Landed at Orlando airport as the sun was rising. Picked up our suitcases then stopped for breakfast before boarding a Mears Connect bus to the Boardwalk. Once at the Boardwalk changed clothes and dropped our bags with Bell Services since the room was not ready. Boarded a bus to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and arrived around 9:30am. There was a posted 40 minute wait for the Kilimanjaro Safari so we ventured that way and it was pretty accurate. We walked through Gorilla Falls and then over to Asia to watch KiteTails. After the show stopped by Dinoland USA where my Nephews were exploring the Dig Site. Decided to circle back to Yak & Yeti for Lunch. Arrived around noon and waited about 20 minutes with my Landry’s Select Card. After lunch we walked by Africa and spent some time in the Tree of Life Garden before heading for the bus stop. Caught a bus to Hollywood Studios and then took the Skyliner to Epcot and walked to the Boardwalk arriving around 3pm. Stopped by the front desk and asked the status of our room. Received a notice it was ready while talking to them so went to check out the room and unpack a bit. Once settled in we ventured out again and caught a Friendship Launch to EPCOT. Strolled through World Showcase with the idea of visiting some World Nature attractions, but one of the kids fell asleep enroute so we called an audible and went to Connections Eatery and grabbed a bite to eat. After eating visited Spaceship Earth then the Seas with Nemo and Friends including Turtle Talk. I walked back to the front of the park to watch the Beacon of Magic. A storm was rolling by south of Disney, the radar said it was not coming but I still opted to head for the International Gateway to be closer to the hotel since I had no rain gear with me. Waited about 20 minutes for Harmonious and kept an eye on the weather. The storm stayed away and we watched the show from the bridge then headed back to the room at the Boardwalk to call it a night.
Thoughts & Observations:
- We arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in the daylight for our departure, the last several trips the flights have been late and it was dark already. So this was my first time seeing the ongoing construction/renovation work in the daylight. The scope of the projects underway are large. The big project is a new automated people mover system (think a train like Orlando has) that will have three stops at the airport and then take you out to parking lots, rental car facility and a transfer to the rail line. The project is expected to be operational next year.
- We parked in the economy parking structure that opened late last year. This was our second time using it and again we ran into no major problems and found the experience great, especially at its price point. The only minor hiccup is the automatic plate reader did not work so we had to scan our reservation vs just driving up and in.
- We flew Delta this trip and their terminals are still undergoing a large renovation including a complete rebuild of Terminal 3. The first large phase of the project opened in April featuring a new check in area, security screening and Sky Club. The new additions are welcome and make the arrival experience at LAX better. The new check in area flowed nicely for us and security moved well too. The new Sky Club was impressive to look around and offered some nice views, too bad it was dark by the time we got there so we could not really appreciate the views. The only down side I see to the new facility is it opens later and closes earlier than the old club right now.
- Because of the ongoing work our plan departed from the International Terminal. There was a bus available that drove on the tarmac across to the terminal so you did not have to go through security again. It was a smooth process. Note: We saw this gate in the app and asked at check in about the shuttle and the agent working the counter did not know anything about it, they said you have to either walk or take the LAX shuttle outside security and go through it again once you get there, which was incorrect. There are signs once you are through security also the Sky Club staff knew the process.
- The gate we were assigned at Bradley was in an older part of the terminal and looked really worn and old. Also the A/C was not working properly and it was hot in the area. Luckily we boarded on time with no issues so we did not have to spend a lot of time there.
- The flight itself left on time and arrived early with no issues at all. It was a quick flight at just over 4 hours so not a lot of time for sleep unfortunately. I did get an ok view of Disney World as we entered the Orlando area. Of course I only had my cell phone and with the lighting the pictures did not come out that well, but still a great way to start the trip.
- The bags took a long time to arrive at MCO. We had to wait for a gate checked stroller, stopped in the restroom, dropped carryons at the food court and still arrived before the bags started to come out from our flight. Then once they did ours were near the end. I guess priority tags mean nothing anymore from Delta.
- After getting our suitcases we returned to the food court to get breakfast before leaving. A reminder to anyone looking to save some time and money the McDonalds supports mobile order and coupons/deals. Chik-Fil-A does is not on their app, it uses its own for orders only.
- Magical Express ended at the beginning of the year so we opted to use Mears Connect. This service is basically the Magical Express service with new branding and you pay for it now through Mears. The buses are in the same location. We showed up, they scanned our reservation, directed us to a queue and onto a bus. We waited a few minutes and then left. We lucked out with our own bus/private bus directly to the resort. We experienced nothing different than Magical Express.
- Since we arrived early the room was not ready, as expected. They really wanted to make sure I knew this. I received a handful of texts, emails and a voicemail within the first couple hours of arriving.
- We had a park reservation for Animal Kingdom this morning so headed down to the bus stop. The line was up the walkway a bit. We started asking and it turns out everyone else was going to the Magic Kingdom. When the bus showed up we were the only ones to board.
- The weather was mild and the wait posted at 40 minutes for the Safari so we trekked out there to start assuming both would get worse as the day wore on. The line moved ok but did have some pauses due to Lightning Lane. In the end it turned out to be fairly close.
- Walked through Gorilla Falls after the Safari and thought it felt rather crowded with a lot of guests not moving along like usual. The gorillas were out but not overly active so this seemed odd.
- Caught KiteTails from the Flame Tree BBQ area. I stopped there due to the time I arrived and that there was shade there vs the theater that was all in the sun. The views were great but the drawback is you cannot see the performers that well since they are only in the one viewing area. The show is being re-imagined in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see how it goes. I have enjoyed the shows, but the theater is unforgiving in the heat of the day when most shows are scheduled.
- For lunch we decided to try Yak and Yeti. I had tried to get a reservation ahead of time at the 60 day mark and several times between then and when we arrived and never found anything. So instead we used my Landry’s Select Card which gets you priority seating. The wait for our party of 7 was 20 minutes at noon. Even with three annual passholders in the party they could not apply the discount to all entrees if on one bill so we had to split it up. Not a problem for us, but more work for them. We also used several gift cards. I wish they had a way to manage/combine gift cards like other places do.
- We arrived back at the Boardwalk just before 3pm and went to check on the room. Nothing had shown up in the app and it had been a while since they told us nothing was available yet. Shortly after 3pm we received notification the room was ready. Not sure if the front desk visit triggered it or just timing. We hiked out to the room and learned that the Magic Band system was not working properly to open the doors. Luckily we had a couple keys from the front desk and cell phones worked. We assumed this would be fixed, but our bands never worked the entire trip.
- This visit we tried a Boardwalk view for the first time. We had a 2 bedroom villa on the 4th floor. The view was great looking out over the lake with Spaceship Earth in the distance. The only downside to the room was the hike there from the lobby. There were only a couple rooms further than ours. Also interesting is the kitchen area was reversed from the last several we stayed at, so everything felt just slightly off.
- Spent some time this evening at EPCOT. The park felt crowded for a Tuesday evening. Wait times were all over the map with some well over an hour and others near walk on. We ended up grabbing something to eat at the new Connections Eatery. It was not busy which was a great way to see the facility. It is large, with seating for over 1,700 people. With the high ceilings and open floor plan the space felt large.
- We visited Spaceship Earth. The attraction was showing signs of needing some TLC. The post show especially needs some help. I emailed my video to myself and it never showed up (over the course of the week I did this many times to different addresses and none showed up). On the positive side Spaceship Earth turned out to be a go to/favorite attraction for my 5 year old Nephew so we went on more times this trip than I had in years.
- The Seas with Nemo was having issues too this evening. The main attraction was down so we walked into the aquarium. One of the pods is closed for renovation. The attraction overall was fairly quiet. We visited Crush at Turtle Talk which had a nearly full house.
- With the late sunset and earlier park closing time enjoying the Spaceship Earth Beacon of Magic meant watching it with it still fairly bright out. In December the park was open 45 minutes later and the sun was set by 5:30pm vs 8:00pm. It was nice to see the new Pocahontas sequence that was added for the Flower & Garden Festival. The sequence was longer than most and a tad slow for me. It looked good but I prefer the more lively ones like they did for the holidays.
- There was a storm blowing through just south of Disney. You could see the lightning and it felt like it was going to storm. The radar kept showing it staying away from the parks. I opted to head closer to the hotel since I had no rain gear with me. In the end got a little drizzle but the forecast maps held true.
- Because of the weather opted to watch Harmonious from the less than ideal spot on the bridge near the International Gateway. Watched with a couple people who have not seen the show and they were not impressed.
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