 - FRIDAY, DECEMBER 25, 1998:

Merry Christmas! Today we woke to pouring rain, gray skies, and a forecast of rain all day & night. It’s sunny & 80 at home, high 30’s & rainy here - but it’s a Disney resort so I’m happy! I called over to Broad Creek Mercantile (the resort’s shop) to make sure they were open, and walked over to buy a local paper. This resort has a legend about a golden retriever named Shadow that supposedly lives at the resort. I’m assuming he’s fictional, but he’s got a dog house outside Live Oak Lodge, and you’re supposed to look for other signs of him. This morning on all the doors was a big chocolate dog biscuit with the name Shadow on it, tied up with red & green curly ribbons - a nice touch, and a gift of chocolate is always welcome in my house! I bought my newspaper, getting a little lost on my way there, then came back & woke Chris up. It’s nice to not have any reason to set an alarm clock! We opened our gifts, Chris called his dad, and we watched the Disney parade on tv. I wish I’d thought to bring one of the rocking chairs in off the porch last night - now they’re all wet so I don’t want them in the room - to watch the parade from the rocker.

After the parade we called family in New England, and then headed out to find some lunch. First we tried Fuddruckers, but they were closed. So, we found the Hilton Head Brewing Company on the map & went there, but they were closed. We did notice the Hilton Head Diner was open, and since it was a place I was interested in trying, we went there. We had about a 15-20 minute wait, which I didn’t think was too bad. I ordered the french toast (made with very thick Challah bread $3.95), and it was wonderful. Chris ate about a quarter of it, and loved it too. He ordered a bacon cheeseburger platter ($6.50) which included cole slaw & steak fries. He declared it the best burger ever. Total was $12.97 including tip. We drove around island a while, since the rain had let up some. We found the movie theater & decided to come back to see the 4pm showing of the new Robin Williams’ film, Patch Adams. We returned to the resort and Chris watched people playing pool while I went back to the room. We left for the movie around 3:30, and there was an unbelievably long line of people waiting to buy tickets. By the time we got to the window the 4pm show was sold out, and I didn’t feel like waiting for the next one at 5:40. I don’t like seeing movies when it’s too crowded, anyways, so we went back to the resort. It was raining harder again, and the weather channel had the wind chill listed at 20 degrees. The local weather people were advising people to stay off the roads if possible tonight, so that’s what I’ll be doing!

I forgot to mention that last night I met Annie - a "character" of sorts who works here. She wears a scout uniform, including a sash with some badges sewn on, a beret, pigtails in her hair, and funky looking glasses. Last night she was doing a survey of whether we wanted to hear "turtle" Christmas carols or regular boring Christmas carols (turtle was winning) - and she sang several examples of turtle carols. Today she was looking for people who wanted to make snow turtles, which are basically s’mores made to resemble a turtle. I volunteered, and made a pair of turtle twins - one for me & one for Chris, while he was playing pool. After watching him play for awhile, I returned to the room. An hour or so later he still hadn’t come back, so I ventured out into the cold again to retrieve him so we could go to Goofy bingo over at Community Hall.

Chris wasn’t too thrilled to find out we were going to Goofy Bingo - I guess that’s not "cool" to a 12 year old. As I told him earlier, though, vacations were not "for" him - they are for me, and I just let him come along. When he’s an adult and paying for everything, then he can make the decisions on where to go & what to do. This may sound harsh, but he really enjoys just about everything, so he’s not suffering at all! We were among the first to arrive, and we ended up with a full house of bingo players. It lasted about an hour, and we each were winners. Chris chose a pencil with a golden retriever eraser (Shadow, the resort’s dog), and I chose a free large soda from the store (which Chris will use since I don’t drink soda). We also got Christmas candy, and everyone made s’mores after the game. We took our s’mores ingredients home with us, and I heated them up in the microwave. That way the marshmallow got all warm & gooey, and the chocolate melted some - yummy! Between the french toast for lunch, and the s’mores, I wasn’t hungry for dinner so I just had a kahlua mudslide. Chris heated a frozen pizza. It’s still pouring outside, and very cold, so we’re in for the rest of the evening. The rain’s supposed to end in the morning, and a gradual warming should begin.

DAY 9 - SATURDAY, DECEMBER 26, 1998:

We woke up to another rainy, cold, gray day :( They were doing a coffee thing in the grand villa at 8:30, so I headed over there so I could see what it looked like. It’s laid out very much like the OKW grand villa, except that both upstairs bedrooms have 2 queen beds (at okw 1 of them has 2 doubles instead of queens). I liked the fireplace, and although I’d love to stay here I don’t imagine I’d ever be taking that many people to Hilton Head. I chatted with the cm for a little while, and she suggested I call the preview center to let them know I wanted to see a 2br unit. They had coffee, tea, hot chocolate, orange juice, muffins, cookies & pastries set up in the dining room for us. I took a couple of cookies back to Chris when I left.

Since the weather was so crappy, we weren’t able to go bike riding like I had planned. We drove off the island to the factory outlets 2. The primary destination was the Disney Catalog Outlet - which was my first stop. I got an animated Mickey figurine for Chris’ dad ($14.99), a couple of lenox ornaments ($30 marked down to $4.99), and an apron ($25 marked down to $6.99). The store itself is not as large or as full of merchandise as the Disey locations in Orlando, but it was well worth the trip from the resort! We browsed through the other shops, and took advantage of a couple more good buys, and then returned to the island. We stopped at the Shelter Cove Mall - primarily because it was indoors and would be warmer. The outside temperature was only in the 30’s, and it was still raining! At Sak’s Firth Avenue we bought one of those fancy large apples dipped in caramel, then coated with honey roasted peanuts and covered in chocolate. It must weigh a couple of pounds, and was half price ($9 rather than $18). Those things are great, and are a real indulgence!

By now it was lunch time, so we went to Fuddrucker’s since it was across the parking lot in the mall. When we walked in, we saw it was a counter service place, which is not what I was expecting. I had a "real" restaurant in mind, so we left & went to Hilton Head Brewing Company. All of these choices were made based upon seeing the menu in a restaurant magazine I’d picked up (pluss HH Brewing is one of Disney’s "preferred" spots). We walked in, and I immediately noticed the stench of stale cigarette smoke - yuck! There is no non-smoking section, so we left. We drove down Pope Avenue, and stopped at Aunt Chilada’s (mexican). Once again, we get inside & the place is reeking of stale smoke, and again there is no non-smoking section so we left.What’s with South Carolina??? We tried Tony Roma’s, figuring surely a national chain would have a non smoking section, but they don’t open up until 3pm! We ended up back at the Hilton Head Diner again, where we both ordered the same things as yesterday. Service was very quick, and the food was great - but I would have preferred to try somewhere new!

On the way back to the resort (which is not even a mile away) we stopped at Disney’s Beach House in Palmetto Dunes. We were the only ones there! The pool is cute, but much smaller than I was expecting. It seems like this entire resort is so much more compact than the wdw resorts, which makes sense. They also have a fountain area at the pool where the water shoots up from the ground just like at Epcot and the Marketplace. The beach was not very wide - the tide must have been high - and the waves were pretty big. The main room where the tv is was very cold, so we didn’t stay very long.

We returned to Live Oak Lodge, and played pool for an hour or so. It FINALLY stopped raining, so we got on our bikes and set out. It was freezing, and of course it started drizzling steadily almost immediately, so I went back to the room. It’s no fun bike riding in freezing rain! Chris rode a little longer, and then gave up too. He went back to Live Oak Lodge for more pool. Last night he hit 3 balls in in a row, and a man commented "you’re quite a shark". He didn’t know what that meant, so he said "thanks - is that good or bad?" - LOL!

I connected with a cm who took me to see a vacant 2br unit. I liked it more than I expected to. I could see myself staying here (or in the 1br) in the future. The kitchen/living/dining area seems a little scaled down as compared to okw, but not nearly as small as boardwalk. I expected the unit to seem dark, but it wasn’t, and was very attractive.

After I returned to the studio, I called tomorrow’s restaurant - Hofbrauhaus - to make a reservation & ask whether they have a non-smoking section. Thank goodness, they do! I made a reservation for dinner tomorrow night at 6. Chris never returned to the studio, so around 6:30 I went to Live Oak Lodge looking for him. He was there watching some people play pool. When they finished, he & I played a few games and then went to get some dinner. Neither of us was particularly hungry, so we just went to Fuddruckers. Chris got a kid’s chicken tender meal (2 large chicken tenders, fries, soda & cookie $4.29) and I just got an order of onion rings ($1.95). Chris enjoyed his meal, but I wouldn’t order the onion rings again. The restaurant was fairly busy, with a nice mix of young people and families. Burgers seem to be the big attraction here, and that’s what most people were eating. They grind their own meat, and I think they bake their own buns here. It’s not exactly a place you’d go for a "dining" experience, but it’s a good place for people with young kids, or who are just looking for a burger or salad.

We returned to the resort, and played some more pool. A family we’d met yesterday (and ran into at the mall this morning) came in, and the kids all played pool while I chatted with the parents before returning to the room. This time I gave Chris a curfew - 9pm. We plan to cut some of our chocolate/peanut/caramel apple for a snack! At last the rain seems to have stopped for good, and without that dampness it feels warmer than it did all day! They’re saying sunny skies tomorrow - and 60 degrees! I’m keeping my fingers crossed all night long ;-)

DAY 10 - SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27, 1998:

Today we woke to a bright, sunny day - at last!! While Chris was still sleeping, I threw in load of laundry at Live Oak Lodge, and walked over to Broad Creek Mercantile to buy a newspaper. I couldn’t figure out why the machine wouldn’t work this morning - I put my quarter in just like every other morning - until the cm in the store pointed out that today is Sunday and the paper costs $1.25! I traded a dollar bill for 4 more quarters, and got my paper. I also checked on a tee shirt I’d seen near a 35% off sign. The price hadn’t been changed, but I asked & was told the shirt would be 35% off because it’s a discontinued color (light yellow). It’s got the Disney’s HH Island Resort logo embroidered on it, so I went ahead and bought it. After the discount it ended up being $16 and change. I woke up Chris, and we both went to Live Oak Lodge to play pool while the laundry finished up. It was nice & quiet, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

I checked on and paid my bill at the front desk. To save points, I’d gotten the member’s cash rate for Friday/Saturday night. You can certainly tell we’re not at wdw - the nightly rate for the studio was $63!! It’s every bit as nice as a studio at okw or bw, it just doesn’t have the theme parks nearby.

They did our trash & towel service while we were out. Nothing unusual about towels or other supplies - everything was as it’s supposed to be. We put the laundry away & ate breakfast out on the porch (in honor of Darla) in the rocking chairs. This place is really beautiful when the weather is nice! Our porch overlooks the marsh, so we have no neighbors or people walking by.

We headed out on our bikes, and rode over through Palmetto Dunes to get to Disney’s Beach House. It was fun riding our bikes on the beach, and lots of people were out enjoying the nice day. The wind made riding a little tough, so we didn’t go too far, and we passed lots of really big houses on the beach. We rode back to Shelter Cove and rode around that area. We found a Mexican restaurant called San Miguels that looks good. We’ll eat lunch or dinner here tomorrow. They’ve got outdoor seating as well as indoor, so we might do lunch in order to eat outside by the water. Chris was getting hungry, so we rode the bikes over to Fuddrucker’s for lunch. He repeated the kids’ chicken tender meal and I ordered a side salad ($1.50). I asked the man if I could buy just a roll - they make their own and they smell so good! He gave me one (no charge), and had it toasted & buttered for me - yum!

After lunch we continued riding around the island, and then returned to Live Oak Lodge for some warm apple cider and more pool. We rode the bikes for about 3 hours. While we were playing pool, Annie the turtle lady came in looking for her turtle. She was dressed in her usual crazy outfit, and was carrying a rope (leash) and yelling "Elmo......Ellllllll-mo". It was pretty funny. After playing pool, we rode around the resort and went out to the fishing pier. There were several people in the pool and hot tub. We dropped our bikes off at our studio, and drove the car over to the Beach House. Chris changed into his swimsuit & enjoyed the pool (he was the only person) with the basketball hoop. The water was nice & warm, but the air temperature was a chilly 56 degrees. It had gotten cloudy, too - although no rain is predicted. After about 30 minutes I made him get out. Since no one else was there, I couldn’t leave him, and I was getting cold sitting there! After he dried off & got dressed we walked on the beach for a while, and then returned to the resort. I updated the trip report while he went bike riding again - most likely at Shelter Cove.

We left around 5:30 for dinner at Hofbrauhaus. We had reservations at 6, but arrived at 5:45 & were seated right away. There was a steady stream of customers coming in, which was a good sign. Chris’ dad & I had eaten at a wonderful restaurant in NJ by this name, but it turns out they’re not affiliated at all. Between 5 & 6:30 they have a $12.50 early bird menu that includes a beverage (including beer or wine), soup or salad, entree, & dessert. I ordered the Weiner Schnitzel off this menu for myself, and requested a kid’s menu for Chris. He selected the fried cod ($6.75) and a coke. Someone brought us butter and warm brown bread. It was just ok. I ordered blush wine for my beverage, and it was very good. I also got a salad, and it was excellent. Chris ate most of it, but what I got I enjoyed! His dinner had a huge piece of cod, but he said it didn’t have much taste. There were also french fries and cole slaw. My dinner had a good sized piece of veal, a pile of red cabbage (yuck), and some pasta things that were bland but went well with the veal. For dessert, I had trouble communicating with the girl who came to see what we wanted. I wanted to know if Chris’ meal got dessert, and thought she indicated he did - but in retrospect I don’t think she or the guy who brought the bread had any clue what I was saying anytime I opened my mouth! I said ok - 2 apple strudels. The strudel was excellent! It was a very small piece, but it was warm and just enough to eat without being stuffed. When I got the bill, however, I saw that the strudel is NOT included with the kids meal, only with mine. Chris’ strudel cost me $3.25, which along with the $1.95 coke I probably should have had him order off the $12.50 menu! Oh well, live & learn. I wasn’t about to argue with them over the $3.25 strudel, since it was very good & we did both enjoy it. There is a 15% gratuity automatically added to the check, which brought the total to $29.30. Overall it was a pretty good meal, but I doubt I’ll be returning. With 236 restaurants on Hilton Head, this one just isn’t worth a repeat visit for us.

Upon return to the resort, we found the family from the last few nights playing pool at Live Oak Lodge, so Chris joined them. I checked out the campfire activity, but sitting around singing verses of Old McDonald Had a Farm is too much for me! I wandered around a little, and returned to the studio. As I got inside, it started to rain again :(

I don’t know what’s going on at my neighbor’s. They’re either vacuuming in spurts or making lots of dacquiri’s in a blender over there. I’m hoping staying in a 2br unit will be quieter. The lock-off units just let too much noise through! Although, the noise seems to come more through the wall than through the connecting door - maybe this resort is just poorly insulated or something. Unfortunately, unlike at wdw, at night people tend to be in their rooms here. I think next time I get a studio I’ll stick with Live Oak Lodge.

I packed some of our stuff. Tomorrow night & Tuesday morning it may be raining, so I want to get as much into the car before then. With every inch of the trunk being filled up, I sure don’t want to be standing in the rain trying to organize it so it all fits! Tomorrow’s our last full day here, unfortunately.

DAY 11 - MONDAY, DECEMBER 28, 1998:

This morning it’s cloudy, but at least it’s not raining. It did rain during the night, so we were not able to use the porch for breakfast. I put the rest of the laundry in, and loaded some stuff into the car. We ate breakfast in the studio, retrieved the laundry, and would have played pool but the table was in use and I didn’t feel like waiting for it. We put the laundry in the room and went for a bike ride.

We rode over to the Beach House again, and rode along the beach for quite a while. The tide was further out, so the beach was very wide. Lots of people were walking, joggin, bike riding, or playing football. This must be a beautiful beach during summer (swimming weather). We returned to Live Oak Lodge & played a couple games of pool before someone else wanted to use the table. We rode around the resort, and then Chris changed into his swimsuit. We walked over to the Big Dipper (main pool). There were 8-10 kids in the pool, and 1 adult. The water slide was open, and Chris enjoyed that a few times. He said the water in the slide was cold, though. He & another boy started playing with a couple of big balls in the pool. I sat there for awhile, but the gnats were getting to me so I returned to the room & continued packing. After our next trip to the car I’ll be all set so that tomorrow morning we just carry a couple of bags and we’re done.

Chris swam for quite a while, and then changed into regular clothes to go play ping pong with a new friend. He took his "free large soda" coupon I’d won at Goofy Bingo the other night, and got a drink while he played. When he returned we rode our bikes over to Shelter Cove and had lunch at San Miguel’s. We locked our bikes up outside a window, and ended up being seated at that very window, which was nice. The chips & salsa were good, but not very spicy. Chris ordered the chili and I got the chicken caesar fajita salad. The salad was pretty good, but it was strange having a caesar in a tortilla bowl! Also, there were cherry tomatoes and onions in the salad - which I’ve never seen in a caesar before. There was a large chicken breast sliced on top, and it was very tasty ($7.95). The chili was made with sirloin steak, no beans, and was quite spicy ($3.95). Chris added a side of sour cream ($.95), which he mixed right into the bowl. It was still a little too spicy for his taste, so we switched meals. I loved the chili, and it was especially good on pieces of the tortilla shell. I didn’t finish the chili, so the waiter put it in a carry out bowl for me. Total check was $13.47 plus tip.

We rode back to the resort, and played pool for a little while. When others wanted to play we rode around the resort so I could make notes on each building - smoking vs non smoking, grand villa locations, etc. I posted this information separately on the dvc message board. It will help me in making requests for future stays. Of the 20 buildings (excluding Live Oak Lodge), there are 4 smoking and 16 non smoking - I thought that was great! Of course, the one building I was thinking of requesting turned out to be one of the 4 smoking ones, so I’ll be sure NOT to request that one now! If anyone reading this wants that information, and doesn’t have access to the aol dvc board just send me an e-mail. Chris went back to Live Oak Lodge to play pool, and I updated the trip report and watched General Hospital.

At 4pm I stopped to check on Chris and then drove over to the Shoppes on the Parkway but didn’t spend very much time there. I continued down to Coligny Plaza, and browsed around those shops. I bought a Christmas ornament that said Hilton Head for half price - my tree at home has ornaments from lots of different places we’ve been. I spotted several more restaurants that may be worth consideration on our next trip.

When I got back Chris was still playing pool with some kids. I sat in Big Murgie’s Den for a little while, and then we went for one last bike ride :( It was starting to get dark, so we just stayed inside the resort and Shelter Cove. As much as I don’t like the noisy room, I’ll really miss this resort and we’re both sorry to be leaving. After our bike ride Chris drove his remote control truck outside for a little while, and then went back to Live Oak Lodge to wait for some friends who were meeting him to play pool at 7. I heated up my leftover chili and relaxed in the room. When Chris get’s hungry he’s got a frozen pizza in our freezer, along with some chips/salsa that needs to be finished! I plan to get an early start in the morning, so we won’t be doing anything on Hilton Head. I figure it’ll be 8.5 - 9 hours driving, and I want to stop at Belz in Orlando, so we’ll probably hit the road around 7am.

DAY 12 - TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29, 1998:

Today we’re driving back to Ft Myers. It’s killing us to leave this resort, but since the $$ is starting to dwindle and I’m due back at work in the morning, we don’t have much choice! I stopped by the front desk to check out. My balance was $.50 (last 2 internet connections), and the cm said just "forget it". We were on the road before 7am. It was pretty foggy, but not so bad you had to slow down or fear for your life! Chris fell asleep before we were out of South Carolina. We stopped off exit 2 in Georgia for breakfast at a Shoney’s to meet a fellow dvc member Debbie (Deseylou). Unfortunately, the restaurant got pretty busy after we arrived, so our chatting time was somewhat limited. Debbie seems great though, and it was fun meeting her. Perhaps this can be a regular "thing"!

We stopped at Belz Outlets in Orlando, amid tons of traffic. I only went to the 3 Disney stores, and really didn’t enjoy myself because my mind was on all that traffic waiting for me. Next time I definitely will NOT stop here during this very busy week of the year! I had filled the gas tank in Georgia - taking advantage of regular unleaded at $.729 per gallon at a Shell station! I filled it up again in Lakeland, and stopped at McDonald’s for Chris to run in and get himself a Big Mac ($.89 special) to go for lunch. We stopped again in Punta Gorda and got a couple of Blizzards from Dairy Queen for dinner. Finally, we got home just before 5pm. Normally I don’t make stops like that, but it was over 550 miles and as I get older it’s harder to drive long distances!

We’d like to repeat this trip again next year, and perhaps every year! I’d prefer to get the long drive out of the way 1st, by starting the trip in Hilton Head, but I refuse to join the crowds at wdw from 12/25 - 1/1, or pay the higher # of points that particular week costs! Hopefully that long drive will be like child birth - a year later you’ve forgotten all about it, ready to do it again!

SUMMARY:

Rather than try to think of something incredibly witty, or that hasn’t already been said in one of my previous trip reports, I’ll just mention some of the more magical things/moments and some of the moments/things I could have done without!

Magical

  • The strawberry soup at 1900 Park Faire - always a favorite!
  • Snow on Main Street during the 11:30 pm running of the parade during the MVMCP 12/18. I love this parade, and seeing it at night, with (soapy) snow falling is so beautiful. Perhaps if I lived in an area where it snows I might not be so thrilled with this - LOL!
  • Keys to the Kingdom Tour (except for the 13 year old). I learned a lot more than I would have believed, and I’m glad I did it!
  • Meeting other dvc members at MVMCP and Osbourne Lights and meeting the aol ladies for a terrific breakfast at the Yacht Club Galley. It was so much fun to be wandering around a park or Downtown Disney and hear "hi Sue", and see someone I knew! It really made wdw feel like "home" rather than some huge impersonal vacation destination! It’s hard to describe just how special that felt.
  • Dinner at Palio’s was EXCELLENT! It would have been worth every penny even without the Rita Aero coupon, but it certainly was a kick to receive a bill for $1.57!! I would love to return to this restaurant in the future!
  • Comedy Warehouse (my favorite)! I saw 2-3 shows each night for 4 nights. I called ahead, and my favorite actor was working all 4 nights - and as it turned out, for all but 2 of the shows I saw. Crowds were light, the weather was comfortable for line waiting, and I met a few other die-hard fans!
  • Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort - is just gorgeous! We both loved it here, and I plan to buy more dvc points here so we can return each year. Riding our rental bikes around the resort and on the beach was just wonderful! The weather is not as "nice" as Florida, but to us it was a nice change from the usual sunny/80 degree days. Chris in particular was thrilled to be able to wear a jacket!

The Pits

  • The punk kid on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour, and his obnoxious father who lied about his age and yelled at the cm’s to get him allowed on the tour.
  • Lack of storage space in BW Villas studio - 2 tiny drawers were barely enough for the 2 of us for 4 nights. It would be impossible for a family of 3 or 4 or for longer stays!
  • Unpleasant confrontation with family expecting 12 members to cut in front of me in line at Comedy Warehouse. Who needs this kind of crap on vacation, especially in wdw?
  • Noise from surrounding units at HH was excessive. After talking with several other dvc members who’ve stayed here, it appears that most units have no noise whatsoever. Just stay away from the 5 studios and 1br units that are located under the 5 grand villas (easy to do).
  • The day of rain at Hilton Head was not too thrilling, but Disney can’t control that (except at Catastrophe Canyon).

Thanks for reading, and as always - if you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me!

Sue Holland

WDW1972@aol.com


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MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at www.disney.com. This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.