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Walt Disney World Day 1 Report

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Trip Log:

Started my day with a 3am alarm.  We were out the door and on the road before 4am arriving at LAX parking ahead of schedule before 5am.  No wait for the shuttle of course, same at checkin and security, so we were at the gate with a couple hours to spare.   The flight left on time and no issues.   Grabbed a bite to eat at MCO then took a bus to the Swan Reserve.  Checked in, dropped my bags and was off to EPCOT.  Arrived at the International Gateway around 6:30pm and made my way to the Christmas Tree then into the newly opened World Celebration Gardens area.  Roamed around there then watched the EPCOT Beacon of light sequences before checking out Journey of Water inspired by Moana.   Returned to World Showcase and worked my way around to the American Adventure area by way of Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, and Italy.   Watched the 8:30pm Candlelight Processional then found a spot in Japan for Luminous the Symphony of US which premiered at 9:30pm.   After the show walked back to the International Gateway and to the Swan Reserve to wrap up my long day and quick trip to EPCOT.

Thoughts & Observations:

  • This trip we opted for a day flight to Orlando, as most of my group has tired of the red-eye. This meant a 3am wake up and 4am drive to the airport though.   We encountered no delays on the freeway or at the LAX parking structure, or shuttle bus to the airport.   The automated-people mover system is due to open in 2024 at LAX and that promises to be a nice improvement over the buses. 
  • Most of the work on the Delta terminals has wrapped up at LAX and since my last trip earlier this year you can now use both sides to reach security and the gates vs having to walk to one side of the terminal.   Of course where we got off the bus, where the Priority checkin was and then where the TSA pre-check lines were all on opposite sides so we got our steps in going back and forth.  No waits so that was good, but just a lot of walking back and forth. 
  • Our gate was in Terminal 3 which still has a majority of the dining options under construction.  For example if you wanted Starbucks you had to walk to the one in Terminal 2.  
  • One quirky thing we learned with Delta. If you are on the Airbus 321-Neo plane and want to pre-order your meal you cannot.  Most other planes you can now a days in first class.  But the 321-Neo has some sort of oven restriction and they will not allow it.    Speaking of Delta food offerings I am still not a fan of it.  I know they are trying to make the food “fancier” for first class guests but why not have standard options available too.  For example why not have a regular French toast or pancake or waffle option with toppings vs a bread pudding French toast?    I ended up eating almost nothing except the croissant which was warm but hard on the bottom and do not even think about asking for a second one (even though they are only 3 bites each) as that is not an option now a days.
  • The flight boarded and left on time which is always a plus when traveling to get off on the right foot.   The flight was uneventful for the most part.   The new wi-fi that is included on domestic flights is great to have and speeds were reasonable.  
  • Once in Orlando I was hungry so we stopped by the food court after picking up our suitcases before boarding the bus.    This usually is not a huge delay but today the Chick-Fil-A line was insanely slow.  They had a couple people working registers who were slow and only one person filling orders which was really inefficient. This meant a long wait to place an order and even longer to pick it up.   The location does not support mobile ordering so you are stuck in both lines too.    Also quirky I was going to use some points or a deal at McDonalds for someone else in the group and the app said it was not available at the location (it had worked the last several trips, so not sure if this is new or just a problem while I was there).
  • We walked down to the bus and were directed to a waiting Mears Connect bus. Once onboard we waited about 5 minutes then pulled out.  We had to stop at Terminal C to pick up a person then were off to Disney.   We stayed at the Swan Reserve which was the second stop, first was Caribbean Beach Resort. In all it took about an hour from scanning my Mears email until we were walking to the Swan lobby to check in. 
  • This was my first time staying at the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve and my first time in the building.  I thought it was quirky to have the checkin on the 3rd floor even though you had to enter on the first.  The process was easy with no wait and friend people helping.   Our room was upgraded prior to check in to a pool view on the 10th floor (vs the no view we had booked).  
  • After taking a very quick look out the window, some pictures of the room and then unpacking a few things I was on my way to the parks.   It took just under 20 minutes from my room to be through the tap point at the International Gateway. It was about a 15 min walk from crossing the street to security at EPCOT walking by way of the Swan and Boardwalk. 
  • My total time from touch down at MCO to World Showcase was three hours and fifteen minutes today.  I didn’t push it and that included stopping to eat and check in at the hotel.
  • EPCOT was busy this evening.  The World Celebration Gardens opened earlier this morning and Luminous the Symphony of Us premiered too.  
  • I made my way to the World Celebration Gardens. By the time I arrived the sun had already set so I got my first look around the gardens in the dark with a heavy crowd.  Not the best first impression.  The lighting package integration with the Spaceship Earth Beacon of Magic was great to see and the background music was nice.  The gardens themselves seemed very disjointed and awkward at best to me as I roamed around.   I found them to be ok and nice to see a fair amount of seating. Very little of it looked to be protected from the sun or rain though.   On a pleasant evening like tonight that was not an issue though.   Overall I thought this was ok but not a substantial upgrade from the previous Future World Plaza.  Given the time of nearly 4 years waiting for this is was a bit disappointing to me.
  • The new Walt the Dreamer statue is installed in Dreamers Point overlooking the area.  This evening being the first there was a steady line. When I first arrived, it was close to 100 guests. By the time I left the area a couple hours later it was under 40. 
  • I was disappointed in the Beacon of Magic selection.  It consisted of a new to me Disney100, the original show, the “When We’re Together” and “You’re a Star” from wish.  I would  have liked to have seen more Christmas offerings..  also the EPCOT 40th is my favorite.  The Disney100 with “When you Wish Upon a Star” is ok and the Mickey shapes in the lights is a nice touch.  
  • Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana was my next stop since I had not seen the final attraction.  I walked through and overall it was about what I expected.  Some reading about the water cycle, several interactive areas and chances to get wet and a little Moana scattered in.   I thought the area could have stood on its own with Moana.  Also I think it would have been a better fit set back further in the space between the Seas and Land.. to sort of bridge that gap thematically. Having it more in the center of the park but only accessible from the far side (by the Seas) and giving up so much central real estate to the support infrastructure for it seemed an odd choice to make. 
  • The Candlelight Processional had John Stamos as the guest narrator this evening so I walked out there to catch the last show of the night at 8:30pm.   The stand by line stretched to Germany so I assumed I was not going to get in.  I was surprised they had not cut the line.   I opted to stand in the back which worked out ok for me.   I have seen him before and he delivered another nice reading. 
  • I opted to stick around through the entire Candlelight Ceremony which did not leave me a lot of time to find a spot for Luminous given the large crowd in the park.  I decided to stand fairly far back from the water near Japan.  I thought this was a fair tradeoff for a view.
  • Luminous the Symphony of Us premiered this evening replacing Harmonious.      Here are some initial thoughts -
    • The show is a big step forward from Harmonious, which I thought was a big step backward from Illuminations Reflections of Earth.   The show is much more accessible for more people which is great and the new songs written for it work well.   Harmonious suffered from a very small viewing area that could enjoy the full show, Luminous does not have this problem and has even more good viewing spots that Reflections of earth had.
    • From a technical perspective this new show fits in World Showcase so much better.  You can view an equivalent version of the show from anywhere around the lagoon almost. The show is a traditional fireworks, light, laser, and fountain show. There are no projections so viewing angles are broad.   The new barges can be moved in and out of the lagoon which means better views for most of the day too.  
    • There are two new songs, the opening and closing.  In between the new is a unique mixes of Disney music from films over the years.  I thought the new songs worked well.  The mixes of the old were hit and miss and seemed to fall into the trap of the usual suspects for the most part.   I thought the narration was a little heavy and overly dramatic at times. I could have done with less talking.  But I guess they really wanted everyone to know what is going on where as Reflections of Earth you had to interpret it or know it ahead of time. 
    • The exit sequence features a couple songs with the fountains on and its nice to walk around the lagoon and see them.  They stop after two songs though so not a lot of time to enjoy them.
  • The International Gateway exit was the most backed up I can recall experiencing. You were shuffling from the walkway down toward the store through the gate. Once you passed the Skyliner the crowd broke up considerably but the Boardwalk still had more guests than usual walking back.  The Boardwalk itself was very quiet with no signs of entertainment as I walked through.  Once I passed the dance hall and turned toward the Swan the crowd had thinned to just a couple guests.  Then once I passed the main Swan/Dolphin walkway this dropped to just one other group near me. 
  • The walk back to the Swan Reserve felt about double the walk to the Boardwalk and probably close to three times the walk to the Beach Club Villas. Still nice not to have to rely on a bus or wait in any line.  I opted to not take the boat because it would have been three stops and only save a little over half the walk.

Pedometer Information for the day:

Steps 14,766
Miles 6.76
Walking Time 2:19
Total Time 4.5


WDW Pictures Part 1 - Travel to WDW & Swan Reserve
My journey from Los Angeles to Walt Disney World then a first look around my room at the Swan Reserve.
WDW Pictures Part 2 - Epcot
Walked over to EPCOT for the evening and took a look at World Celebration Gardens and Luminous the Symphony of Us on opening day for both. Plus my first look at Journey of Water Inspired by Moana.

Addition Blog Picture Posts from today: