Took a bus to the Magic Kingdom to start my day today. Arrived just before 10am thanks to having to wait for a bus that took a while to show up. Strolled up Main Street USA, stopping to listen to the Dapper Dans, on my way to Adventureland. Used a FastPass+ for Jingle Cruise and while passing through Liberty Square saw the Hall of Presidents started in a few minutes so stopped for the show then continued on to Fantasyland to use a FastPass+ for Peter Pan. Walked back through Liberty Square and Frontierland. Saw two minutes until the Country Bears were to start so stopped for the show and then continued on to Adventureland and used a FastPass+ for Pirates of the Caribbean. Decided to exit the park and catch a launch over to the Wilderness Lodge for lunch. After lunch roamed around the resort checking out the Christmas decorations and then then took a bus back to the Magic Kingdom. Boarded a Ferry Boat to the Transportation and Ticket Center then Monorail to Epcot. Some of the group walked through the park and back to the Boardwalk. I decided to take a bus over to the Art of Animation Resort to check out the Christmas decorations and Skyliner Construction then stopped by Pop Century before taking a bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Paid a visit to Toy Story Land to look around then took a lap around Echo Lake before grabbed something to eat at Catalina Eddies. After dinner made my way back to Echo Lake then Toy Story Land to see it after dark. Returned to Sunset Blvd to see the Sunset Seasons Greetings. Found a spot on Hollywood Blvd for Disney Movie Magic then Jingle Bell Jingle Bam. Joined the masses exiting the park and funneling through the construction zone. Hiked to Epcot and ended up going to the FastPass+ viewing area for Illuminations. Made it with 10 minutes to spare. After lIlluminations worked my way through the oncoming masses back to the International Gateway and walked back to the Boardwalk Resort to wrap up my evening.
Thoughts & Observations:
- Today was a crisp clear morning but already warmer than yesterday so a positive start. Started my morning by encountering a long wait for a Magic Kingdom bus at the Boardwalk. The transportation screen was still out of order and the app did not show any times for Magic Kingdom. While we waited three Animal Kingdom and two Disney Springs buses showed up before ours.
- We had a previously booked FastPass+ for the Jingle Cruise and debated about going on again since we just did yesterday. We opted to and were pleased we did. Our skipper this trip was great. Plus the jungle looks slightly different during the day.
- Stopped by the Hall of Presidents since the show was starting soon as we walked by. I really enjoy the current version of the show. The technical enhancements and new story line work really well.
- The Liberty Belle has been closed for months for renovation to the boat and to the Rivers of America. It has returned to the river and was making test runs during our visit. I asked a Cast Member about a target return date and the answer I found humorous. He stated the goal was to have it open late Fall but that may slip to early winter but all indications are by Christmas. The funny part is you are basically talking about a target few days between the 21st and 25th, or he could have said in a couple weeks. But the fall/winter description I found funny.
- I debated about visiting the Country Bears. It always irritates me this time of year to visit because WDW no longer does the Christmas version. I had to travel to Tokyo Disneyland to see the bears sing Christmas songs! Also the current truncated show is a disappointment. But on the other hand it is better than nothing. So I did stop and it was a fairly full house too. The cast member in the theater while we were being seated was having a good time sharing jokes and interacting with guests.
- Continuing my disappointing attraction tour we used a FastPass+ for Pirates of the Caribbean. I always exit the WDW version saying to myself why did I do that.. it feels so short compared to the other versions, especially Disneyland’s.
- For lunch we decided to leave the park and took a boat over to the Wilderness Lodge and ate a relaxing lunch at Geyser Point. We have had two good meals out there and enjoy the relaxed feel of the lodge vs eating in the park. It does take a time commitment but we also wanted to see the Christmas decorations so it worked out.
- Decided to go for a Monorail ride as a transfer option after the Wilderness Lodge and to see what I could see. The new Magic Kingdom entrance roads are interesting to see and they do make a difference shaving some time off the bus routes, especially those leaving the Magic Kingdom. Further along the path the work as you turn toward Epcot near the solar farm and along the Monorail path for the water project looks fairly extensive. They are building a new retention pond and altering the canals in preparation for future construction. As you enter Epcot you get some nice views of the massive Guardians of the Galaxy coaster show building. The building is being enclosed so any visible change will be disappearing soon, but for now you can see some of the first pieces of track as well as side panels going on.
- Took a bus over to the Art of Animation Resort from Epcot. Spent some time in the lobby checking out the Christmas decorations then walked over to Pop Century to do the same, along the way stopped to look at the Disney Skyliner station between the two. The station is on the water between the two resorts. I found it interesting how low across the water the towers are. Instead of rising up they kept it relatively low. This has the potential to really change these resorts giving you a different option to reach Epcot as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It will be interesting to see how the system handles the load from these two massive resorts. In theory it can handle more guests per hour than standard buses.. but the trade off is you can always add more buses.. here it will be a fixed system. I am looking forward to giving the new system a try. So far the impact on the sightlines and views is less than stellar but the true test will be how it actually moves guests.
- Made my way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the evening. Walking through Toy Story Land in the late afternoon was slightly less crowded than park opening but still a lot of guests and long waits for the attractions.
- Decided to grab dinner at the Sunset Marketplace and was really surprised at the number of empty tables for it being a meal time. It was nice to find a spot and not feel rushed.
- Spent some time walking around Echo Lake after sunset to see the Christmas lights and decorations. PhotoPass photographers have taken over several locations and between their area and their queues it was a little frustrating.
- Sunset Seasons Greetings has returned to Sunset Blvd. They have added lasers which run between segments. The laser and snow effect is interesting. Listing to guests comments were funny. Some thought it was glitter not snow.. I would have liked to have seen a new segment added to the show. They seemed to only have three this year looping.
- Circled back to Toy Story Land after dark. The lighting package for the new land is nice and the crowds were thinking which was also more pleasant to experience the area.
- Enjoyed Disney Movie Magic and Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam to close out my time at the studios. Noteworthy is they were closing the park at 8pm. Fantasmic was at 8pm and the Disney Movies at 8:10 followed by Jingle Bam at 8:30. So after Jingle Bam everyone had to exit at once.
- The Jingle Bam show felt the same as last year, not noticeable changes jumped out to me.
- Leaving the park with everyone at the same time through a narrow set of construction fences was not a pleasant experience. I was walking to Epcot so I had to go through the full bus stop area too which was very slow going especially trying to get through the back up at the end for Art of Animation and Pop Century. (Note the week after I left they opened a wider walkway and reopened the path along the water way).
- As I was entering Epcot I noticed the wind sort of blowing toward the International Gateway where I wanted to watch Illuminations so I opted to walk to the FastPass+ area since I had one and watch from there. I made it there with about 10 minutes to spare before showtime.
- Illuminations seemed to have more fireworks tonight than last night but still not as many as it used to have.
- The one drawback of watching from the FastPass+ area and staying at the Epcot resorts is you get to walk into the onslaught of guests leaving unless you opt to wait around for them to clear. I decided to leave as soon as the show ended so I was pushing right through the crowd. It does not seem to matter if you are the right side, against a rail, or in the middle it is a challenge.
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