Laura and Lee's 2003 December Disney Vacation

December 7-13, 2003
Part 1

Hard to believe, but 2003 is almost over...so it must be time to go to Disney World and enjoy the holiday decorations and festivities.

This trip was just Lee and me...and Tigger and Stitch, of course. We flew to Orlando on Sunday, December 7, and returned on Saturday, December 13. We stayed in a one bedroom villa at Boardwalk Villas, and rented a car, though we were within walking distance of Epcot and the Studios.


Sunday - Travel Day

As usual, we had an EARLY morning flight...it was dark and chilly and even drizzling a little when we left home. It was a nice flight - long enough that we got food - such as it was - in one of those "blue bags" as we boarded. Though I don't know where they get those teeny tiny bananas...which are so green that they are practically inedible.

Once we got to Atlanta we had time for lunch in the terminal and we did a lot of walking back and forth while waiting for our connecting flight to Orlando to board. The Orlando flight was on a HUGE 777 - I'd never been on one of those before. It was packed, too. But it was very nice and comparitively roomy - except that the seat in front of Lee had one of the big video boxes underneath, so there was no room for him to put his backpack there.

In Orlando our luggage took a long time to make an appearance - only about 12 people were still waiting when ours finally showed up - Lee's was first, as (almost) always. But the car rental (Dollar) was fast and efficient, and they were out of compacts, so we got a free upgrade to a nice Jeep Liberty. Woo hoo!

The Boggy Creek road out of the airport has been under construction about as long as we've been coming here and it keeps changing every time - there were some interesting detours. :-) Lee noticed that on the turnpike everyone was driving FAST for a change...normally they are poking along at 55.

We arrived at Boardwalk Villas (BWV) a little after 7:00 and found Andrea and Cathy in the lobby directing people to the Mousefest Wine and Cheese party. We got the room number from them, and checked into our room. My bad luck with getting my room requests fulfilled continues...did NOT get the room on the Epcot side like I had requested. Oh well. At least Lee wasn't getting completely terrorized by the Malevolent Swan this time - all we could see from the room was some swan backside. :-)

We did a quick change and went up to the Grand Villa where the party was being held. It was a very nice spread with plenty of wine and cheese, as well as veggie and fruit trays. We all got a "Mousefest" souvenir wine glass, too. Deb Koma told us there was even cheese in one of the bathrooms, so we had to check that out. :-) We'd toured a Grand Villa not long after the Boardwalk originally opened, but had forgotten how large it was. Three bedrooms and bathrooms, a HUGE laundry room and a very large living room/dining room.

*** Did you know that a Grand Villa will sleep 12 people? And that's not counting floor space in the laundry room!

We had the opportunity to chat with both Debs (Wills and Koma), as well as Andrea and Cathy and Sue H, Donna B, Susan T, and of course JackM. Who was remarkably well-behaved. :-)

At 9:30 we adjourned to the balcony to watch Illuminations, though of course we could only see the fireworks. DebK and Lee provided the music, though. :-)

We hadn't actually had dinner at all and by then we were *very* hungry. We said goodbye and thank you to our wonderful hostesses, Deb Wills and Shontell Crawford (of dvcbyresale.com - we bought a DVC resale from her a couple of years ago), made arrangements to meet DebK the next morning, and went off to find *food*. Fortunately Big River Grille was still serving even though it was after 10:00, and we had a good dinner. I do like the food there - it's not fancy, but I've always enjoyed everything that I've eaten there. I had the Hazelnut Chicken, which was quite good - very moist and tender. Lee had the Mahi Mahi Caesar Salad, and he enjoyed that. After dinner we went back to our room and unpacked and went to bed. Lee had been on the east coast most of the week already (he flew home Friday night, got home at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, then of course headed east again on Sunday!), so he was already mostly on east coast time. We were both pretty tired by then.

Woo hoo! of the day - the wine and cheese party, and getting to visit with people I would have otherwise missed seeing this trip.

Disappointment of the day - taking all day to fly from the west coast, and not having time to do anything in the parks.

Pet peeve of the day - people who insist on pulling their rolling bags down the aisles of airplanes where they get hung up on the seats, and generally slow things down. CARRY THEM!!!


Monday - Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom

Woke up to a beautiful day, though a bit chilly. I brought a pedometer with me on this trip and clipped that on before we left the room - I was curious as to how far apart things are and how much we *really* walk during our trips here. We had a quick breakfast at the Boardwalk Bakery, and went to the International Gateway to meet Deb. She was a little early, and we were on our way.

First stop was Mission Space, which was completely new to us. I opted out of riding it at the end (I didn't want to risk feeling sick on my first day of vacation!), but Deb and Lee rode it. Deb had ridden it before and is rather underwhelmed, while Lee thought it was interesting and innovative but the close quarters made him rather claustrophobic, especially during the launch. He's not convinced that it's the kind of thing most people are going to want to do over and over - Kenny Cottrell notwithstanding. :-)

*** Did you know that Kenny Cottrell has ridden Mission Space over 300 times?

While I was waiting for them I sent an "Alien Abduction" postcard, and watched people as they came off the ride. For the most part people *weren't* talking and happy and excited like I would expect if they'd had a great experience - most people had that neutral expression that looked more like they were walking off the subway or an airplane.

After Deb and Lee came out the three of us played the "Mission Simulator" game. We were on the "Mission Control" team for Team Triton, and our group ended up defeating Team Orion, with a 98% efficiency rate. That was fun.

The three of us sent an Internet postcard from Innoventions, and went over to The Land to see Food Rocks, since it will be closing for good in January.

*** Did you know that they are building "Soarin' Over California" next to "The Land", and Food Rocks is going to be turned into part of the queue area?

By then Lee was really starting to not feel well - some combination of Mission Space, the cold he'd had for a week, and drinking wine the night before after being dehydrated from flying. We had 11 minutes to kill before show time, so he laid down on the benches in the waiting area.

Food Rocks is a cute show, and I think the concept (and the lyrics) are very clever, but I can't say that I'm going to miss it. I do wish that Disney was doing a new and different film with "Soarin'" rather than reusing the California film...though "Soarin' Over Florida" probably wouldn't be very interesting. :-) They could do "Soarin' over America" or something like that, though. Oh well.

Deb had a lunch appointment, so she had to leave...we all walked out the International Gateway together. Lee decided to go back to the room and lay down in hopes that he'd feel better later. I walked to the Beach Club with Deb and said goodbye (and saw Deb Wills again, too!) and went back to Epcot and wandered around for a while.

I was a little disappointed in the Christmas decorations at Epcot - there are definitely fewer of them this year. The village at the miniature railroad has always been decorated for Christmas but it wasn't, and the big nutcracker that's usually in Germany wasn't there. And there is no Cast in Bronze this year - the "rock group" that performs with the carillon. We wondered what they were going to do at the tree lighting ceremony without Cast in Bronze to provide the music...and if you're curious too, stay tuned...it'll be in a future installment. :-)

I saw two performances of the Voices of Liberty - they are dressed as Dickens carolers this time of year and singing holiday music. I really wish they would find a new Hanukkah song, though - in seven years of seeing them during December I've heard the same Hanukkah song in every set. I still enjoyed their performances, though.

*** Did you know that there's a huge gingerbread house in the Liberty Tavern that sells cookies? We always meant to try them and never did.

In between Voices of Liberty performances I saw "La Befana", the holiday storyteller in Italy - but there will be much more detail on the storytellers in another part of this trip report. I wandered through a new exhibit in the Japan pavilion, featuring Tin Toys. I always loved wind-up toys, and they had a wide variety in the exhibit. Lots of robots, which I'm sure my brother would have enjoyed seeing.

I got Fish and Chips for lunch in the UK, and saw Father Christmas while I was eating. By then I thought it was time to check on Lee and walked back to the Boardwalk - only to find him sitting at a table outside Spoodles finishing a meatball sandwich. He was feeling a lot better, fortunately.

It was oh, 2:30 or so by then...we made a brief stop back at the room to check on the schedule for the new "Wishes" fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. Good thing, because it turns out that tonight and Wednesday night would be our only opportunities to see it. We decided to head over to the Animal Kingdom and then to Magic Kingdom.

We drove to Animal Kingdom and walked right onto a jeep at Kilimanjaro Safaris. It wasn't the best safari we've ever had, but we did get to see the baby elephant - very cute! And an impala very leisurely crossed the road in front of us, then started bouncing when it got into the grass on the other side. :-) We also saw zebras out in the distance. We haven't seen zebras in a LONG time - we'd heard that they bullied a lot of the other animals - so we wondered if they have a separate area for them now.

*** Did you know that termite mounds are hard as concrete? :-)

As we exited the Safari we saw one of the bachelor gorillas - he's BIG! And it looked like he was posing for "Playgorilla". :-)

By then it was time for the Jamming Jungle parade. We think there's some new "animal puppets" in it...we didn't remember seeing the peacock or the vulture before. Stitch, who was dressed in a Santa outfit, got a fair bit of attention from the participants again, though not as much as when we were here in March - when Chip and Dale tried to steal him. :-)

We caught the last show of "Festival of the Lion King" - they have fully enclosed (and air-conditioned) the theater since we last saw it. I'm sure it's much more comfortable on those hot Florida days now! In addition the lighting is much more dramatic now that you're not seeing daylight behind the performers. We sat in the Elephant section - I don't think we've ever been there before. The Tumble Monkeys are still my favorites. :-)

The show ended a little after 5:00, at which point the park was closed. We walked back to the car and decided to drive back to the Boardwalk and catch the bus to Magic Kingdom, hoping to arrive in time to see the SpectroMagic parade. Our timing was good, as a bus arrived about 5 minutes later, and we were able to get into the park before the parade started. We were hungry and stopped in Adventureland to get egg rolls at the egg roll cart - they are quite good. We found a pretty good spot for the parade in Frontierland, though we were just on the border between two sound zones, and the sound overlapped a bit. Though once the parade started the music was loud enough we couldn't really hear much from the other zone. I still think I prefer the Main Street Electrial Parade, but Spectro looks good after its fairly recent rehab.

