Arrived at Orlando International Airport before 5:30am. Grabbed some breakfast then boarded a waiting Magical Express bus to Beach Club. Checked in and lucked out with an open room. Dropped our carry-ons and then ventured out for the day. It had started to drizzle as we made our way to the bus. Headed for the Animal Kingdom guest relations to upgrade my Disneyland annual pass to a Premiere Pass. This failed since Disneyland was not open so they let us in and said we would have to come back. We ended up out in Africa and decided to go on Safari. It had a posted 10 minute wait which translated to a walk on. Once back headed to the new Festival of the Lion King theatre to catch the 10:00am performance. After the show walked back to guest relations to wrap up upgrading my pass. Finally with a new pass in hand and linked to my Magic Band set off for lunch. It was still raining and cool so opted to visit Dinoland and eat inside for a quick fast food lunch. After lunch the rest of the group headed back to the room and I set off to play in the rain. Walked by Everest, only a 10 min wait, and through Asia. Paid a visit to the Jungle Trek then walked through the Flame Tree dining area and back toward the entrance. Decided to try my luck and head for the Magic Kingdom. Turned out to be just as rainy and cold there. Wandered down Main Street and to the hub to catch some of the Christmas parade performance. Roamed around the hub area trying to stay out of the rain and catch the performance. Eventually headed for Tomorrowland and a spin on the Carousel of Progress then back to the hub. They eventually wrapped it up and I circled through Fantasyland, past the Dwarfs mine coaster, and out to Liberty Square. Grabbed some Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards then decided to visit the Tiki Birds to dry off a bit. After the show found a spot for the Festival of Fantasy parade in Frontierland and waited to see if the rain let up (which it did). Watched the parade and then headed for Main Street. Watched some of the parade again from here then made my way to the bus stop and onto the Hollywood Studios. Ate dinner at Pizza Planet on my way to see the Osborne Lights. Spent some time roaming around the Streets of America taking pictures then stopped by the Wandering Oaken's Trading Post right before the parked closed at 8pm. After closing headed for the parking lot for a ride from a friend over to Epcot. As we walked in decided to try for Illuminations FastPass+ and succeeded. So had time for a journey on Spaceship Earth then off to World Showcase Lagoon for Illuminations. After the show walked around World Showcase to the International Gateway and returned to the Beach Club to conclude my first day.
Thoughts & Observations:
- Arrived to a cold, rainy, and dark Orlando this morning. We arrived a few minutes early and no problems with the flight. Grabbed a quick breakfast from a nearly empty food court then headed for the Magical Express. This morning there were a few other groups that were directed onto the waiting buses. We had to share our bus unlike previous trips where we had our own. We were on our way to WDW within a few minutes though.
- Arrived at the Beach Club and it was just starting to get light outside. Checked in with no problem and as luck would have it a room was ready. We hiked out to the room, it was at the far end of the hotel. We had a great view of a roof. We ended up going back to the front desk to see if there was a closer room or one with at a view of something besides a roof. They moved us down the hall a few rooms and over to the other side. In the end a much better view but still a long walk. The cast member at the front desk was very helpful but options were limited with a standard room unless we wanted to wait and try out luck later in the day. We opted for the partial pool view room and hike since it was ready.
- Great bus luck today. We walked out and within a minute a bus pulled up to take us to the Animal Kingdom. Same thing happened for me later in the day to get to the other parks. Knew I would pay for this at some point but I enjoyed it while it lasted.
- I needed to upgrade my Disneyland Annual Pass to a Premiere so I could use it at Walt Disney World (and get my room discount, etc..). The process is always slow and today was no exception. Went to a guest relations window outside Animal Kingdom and was told they could not do the upgrade until Disneyland opened because they need to call and get my pass price and expiration. Guess they have no computer system to check. So they issued me a comp ticket to get into the park and said to come back later. This took a good 20-25 min to do.
- Once in Animal Kingdom the crowds seemed lite thanks to the rain and cold weather.
- There are a fair number of walls up around the park with a lot of projects going on. But thanks to the spread out nature and already wider walkways they did not seem as intrusive as the Disney California Adventure walls.
- The new Harambe Theatre is very nice. The facade looks great and it is built to handle the waiting crowds. The exit is still really crowded but it seemed to flow ok. Inside the show and seating seemed identical to the old theater.
- Returned to guest relations and was able to upgrade my pass. It took nearly 45 minutes to do. In return for waiting the cast member added a FastPass+ to any attraction at Animal Kingdom. A nice gesture but useless on a non crowded day like today where there were no lines to speak of. Wish I could have moved it to another park to use later but they said no.
- Usually at WDW when you order something plain or different from the menu at counter service locations there is a price reduction. For example if they advertise a bacon/cheese burger and fries and you want a plain hamburger with no side they take off some money for the bacon, cheese, and fries. Learned they would not do this with the mac and cheese hot dog. They would put the two spoonfuls of mac and cheese on the side but no price reduction was possible.
- My second park of the day was the Magic Kingdom. It was more crowded than than Animal Kingdom with several attractions over the hour mark. The Frozen Meet and Greet was the longest I saw posted at 115 minutes. The Mine Train came in second at 90 minutes. Peter Pan at 70. Even Small World had a 30 min wait.
- The annual Christmas Parade taping was going on. Today was performance day in front of the Castle. Even though it was raining they were moving forward with it. The progress was slower than the usual slow speed thanks to weather delays and challenges. The MC telling the crowd what to do was funny.. he kept saying pretend it is sunny and nice and he would point to where he said they would be adding the sun in the shots. Will be interesting to see the final product. They kept telling people in the cameras view to hide their umbrellas. Curious how much TV magic will come into play.
- Festival of Fantasy ran later than usual today due to the parade taping. The rain luckily let up enough for it to go. It was very dark and gloomy though. Add to that the poor lighting on the parade route and the fact that the floats really do not have lights and it was not a great performance. Unlike Disneyland parades like Soundsational that look just as good at night.
- After the parade it was time to head to Disney's Hollywood Studios for dinner and to see the Osborne lights. Thanks to the rain it was not crowded on the streets and the snow effects were not working. So it meant all I had to do was avoid the rain and enjoy the show. The lights looked impressive as always and were fun to watch. Rumor is this may be there last year on the Streets of America if the renovation projects move forward this year. Will be interesting to see where they end up next year.
- Stopped by the Wandering Oaken's Trading Post and Olaf's Snowground. Both are located in the old AFI Showcase building at the former end of the Backlot tour. The trading post is Frozen merchandise central and was nice to walk around with no crowd (I went at park closing). Guessing mid day it is not fun. The Snowground looked fun too. I was there as the last group was being asked to leave so I was able to get some pictures of an empty snow play area.
- The Studios closed at 8pm. I met a friend who had a car and we drove over to Epcot arriving just before 9pm. We had a great FastPass+ experience. While walking up to Spaceship Earth decided to see if there were any spots for Illuminations. Luck would have it there were so booked FastPass+ while walking from the entrance to Spaceship Earth. My first FastPass+ of the trip. Once we exited we walked out and used it arriving a few minutes before show time. Perfect!
- I still do not like they took over the spot I usually watch Illuminations from for FastPass viewing.. but this trip I managed to book it a couple of times so I was still able to enjoy the show from there.
- Illuminations Reflections of Earth has new lasers that look great. I took several pictures and on a later day some video. They Peace on Earth finale has also changed and features a new narrator and different shells. The finale is impressive but not as loud as years past.
- It was really nice to stroll back to the Beach Club and not have to deal with the buses to end my day. The Epcot Resort area is my favorite due to this and the early morning walk through a nearly empty World Showcase too.
Pedometer Information for the day: