Started our last full day in Orlando sleeping in a bit then packed up before leaving the room around 9am. Walked out and caught a boat to Epcot where we boarded the Skyliner and took it to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Strolled up Hollywood Blvd and visited One Man's Dream then Toy Story Land. Some of the group used FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash then we all headed for Batuu. Wandered around Black Spire Outpost and took some pictures with the clear blue sky. Stopped by Rizzos for an early lunch then made our way out of the park and back to the Skyliner. Took it to the newly opened Riviera Resort and spent some time walking the grounds of the new Resort. Reboarded the Skyliner to Epcot then I made a quick trip back to the room to pick up something before joining the group in World Showcase. Listened to a performance in Canada then continued on to Future World. Stopped by Mouse Gear and then walked to the front of the park then back by Test Track and out to World Showcase. Walked around to Germany for a snack then onto the American Adventure to check out the new Art of Disney store. Continued on to France and then exited at the International Gateway. Caught a Friendship Boat back to the Boardwalk. Relaxed a bit then took a Friendship boat across to the Yacht Club. Checked out the lobby decorations and then headed for dinner at Yachtsman Steakhouse. After dinner walked through the Beach Club then caught a bus to the Magic Kingdom. Paused near the security entrance to watch the SpaceX launch then entered the park. Waded through the sea of people on Main Street USA and walked through Tomorrowland. Stopped by the new TRON photo op then walked out to Storybook Circus. Returned to the hub which was getting rather full and worked my way around to Liberty Square then walked through Frontierland and Adventureland before returning to Main Street USA to see about a spot for Happily Every After. Walked in circles a bit but eventually found a spot about half way down the street for the fireworks. After the show turned and walked quickly toward the exit and out to the bus stop for the Boardwalk. Returned to the hotel to call it a night.
Thoughts & Observations:
- This morning was a clear blue sky, a rarity this trip. There has been a lot of clouds and overcast this visit. So decided to take advantage of the weather and spend some time on the Skyliner to start the day. Due to me going against crowd flow (Epcot to CBR) I had no problems getting a clear gondola. The first leg had more stops than previous days. I was curious if this had to do with the Riviera traffic now or if it was just bad luck now (or good luck previously).
- Visited Toy Story Land so some could use a FastPass+ for Slinky Dog. The land just feels busy with only one walkway and almost always feels crowded. There are few places to sit and rest or take in the sights.
- Next up a visit to Batuu. This east coast version of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge still feels different to me and I cannot put my finger on exactly why. It is nearly an identical land. The sun was not in the best location for pictures with a lot of back lighting issues, but the angles that were not looked great with the clear blue sky. The colors are slightly different here vs Anaheim.
- I usually do not wait for pictures but saw only a couple groups in line so got in line for the Super Zoom Magic Shot. This was a two step process.. the first was a regular photo and then the super zoom. The regular photo was not a very good angle and was not very good. The super zoom will show a wide angle of the Millennium Falcon area then zoom in on you on the overlook by Docking Bay 7. The effect was interesting and it was a fun photo. I think taking a prime viewing and photo area for this is a little poor. There was a taped off area that took up maybe 1/4 to 1/3 the overlook area. So it did infringe on guests and traffic flow.
- At lunch at Rizzo's. There were only a couple registers opened and the lines moved slow and made it feel busier than it was. Still annoyed you cannot just order a pizza on the app.. you are stuck with a salad. Where as if you go to the register you can save a few bucks or substitute.
- Disney's newest Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property opened this morning, the Riviera Resort. This tower is located on the north side of the Caribbean Beach Resort along Buena Vista Drive. To build this resort several buildings from Caribbean Beach Resort were removed. I took the Disney Skyliner to the resort and walked around the grounds to get a feel for it. I was hoping they would have an open house type event for the first day, but no such luck. I have only been on property for one other resort opening that I can recall and that was the Boardwalk where they had an open house with buttons, etc.. The grounds themselves are nice to walk around. There are some great murals near the Skyliner station and a lot of other art pieces throughout. The hotel exterior and interior felt rather plain and the Christmas decorations were average. The lobby felt small and a bit cramped but that could be because it was the first day and there were a lot of people looking around including some invited media, first day guests and others like me that were just curious. I was not able to see any of the rooms nor the signature restaurant since it is closed mid day. It would have been nice to have the balcony open to see the views even with the dining room closed. I thought the Skyliner location was a bit awkward being on the far side of the hotel and the covered walkway only goes to one side of the station that departs for the Studios. To get to Epcot you have to walk with no cover to the opposite side. The tower was ok to see and being new looked great. My big issue with the resort is its location. First the Riviera has nothing to do with the Caribbean so that is extremely odd. Secondly the choice of a tall tower offers some nice views from the tower.. but the tower is visually intrusive in the background of Epcot and other vistas.
- More changes at Epcot. The Art of Disney store has closed as they prepare to remove that building. The store is now located at the American Adventure. The new location feels much smaller. There are some fun props on the wall but overall it had a busy and disjointed feel to it. Will be interesting to see how it does.
- Stopped by the Yacht Club Lobby on my way to dinner to see the train display. It seems about the same as always. I would like to see them do more with it. It seems to be getting stale. Also interesting the globe was left out in the lobby this year (believe it was last year or the year before too.. but traditionally it was moved elsewhere to allow for more space with the tree there.
- Dinner this evening was at the Yachtsman Steakhouse. The meal was a much better experience than the one on our last visit a couple of years ago. We have had spotty visits here.. some great, some good, some frustrating over the last decade so it is not usually on the top of our list. We have been visiting Shulas due to their consistency. Pricing between the two is very similar. Shula's is more but has larger portions too.
- After dinner caught a bus to the Magic Kingdom as it was one of three nights and the only non weekend/non extra hours night to visit. The park felt busy but was not nearly as crazy busy as Saturday night. I have said it before but I am really bothered by the parties at the Magic Kingdom. They reduce the park hours for regular guests and on non party nights cause much heavier crowds.
- I am used to Disneyland which has smaller walkways which are usually much more crowded but it somehow works most of the time. The Magic Kingdom on the other hand can be frustrating for me to navigate around as the amount of guest flow and crowd control seems minimal by comparison. Tonight was no exception with it being a free for all in many areas and others where there were walkways they of course were set up not to lead where I wanted to go.
- In Tomorrowland a pair of TRON lightcycles are set up as a photo op. They are located near the Space Mountain Exit adjacent to the Speedway overlook. At night they were lit up but roped off so you could not sit on them.
- While walking through Storybook Circus I noticed that Big Top Souvenirs had reopened. I walked around and nothing jumped out at me as being new or changed. There were reports the reason for the closure was a fire but on a quick walk through nothing obvious stood out.
- The reason for my visit was to see Happily Ever After so found a spot on Main Street. The view was not too bad and I lucked out with only one kid on a shoulder off to my right (which ended up nearly in front of me) but luckily they did not have the stamina for the entire show and left midway. The area where I was had unbalanced audio. The left side of the street was louder to the point there almost seemed no audio on the right.
- As soon as the show ended I moved quickly toward the exit. I walked up to the bus stop and only a few parties in front of me. A friend left the same time and walked right onto a ferry boat which departed before it became too crowded. My good luck ended here though as it took quite a while for a bus to show up. Then once it did they had to load two wheelchairs. I eventually boarded and lucked out with a seat even!
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