Arrived from Los Angeles just before 6am, a few minutes ahead of schedule. Made my way to the food court to grab some breakfast at McDonalds and then boarded a waiting Magical Express bus to Pop Century. Checked to see if the rooms were ready, they were not, so changed clothes, checked the carryons and headed for the Magic Kingdom. Arrived just before park opening and topped by Guest Relations to activate my pass then entered the park just about park opening time. Joined the stream of guests up Main Street USA. Some decided to go on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train so we headed that way. While they did that I paid a visit to the 100 acre woods and Winnie the Pooh since it was right across the walkway. We all met up and walked through Fantasyland and into Liberty Square. Caught a performance of the Muppets and then got a text saying one of the rooms was ready. We decided to check the Jingle Cruise wait, way too long, so some decided to head for the room and I walked out to Frontierland and eventually hoped on the Walt Disney World Railroad as it started to rain. Took that to Fantasyland and disembarked since the rain had passed and walked long the path to Tomorrowland. Saw the cabanas and then went for a ride on the PeopleMover. Once back on land returned to Main Street and headed for the Resort Monorail as it started to drizzle then rain. Stopped by the Contemporary to see the Christmas decorations then re-boarded the Monorail to the Grand Floridian. Looked around and thought about grabbing a quick lunch, but the grill was closed so reboarded the Monorail and took it back to the Contemporary to eat at the Contempo Cafe. After eating the plan was to walk back to the MK bus stops and go to Pop Century but it was blowing hard and raining so instead we hoped on the first bus we saw which was Disney Springs. Once at the Springs hiked through the rain and out to bus stop 27 and Pop Century. Back at the resort rejoined the rest of the group, swapped some items, then headed for Coronado Springs via car from a friend. We walked around the lobby building then out to the pool area before taking the car to Animal Kingdom. At the park walked out to the performance stage by Flame Tree, then through Dinoland and around by Everest and through Asia. Circled through Africa and walked back through Discovery Island toward the Oasis. The skies opened as we approached the kangaroo area so ran for cover then sought out the rest of the group under cover at Flame Tree BBQ. Hung out there visiting with friends for a while then watched the Carnivale before walked through Asia and Africa. The sun was setting so headed for the Safari. We had FastPasses but there was no line so opted to walk the queue and save 15 minutes waiting for our time. Enjoyed the night time Safari then walked back to the entrance for the Tree of Life Awakens. Watched two of the four versions then headed for the bus stop. Bid goodbye to one member of the group and the rest of us boarded a bus to Disney Springs. Grabbed a bite to eat at the Food Trucks then watched the StarBright show from nearby. After the show had about an hour until Illuminations to decided to take a bus to the Yacht/Beach Clubs and then walk to Epcot. Hiked around to Germany to watch the show then pushed through the large crowds and smoke on my way to the bus. Returned to Pop Century to unpack, backup my pictures, and call it a night, it was pushing midnight.
Thoughts & Observations:
- Delta flight to LAX was on a newer 737-900 so it was fairly comfortable. The problem was we hit a lot of rough air and they kept coming on the PA system telling people to sit down, which of course kept waking me up!
- We encountered a very clueless worker at McDonalds. They could not figure out how to press the button for only hotcakes and had to call the manager (who did not look very pleased with them) and then to top it off we ordered only one of something and they charged us for two so it took a fair amount of effort to get that refunded.
- Magical Express check in was delayed since only one person working and some confused guests in front of us. Interesting to note they no longer have a counter set up just the podiums (I thought on my last trip they still had the counter but were not using it). We boarded a waiting bus and after one more group joined us were on our way. Our driver was terrible. We were drifting all over the highway.
- We tried the online check in this trip, first time. It seemed to save us no time because of the red eye. The CMs working the front desk were not friendly at all. Group next to us asked about getting a room early and they said they were set up with adjoining rooms in the 80s. They could get one room in the 50s now. But their second room when ready would be in the 80s. Once we overheard that did not even bother asking for ours.
- Made our way to the Magic Kingdom with a first stop at guest relations. I needed to activate my pass for some reason and the others in the group needed to exchange online purchases. No problems at all. The line moved slowly but our transactions were smooth.
- The Magic Kingdom did not feel crowded this morning. Most lines were moderate to short. It was great to walk around.
- One of my must see attractions this trip was the new Muppets show in Liberty Square. They did no disappoint. It was a classic Muppet experience and it worked extremely well. I would highly recommend both shows. We really enjoyed them.
- On the other end of the spectrum is the small tent city set up in Tomorrowland. The new private cabanas are set up between Space Mountain and the rest rooms and look terrible. They do not go with the theme of the area at all. It appeared one was rented when we went over on the PeopleMover. Too bad they could not make them theme appropriately or put them backstage where you cannot see them.
- The new colors for the rock work at the entrance to Tomorrowland are odd looking to me. Seems Tomorrowland is confused when it comes to a color scheme. You have the blue/purple ish rocks, the silvers, and then bright colors for People Mover and Carrousel of Progress.
- Rain cells blew through most of the afternoon so it was off and on rain.. which was not fun! We tried to stay dry by resort hoping. This worked fairly well. Nothing too new or interesting to report from the Monorail Resorts or Coronado Springs. Everything looked status quo.
- Transferred buses at Disney Springs and it was my first time experiencing the new bus stop. The bus lanes and new center save a few minutes but it is still a time commitment to go out there. The new bus stops are huge.. but note not a lot of rain cover.
- Thanks to it being a Tuesday and the rain Animal Kingdom was very empty when we arrived in the late afternoon. In the 5pm hour we had the Flame Tree dining area to ourselves, which was great to visit and catch up with some friends.
- Took in some of the live entertainment around Discovery Island. It was ok, I thought they had the volume too loud and it was not clear and bordered on annoying at some of them. Almost anything to do with animals closed at sunset as it always has. Only change is the Safari stayed open until park closing.
- We had an awesome night time safari. We saw plenty of animals, some very hard to see thought. The Hyenas were out so that was new to me. We paused several times but I would have lined each pause to be slightly longer since I was trying to shoot some longer exposure because of the low light levels. Interesting that for night they bypassed the back part of elephant country. Speaking of elephants what is going on with all the netting/barriers there?
- Caught a couple of the Tree of Life Awaken moments. This is a nice little addition to the park as a farewell when you leave. It was well done and looked good. I think the projection mapping is starting to be a little over done though.
- For dinner we headed to Disney Springs and ate a quick meal at the Food Truck courtyard since it was near where we wanted to be. The single order point for all trucks was a much more efficient method than how it was set up last time where you had to order at the truck.
- The StarBright holiday show was extremely well done. This is the first drone show they have staged and it is a partnership with Intel using 300 drones that fly out over Lake Buena Vista twice nightly (7 & 8:30pm) and perform for about 4 minutes. Both shows are the same. The drones sport LED lights that can change colors and with their moving positions form shapes in the sky. I was really impressed with the tech and effect for a first generation show. Cannot wait to see where it goes.
- We had some time so decided to head for Epcot and catch Illuminations. Made it to the park and to a spot near Germany with moments to spare! The show was great as always. No substantial changes caught my eye this year.
- As I was leaving I had to wade through several very large tour groups near Mexico. Luckily I opted to pass them as they were all going to Pop Century! They were in our bus queue and caused it to be even longer than usual.
Pedometer Information for the day:
Other Picture sets from today: