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Jeremy Leff

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Disney Trip Report [Mar. 18th, 2009|09:03 pm]
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I'm back from a Spring Break trip to Disney. Here are a few highlights:

1) Wishes and Dinner at the California Grill - This was not my first time watching Wishes from atop the Contemporary, although now they have such privileges reserved only for guests who are dining. Since I had never eaten there before, I decided we'd give it a try. The meal was definitely not disappointing, although I still think the Yachtsman Steakhouse may be better. The sushi was the best I've ever had, and the fireworks didn't disappoint either.

2) The Hilton on Hotel Plaza Boulevard - Wow...what a nice joint. It's every bit as nice as any of the deluxe Disney resorts, and offers most of the same amenities (except of course monorail or boat access to the parks). I would definitely stay here again. The rate was cheaper than Disney, we were still able to do Extra Magic Hours, it was walking distance to Downtown Disney, and our 10th floor room offered a great view of the shuttle launch on Sunday evening.

3) The Caribbean Beach Resort - Really nice, with a spacious room, but here is my problem with moderate level resorts: for the extra money, you really ought to get valet and bell services. But it's still a step up from the value resorts. Here's what you get that you don't at the All-Star: all 2 story buildings, slightly better parking, closer bus stops, a table service restaurant, nicer/less-cheesy decor and theme-ing, and more recreation options. The hot tub was a nice way to end the day until it got taken over by teenagers acting like they had never seen the opposite sex in swimwear.

One other comment here not related to any class of resort. I have all but written off Disney's bus service as a do not do. Too many times I have waited 45 minutes or an hour for a bus to a park, only to have to combat thousands of people trying to fight over the same bus back to the hotel at park close. Just not worth it when it is so easy to drive. My new favorite for Epcot is to use valet at the Boardwalk then ride the Friendship boats or walk over. Usually the Boardwalk is bustling with activity after Epcot closes, so it's a good way to get a two-for-one.

4) Surrey Bikes at the Boardwalk - Definitely fun, but more work than you would think. Make sure you do it with someone who can pull their own weight.  ;-) My guess is it gets easier with the more people you have.

5) Disney's Guest Relations - Just awesome as always, and I'll leave it at that.

6) Soarin' - Will the "new attraction" popularity from this ever where off? I swear between it and Mission: Space, Epcot is no longer the escape from crowds that it used to be. I think they should build another one at DAK and call it Soarin' Over Africa to alleviate some of the demand. Anyway, if you don't get over there by noon when they usually run out of Fast Passes, plan on waiting in the 2 hour stand-by line. It may be worth it.

7) The American Idol Experience - Seriously one of the coolest set designs I have ever seen, and the light show was great too. I have to admit I was entertained. Job well done.

8) Illuminations from Future World - Okay, I know I mentioned this after the last trip, but it's worthy of doing so again. As many times as I have seen Illuminations, watching it from the seating area on the north end of the lagoon for the second time has only reiterated that I don't ever want to watch it from anywhere else. It was clearly designed to be viewed from this angle. In case you are wondering where I am talking about, at the end of the long path between Future World and the World Showcase, just between the two gift shops, there is an inclined area where you can sit and watch the show. As if it wasn't great always, it is SO much better from here. You can see ALL of the countries as they light up, and...well you just have to take my word for it and try it yourself. It's a popular spot so get there by 8:30.

9) The Land Food Court (Sunshine Seasons) - If you are ever in Epcot and looking for a healthy but tasty counter service burger alternative, this is the place to visit. The food is very high quality and it's not terribly busy...mostly just people holding a Soarin' Fast Pass. I don't know if they serve the veggies that are actually grown there like the Garden Grill does, but they tasted very fresh. We actually ate breakfast AND lunch there. This place has a selection as varied as what you would find at most of the resort food courts.

10) Space Mountain - I only mention it because it's about to close for almost an entire year, and when it re-opens it will supposedly be like a brand new attraction, although I'm told the track will have the same layout. I'm anxious to see the improvements, but thought it worth mentioning that I took one last ride on the original. I think the most significant changes will be new ride vehicles and a new queue that takes advantage of more of the interior space...similar to how it was before Fast Pass. I would also expect to see some kind of automatic gate on the load platform, similar to Coaster or Everest.

11) The American Adventure - I had never done this, so was glad to get to finally. It was cool...some of the best animatronics I have seen, but like the Hall of Presidents, half the audience was snoring. Getting to hear the acapella group Voices of Liberty before the show was a nice treat.

12) Extra Magic Hours - Fun, but not the same as E-Ride nights. Just too crowded, but again worth it because it does offer shorter wait times, and gives you more time in the midldle of the day to hang out by the pool.

Anyway I think that's about it. I'll post some pics soon.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: rialucia
2009-03-20 03:32 am (UTC)

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Nice to hear from you! I can't believe it's been over 3 years since I was last at Disney World, but I had some similar thoughts in your post...


1.) I've only ever eaten at the California Grille once, and it was 9 years ago, and I can still remember what I had. In fact, my Dad and stepmom and I all got the same thing and we loved it.

3.) I stayed at the CBR in '03 and I really liked it. I enjoy the aesthetic and the fact that it's a bit closer to Epcot.

6.) I'm honestly surprised that it's still so popular when it's been open for a good, what, 4 years now? The Soarin' out here in California draws a decent crowd, but the wait times aren't nearly as bad as what it always seems to be in FL. Every time I ride it out here, I kinda laugh to myself and think, "Suckers!" about everyone in Orlando who is waiting 2.5 hours to ride.

9.) I love the new incarnation of the food court. The old one was so gross and I used to have to do an occasional custodial shift in there and I remember just being nauseated by the smell of barbecue and macaroni after so many hours. I've eaten at the new Sunshine Seasons a few times and I've always enjoyed it.

11.) I really enjoy this attraction, especially seeing all the presidents and Ben Franklin walking up the stairs, but I will admit that I've fallen asleep in it more than once. It's just so relaxing...

12.) I think even as of when I was last there, EMH were getting really popular and crowded. It's gotten to the point where some people have changed their strategy and make it a point to go to a park the morning after its EMHs because, in theory, all the guests who would have been there that night won't be there the next day and it won't be so crowded. I've taken advantage of it a few times myself and I must say it's pretty nice to have that to look forward to and take a hotel nap in the meantime.

[User Picture]From: ickletarakins
2009-03-24 07:01 pm (UTC)

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You had to know you were going to hear from me ;o)

California Grill--Awesome. I'm surprised you say you may like Yachtsman's better, because I've eaten there twice and didn't enjoy it either time :o/

Caribbean Beach--I kind of agree that there should be a few more amenities for the price of the moderate resorts, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the CB and POR. The atmosphere...how they're so much more quiet and laid back than the value resorts...etc. And if I was super duper rich I would totally stay at the deluxe resorts, but I'm not, so I think the moderates are a good compromise. As for bus service...I've had it good and bad at EVERY type of resort. When I was there in October it was great but that is possibly because there was no one there. Ah well. Nothing can ever be perfect, I guess.

Soarin'--I love it but don't think it--or ANYTHING--is worth a 2 hour wait. I agree that the new attraction popularity of this ride is well overdue to wear off. It's been open for nearly 4 years, for God's sake!

Illuminations from Future World--so many people don't know how much more awesome it is! Seeing the countries light up rocks.

Awesome plug for the food court at The Land! I've been trying to push that place on people for years LOL

AHHH Space is closing for a year WTF why did I not hear about this?

American Adventure=corny. Voices of Liberty=amazing.

EMH--Totally awesome if you go during one of the less busy times of the year, trust me. I've done the EMH thing during busy season and off season and whereas it's a nice addition during busy season, during off season it's perfect.
[User Picture]From: jeremyleff
2009-03-25 12:09 am (UTC)

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I knew you'd understand!