Arrived in Orlando before sunrise on a red eye from Orlando. Waited at the airport for the rest of our group that was on a different flight and grabbed breakfast at the food court. We all boarded the Magical Express Bus to the Boardwalk Villas. Checked in, changed, and checked our bags then headed to Epcot. Arrived about 15 minutes prior to park opening. A couple minutes before they let us start to walk. We joined the herd heading to Frozen and the stand by queue stretched out to Mexico. After our ride walked over to Test Track and used a FastPass+ followed by Mission Space and Spaceship Earth. Headed for the bus stops and hopped on one to Saratoga Springs and disembarked in Congress Park. Walked over to Disney Springs and the Boathouse for lunch. After lunch most of the group headed back to the Boardwalk to check out he rooms. I stayed and took some Christmas decoration pictures including the Christmas Tree Trail then caught a bus back to the Boardwalk. Stopped by the room then back out to the buses and off to the Magic Kingdom. I strolled up Main Street USA and walked through Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, Frontierland and Adventureland. Spent some time in the hub looking at the Castle then went for a trip on the People Mover. Walked along the Railroad and out to the Fantasyland Station and caught a train to Main Street. Met up with more of our group and we all walked up Main Street. Some went to Columbia Harbor House and others Sleepy Hollow to eat. After eating found a spot for Happily Ever After about 2/3 the way down Main Street. Then worked through the crowd to the hub after the show. Watched Once Upon a Time from there before moving quickly to catch the bus with the rest of my group that skipped the show (and instead did the People Mover). Back at the Boardwalk had to pack up to switch rooms tomorrow and called it a night after a long first day.
Thoughts & Observations:
- Touched down in Orlando well before sunrise this morning. Walking around the airport in the calm of the morning is always so much more pleasant than later in the day when it is crazy.
- Due to our early arrival and some good timing we were able to walk right onto a waiting Magical Express Bus and then it pulled out with only our group onboard. So a private bus to Walt Disney World for us!
- The initial check in process at the Boardwalk was smooth, of course none of our three rooms were ready at this hour so we checked our bags and set off for Epcot.
- We arrived at Epcot about 25 minutes before park opening. The International Gateway entrance was open and you could walk up to the main World Showcase walkway only. They were holding everyone there. They did not let us start to walk toward Future World until 5 minutes before park opening.
- The large majority of the crowd entering from the International Gateway walked around to Norway and was joined by the crowds coming from Future World and the front of the park. A small number did head toward Future World, but not many.
- The Frozen queue was out into the walkway and growing toward Mexico. It took us approximately 30 minutes to move through the queue. For many in our group it was their first time experiencing the attraction. The reviews were mixed. They were all glad we only waited 30 minutes. (We had FastPass+ reservations for a later day but there was a possible schedule conflict so that is why we opted to do Standby this morning).
- Next up used our FastPass+ reservations for the day at Test Track, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth. The timing worked out and we walked from attraction to attraction with no delays.
- I choose to experience the Green Mission at Mission Space. This was new to me having opened since my last visit. This mission is described by many as Soarin’ over the globe since your spacecraft circles the Earth. I was disappointed with the video. The ride experience was ok and I would say slightly better than the previous Mars Mission but I was expecting something more from the video. It seemed lower quality and not overly engaging to me. Also not sure why there always has to be something that goes wrong or causes some extra challenges.. in this case it was a rain storm on landing.
- The Muppet Mobile Lab is still performing but the schedule is not posted and some cast member do not seem to know or want to share about it. I did find out after talking to a couple that it rolls out on Tues, Wed and Thursday mornings usually.. so no shows today.
- The FastPass+ return for Spaceship Earth was long. If it was not my third FastPass of the day and if I did not have to get going for lunch I would have opted to go elsewhere. Also it felt like every minute or so the attraction was stopping for a few minutes too. In the end it took just over half an hour to make it through.
- We had some great bus luck. As we walked out to catch a bus to Saratoga Springs for lunch there was one in the station. Our group slowly made its way out there and the bus driver ended up waiting for us. So we were able to walk right on. It was an unexpected surprise and a great way to start off the trip. We were heading to Disney Springs for lunch and decided to go to Saratoga Springs and walk over since that meant the least amount of bus transfers and hopefully shortest transportation time.
- Lunch this afternoon was at the Boathouse. We had a great meal and service too. I have always had a good dining experience at the Boathouse and today was no exception. Most of the group had not eaten there before and they really enjoyed it.
- Spent some time roaming around Disney Springs checking out the Christmas decorations and the 2017 edition of the Christmas Tree Trail. The trail has added trees, a gift shop and Santa this year. It does not feel as temporary but still feels awkward to me. The trees themselves seemed on par with last year, none really stood out to me. I did enjoy the signs that were up throughout though.
- Returned to the Boardwalk around 4pm since we received notice that the rooms were ready. We had three rooms and had requested that they be as close together as possible when we made the reservations 9 months ago. We also checked on this request in May when we stayed at the Boardwalk and again in person in October when one of member of the group was in town. Every time the Cast Members said the request was noted. We ended up with two rooms adjacent to each other and they were to the right when you entered the villa wing of the resort then the third room was to the left and only a couple rooms from the end of the hallway. So it was almost as far as possible from the other two. Maybe only a handful of rooms could have been further apart. The only thing the same between the three rooms was the floor. We were disappointed with this and stopped by the front desk to let them know. A manager was brought over and the response we got was a rather abrupt and un Disney like one basically blaming us and saying we should have called in three days ahead of time to ensure the request was being fulfilled and what we had is what we were stuck with. I found this very poor. I thought the manager and front desk cast member could have handled this situation better. They could have explained that they tried to meet the room request but due to the resort being at capacity they could not. We would not have been happy but would have respected that answer. But to say we should have done more.. after noting it in the reservations several times and being assured they would do their best this was frustrating. We were trekking between rooms to unpack and as I walked I crossed paths with a CM in a suit. He asked how our stay was and I said it has not gotten off to a good start. He wanted to know more so we explained and he took all our information and said he would be in touch. Turns out he is an Epcot resorts manager and we received a call an hour or so later saying there was nothing that could be done for this evening but if we were willing to move the one room that was far away they could cut that distance by 2/3 or so and move it closer to the other two. Not close but substantially closer. We said sure and stopped unpacking and started to repack so we could switch rooms tomorrow.
- In this process of moving things around I asked to borrow a luggage cart and learned that they would not release a cart to guests at the Boardwalk. Guessing this is true at all Deluxe now a days? They said we had to have a bell services person help us or do it all ourselves. They would not loan out a cart.
- Tonight was one of three nights this trip the Magic Kingdom was open late. The others it closed early due to Christmas parties. So I headed that way for the evening. It seems a large number of other guests had the same idea and the Magic Kingdom felt crowded as I arrived. Wait times were long at many attractions.. for example Buzz Lightyear was posted at 75 minutes. Even the People Mover had a 5-10 minute wait.
- I started my trip off with a trek around the park to see what was going on. It was dark and crowded so not the best use of my time but still I was curious. The park seemed the same as previous years with very little signs of Christmas, especially compared to Disneyland or Tokyo Disneyland. Main Street was the only really festive place. There were a couple random decorations in other lands but nothing new and nothing too noteworthy beyond saying the Jingle Cruise is back again here, unlike Anaheim.
- I walked from Tomorrowland to the Fantasyland Train Station. This usually quiet trail was crowded this evening with probably 30-40 guests smoking in several different areas. It was a miserable walk for anyone like me not wanting to breath the smoky air.
- I made a very poor decision to grab a bite to eat. The majority of the group showed up and were hungry around 8pm. We had an hour until fireworks so figured I would grab a quick corn dog from Sleepy Hollow. The line inched along. I ordered no and the rest of my was told they were out of corn dogs. The manager found me and said there were none ready and my choice was to get my money back or wait 10-15 min. I had plenty of time so said I would wait. My meal finally came out and it was undercooked. Even the funnel cake someone else ordered was undercooked. By this point it was getting close to show time and I needed to go find a spot still. So I ate some of it and moved on. I came to regret eating an undercooked corn dog for the next several days I did not feel good. I believe it was due to the corn dog but no way to really prove it. I cannot believe they were out of food during a peak eating time with massive lines.. and then served food that was really undercooked. I should have gotten my money back and moved on to find a good spot for Happily Ever After.
- This was my first viewing of Happily Ever After and I allowed only about 10 minutes to find a spot, just as I normally would have for Wishes.. well with a new show and only showing on about half the nights due to Christmas Parties this was another bad decision. So I ended up out on Main Street
off to the side.. not a prime location but I could at least see the show.
- I really enjoyed Happily Ever After. The Magic Kingdom was in need of a solid night time show and this delivers with great projections, fireworks, and laser effects. It is always hard to compare these shows but I would say it is on par with the shows we have been seeing at Disneyland and Disneyland Paris of late.
- After the show as is the usual case for the Magic Kingdom it seemed all cast members in the areas where I walked were missing in action. I moved from about half way up Main Street to the hub and did not encounter any cast members and it was really a free for all when it came to crowd control. A vast majority of the guests were pushing their way to the exit and did not care who or what was in their way. There were pockets of guests trying to make their way back into the park or into a position to watch Once Upon a Time.
- I think the names of the current night shows at the Magic Kingdom are too “cute” by half. Meaning why call one Once Upon a Time and the other Happily Every After but play them out of sequence? Once Upon a Time was scheduled 45 minutes after Happily Ever After this evening. Later in the week it was 90 minutes after. This seems poor to me. The Once Upon a Time show works as a great lead in to Happily Ever After both in terms of name and content. I am assuming this is done because of crowd control reasons.
- Once Upon a Time does make use of some of the new technology installed for Happily Ever After and this brings the show much closer to the original in Tokyo. Tokyo still has more effects and a longer show, but the current version playing is much better than what I saw last visit.
Pedometer Information for the day:
Other Picture sets from today: