Touched downed at MCO just before 7am. While taxing picked up a boarding group for Ratatouille. Once at the gate headed for the main terminal and picked up the luggage then breakfast at the food court before boarding a Magical Express bus to the Boardwalk. The room was not ready so changed and then checked the suitcases and carryons. We arrived at the International Gateway with over an hour until the early entry was to begin so we boarded the Skyliner and went for a round trip ride (the line at Caribbean Beach Resort wrapped outside the station so this process took a good portion of the hour). Once back at the International Gateway stopped by a ticket window to activate our annual passes. I had an issue so had to visit guest relations. We still made it into the park a couple minutes after the early entry rope drop. We had no agenda but Soarin' was 30 minutes so decided to make our way to the Land. By the time we arrived it was up to 50 minutes and looking worse. So we opted to sit for a few minutes and wait for 11am and the park opening to visit Living with the Land. Unfortunately it was having technical difficulties. So we waited a bit and then decided to go see Awesome Planet. Opted for an early lunch at Sunshine Seasons. After lunch stopped by Imagination and then stopped by the Creations Shop. Waited only a few minutes for Test Track single rider then returned to World Showcase. Caught some of the Joyful performance followed by performance in Canada and United Kingdom. Stopped by France for a snack and then some of the group returned to the Boardwalk and the the rest of us finished the loop of World Showcase and made our way to the front of the park. Decided to go for a round trip aboard the Monorail and then returned to the Boardwalk since the room just became available, a little after 4pm. Unpacked and visited then decided to return to Epcot. Picked up a snack in the French bakery and ate it in Morocco. Made my way out to catch the Candlelight Ceremony. During the show my boarding group was finally called. So after I returned to France and hopped in the line for Ratatouille. It took almost an hour from entering the queue until I was leaving the area. Walked back to the front of the park to watch the Spaceship Earth Beacon of Magic for a while. About 20 minutes before Harmonious I went on a search for a spot. Ended up near Mexico. After the show walked against the vast majority of the crowd to the International Gateway and back to the Boardwalk to call it a night.
Thoughts & Observations:
- I started off this Walt Disney World trip trying something new. We parked at the new LAX Economy Parking Structure. This structure opened a couple months ago and will eventually be connected to the main terminal via the elevated rail/tram system opening in a couple years. If you pre-booked online rates were almost 50% off so we thought we would give it a try. So far so good. The garage is well lit and had plenty of spaces. Entering was quick and easy, no problems with our QR code. I managed to find a spot next to a pole too so no one on one side of me even. Only mistake we made was taking a long walk to get to the buses. We circled the garage a bit vs going straight to the elevators. The signage could be a little more clear to help with that. There was a bus waiting and we were on our way in a couple minutes with no problem.
- The construction continues at LAX so there are lane closures and other delays all around the area. The bus pickup/drop off is on the first level so I had to find an elevator to get up to the bag drop area and of course where we were dropped off and where I needed to check in for Delta Sky Priority were on opposite ends of the terminal. There was no wait at the counter nor at TSA so all went smoothly on that front.
- The flight left close to on time and landed early. I managed to get a couple hours of sleep on the flight, but we did hit some turbulence and the guy behind me was a little drunk and loud at times which didn't help either.
- We touched down a few minutes until 7am. Which gave me just enough time to turn on my phone and get the Walt Disney World App up and running in time for the 7am Ratatouille Boarding Group distribution. I was pleased to get one on the first try. I had not been counting on picking one up this morning as we were due to land after 7am originally.
- We had no problems picking up our bags but do really miss the luggage service that was part of Magical Express. This trip marks our last Magical Express as the service will be discontinued the end of the year. We have used it for every trip since the service launched in 2005 and never had a major issue.
- Decided to grab some breakfast from the airport food court before boarding the bus. I was surprised that the McDonald's app had deals and allowed them to be used at the airport. So I was able to get free hotcakes for breakfast! A nice way to start the day.
- * When I made my way to the Magical Express check in the area was empty except for cast members. I thought with this later arrival time there would be more people. We received our own bus which was great.
- Thanks to there being no delays and the room not being ready (as expected) we were way ahead of schedule and reached EPCOT over an hour before the early park opening. The Skyliner was running so we decided to go for a ride. There was no wait to board at the International Gateway. Getting back took some time with a decent wait at the Caribbean Beach Resort station.
- I had an interesting experience with our park passes this trip. We had annual passes when the parks closed down. I had a Premier and others WDW Platinum Passes. Over the summer I called and spoke to WDW annual passholder team and they said we qualified to buy passes but there was a 30-60 day waiting period and someone would contact us. A few weeks later on a Sunday morning we received a call and I was able to buy the passes. The cast member said the WDW passes would be new Platinum pass purchases and because of a problem with my Premier pass it qualified for a renewal rate. All three passes would be shells and need to be activated upon arrival at WDW. I walked up to the ticket counter to activate our passes and the two WDW passes went through no problem. In a matter of minutes they had their new passes and were ready to enter EPCOT. Then came mine. They first had problems getting it to come up. Then said they were going to set it to expire a year from my original expiration date which was March since it was a renewal. I said that is not what I was told and I would not have purchased it if that was the case. The cast member was less than helpful and basically said here you go and if you do not like it go talk to guest relations. So off I went to guest relations. I explained my story to the cast member there and she said that is odd that they were able to issue a renewal for a pass type that did not exist at the time. After several minutes and a lot of clicking she said she thought she had it and scanned my pass and now it was an Incredi-Pass with Photopass that would be good for a year from today. So in the end all worked out but it took time at the ticket counter and at guest relations.
- Each morning Disney Resort guests received a 30 minute early entry at every park. As you entered the park there was a queue to have your Magic Band or room key scanned then you were allowed to proceed. The process was really quick and we were in the park with no problem.
- We had no game plan for the day except to hang out at EPCOT until our room was ready at the Boardwalk. The wait for Soarin was showing under 30 minutes so we headed that way. By the time we reached the Land it was up to 50 minutes and looking slow so we skipped it and decided to wait until park opening and visit Living with the Land. This plan was derailed by a problem with the attraction and a late opening. Since they had no ETA we decided to leave.
- Before leaving while waiting to see if Living with the Land would open I decided to give the free Disney Genie service a try. I picked a couple of things to see and let it work its Magic. The schedule it came up with started by having me walk from the Land out to the American Adventure to queue up for lunch in an hour. Then hike back and visit Living with the Land then Imagination and then back out to World Showcase for something. I decided it was not even worth toying with it at that point and gave up on the app.
- Awesome Planet was about to begin as we walked by so I stopped to watch it. This was my first time seeing the film. I thought some of the shots were incredibly nice to see. The narration of the film tended to come across a little heavy handed for me at times.
- Disney was having a lot of technical problems today this included the APP as well as some transaction processing. Gift cards did not work at most locations for most of the day. Credit cards fared better. The app would sometimes work, sometimes not work. So there were a good number of guests complaining as you walked around.
- As I roamed EPCOT today it became apparent really quickly the cutbacks in entertainment choices. Festival of the Holidays did have storytellers and some acts have returned but there were some holes in the offerings and overall the park did not feel overly festive or lively, especially after having just been at the Disneyland Resort with its extensive holiday entertainment offerings.
- EPCOT felt really busy for a Tuesday in early December. We have visited a number of times this time of year and the park felt more like a weekend day than week day. Especially at park opening.
- Throughout the day we kept checking to see if our room was ready. As 4pm neared some of the group headed over to the Boardwalk to check with the desk in hopes it was ready and the app/system was just having problems. No such luck as it was not. They gave us an option to take a room that was ready but said the one we were assigned was much better (closer to the lobby, higher floor, and better view) so we opted to wait. Finally around 4:10 the room showed up in the app and we were good to go.
- I stopped to watch the Candelight Procession and Ceremony at EPCOT. This year the choir consists of cast members and is substantially smaller. There were maybe a 100 members in it. There are more Voices of Liberty in the show this year and they make up a social distanced human Christmas tree. The show itself was great as always but with the smaller choir and after just seeing the spectacle at Disneyland a couple nights before it was really a let down.
- My boarding group for Ratatouille was finally called at 7:32pm, so over 12 hours after making the reservation. Once I entered the queue it took almost 40 minutes to board the attraction. We inched along most of the time so it did not appear to be because of down time, just a lot of guests called plus Lightning Lane return people. I really do not understand why they call so many groups. Seems they can call less and keep the wait time shorter for all. Having a 12 hour virtual queue then 40 minute real queue seems over the top. I decided to do it once just to compare the experience to the original Walt Disney Studios Paris one.
- The attraction itself felt the same as the Paris version. Maybe a few more vibrations/rocking motion moments but that could be due to newer vehicles or just my memory. Nothing stood out as different or unique to the WDW version. I would have really liked to have seen them plus a 7 year old attraction in some noticeable way.
- Spaceship Earth's new lighting scheme for the Beacon of Magic was great to see in person. The holiday tag was a nice addition too. I spent a fair amount of time just sitting in the entrance plaza enjoying the music and lights.
- I closed out my evening with my first viewing of Harmonious. I looked at several spots and ended up on the Mexico side of show center. The primary locations I wanted to use were roped off and unavailable for stand by this evening. Harmonious was better in person than the webcast and videos I had seen prior to the show. As expected they videos failed to capture the sense of scale and amount of activity going on around the lagoon. I had fairly low expectations going in and the show unfortunately met those. The music, projections and effects were OK but I did not have any WOW moments. The infrastructure is large and screens were nice and clear to see but after the opening sequence it was more or less the same the rest of the show show. Disney promoted the sound track for the show but appears to have invested nothing in updating the EPCOT speaker system. It seemed to be the same old speaker blaring out the music. It did not have a mutli channel effect or clarity, compared to something like World of Color at Disney California Adventure for example. As expected the viewing angles for the center projections were extremely limited. I was not that far off center and the center ring was not that clear for me. Also there are a number of laser effects that were not visible from my angle. The finale fell somewhat flat too. I am a fan of the Hunchback of Notre Dame music but it really did not work as a finale for me. There were moments in the show where the music engaged the audience and people were dancing in their spots. Another oddity to me is the show is really targeted at families yet it ran at 9:45pm every night I was there. A majority of the kids around me were asleep or in a daze and almost asleep. As I watched the show it had very little of an EPCOT feel to it for me. I could see it fitting nicely in the expanded Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris once they get a lagoon. The show did not really utilize World Showcase much. The country lights did come on for a segment and blinked for another, but were hard to see with the large barges in the lagoon.
- After Harmonious I decided to take the shorter walk to the International Gateway which mean working my way through the large mass of guests trying to exit the park. As usual this was a chore and many guests were not helpful or pleasant to encounter. They were tired, in a crowd, and just trying to leave and did not really appreciate those coming there way. Its too bad EPCOT has no crowd control to create a small walkway for those guests trying to reach the International Gateway. The number of guests using that exit have increased due to the SkyLiner adding four more resorts to the area.
Pedometer Information for the day:
My pedometer battery died on me about 2/3 the way through the day. I one point I checked and was over 10 miles but I have no idea where the day finished.
Addition Blog Picture Posts from today: