Oct 2013: Walt Disney World – Trip Report

Photos

Before the Trip

For this trip, we wanted to meet up with my brother Allan, who makes regular trips to Disney World, and my mom, who lives a couple of hours away. After going back and forth between the best weeks to go and when Allan could take time off, we decided on the week of October 21. As we started to make plans, we enlisted the help of our neighbor Courtney Agnello who is an agent with Off to Neverland Travel. This worked out well for us, though we probably could have taken more advantage of it. We were lucky enough to get a personalized PIN offer for the Disney Dining Plan for free. Of course, this saved us a good amount of money. They did offer it to the public later, as we expected they would, but it was nice to “have it in our pocket” already. (Courtney was able to make our reservation and have it added right when it came.) She also helped us by looking at some hotels near Legoland, where we were headed on Sunday. In the end, with free dining, it made more sense to spend the whole time at the Caribbean Beach Resort anyway.

In terms of planning, if you look the trip report for our trip in 2009, you’ll notice many similarities. That trip had worked out well, so we figured we’d use it as a base for this one. Of course, as we were meeting with my mom and brother, we all came together with a plan. While we would spend a good chunk of time all together, we also had time apart. All in all, it worked out well. One thing different this trip is that we didn’t spend the weekend with at my mom’s place as she was coming down to Orlando. Instead, we spend Saturday at the hotel and Sunday at Legoland (about an hour away).

Saturday 10/19: Getting there and the resort

On the plane to FloridaI was able to work it out with my boss such that I left work at the normal time on Thursday, drive home that night, and then work from home on Friday. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get home, but it ended up being a reasonable drive. I was home by 11:00 or so even with spending 15-20 minutes getting dinner along the way. Being home on Friday enabled us to spend some time packing and not have to do it all after I got home from Boston (normally around 8:30 if I drive or 9:45 if I take the train). As a bonus, I was able to attend Kyle’s Cub Scout pack meeting Friday.

The main reason for me heading down to New Jersey late Thursday was our Saturday morning flight. Normally we fly out of Newark, which is only 25-30 minutes from our house. Instead, we elected to fly from JFK, 50-60 minutes from our house, as it was about $200 less expensive per person. We decided the inconvenience was worth it. In addition, our flight was at 8 AM to give us time to relax in Florida. An 8:00 flight an hour from our house meant getting up at 4:15 and leaving around 6. The drive there was okay, though I got a bit anxious as they were doing construction on the approach to the Verrazano-Narrows bridge leading to a backup (at 5:30 AM!). In the end, we got to the (off-site) parking lot just past 6 and to the terminal around 6:20. This would have been fine aside from the fact that we ended up at the wrong terminal (Delta has 2) and had to take the shuttle bus between them. It was a bit hectic at the gate. I did manage to get Kyle to the bathroom and grab a couple of things for breakfast for Suzanne and I, but it was still a rush.

The flight itself was fine. A bit bumpy at times. We ended up landing around 10 minutes early. For this trip, we decided to take the Disney Magical Express bus to the hotel. It worked out very well. Part of this is that you get special luggage tags and they pick up your bags and deliver them to your room, so you don’t have to wait. While we had taken it from Disney World a couple of times, this was the first time taking from the airport. We had to wait about 15 minutes. Once on the bus, we got lucky as Caribbean Beach Resort was the first drop off. At CBR, we had done online-checkin so it was pretty quick. Funnily enough, Allan had checked in with the same clerk earlier and gotten rooms that were supposed to be right across the courtyard from each other. They weren’t, but they weren’t that far away. (She also thought they were both on the second floor and they weren’t.) We were all checked in just before noon. We then waited for the internal shuttle bus to our room. It took a while. In terms of the room, it was fine. The location was kind of far, being way out on the back corner of Jamaica (building 41). Usually it was okay (especially as it was often the first stop coming back from the parks), but it was a bit of a trek to Old Port Royale, where the restaurants, shops, and main pool are.

Down the slideAfter settling in a bit and changing into bathing suits, we headed over to Old Port Royale food court for lunch. (We also got our refillable mugs, included as part of the dining plan.) We then headed to the main pool for a long swim. Kyle had a great time and loved the slides. However, he was very disappointed that he was too big for the kiddie play section. (He had loved this last time.) They had a pool party going on for the kids with some games which was nice, though Kyle wasn’t interested. After spending a good couple of hours here, we headed back toward the room, crossing Caribbean Cay. In front of Jamaica, we stopped on the beach to let Kyle play while I relaxed on a hammock. While here, my mom and Allan came over the bridge and we met up. It was great to see everyone. After spending some time at the beach, we headed back to the room to unpack (as we were going to be there for eight nights) and get ready for dinner.

For dinner, we met my mom and drove over to the Beach Club Resort to eat at Cape May Cafe. This is somewhere we wanted to try as it’s a seafood buffet. (Allan was off on his own anyway.) While it does get mixed reviews, we thought it was good. Personally, I liked most of the seafood. While I never ate steamers (steamed clams) growing up I tried a few here and they were delicious. I could have eaten more, but there was lots of other stuff to try. After eating, we headed back to the hotel. I went out and took some nighttime photos around the resort while Kyle got a bath. We then turned in for a relatively early night after our very early morning.

Sunday 10/20: Legoland

Kyle has a Lego DVD that includes a preview of Legoland Florida. Of course, being the Lego fanatic that he his, Kyle really wanted to go. As it’s only a hour or so from Orlando, we decided to make the trip. (We borrowed my mom’s car to do so.) The drive down was fine and easy. We arrived just after they opened at 9 and walked right in. We rushed through most of the park to start at the back at the driving school. (Suzanne had read it can get busy here later in the day.) On this attraction, the kids watch a driver ed video and then get to drive around a course. They’re supposed to follow the traffic laws, but as Kyle was the only one during his session, he had mixed success at this. Next up was the boating school, where Kyle and I drove a boat around a loop while Suzanne watched. It was actually much harder to steer than it seemed it would be.

Kyle & Mom building his race carAfter a couple of more rides, Kyle spend some time in the Hero Factory building area, which he loved. (Again, he was lucky to be the only one there.) Next up was the race car building area where Kyle got to build and test cars. At this point, it looked light it was going to rain (and we felt a few drops) and was getting near lunch time. We headed down to the Market Restaurant for lunch. It was actually quite good and the variety was nice. (I had roast chicken and Suzanne had stir-fry.

After lunch, it was time for the Battle for Brickbeard’s Bounty pirate show. Kyle insisted on sitting up front and got completely soaked. If we had known, we would have had him change into his water play clothes. As it was, those became his dry clothes and his “dry” clothes became his water play clothes. This worked okay aside from his shoes as he doesn’t like to walk a lot in his Crocs (which we would have him put on had we known). He did wear them for a bit to let his sneakers not be sloshing wet. After the show, we hit the Brick-or-Treat trail where they were very friendly and generous with the candy. This was a nice bonus.

The Mos Eisley CantinaEarlier, we had rushed though miniland a couple of times. Now we spent some time visting, mostly in the section devoted to Star Wars. Of course, Kyle was thrilled given his love of all things Lego and of Star Wars. (For Christmas/Birthday, he got a new Wii and the Lego Star Wars game – also a big hit.) We then headed up to do some of the other part of the park, hitting the Lost Kingdom of Adventure ride (akin to the Magic Kinhttps://www.sanschagrin.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2413&action=editgdom’s Buzz Lightyear laser shooting ride but themed ala Indiana Jones), the Royal Joust horse ride, and spending a while in the Huntsman’s Hideaway play area. Kyle also played with some Speedorz in the World of Chima section.

After some shopping and some snacks (ice cream and Granny Smith Apple Fries – delicious), we headed back to explore the rest of Miniland. This is the area where several places are built from Legos, including Las Vegas, New York, and Kennedy Space Center. The creativity is incredible as Legos don’t let the builders do a lot of fine detail, but instead they rely on getting across key elements. New York was pretty cool as was DC.

After some water play, which Kyle liked, it was near closing and time to head back to Orlando. All-in-all Legoland was a nice park. I don’t know we would have made a special trip, but it was worth the side trip from Orlando. There was a lot more we could have done, but Kyle really enjoyed it and that was the main purpose. (It did remind me how Disney goes that extra mile. For one thing, we found there could have been more bathrooms.)

Kyle and Suzanne at Dinner at T-RexOnce back in Disney World, we headed right to Downtown Disney for our dinner reservation at T-Rex. We were a bit worried about parking as we had heard it could be a problem due to a good chunk of the lot being closed as they construct a garage. It turns out, it wasn’t too bad, but we did end up parking about as far from the restaurant as one could. We had a nice walk through the western part of the area. On the east side, we stopped by the Lego store so Kyle could get his box of bricks. I think they had even more here than at Legoland. We next hit the World of Disney, the world’s largest Disney store. I found a new hat as the one I brought looked very dingy.

Dinner itself was pretty good. The place had a very cool atmosphere consisting of dinosaurs and ice age animals. Periodically, there’s a meteor shower when the sky lights up and the animals move and make noise. The food was pretty good as well. Partway through our meal, my mom and Allan came to visit as they had had dinner at the nearby Raglan Road Pub. (They said that was excellent.) After dinner and Kyle’s purchase of a stuffed dinosaur (ala Build-A-Bear), all five of us squeezed into my mom’s not so big Honda Insight for the drive back to the hotel. We made plans to meet the next morning at the bus stop.

Monday 10/21: EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom

EPCOT

Grammy & Kyle waiting for Test TrackI was awake early again (I woke up early on Sunday and went for a lovely run around the resort), so I grabbed our mugs and made the morning trip to Old Port Royale for hot chocolate and tea. After a quick breakfast in the room, we met my mom and Allan at the bus stop for the trip to EPCOT. We arrived at the park around 8:30, before opening (“rope drop”).

Our first stop was Test Track as this gets busy pretty quickly. This was our first time on it since the redesign. The whole design your own car thing is pretty neat. Kyle really liked it. It also keeps you occupied during the wait. (Of course, Disney has always been especially good at interesting queues.) Kyle liked most of the ride (as he did in 2009), but wasn’t thrilled with the fast, high-baned turns outside. Next was Mission: Space. I had shown Kyle a YouTube video of the ride and he really wanted to do it. We had Fastpasses, but the wait was only 10 minutes, so all three of us headed for the green “less intense” training. (Suzanne definitely didn’t want to do the orange “more intense” training and we figured Kyle should try the easier one first. The difference is that in the green one the centrifuge doesn’t spin. Truthfully, it’s still pretty exciting.) Kyle absolutely loved it. While Kyle hit the after ride playground, my mom, Allan, and I did the orange before Kyle and I did another run on the green. Kyle decided he might like to try the orange version later.

Biergarten BandAfter this, we headed up into World Showcase. We did a tour through Mexico including the ride. I have always liked this pavilion’s atmosphere. Continuing on, we did a quick wander through Norway (no ride – we never ended up doing it) and headed onto Germany. Here we wandered a bit before checking in for our lunch reservation at the Biergarten restaurant. While I don’t think my brother and mom were thrilled with the food, Suzanne and I really enjoyed it. Kyle didn’t like the spaetzle as it was short and not long. He did have some pretzel bread and mac and cheese. He did like the show. Once done here, we headed back to the front of the park to catch the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Of course, Kyle liked riding it as much as last time.

Magic Kingdom

On Main StreetWe first arrived at the park right at parade time, so heading up Main Street was a bit hectic. We did manage to cross to the correct side of the street to go over to Fronteirland where we had Fastpass+ for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Kyle was very keen to ride this, and we figured it was a good first coaster. (He did ride the one at Sesame Place and didn’t like it, but that several years ago.) While he did okay on the ride, he didn’t really like it and decided he wouldn’t be going again. (I remember several instances of me “wimping” out, probably when I was older than him, on past trips while I was growing up.)

We headed over the Adventureland where Kyle did a couple of rounds of the Pirate’s Adventures game. For this attraction, the kids get a map and a first clue to a location. Once there, they get another clue to another location. After a few more, they discover the lost treasure. It was cute and a fun way to spend some time. Next up was Pirates of the Caribbean (also FP+), which was one of the top things Kyle wanted to do. We finished up just in time to see Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial. We tried to get Kyle to participate, but wasn’t interested. That was fine.

Up CloseNext up was Liberty Square for the Haunted Mansion (FP+). Kyle generally doesn’t like scary things, but loved this, announcing partway through “This is so not intense”. I think the Haunted Mansion ended up being one of his favorite rides along with Pirates and Mission: Space. After sitting through Philharmagic and a spin on the Tea Cups, we headed to Columbia Harbor House for dinner. (My mom and brother headed to Pecos Bill.)

By this time, it was getting on toward time for the Main Street Electrical Parade. Allan knew some good spots, but it was very busy and they were all busy already. We ended up in front of the Disney Vacation Club booth in Frontierland which worked out okay. It was also nice to talk to the rep as he had lived in New York City. After the parade, my brother and I had planned to stick around to do some photos, but my back was killing me from carry my tripod all day. It was to the point I was starting to not feel well, so we all elected to head back. (Of course, I never used my tripod and this would have been the time.)

Back at the resort, Suzanne headed up to OPR for drinks while I helped Kyle with some math homework. While at OPR, Suzanne talked to the concierge about getting a fridge. (While rooms had fridges in the past, basically all the room fridges in all the resort rooms at Disney World had been recalled in the summer for safety reasons. They were working on replacing them, but weren’t done yet.) They were able to find one and deliver it to the room. While it was a bit late, it was great to not have to worry about getting ice a couple of times a day. All in all, it was a great first Disney park day.

Tuesday 10/22: Hollywood Studios

A real must do (or at least must try to do) for this trip was the Jedi Training Academy. In this show, kids are selected to undergo Jedi training, including light sabers, and then have to battle Darth Vader. Instead of simply selecting kids from the audience, you now have to sign up beforehand due to its popularity, and it fills up relatively quickly. (Often all the day’s shows are full by mid-morning.) We knew Kyle would absolutely love it, but didn’t tell him about it beforehand in case we didn’t get in. To up our odds, we decided to get to Hollywood Studios as early as possible, borrowing my mom’s car to drive instead of waiting for the bus. This worked out pretty well as we were at the gates around 8:15 for a 9:00 opening. They kept opening additional lines, so we ended up about third in line to get in. Once the gates opened, Kyle and Suzanne rushed off to the signups (we had mapped the route beforehand) while I rushed up to Toy Story Midway Mania for Fastpasses.

Kyle ended up being the 13th person to sign up and got the first show while I got good Fastpasses for TSMM. This worked out great. While Kyle and Suzanne got ready for the show, I waited by the stage right up front. Kyle loved the show, and we were so happy he was able to do it. Once done, we headed back over to TSMM to use our Fastpasses. We never did this in 2009 due to the waits, so this was our first time. It really is a great ride, though I’m not sure it’s really worth the (often) two hour wait.

After TSMM is was off to another of Kyle’s must dos, Star Tours. He really liked this ride and did it several times this day. Once off the ride, Kyle got to build his custom light saber in the shop. After taking some photos around Star Tours, we wandered through the Streets of America section and around to Pixar Place. Kyle got to meet one of the Green Army Men from Toy Story. He spent quite a bit of time with Kyle, though we felt kind of bad as Kyle was the last kid he visited with before taking a break, so another child was disappointed. We next waited to see Woody and Buzz. It took some time as they were on break for a bit, but the line wasn’t as long as we had seen it at other times. We continued on to the Backlot Tour. I wasn’t sure how interesting this would be for Kyle, but I thought he’d like the Catastrophe Canyon bit and was right. He did end up enjoying the water effects show and seeing some of the Star Wars vehicle props.

Turkey legAfter a good lunch at Fairfax Fare (I had one of Disney’s famous huge smoked turkey legs), we headed back up for another go on Star Tours followed by a rush to make the Indiana Jones show. We had watched some of this on YouTube and Kyle enjoyed it thoroughly. (He’s never seen the actual movies as he’s still a bit young.) We next returned to the Star Wars gift shop so Kyle could build his custom droids. We then met my mom and brother for our Fastpass+ time on Toy Story Midway Mania.

After this, Kyle headed of with my mom and Allan for yet another round of Star Tours (3rd time if you’ve been counting) while Suzanne and I headed down Hollywood Blvd to do a little shopping and take some photos. We met up once again for an early dinner at Mama Melrose’s. We had eaten here in 2009 and it was about the same. The service was kind of poor, taking a long time for most things, even to the point of causing Allan to miss his Fastpass+ time for the Tower of Terror. We were on the Fantasmic! package, where we get special passes for the show along with an appetizer (not normally included) in addition to dessert. They have changed this in that instead of a regular dessert, you get a sampler. This wasn’t nearly as good, especially when split four ways.

After our dinner, Kyle and Suzanne headed for yet another go round on Star Tours while the rest of us headed down toward Sunset Blvd. My mom and I hit the Tower of Terror (on FP+) and then my brother joined us for a go on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (another FP+). Next we headed over to the Fantasmic! show. While we did have our priority seating pass, many of even these sections were full. We did end up with okay seats, much better than if we had shown up without passes. The show itself was great. After the show we headed out. While my brother and mom took the bus back, we had the car. We waited forever for the tram to the parking. After getting to the car, we realized we could have walked in only a few minutes. Oh well. We didn’t do anything back at the hotel, heading to bed.

Wednesday 10/23: EPCOT

Mission: SpaceAfter getting up early and going for a great morning run, we headed out to catch the bus to EPCOT. While we hadn’t planned to be there at rope drop, we made it before opening. Our first stop was another trip on Mission: Space (all of us on green) where we were the only ones on that go round. Kyle got to be commander yet again. Next up was a ride on Living with the Land (Kyle wasn’t as into as last time) and then onto Journey into Imagination. Then it was back to the Living Seas for the Nemo & Friends ride followed by Turtle Talk with Crush. This was as good as it was last time, though Kyle didn’t want to sit up front. After it was back to The Land pavilion for an excellent lunch at Sunshine Seasons.

After lunch, we headed up into World Showcase, stopping on the way to pick up our communicator for Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. In this game, the device, a modified cell phone, gives you clues about where to go in each country to thwart evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s plans. It’s a nice way to get the kids (and, truth be told, adults) to explore more of each country. Our first assignment was in the UK, but we took a swing by Canada first, doing a bit of exploring and shopping.

The UKNext up was the UK where we did our mission, successfully outwitting Doofensmirtz (of course). While there, we also got to see The World Showcase Players put on Cyranose de Bergerac. (Yes, Cyranose.) I wanted to see them as I used to really enjoy Il Teatro di Bologna back in the day. I wasn’t sure Kyle would appreciate it, but he found it hilarious. Up next was another mission in France, where we were again triumphant.

After France, we headed through Morocco and Japan, and walked up to the US. We were just in time for a showing of the American Adventure, which I wanted to make sure we saw as we didn’t last time. Once done, we had a rush back to make our Fastpass+ time at Test Track and another FP+ time on Soarin’. Riding this was kind of cool after watching the Imagineers talk about it on a Disney video on Netflix.

Kyle and the Italian Gondola'sIt was another rushed walk up to our dinner reservation at Tutto Italia. This was quite good, as we had remembered it, both in terms of food and service. After dinner, I took some photos as Kyle and Suzanne worked on his Duffy bear. Once they were done, Kyle and I walked around a bit while Suzanne did some shopping. After Italy, we continued down to China (we had seen Germany before). We then met up with my mom and brother (they had eaten at Saana at Animal Kingdom lodge) at Mission: Space where Kyle tried the orange “more intense” training with the three of us. (Suzanne begged off.) Kyle did okay, but found it a bit too much. (We were proud he tried it.) While we rode, Suzanne visited guest services to add an extra day to our tickets. Aside from them having to call the hotel, it was pretty simple.

IlluminationsWe then found an okay spot near China (most places were already occupied) for Illuminations. This was a good show, and I did get some good photos despite not having my tripod. After the show, Kyle, Suzanne, and my mom headed back to the hotel (stopping at Spaceship Earth on the way), while Allan and I stuck around to do some photography. While I got some decent shots, I was jealous of my brother as he had his tripod. (I thought about bringing mine, but after it nearly killed my back on Monday and the fact it didn’t work all that well in terms of carrying with the backup I was using instead of my camera bag, I decided it wasn’t worth it.) We hit Germany, China, Norway (splurging for a School Bread while there – it was delicious and unique), and Mexico. The last was great as it was empty, so we didn’t have to contend with other guests inside.

Thursday 10/24: Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

Hollywood Studios/Caribbean Beach

We had hoped to let Kyle have more time at the resort pool. Given our expected late night, we decided to let Kyle have his time this morning. Suzanne and Kyle stayed at the resort while I elected to head back for a quick stop at Hollywood Studios to get a few more photos. We made plans to meet up at Animal Kingdom later. Kyle didn’t end up doing any swimming as it had cooled down quite a bit, dropping into the 60s. (I was freezing as I hadn’t brought a decent jacket that wasn’t too heavy.) After saying goodbye to my mom, who was heading back home today, I caught the bus and ended up at rope drop at HS without really planning to. After a ride on Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, I spent some time taking some photos before hitting up the Great Movie Ride (which Kyle never ended up getting to do). I then headed down to the Tower of Terror, taking photos along the way, for one last trip, before heading out.

Animal Kingdom

Kyle in the BoneyardWhile we hadn’t set a time to meet, I was a bit concerned as I was later than I had hoped after waiting for some time for the bus. Funnily enough, I get in line to go through the ticket check and see Suzanne and Kyle three people ahead of me. (Really, this was a complete coincidence.) As they had had a late breakfast at the Old Port Royale food court at the hotel and I hadn’t eaten lunch, they headed off to the Boneyard playground while I stopped at Flame Tree BBQ. While I loved this place last time, Suzanne isn’t a real big BBQ fan, so it worked out well. Kyle also enjoyed an extended visit to the playground.

After meeting back up with Kyle and Suzanne at the boneyard (and borrowing Suzanne’s light jacket), we hit up Triceratops Spin (like the Dumbo ride, but with dinosaurs). Kyle and I then did the Primeval Whirl (a wild mouse style coaster), but Kyle didn’t think too much of it. We then started hitting up a few of the Wilderness Explorer badges. In this activity, kids have to complete educational tasks at stations throughout the park. When they complete them, they get a badge sticker from a cast member to put in their guide book. Kyle managed to get 29 of 30. While he did do the task for the final one, they had shutdown the activity for the day and we weren’t returning to Animal Kingdom this trip. In case you’re wondering, Wilderness Explorers was the Boy Scout-like group Russel belonged to in the movie Up.  While Kyle was working on his badges nearby, I did a quick trip on Expedition Everest via the single rider line. At this point, it was time to head over to the Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day.

PoohMagic Kingdom

Our first stop in the park was at Buzz Lightyear (FP+). Suzanne helped Kyle get a higher score than last time. We then did a spin on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (aka the Peoplemover). Kyle loved this last time (we hit at least five times), but wasn’t that excited about now (we hit it only twice this trip). We next headed back down Main Street to get our Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game cards. In this game, players go to portals where they present cards to defeat Disney villains from taking over the park. Truth be told, it’s a bit confusing, but Kyle enjoyed it enough to play four games, each taking place in a land, between Thursday and Saturday.

We had early reservations at Crystal Palace where Kyle got to meet Winnie the Pooh and his friends Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet. The food here was okay, but it took so long to eat that Kyle and Suzanne had to rush out early to make a Fastpass+ time at the Tomorrowland Speedway. (Kyle couldn’t miss this.) Once Allan and I finished at the restaurant and Kyle and Suzanne finished at the speedway, we met back up for our FP+ time for It’s a Small World and did a Sorcerers game in Fantasyland.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

It was now getting time for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, so Suzanne got Kyle changed into his costume and I put mine on. We were both pirates. I figured Kyle would really like it if we both dressed up alike and wasn’t wrong. After getting our party wristbands (this is a specially ticketed event – guests without tickets have to leave), we headed over to Adventureland to start the evening. One of the highlights is the numerous trick-or-treating stations and trails throughout the park. We started at the one at the Tiki room. After that, we got quite lucky to meet Captain (must not forget that) Jack Sparrow. Kyle loved this. Of course, given that I had my long hair down and had a beard, it was kind of cool and we got some great photos. We stayed in the area to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and do some more trick-or-treating.

HallowishesNext we headed up to Frontierland to do the trick-or-treat trail at Splash Mountain. (Yes, we ended up with quite a bit of candy. I’m pretty sure we still have some at home.) During this, I actually saw at one point that in all five of the photos they were displaying of the ride during the drop (the ones people would buy) had the logs empty. I doubt that happens often. We then did a bunch of walking trying to find a spot for the special party parade without much luck. After a quick jaunt back into Adventureland, where Kyle met Tarzan, Jane, and Terk, we ended up with a decent spot on Main Street for the Hallowishes fireworks show a bit later. Before the show, there is the Celebrate the Magic Show where they light up the castle with different lights and patterns (many from movies) which was cool. The fireworks show itself was also pretty good.

After the show we headed down Main St to get our party specific Sorcerers cards (I guess these are a hot commodity) and then back up to find a spot for the second showing of the parade. It was still quite busy, but we got a decent spot on the curb in Frontierland. The parade was as good as last time. This time, Kyle even got to see it as he has slept through it in 2009.

The Haunted Mansion in it's gloryOnce the parade finished, it was over to the Haunted Mansion which is specially lit and especially spooky for the party. Lenora also comes out and interacts with the guests in line. We then walked through Fantasyland with some trick-or-treating along the way, including heading up into the new section. While there, we hit up Ariel’s ride. (It wasn’t a must do, but the line was non-existent while often quite long during normal hours.) After a ride on the new Dumbo (where I left my, thankfully, inexpensive pirate hat) and a ride on the tea cups, it was closing time, so we headed out. We were surprised Kyle was still going strong as it was past midnight. Once we got back to the room, around 12:30, we all went straight to bed after a long, but very fun day.

Friday 10/25: Animal Kingdom

With Chip & DaleDue to our late night before, we didn’t get going very early. After a long wait for the bus, we finally made it to Animal Kingdom right around 11:00. Our first stop was the It’s Tough to be a Bug show. This was cute and Kyle enjoyed it. Next up was a couple of Wilderness Explorer badges before heading over into Camp Minnie Mickey. After a wait to visit Chip and Dale, we headed to the Festival of the Lion King show. We had Fastpass+’s, but they proved not useful as there was no line to get in and the seats weren’t special in any way.

After the show, we headed up into Asia for lunch at Yak & Yeti Counter Service (also know as the Amandpour Local Food Cafes). We quite like this place, though it took some time to get our food as the register in our line couldn’t ring up Kyle’s french fries as a snack credit. After lunch, we headed up and did the Maharajah Jungle Trek, passing by part of the Kali River Rapids on the way. Next up, I met with my brother and we hit up Expedition Everest a couple of times (utilizing our FP+ and then Suzanne and Kyle’s), including one trip in front. Kyle and Suzanne headed down to the Boneyard for some more playing time.

We then made plans with Allan to meet up in a bit and the three of us headed off to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. We had a nice visit here. (Better than in 2009 when Kyle had a pretty severe meltdown.) After riding the train back, we hit the Pangani Forest Trail. While I got some great gorilla photos here last time, I wasn’t so lucky this time. We met up with Allan again for our FP+ time for the Kilimanjaro Safari. We had explicitly decided to go quite late, but I think it was actually too late as we didn’t see many animals. Once done, we walked around Africa a bit. Kyle spent a while playing on the drums which he loved. Dinner was at Tusker House which we had quite enjoyed in 2009 and did so once again.

We had purposefully made our reservations late, so by the time we finished, we got to head out of the park after closing. This was pretty cool and we got some good photos. We were concerned about getting back to the hotel, but they had a long line of buses ready to go upon request. We had the bus to ourselves, which was cool. Back at the hotel, we just hung out a bit before hitting the sack after a good day.

Saturday 10/26: Magic Kingdom

Kyle at the fortOur last full day in Disney. We made it the park just a few minutes after rope drop. (All told, if we include this day, I made five rope drops during the week.) Our first stop was a trip on the Haunted Mansion at Kyle’s request. I then did a quick ride on Big Thunder Mountain before we all headed to Tom Sawyer’s Island. Kyle wasn’t real sure what this was about, but ended up absolutely loving it. His favorite was spot was Fort Langhorne. (I remember liking this as a kid as well.) After spending two hours there, Kyle still didn’t want to leave.

Carousel of ProgressWe did a quick round of the Sorcerers game in Adventureland and then headed to lunch at Cosmic Ray’s. The food here was pretty good, especially the toppings bar. It was also nice to be able to get a green apple slushie as a Dining Plan drink instead of the standard soda. Once done, we did another spin on Buzz Lightyear followed by the Carousel of Progress. It was cool to see the latter as I hadn’t been in 2009 or even during our one day trip in 2007, so it had been many years. We then did the Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor which was very cute and which we hadn’t done before. While I finally got to do a spin on Space Mountain, Suzanne and Kyle did another trip on the Tomorrowland Speedway. After crossing the park again, which we did many times, we hit up the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Kyle really liked this, enough to want to borrow the movie from the library when we returned home. After a spin on the Jungle Cruise, first time for Kyle as we skipped it in 2009, we were back on Pirates yet again. We followed this by a round of the Sorcerers game in Frontierland/Liberty Square.

MickeyAt this point, it was time to head out to catch the monorail to the Contemporary to meet Allan for our dinner reservations at Chef Mickey’s. We spent some time around the resort as we arrived with a bit to spare. Dinner itself was decent enough. The food wasn’t spectacular, but was okay. Kyle enjoyed seeing the big five characters (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto), so it was worth it for that.

After the short walk back to the Magic Kingdom and saying goodbye to my brother (though we coincidentally saw him again on the bus back to the hotel and at the hotel the next morning), we headed back to Fantasyland to hit The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Kyle really liked this last time, but wasn’t as excited this trip. (This isn’t surprising considering he was three then and seven now.) Next up was another round of the Sorcerers game on Main St and a last spin on the People Mover before heading back to the room, where we did a bunch of packing and organizing to be ready for the next day.

Sunday 10/27: EPCOT and Heading Home

SpacesuitsThis was our day to head home. We did our last minute packing before bringing our luggage over to the Customs House to check in for our flight. (This is a great perk of staying at a Disney resort. Even the bags can be checked, so we didn’t have to worry about them until we collected them at JFK.) As we boarded the bus to head out to EPCOT, we ran into Allan as he was heading to Old Port Royale for breakfast, so we got one more chance to say goodbye.

MoroccoArriving at EPCOT around 10:00, pretty good considering we had to deal with our final packing and checking out, we hit Test Track followed by all of us hitting Mission: Space (green). Next up, we headed into World Showcase, where Suzanne got some fish and chips at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop (UK). We then stopped by Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie (France) to get some pastries with some our remaining dining plan snack credits and a sandwich with an extra quick service credit for a later dinner. For lunch, I grabbed a yummy chicken schwarma at Tangierine Café (Morocco; I highly recommend this as a quick service stop) while Kyle and Suzanne headed up to the US to finish his Duffy bear and for his lunch (noodles at Liberty Inn). A quick stop in Germany and more snack credits were spent on some excellent caramels at Karamel Kuche. Unfortunately, by now, it was time to head back to the resort for the ride to the airport. Kyle and I did do once last spin on Spaceship Earth since I hadn’t made it before.

Kyle & Suzanne in MoroccoBack at the resort, we got our carry on bags that we had left with bell services and caught the Magical Express bus to the airport. It was sad to go after such a good trip, but we couldn’t stay forever. The ride back to the airport was uneventful. We had extra time, so Suzanne and Kyle hit some of the shops before we all went through security. After grabbing some Wendy’s for Kyle and Suzanne and me eating my French ham and cheese baguette, we boarded. The flight home was uneventful and we arrived basically on time. We grabbed our bags, took the shuttle to the parking lot, and made the drive home.

Summary & Reviews

Summary

Paul relaxing on the beachWe had a very good trip. Our first day plan worked out very well, giving us a nice period of time to relax. Our side trip to Legoland also worked out well. It was worth the hour drive each way, especially since we already had so much time slated for the Disney parks. In terms of planning, we basically used our trip from 2009 as a basis. We flipped a few things around, but really only heading earlier to Hollywood Studios to give us some back up days in case Kyle couldn’t do the Jedi Training Academy. The schedule worked out pretty well. We saw everything we wanted to, multiple times in some cases.

As a resort guest, we were able to be part of the Magicband/Fastpass+ trial. The bands themselves worked well for us. (My brother had some issues, but his ticketing was a bit more complex than ours.) We used them for park entry, dining plan credits, room charging, and Photopass photos. We did have one case, at Yak & Yeti counter service, where the couldn’t read them. While we also had our cards, the cashier couldn’t charge a snack credit to the card, so we had to do it in a different line. In terms of Fastpass+, it worked out okay. It was nice to have the big things already done instead of running for standard Fastpasses. However, it did constrain us a bit more. In several instances, we ended up rushing from one side of the park to the other to make our FP+ time. That said, we had the best of both worlds as we could (and did) still use standard Fastpasses in addition to FP+.

In terms of the week we went, it worked out pretty well. We were basically limited by my brother’s ability to take vacation, Halloween, and wanting to go before it was too cool to swim. The crowds weren’t bad, but were certainly heavier than in 2009. (This isn’t surprising given the improved economy.) In terms of the weather, the first part of the week was great and warm. Starting Wednesday evening, it got quite a bit cooler, to the point where Kyle didn’t swim Thursday morning as planned and light jackets/sweatshirts came in handy, especially Friday morning. We didn’t have any measurable rain that affected us, so that was nice.

Hotel

Old Port Royale at nightWe liked the Caribbean Beach Resort as much as last time. The main pool is great, and Kyle really enjoyed the slides this time. It was unfortunate that he couldn’t use the play area as he was too big. A 48 inch cutoff seems a bit short. We did spend time at the beach, though not as much as last time. One item not as nice this time was the location as we were quite a bit further from Old Port Royale, being at the far edge of Jamaica. This was especially less than ideal given that we had refillable mugs as part of the dining plan this time. In truth, I did clock the walk one morning and it was nine minutes, so it really wasn’t that bad. (Normally, I would be up early and do a mug run quite early.)

Dining

Norwegian BakeryDining Plan: We had used the dining plan in 2009 as well (it was free then as well), so we had a good handle on how it works. As last time, it forces you to have a fairly restricted plan to get reservations at the table service restaurants. This is fine by us. Of course, like last time, we ended up eating more than we normally would have, especially at counter service places where desserts were included. Given that it’s “free”, it’s worth it. (It’s not really free as they generally offer a room discount as an alternative offer.) If it hadn’t been free, it’s quite possible we would have dropped it. (We did book our trip with it, figuring we could drop it later if we decided to.) I didn’t do a detailed cost comparison as I did last time, but I’m pretty sure we would have paid more for the food we ate than we did for the plan. I just don’t think we would have gotten everything we did if we had had to pay for it. It does make it nice to not have to worry about what things cost, but you do find yourself not wanting to get the “cheap” meal at times in order to maximize the plan value.

Restaurant Quick Reviews

Old Port Royale food court (Caribbean Beach; lunch): Decent enough food. Desserts were nice in that you could get something from the Grab-and-Go bakery section. I had the jerk chicken sandwich (wanted the mojo pork but it was dinner only), Suzanne had chicken marsala, and Kyle had the kids chicken nuggets, which came in a cute sand pail with a shovel.

Cape May Cafe (Beach Club; seafood buffet; dinner): While it gets mixed reviews, we thought it was pretty good. Suzanne wanted to try the mac and cheese which she had heard was excellent (it was). The crab legs, one of the highlights, were good, but I loved the steamers (steamed clams).

T-Rex (Downtown Disney; dinner): Pretty good food. I had a full rack of ribs, Suzanne had a T-bone steak, and Kyle had noodles. One nice thing was we could get smoothies, Icee drinks, or fresh strawberry-lemonade (which was very good) with our meal. (Kyle didn’t like his, so we ended up getting him a milk.) The atmosphere is a bit chaotic, so it’s not the place for a peaceful dinner.

Biergarten (EPCOT; Germany; buffet; lunch): This was a “must do” for us as we really liked it last time. It was still good and reasonably authentic German food. The rote grütze and vanillasoße were very good. I don’t think my mom and brother were thrilled, but I think that was more the style of food. The band was about the same as last time.

Columbia Harbor House (MK; dinner): We have always been happy with eating here. I had the grilled salmon which was pretty good while Suzanne had shrimp. We both go lemonade slushie which was nice. The peach cobbler dessert was good. Kyle had the chicken nuggets.

Fairfax Fare (HS; lunch): This proved to be an excellent choice in a park not known for it’s counter service food. I got to have one of Disney’s famous giant turkey legs (excellent) while Suzanne had a mac-n-cheese hot dog. Kyle had mac-n-cheese.

Mama Melrose’s (HS; dinner): We were here on the Fantasmic! package, so we got an appetizer with our meal. I had the mussels and the strip steak (both very good). Suzanne had the calamari (good, but the sauce was spicy) and the steak. Kyle had, what else, noodles. Dessert was a sampler that we were less than impressed with. While the food was good, the service was somewhat lackluster, taking a long time for drink refills, etc.

Sunshine Seasons (EPCOT; lunch): One of the better counter service places in Disney (in our opinion). The food here is quite good as are the options. I had the steak and blue sandwich and Suzanne had the pork chop. Kyle had mac & cheese. Especially good here are the desserts as you get a choice from the bakery section.

Tutto Italia (EPCOT; Italy; dinner): Another hit from 2009. I had the lasagna and Suzanne had the polenta valsugana (polenta with braised short ribs). Kyle had noodles. Mine was good lasagna, but Suzanne’s was excellent. The desserts (tiramisu and cannoli) were also excellent.

Old Port Royale (CBR; breakfast): Suzanne and Kyle ate here and found it fine. Both had Mickey waffles.

Flame Tree BBQ (AK; lunch): Decent enough bbq, especially for fast food. I had the chicken and ribs combo and key lime pie for dessert.

Chef Mickeys (MK; character buffet; dinner): Food here was decent enough. Nothing really stands out. It did take a long time; Suzanne and Kyle had to leave a bit early to make a FP+ at Tomorrowland Speedway. The character interaction was good.

Yak & Yeti Counter Service (AK; lunch): Another favorite from 2009 and still good. I had the Mongolian beef and a frozen lemonade and Suzanne had the honey chicken and chocolate cake. Kyle only had french fries.

Tusker House (AK; buffet; dinner): Yet another 2009 favorite. We really liked this last time and it was the same this time. Possibly my favorite meal of the trip. Their offerings are different and very good.

Cosmic Ray’s (MK; lunch): First time we’ve eaten here (on any trip). Food was pretty good. I had the chicken and ribs and an apple slushie (nice alternative to soft drink). Suzanne had a grilled chicken sandwich. Kyle had chicken nuggets. The toppings bar was nice as I could basically make a salad. It does have a hectic feel as was busy.

Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary; character buffet; dinner): The food here was okay. (I recall the ribs were pretty good). Kyle loved the make your own sundae station. The character interaction was pretty good. (Kyle got to see Goofy twice and Mickey and Minnie passed by a second time.)

Yorkshire County Fish Shop (EPCOT; UK; lunch): Only Suzanne ate here. Really good fish and chips (the only option).

Tangerine Cafe (EPCOT; Morocco; lunch): Only I ate here. I had the chicken schwarma platter which was excellent and very large. Dessert was excellent baklava. Having never eaten here before, I’m disappointed I hadn’t made sure to do so earlier. (Suzanne isn’t a big fan of Middle-Eastern style food, but I think she may have liked it.)

Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie (EPCOT; France; dinner): I picked up a ham and cheese baguette for later at the airport with an extra counter service credit we had. It was really, really good, the bread being just right, crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Of course, the dessert/snack selections are phenomenally good as well.

Attractions

Animal Kingdom: Boneyard, Triceratops Spin, Primeval Whirl (Kyle & Paul), Expedition Everest (Paul 3x), It’s Tough to be a Bug, Festival of the Lion King, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Pangani Trail, Kilimanjaro Safari, Wilderness Explorer (29 badges)

EPCOT: Mission: Space (Paul 4x green, 2x orange; Suzanne 3x green; Kyle 1x orange, 4x green), Test Track (3x), Nemo & Friends, Turtle Talk, Living with the Land, Soarin’, Journey Into Imagination, Gran Fiesta Tour (Mexico), The American Adventure

Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Midway Mania (2x), Star Tours (Paul 2x, Suzanne 3x, Kyle 4x), Backlot Tour, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Paul 2x), Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Paul 2x), The Great Movie Ride (Paul), Jedi Academy (Kyle), Fantasmic!

Magic Kingdom: Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean (3x), Pirate’s Adventure (2 rounds), Big Thunder Mountain RR (Paul 2x, Kyle 1x), Tom Sawyer’s Island, Haunted Mansion (3x), It’s A Small World, Philharmagic, Mad Tea Cups, The Little Mermaid Ride, Dumbo, Tomorrowland Speedway (Kyle & Suzanne 2x), Tomorrowland Transit Authority (2x), Buzz Lightyear (2x), Carousel of Progress, Space Mountain (Paul), Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (4? rounds)

 

 

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