Laura and Lee's Holiday Hijinks

December 8-15, 2002
Part 1

I'm really late getting this trip report done, but I leave for WDW again in a few days, and one of the rules of trip reports is that you have to finish the report from your last trip before you can go to WDW again! :-)

I've tried to do something a little different to make this a little more interesting, so I've included some "Did you know..." sections that share some of my observations, tips, pet peeves, etc.

Who: Laura and Lee, two 40-something DINKS from San Diego. We have annual passes to both WDW and Disneyland, and have been DVC members since 1996.

When: Sunday, December 8-Sunday December 15.

This is our sixth year in a row of travelling to Disney World during the holidays - definitely a tradition we intend to continue!

This year we stayed in the newest Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort - the Beach Club Villas. It's behind Epcot next to the Beach Club resort - we still love that proximity to Epcot and the Studios! We had a one bedroom unit just for the two of us - it's nice to have the extra room.

Let's see...other details...we flew Delta round trip from San Diego, and rented a car - it's just much more convenient to have our own car even if we don't drive it that much.

Unfortunately we did not have our typical warm, dry December weather on this trip...but more on that later.


Sunday, December 8 - Travel Day

We tried a different flight this time - rather than the 7:00 flight that goes through Dallas, we tried the 9:00 flight through Atlanta that only gets in about an hour and ten minutes later (supposedly). Which meant that we *didn't* have to get up at an ungodly hour to get to the airport...instead the town car was sent to pick us up at 7:25. At about 7:20 I looked outside, and instead of a town car sedan, there was a HUGE black stretch limo parked in front of our house!!! Wow! I'm not sure what we did to deserve that, but it was kind of fun.

When we arrived at the airport, we could see people at the curb were wondering just who we were in that big stretch limo. Even though there were several people in line at Delta's curbside check-in, a skycap came *right* over and took our bags and got us taken care of. It was pretty funny, though we felt a little awkward since there *were* other people in line, and we hadn't had to wait. Not bad enough to turn him away, though. :-)

The airport was *empty*, though our flight was pretty full. And there was actually meal service (breakfast) on this flight!!! I guess that's because they had us captive for more than four hours. The movie was "The Grinch" with Jim Carrey, which I had never seen, so I watched it...it was...weird. I think that the original animated version is way, way better.

*** Did you ever notice that airplanes always seem to hit turbulence right after the meal is served?

Once we arrived in Atlanta we went to our connecting flight only to find that it was delayed - our *plane* was there but our flight crew wasn't - they were coming in on another flight from Orlando, but it was delayed because some kind of ground vehicle had crashed into the plane. (When we told Jeff C (tiggerfan) about this incident, he suggested that a disgruntled United employee was responsible... ;-) )

We arrived in Orlando over an hour and a half late, but our bags arrived quickly and there was no line at the rental car counter, so we were quickly on our way to WDW.

***Did you ever notice that a lot of rental cars look exactly the same? To help us find our car a little easier I brought a Mickey head antenna topper with me from Disneyland - this one was colored in tie-dye 1970s colors. I was a little surprised that it stayed on the car all week without anyone taking it, but it did.

As I mentioned earlier, we stayed at the new Beach Club Villas, so we went there, checked in, and took our bags to the room. The room layout is a bit different than at the Boardwalk Villas, and the bathroom layout is really weird - I've never seen so many doors in one place! It feels like "Let's Make a Deal", and you never quite know what's behind door #1, door #2, door #3, and door #4. I thought it was awkward, and one of the doors (to the toilet room) is either in the way or a hazard. The villa is a little smaller than the one bedroom villa at Boardwalk (and much smaller than the one at Old Key West!). Overall I didn't like it quite as much - though that 5 minute walk to Epcot is very nice and it was also very quiet. I wouldn't refuse to stay there again, but I think I prefer the Boardwalk.

But back to our story...it was late and we were hungry so we took advantage of that 5 minute walk to Epcot and walked over to the Morocco pavilion for dinner. It's always nice when that Annual Pass works that first time through the turnstile! :-)

The Tangierine Cafe at Morocco remains one of our favorite places to eat, though this time the service was rather slow. After dinner we scoped out a spot along the lagoon near Italy and watched Illuminations, and then took the long way back by continuing counter-clockwise around World Showcase lagoon to World Showcase Plaza, where we sat and watched the Lights of Winter arch and the fountain - after Illuminations they continuously "dance" to various pieces of holiday music for at least 45 minutes, and probably longer. We're always amazed at how many people will walk out under the arch and past the fountain and never even seem to notice them.

We walked out of the park via the same back way we'd come in and went to Beaches and Cream for dessert - I had a hot fudge sundae and Lee had a chocolate shake. We got them to go and sat outside near the pool, which WOULD have been nice and peaceful except for the VERY noisy family that sat there too - 5 adults and three or four toddlers. They were "happy noisy" rather than "angry noisy" but still, it was a relief when they left and we could finish our desserts in peace.

*** Did you ever notice that Beaches and Cream has a separate doorway to a counter where you can get take-out food and ice cream treats?


Monday December 9 - Studios

We got a late start, and it was after 10:00 when we started walking from the Villas to the Studios - and it was raining lightly. There's a very nice path from the resorts in the Epcot area over to the Studios - it goes along the same canal that the boats (which are your Disney transportation between the Epcot resorts and the Studios) do. It was a little over a mile from our villa to the Studios entrance, and generally it's much faster for us to walk than to wait for a boat. This time we didn't even SEE a boat during the walk to the entrance, so we were way ahead by walking.

***Did you ever notice that there's a really big sorcerer's hat in front of the Chinese Theater? ;-)

Breakfast was from "Starring Rolls" - it's ok, but probably my least favorite of the bakery places. (My favorites are Fountainview Cafe in Epcot, Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, the Boardwalk Bakery, the Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom, and then Starring Rolls.)

It was raining a little harder so we went to see Muppets 3D, where we could be inside. It was raining even harder when we came out, and we did The Great Movie Ride. We don't do this very often, and every time we do it we remember WHY we don't do it very often...it just doesn't stand up very well to repeat viewings.

***Did you ever notice the hidden Minnie on the mural at the Great Movie Ride's loading area? Me either. :-)

It was now raining even harder, so we went over to see Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The second person to get in the hot seat was a woman named Lori, and as she talked a little bit about herself she sounded more and more familiar! Sure enough, it was Lori_Briar_Rosie, one of the people I chat with on IRC several times a month. She did really well until she got to the 32,000 point question...but Lee and I got it wrong, too. After the show we stood around outside on the covered walkway (since it was still raining hard) and talked to Lori and Catherine (Nala) for quite a while. I think we were all kind of hoping the rain would let up...but it didn't.

***Did you ever notice that the Gobi desert is in Asia and not Africa? (Sorry, Lori - I couldn't resist! :-) )

Eventually we went our separate ways - Lee and I wandered around a little (did some pre-shopping in Tatooine Traders) and finally had a late lunch in the ABC Commissary. He had the "Feijoada", which is a Cuban beef stew, and I had the fish and chips, which were just ok - I wouldn't get them again. So far the Commissary is 0-for-2 with me - the last time we ate there I had the Vegetarian Stir Fry noodles, and I wouldn't get that again, either - they were just flavorless. Oh well, at least it was dry in there!!!

I'd had enough of being in the rain and it was still raining hard, so we headed back. Lee decided to walk back, and though he was really soaked by the time he arrived back at the villa, he got there at least 15 minutes before I did since I waited for the boat. But I also stopped in the Yacht Club to take pictures of the Christmas decorations in their lobby. :-) It was nice to get back to the warm, dry villa, though, and having the one bedroom unit on this trip was very nice because it has a washer and dryer, and we used them!

***Did you know that you can walk from the Yacht Club Lobby all the way to the Beach Club Villas and stay under cover the whole time?

We napped and read for a couple of hours, then decided to slog over to Spoodles for dinner (it was *still* raining hard). We were seated right away but when we left we saw Jenn and Jeff C., Catherine, and Lori in the lobby (they actually saw *us* - I was making a beeline into the chocolate shop next door and was completely focused on that until Jeff finally yelled my name :-) ), and they told us they'd been waiting for over 30 minutes - and *they'd* had a priority seating time!

We got dessert to go from the Boardwalk Bakery (their chocolate brownies with chocolate icing are really good) and then slogged back to our room - despite ponchos and rain jackets we were both pretty wet from mid-thigh down by the time we got back to our room. It was still quite early (we were done with dinner before 7:00), but fortunately Lee had brought a selection of DVD movies with him, and our unit had a DVD player, so we watched Men in Black II and ate our desserts. At 9:30 we heard the Illuminations fireworks - unfortunately we were on the ground floor but had we been on a higher floor we would have had an excellent view of the fireworks. As it was we could see the higher ones from our patio, and we could mostly hear the music. By the way, it was still raining.

***Did you ever notice that Florida rain can get you really, really wet? We have drier rain in California. :-)


Tuesday, December 10 - Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Studios, Epcot

Although every time one of us had gotten up during the night and looked outside it was still raining, by morning it had stopped - it was cloudy, but not raining!

I'm not sure what I could have possibly done to merit such punishment, but Lee suggested that we go over to Magic Kingdom. AAAAAAAAAA!!! But it actually turned out to be an *excellent* idea. We took the bus from the Beach Club (since our first rule is "Avoid the TTC"), and even when we arrived at Magic Kingdom at 9:40 there weren't too many people going into the park. We did the Pooh ride twice, and three consecutive rides on Buzz Lightyear (Lee won two out of three, but that's only because he complained so much after I beat him on the second go-round that I told him I wouldn't even *touch* the spin control the third time - which meant I didn't get any good shots.) We also did the Snow White ride (which I don't think we had ever done) and Peter Pan - everything was less than a five minute wait!

***Did you ever notice that WDW's castle is really, really big? :-) Lee gets "castle envy" every time we go to WDW. Must be a guy thing. And despite appearances, this photo isn't really a scene from a film that was a little known collaboration between Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock. :-)

Tigger was wearing his "Magical Moments" pin, and he was having quite a few "Magical Moments" - though none in the Pooh ride, which surprised me. We went to the Haunted Mansion and saw the new Madame Leota tombstone with the eyes - Lee couldn't figure out why I kept staring at it until I showed him the eyes. :-)

I don't know if it was because of the wet weather, but once we got into the stretching room, the air smelled really bad - kind of a moldy musty smell. Very appropriate I suppose, but not something I'd experienced there before. After rides on Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain (which Lee says is faster than Disneyland's) we realized that we'd done 10 attractions in less than 3 hours - sometimes we don't do that many in an entire trip! We were exhausted. :-) We had lunch at Columbia Harbor House which was quite good - definitely a place we'd eat again. We *thought* we'd selected a nice quiet place to eat, until a noisy family showed up. After we ate we discovered that there was another seating area upstairs and there was almost no one up there. Oh well - next time!!!

As we headed out of the park we did some shopping and stopped in Exposition Hall to play some games and take some photos. There were a number of characters in there - Chip noticed me laying on the floor as I was setting up a Tigger photo and walked over to see what I was doing. :-)

***Did you ever notice that Exposition Hall has a small theater area in the back where you can sit and watch old Disney cartoons? There's several rows of padded theater seats. It's generally a nice cool, quiet place to relax!

We took the bus back to the Beach Club for a well-deserved afternoon rest (it WAS a very busy morning! :-) )

In the afternoon we drove over to Animal Kingdom. It had obviously NOT been a busy day at the park, because they hadn't parked anyone out beyond the Dinosaur parking lot! It was getting close to 4:00 and we went over to Camp Minnie-Mickey, which usually has lots of characters (and very few guests) in the late afternoon. Sure enough...we saw Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Daisy. That Daisy is a shameless flirt - she was blowing kisses to Lee and hanging all over him. Mickey seemed to think that was rather funny. As you can tell, I go more for the tall, dark, and well, two out of three isn't bad, I guess. :-)

Stitch was also out, and standing all by himself near Pizzafari. He grabbed Tigger and started to go backstage with him. :-) Lee told him "Aloha" and Stitch managed to do a pretty good "Shaka" sign - I'm not sure if having only three fingers makes it harder or easier. :-)

We saw most of the "Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade" before heading over to Asia (via Africa) - where we ran into the start of the parade. :-) But we made our way around it and over to the Maharajah Jungle Trek. All five of the tigers were over by the fountain, but they've now put a net fence up in the viewing area. Lee asked the Cast Member why, and the Cast Member glanced over towards a guest who was standing his kid on top of the railing...Sigh. At least now that there's the fence there, a kid isn't going to end up in the water below with the tigers, but it sure spoils the viewing and photo opportunities.

***Did you ever notice that people go on vacation and leave their brains at home?

But the tigers were still quite entertaining - they were going down into the water and chasing each other around the enclosure. They cover a LOT of ground very quickly and it's really amazing how agile they are considering their size.

By then it was 5:00 and the park was closing, so we headed to our third park for the day - the Studios! The Tower of Terror ride has started doing some new drop sequences - there are 4 different ones now, and we went to check that out. There was no line - we walked straight into the Library. The new drop sequence was pretty wild - I always get kind of disoriented partway through and can't tell if I'm going up or down, and this really did that to me - it was a lot of fun! I understand that they will be replacing the lap bars in the elevators with seat belts, but our car still had the lap bars. That's too bad...I'm small enough that I almost always ride with people that are larger than me, and I get a lot of air time since the lap bar doesn't hold me down that much! :-)

We'd waited until about 6:20 to go back and see the Osborne Lights. Our timing was perfect - the initial crush of people was gone, and we actually had room to wander around at our own pace instead of doing that "Osborne Shuffle" with the rest of the crowd. It was obvious that the big rainstorm the night before had caused some problems with the lights - we saw quite a few that weren't lit. Though there are SO many lights that you don't really miss them! It's really quite excessive - I'm glad I don't have to pay *that* electric bill! As we were exiting we encountered the crowd of people heading up New York Street to tour the lights after seeing Fantasmic! - like I said, our timing was perfect! And it was *dry* - seems like most of the times we've seen the Osborne lights we've done it in the rain.

***Did you ever notice that one of the lighted toy soldier figures has mouse ears?

And we closed down another park! So it was time to go to our *4th* park of the day...Epcot! We drove back to the Beach Club and stopped at our room long enough to drop some things off and get a warmer jacket then walked to to the Yakitori House in Japan for dinner. The line was almost out the door - we'd never seen that before. We got our dinners and ate outside on the patio - it was actually a very pleasant evening. We were rushing dinner a little bit because we wanted to see James Avery narrate the Candlelight Processional at 8:15 - it was his final show. We'd seen him two years ago and thought he was the best narrator we've seen. We were actually pleasantly surprised that we were able to just walk in to the theater at 8:10, though our seating was way off on the left side (and there was much better seating, that was open and NOT reserved over on the right side, but they wouldn't let us go there). We ended up with one of the beams supporting the roof blocking our view of James Avery so we had to look around it, but we could still hear everything just fine. Avery again did a very good job, though I thought he rushed his delivery a little bit. But he's wonderfully enthusiastic, and it's great to see him singing along with the choir and really enjoying himself up there.

We could have stayed for Illuminations and closed down our third park for the day, but instead I suggested going to The Flying Fish on the Boardwalk for dessert. I'd eaten there with friends almost two years ago and they have some *wonderful* desserts that I thought Lee would enjoy, too. They seated us at the bar, which was fine. Lee ordered the Banana Napoleon and I had the Chocolate Hazelnut Bombe. Both were excellent, but I think the best thing was the dessert wine we had - it's called Malvira. It's actually red (and I usually hate red wines) but this is sweet with a little bit of sparkle - it's really yummy. (I'm sure a true wine connoisseur would have something better to say than "yummy", like "Slightly frothy with a lovely deep purple/rose red colour" and "Very fragrant floral finish w/ little tannins", but I'm not a wine connoisseur. :-) )

It was fun eating at the bar and talking to the bartender - we intended to do it some other evening (and have another glass of Malvira!), but we never made it. Something to do next trip. :-)

***Did you ever notice the people who stand in line for several minutes waiting to enter the park, but wait until they get up to the turnstile to actually start looking for their tickets???


Part 2
Part 3
Tigger's Part of the Magic
Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation page


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Text and photographs copyright © 2002, 2003 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath lgil@cts.com
Last updated 2/20/03