Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party


Once Eric and I made it through Epcot, to catch the Monorail, we figured we'd reach Magic Kingdom by 4:15 PM. Our tickets, which we had to purchase, were valid from 4:00 PM through Midnight. Unfortunately our plan was thrown off completely. The Monorail from Epcot to Magic Kingdom had broken down, and had been for at least 10 minutes. After waiting a while we decided to take a resort bus to The Wilderness Lodge. Eric and I would then need to catch a different bus to finally arrive at the park for the party. It felt just as lengthy as it sounds. While waiting at The Wilderness Lodge, we sat there for what seemed an eternity, but was probably 20 minutes. The buses seemed very spaced out for our entire trip. 

Of course I knew we would arrive, but I figured since we had to pay for this ticketed event, we were losing money each minute we were late. We both were excited to arrive. I just had to get a photo with the event cast members. Their costumes are just so bizarre and "loud". The male version could be slightly toned down, but it is a party after all. These two cast members filter out guest not wearing party wristbands. When the cast was given the "go ahead", they would usher non-party guests to the main entry. Even the doors to the Main St. shops are shut to avoid receiving new shoppers. 

I took the reigns of the schedule and hoped it didn't annoy Eric. The attractions would be accessible throughout the trip, but the shows, parades, and fireworks were special to this event. One of my first goals was to avoid hunger during the party. I've never been a fan of the food offered at Magic Kingdom, but it's always fun to hear the silly jokes from Sonny Ecplise at the Starlight Lounge.

We had some good ole American burgers, veggie for me. After we ate, there was a little time during normal operating hours. We visited the new Storybook Circus area. This area hadn't been completed during our trip in 2012. The Disney characters had some nicely themed outfits for the circus. 

Goofy was taking a break from riding his motorbike in the Cage of Doom! We also rode the newly designed Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

As Eric and I moved through the park, toward the western end, we both noticed a crowd awaiting the parade. Although our tickets were good at 4 PM, the party officially started at 7 PM. It was only 6:30 PM and people already were grabbing spots! I think Eric would have rather waited to see what spot we could grab around 7:30, but he knew I didn't want to miss this. We took a spot on Main St. This area is that picturesque spot most people seek. It is also the section of the route most people incorrectly think is the one place to watch. Truthfully, I wanted to watch the parade with this image as the background (i.e. Garlands, wreaths, old looking buildings).

Once the party kicked off, it began to snow onto the parade route. Various versions of holiday favorites started to play and the street became filled with guests. It was a huge crowd! The mob was full of late arrivals and some guests being shown the door. I looked over at Eric. As it snowed on him I thought of a moment where we sat on a frozen street in Pasadena, awaiting the arrival of the Rose Parade. Here was his expression on this day. 

Disneyland is so much more strict about crowd control. The parade was getting close (we could hear the music) and the street was still full of people. It didn't help that a short street show, where guests joined in the dancing, had just finished. Where the park was strict was when cast members, clothed in those outfits mentioned earlier, were checking guests for wristbands. I didn't see it happen, but it must be quite a scene when someone is asked to leave from the viewing area.  

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime parade

Snow White and her prince. 

Duffy the bear couldn't care less that he was in a parade. I think my sofa's throw pillow at home was more animated. 

There is no debating that the parade was festive. Maybe I'm just too big a fan of Disneyland's Christmas parade because I felt this one wasn't as good. However; I did enjoy the different ways Winter, Candy, Santa's Workshop, and Christmas scenes were presented. They did have a great deal more of toy soldiers than Disneyland. The Magic Kingdom has a musical band of them plus marching soldiers. 

As Eric was guessing, I would need to watch the second parade showing. Side note: I have been watching the Disney Parks Christmas Day special since I was around 8 years old. It's primarily filmed at Disney World, so I wasn't going to pass up this chance to see their version twice. 

We moved our position to the park's central hub. We would be waiting for their castle "projection" show and stay at that spot for Holiday Wishes (fireworks). The projection show, Celebrate the Magic,  started around 9:15 PM and we were both impressed. It looked like the technology had improved from the first incarnation of this show, which we saw in 2011. The images seemed to have more depth. I think the best part was "Let it Go" from Frozen. You can see Elsa projected here. 


Quickly after this show, the fireworks began. I could see the average, once a decade visitor loving this show. It is entertaining, but there was something dull about the music. Eric made a good point that projecting silhouettes of snowflakes onto the castle aren't as exciting as the grand, three dimensional projections from the previous show. But, as you can see from these few shots, fireworks themselves are enjoyable. Loud noises, explosions, and colors.....what's not to like about that?

The show ended and we shuffled over to a nearby spot on the curb. We would be front row for the second parade showing at 10:30. People were still milling about with that "What do we do next?" look on their faces. Not us. We were ready for the parade and resting our legs. 

Prince Eric & Ariel atop one of the oldest floats in Walt Disney World. (To be fair, Disneyland also has it's share of reused floats)
Although not pictured, there were a few court dancers that had a nice conversation about last night's house party. Eric and I looked at one another, and we giggled. Was there no supervisor watching these performers? I wouldn't say these little details completely ruined the parade, but a few performers didn't "have his head in the game". 

Let's take it to the positive. The music for the parade was very up beat. It wasn't full of grandiose moments but felt more like dance music. During the Candy Factory segment, the pop song "I Want Candy" was used. (Here I go again) That seemed out of place for a traditional parade. But, Santa Claus had a beautiful outfit with a lot of embroidery. (See there's positive there)


The clock was pushing toward the 11 PM hour. The majority of the park entertainment was now in the past. So it was time to grab our snicker doodle cookies and hot chocolate (all you want with party admission). The cookies were so good I made a mental promise we would grab more, but we didn't have a chance. 


I look like a floating head here. Obviously the photo is too dark, but I thought the ornament was cute. 

The party's merchandise sold out quickly. From listening in on another guest's conversation (ask Eric, I do that like a professional), she was angry they were out of shirts. Well, I didn't want a party shirt, but I did want something to commemorate the occasion. As usual I do have many photos, so there's our souvenir for the party. 


To wrap the party up I want to be clear that we both did enjoy ourselves. We did see the specialty offerings, but missed out on a few holiday dance parties. I was okay missing those dance venues. I know Eric will dance anywhere so maybe he is disappointed about that. What I find hard to believe is the resorts say tickets sell out for the event. We have also been to the Halloween event and it was just as crowded. 

I can't imagine people attending the party as their only visit to Magic Kingdom. For Eric and I, we are accustom to crowds and can manage them just fine. If your reading this and hate crowds, still attend and try to return another day. If you followed the timeline I laid out during this post you'll see hours passed quickly. 

Luckily we still had more time to return this park and more adventures to see. And, let's face it, we had more food to eat. I always say healthy will be the route I'll take. Judging by my waist size now, I made a few turns from that "healthy road". Next time we'll visit Victoria & Albert's restaurant. That was a seven course meal and you'll hear all about our elegant meal. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas Along the Waters of Walt Disney World


Our first full day was exactly that, full! After our fabulous breakfast at Boma, our goal was to see as many resort decorations as possible, then head to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. We would visit the Epcot hotels and try to see at least one Magic Kingdom resort. A hotel is referred to "Magic Kingdom" if it borders the lake that sits in front of the Magic Kingdom park. From our hotel we caught a bus to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Above is the tree just outside that park's main entrance. We loved all the tinsel used to represent the obvious, Tinsel Town! 

For those that haven't visited Walt Disney World, there is a lengthy trail that connects Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios. It was a beautiful day for a long walk. 

The first hotel we explored was The Boardwalk. This hotel has a lot of the time share type rooms, but I do hope to one day stay here. We love the New England shoreline theme. I would say all the hotels along this body of water, apart from the Swan & Dolphin, share a similar theme. Their holiday decor was just as interesting. Don't believe me? This Christmas tree made Eric so happy, he flew right off the pavement! Peter Pan doesn't have anything on him. 

In the Boardwalk's lobby, between these two trees was a concession stand made mostly from gingerbread and candy. Cotton candy was being made fresh. And, one could of course buy gingerbread, some snacks, and I believe lemonade. I ask myself now why we didn't buy anything, but I am certain we were too full from breakfast. 


Even without this Christmas overlay, the buildings and furnishings set a specific tone. We felt ourselves slide into the past where seaside carnivals evoked a sense of fantasy and sinister characters. Speaking of oddities, check out these two chairs we found. Would you want to take a rest on these two antiquities? 

Eric and I found something a little more full of comfort. We rocked in those seats for a bit, sat back and enjoyed this view. What a day! 

This hotel, Disney's Yacht Club, would be the next stop on our walking tour of Christmas decor. 

Look at Eric! Man......so lucky I married this man. This morning/afternoon was perfection. The two of us weren't in any hurry. We took in the colors of the sky, the colors of the decor, and the sounds of the land. "BICYCLE coming through the boardwalk!!!" 
Ok so we were in the way of a few bicyclist, but I think you get the idea of our day so far. 

I'm a sucker for photographs where our wedding bands are shown. But my goodness! Our walking shoes are massive!!! As you have seen so far, we had a long walk, and a lot more walking ahead of us. 
The Yacht Club had a traditional feel to its overall decor and holiday additions. Lighthouses and sail boats were a running theme. There was a fun train set and town that we watched for a bit. As we watched the trains go around and around, I thought of Gomez Addams, a lover and wrecker of train sets. And, of course Walt Disney came to mind. I bet Walt's largest train set is circling Disneyland 365 days a year. 


We have seen a boardwalk and a harbor, but now it was time to visit a hotel on the beach. Disney's Beach Club color scheme reminds me of the house we rented for a while in Newport Beach, CA. Our place was the same color and trim, until it was painted. But, that is besides the point isn't it? Or, maybe I just wanted to insert that so you'd know we lived in a cool beach house for 5 years! 

Your eyes are not deceiving you. 


Inside this hotel we encountered a lot of chocolate made into unexpected creations. There was a fascinating carousel rotating as if to tease the senses. Well I regressed to my 4 year old self and was ready to climb through the poinsettias, and take the biggest bite out of it! But you know, people were watching and this was a classy hotel. 

We even found an underwater castle, Atantica, where Ariel the mermaid once lived with King Triton. CHOCOLATE again!

The designers even included some information as to what ingredients were used for the carousel. I would have even eaten this list!

Eric and I had seen what these three hotels had to offer for Christmas, but time was slipping away. Our goal was to start for Magic Kingdom park by 3 PM and it was nearing 1:30 PM. In order to stay with our goals of the day we needed to head straight into Epcot via the park's rear entry, maybe see one attraction, and then exit at the parks front entrance to catch the Monorail to Magic Kingdom. There are so many ways to get around Walt Disney World. In one day you could use all forms of transportation. 

In the next phase of the blog you'll hear about how we were almost late for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party. This day was jam packed with Christmas and we loved it! Keep in mind, not one attraction had been ridden this day, so far. 


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Honeymooning at Walt Disney World

For mine and Eric's honeymoon we were lucky enough to visit Disney World. Our generous family and friends sent us to Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our experience was more than amazing. Stepping into the hotel and standing in the lobby brought an overwhelming feeling of excitement. As we took all this in Eric said he was about to cry. I don't know if he actually cried, but for drama we will just say that he did.

I'm glad we have many photos because my words can't do the hotel justice. Besides this grand sight, there was an aroma of wood burning in an exotic stove mixed with earthy spices. We noticed this smell came from Boma, the restaurant very near the lobby. The music piped in was filled with African drums and chanting, perfection! I wish all of you now could hear the beautiful sounds that filled that lobby. 
This link might work..it's the soundtrack on YouTube. 

Throughout the lobby are displays of various crafts and masks. The hallways and small alcoves leading to the rooms also show highlights of similar artwork. One might think they wouldn't
want to "stay in a museum", but great information was passed onto us via these displays. 

Some of you may know that most rooms or all were designed to face an animal habitat. Ours overlooked a savanna that was home to zebras, giraffes, water buffalo, and other various animals. Entering the room for the first time was full of excitement. We both knew what we were in for, and couldn't wait to see what stood outside our balcony. Here was our first glimpse. 

At that moment we didn't see any animals, but were confident that they would make themselves known.  

The rest of the room was a nice surprise as well. The entry was bigger than we had seen at other WDW hotels. That fact probably stems from usually staying at Value resorts. 

Finally a double vanity, a couple's dream!! The shower curtain was a fun, colorful touch. The coloring reminded me of the African art that is pictured above. 

Our cast discount only allowed us to book a room with a bunk bed in it, so here is Eric being silly. I think if that was not there, the space would've made a little sitting area. That is just a guess. 
We also had our own comfortable bed. To "toot our own horns", Eric and I must've had the easiest room to clean. We only had the essentials that we brought with us and I didn't want to leave a daily mess. The surrounding rooms had many people crammed into them with kids. Who knows what the housekeepers dealt with in those rooms?

Our first morning we ate breakfast at the restaurant Boma. It's an all you can eat buffet, with a heavy influence of African flavors. A nice surprise was a delivery of sparkling wine and flutes to our table. The front desk sent this over for our Honeymoon. So nice!

BOMA from above

As you see here, Eric and I had a few beverage choices. I think in the end, we were full of more liquids than food. The jungle juice, shady name, was a blend of orange and a mango.....delicious! Eric doesn't normally drink juice, but he was enjoying this. 

The food was also delicious, to say the least. For the first time I tried something called Chakalaka. The Chakalaka was a mashed/diced tomato mixed with a little spicy flavor. This side dish, along with a dish called Pap was my breakfast for a few mornings. It was an easy solution for a vegetarian breakfast. 

After breakfast we had a few visitors. And, we were able to take some great photos throughout the trip. 

The hotel grounds are so relaxing. The designers really created a place where we could unwind during the day or after visiting a busy theme park. And again, the sounds added so much to the atmosphere. 

Eric gets an award for his calves!

Outside the main lobby is a fire pit for talk and relaxation. At night there is a storyteller that shares folk stories from his native land. We didn't get a chance to see this because it usually took place while we were at a theme park. It was still nice to lounge there, when the chairs were free. In this photo, I think I'm in a child size chair. I felt massive in it!

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge also has the Vacation Villas called Kidani Village, which we didn't visit. They are Disney's version of a time share resort. They all have kitchenettes and sleep approximately 6 people per room. A drawback is that housekeeping visits less. You'd need to make up your own bed for a few days. 

Check out that wedding ring people! 

How can I describe this hotel without using the word "relaxing"? I don't think I can. It is gorgeous and needs to be experienced. The unknown of the jungle or savanna brings about a mysterious feeling. What's around the corner or asleep among the trees? The references of safaris from the past even suggest an old Hollywood genre of romance. Even after being back home for almost a month, it is this hotel that we day dream about. But, it was our reality for 9 days.