*** Did you know that SpectroMagic starts at Main Street and ends in Frontierland?

Lee had the brilliant idea to NOT fight the crowds headed back to Main Street for "Wishes", but instead to take the long way through Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. I'd read on the RADP newsgroup that the bridge between the hub and Tomorrowland was a pretty good spot. Our view of the castle was obstructed, but we had a good view of the fireworks and Tinker Bell's flight.

And the show itself...Wow. It was terrific!!! I can't say I really cared that much for the music, but the fireworks were marvelous. After the show Lee and I both said that we wanted to try and come back on Wednesday night to see it again, and get a spot on Main Street where we would be able to see the castle with the fireworks above it. There's some wonderful lighting on the castle during the show, but from our perspective the fireworks were way off to the right and the castle was blocked by trees.

We decided to take the monorail over to Epcot, but since we are not used to leaving Magic Kingdom at closing time we were dismayed to see the line - it was *huge*. But it kept moving and we were on a monorail less than 10 minutes after exiting the park. We were really very impressed by their efficiency in getting everyone loaded and keeping the line moving.

Fortunately there weren't nearly that many people going from the TTC to Epcot (and yes, we *did* break our first rule of vacation, "Avoid the TTC"), and before too long we were on the next monorail to Epcot.

The first order of business was *food*! :-) Since we didn't get our usual first evening meal at Tangierine Cafe the previous night we did it tonight. Lee had the Lamb platter and I had the chicken Shawarama sandwich - the chicken was pretty moist and spiced a little differently than usual - it was quite tasty.

We had Tigger and Stitch, both dressed in their Santa outfits, sitting on the table people-watching, and quite a few people smiled at them or commented on them as they went by. One guy asked Lee where he'd gotten the "Santa Stitch", and Lee had to tell him you couldn't get him at Disney - you just had to go to a craft store that sells clothing for teddy bears and buy a Santa outfit. :-) We wonder how many of those passersby who *didn't* ask us are now going to be asking Disney cast members where they can buy a Santa Stitch. :-)

After dinner we walked by the America Gardens theater where the Candlelight Procesional was going on, and we stood at the back of the theater and listed to most of the rest of it. The narrator was Ericka Dunlap. (Who?? She's Miss America 2004.) She did ok, though she messed up a couple of lines.

We circumnavigated World Showcase and ended up back in front of Morocco again for Illuminations. Our view was somewhat blocked by trees, but it's not like we haven't seen the show before. :-) One thing that was new to us, it appears the lighting on the Japan pavilion has changed, and in addition to the white lights that outline it, there are some colored lights on the interior. They looked very pretty.

There were a LOT of people exiting the park via the International Gateway - we don't remember ever seeing that many before. We were ready for dessert so we stopped at Seashore Sweets and got a couple of chocolate milkshakes - they did a good job with them and they were nice and thick - I don't like runny milkshakes.

*** Did you know that in addition to ice cream cones and soft serve non-fat frozen yogurt, Seashore Sweets also serves sundaes, malts, floats, and milkshakes?

We'd put Christmas lights up on our balcony, and we went around by the "quiet pool" to see how they looked - they looked good. As far as we could see, we were the only ones at the Boardwalk who had lights...too bad that we weren't in a room where more people could see them.

And that was it for our first day - not bad! We closed down three different parks, did a new ride (well, Lee did, at least), and saw a new fireworks show.

Mileage for the day: 7.5 miles, 16241 steps.
Various distances:
Our room to Boardwalk Bakery: .15 miles
American Adventure to Boardwalk Villas entrance: .48
International Gateway to Boardwalk Villas entrance: .25
Boardwalk Lobby to the parking lot: .14
Monorail exit to Morocco: .6

Woo hoo! of the day - the new Wishes fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. Awesome.

Disappointment of the day - no "Cast in Bronze" at Epcot, and that Deb's trip and ours didn't overlap a little more.

Pet peeve of the day - Double wide strollers...especially the people who insist on pushing two double wide strollers side-by-side. Can you say "rolling roadblock"?


Other Links

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Epcot's Holiday Storytellers
Tigger's Christmas Carols
Holidaze with Tigger and Stitch
Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation page


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

Laura Gilbreath lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 12/31/03