Started off the morning waking up just before 8am and was out waiting for a bus shortly after 8. Arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 8:30 and had a few minute wait for the opening celebration. Watched the show then joined the masses moving up Main Street. Some of my group walked ahead to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and waited only a couple minutes to ride. I roamed around Main Street, the hub, and into Fantasyland to rejoin them. Then we all walked over to Frontierland. They walked onto Big Thunder and I played the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom then we took the Disneyland Railroad to Storybook Circus. Walked around there then strolled through Fantasyland and around the Castle. I paid a visit to the Swiss Family Tree House and then Pirates which had a 10 minute wait. Made my way back to Main Street and watched the Trolley show at a couple of stops then met a friend at the bus stop and we walked over to the Contemporary. Took some pictures of the Christmas tree and then then of the Christmas decorations inside before grabbing lunch with our extended group at the Contempo Café. Some hung around there to go fishing and I set off for the Polynesian to see the new to me lobby and other projects. Walked out by the Bungalows and then along the water to the Grand Floridian. Strolled through the villas and into the lobby. Took my fill of pictures then boarded a monorail back to the Magic Kingdom. Wandered up Main Street USA and into Liberty Square. Stopped at another Sorcerers kiosk then found a spot to watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade near the Diamond Horseshoe. After the parade walked through Adventureland and then the shops on Main Street to exit the park. Hopped on a Monorail to the Contemporary to find the rest of my group. Then some of use took a launch to the Wilderness Lodge, others Fort Wilderness. Walked through the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge and up to the 5th floor for some pictures then back to the boat dock to catch one to Fort Wilderness. Joined everyone else for dinner at Trails End. After dinner took the bus to the Studios. Walked by the Launch Bay and Dance Party then joined the mob to see the Osborne Lights. Wandered around the lights then made our way out of the park. The Friendship line was back to the Christmas tree so walked to Epcot. Made my way to the FastPass+ viewing area and waited about 30 minutes for Illuminations. After the show strolled back through World Showcase to the International gateway and the Beach Club to call it a night.
Thoughts & Observations:
- Started my morning off heading to the Magic Kingdom to meet up with some family that wanted to experience the Mine Train and not wait hours. So I was there for park opening. The posted opening was 9am and around 8:40am they held the opening show in front of the train station and then opened the gates. This welcome/opening show is always an energetic way to start your day. I think it’s a great plus/production number.
- I wandered onto Main Street and made my way to Fantasyland to meet them and by the time I did, which was maybe 15 minutes after the show it was already approaching a 45 minute wait for the Mine Train. They did not wait and instead walked quickly and ended up waiting about 5 minutes only and they were on the train and exiting by the time I arrived.
- My poor transportation luck extended to the Disneyland Railroad even. We arrived at the station just as a train was pulling out. It was about 10 minutes until the next train arrived then we sat in the station for another 5 minutes or so. The CMs said we were waiting for the train ahead when asked about the delay. That seemed odd since that train left so long ahead of us. Unless they were adding another train. Either way it took us over 20 minutes to get from Frontierland to Fantasyland station.
- Paid a visit to Pirates of the Caribbean. I had been warned that since the recent renovation you can get really wet to soaked depending on where you sit. So I asked for a seat near the back of the boat and had row 5. The floor was wet and there was a light mist but not bad back there. The guests in the front of the boat did get rather wet. Overall the show looked good. The mermaids were not working but just about everything appeared to be. This was my fourth version of the attraction this year and I would rank it at the bottom. I thought the Paris version was the best. Disneyland second. Then Tokyo and Orlando bringing up the rear.
- Arrived on Main Street in time for the Christmas Trolley Show. These shows bring some energy to Main Street and are always fun to watch.
- Spotted the Star Wars Monorail (Monorail Black has Star Wars graphics on the windows) circling on the Seven Seas Lagoon on the Express Beam this morning. I thought this looked good and was fun to see making the rounds. It was not as over the top as some past wraps.
- I walked over to the Contemporary Resort to get some pictures of the Christmas decorations and then eat lunch. The Christmas decorations were about the same as last year. No major changes jumped out to me. Even the gingerbread creation was the same Frozen one as last year. Rumor is next year they may change to something new. I wonder what happened to the large Mickey wreath that was up on the North side for a couple of years. It has been MIA the last several. Best guess is because of the ongoing renovation projects?
- Met up with friends and the rest of my group for lunch at the Contempo Café. They changed the ordering process since my last visit. You now walk through and pick up your drink and dessert then go to a register to order your entrée and pay. You are given a tracker and told to go find your seat and your food would be brought to you. Interesting Chef Mickeys was quieter than past visits. The entire time we ate we never heard loud outbursts from there as in the past.
- Stopped by the Polynesian Village after lunch. I had not seen the new lobby yet, it was still behind curtains last year during my visit. I thought the new lobby was ok. It is much brighter and more open than the old configuration. The small statue in the middle is a bit odd and hard to get used to after the large water feature of the old but it is not all bad. I walked the grounds a bit checking out the Oasis pool area construction and then the DVC bungalows from the beach. I thought the DVC additions were ok but they do seem to be odd to be right in the sightline for guests staying in the main buildings. Also being so close to the ferry boats I would assume the horns and noise do get to you after a while especially on busy days when the Magic Kingdom is open until 1 or 2am it would be almost non stop traffic near your room.
- Next on my tour of the resorts was the Grand Floridian. The decorations/trees have been updated slightly with some new color elements and other minor tweaks. The gingerbread house looks the same as always. I would like to see some more variation here. The window artwork and some of the smaller touches do change year to year but overall it is the same display.
- Arrived at the Magic Kingdom for the 3pm Festival of Fantasy Parade and learned that FastPass+ had taken over one of the places I like to stand for the parade in Town Square. Another reason I am not a fan of this! I watched from a couple of alternative locations which were not bad, but were not as good either. Also the audio in the hub area was not very good. The new speakers sounded terrible to me.
- I had a little time before dinner and decided to pay a visit to the Wilderness Lodge before heading to Fort Wilderness. Of course my transportation issues continued and we boarded a waiting boat at the Contemporary but then sat there for over 10 minutes. It seemed the captain was waiting to change shifts or something.
- The Wilderness Lodge is always nice to walk around. Construction has started with clearing happening on both sides of the resort and more markers up. They are going to be building more DVC units along the lake. These look to extend on both sides of the resort, in front of the current DVC wing and then on the water way toward the Magic Kingdom.
- Decided to take a boat to Fort Wilderness vs walk. My transportation issues continued as the line for the boat was long and we waited almost 20 minutes for a boat to show up. When it did it filled up and they asked the group in front of us how many.. and made us wait. We lucked out and were able to board.. so maybe my bad luck was changing.
- Dinner this evening was at the Trails End. I always enjoy spending some time out at Fort Wilderness. It is a great change of pace and the food at Trails End is good comfort food and for Disney is still a reasonable price.
- After dinner we were heading for the Studios. The first bus showed up and no problems transferring to a Studios bus. Then we hit Buena Visa Drive and traffic stopped. The driver turned on Epcot Resort Blvd and looped around. It took 20 minutes to get from there into the parking lot. I really do not understand why Disney does not have a plan in place to get their buses in and out of the Studios easier. If it was this bad in early December what is going to happen later in the month?
- The dance party in front of the Chinese Theater was loud and bright as expected. The crowd was mild for it and there were a handful of characters out dancing with guests and all did seem to be having a good time.
- The Osborne Lights were very busy as expected but we milled around and enjoyed them for a while before heading to Epcot.
- The Friendship boat line was back to the Christmas tree. Guessing at least three boats. We opted to walk. In the time it took to walk to Epcot only one boat passed us.
- Epcot did not feel too busy. Used a FastPass+ for Illuminations because that is one of my favorite spots to watch the show from. The only drawback to this is you have to push through the exiting masses to reach the International Gateway.
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