Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 5

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We had the Star Wars Character Breakfast scheduled for that morning (click here to start from the beginning if you haven’t read the previous parts of this Walt Disney World Trip Report), but fortunately I had booked one of the later seatings—props to me for actually looking at the park hours calendar before arbitrarily booking at early seating. I’m finally getting the hang of Walt Disney World trip planning 101!

I’ve already covered the Star Wars breakfast in our full review, but suffice to say, we really enjoyed the experience. The food was good, but it was more about the ambiance and quality of interactions that made it worthwhile…or at least close to worthwhile. In terms of value for money, both Star Wars meals required great experiences, as the food alone did not even come close to being “worth it” at either venue. Obviously our thoughts on these Star Wars meals are moot since Star Wars Weekends have concluded and now the meals are over, but I strong suspect they will return next year. If not sooner…Star Wars meals have many guests screaming “PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY, DISNEY.”

We were at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater until right about the end of breakfast, getting our moneys’ worth both in terms of experience and food. When we finally left, I think it was around 11:30 am, at which time Sarah came to the conclusion that she wasn’t feeling well, and needed to head back to our hotel to take a nap. We had switched to the luxurious All Star Music Resort (& Spa?) for the final two nights of our trip, and I didn’t want to mess with getting back there, so I just decided to stay in the park, despite being fairly tired. (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 4

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We got close to a full night of sleep that night (if you missed our previous installment at Epcot, click here to start from the beginning), but I was still up fairly early the next morning. Unfortunately, Sarah had some work-related stuff to deal with, so we couldn’t get an early start on the morning. While she was doing this, I went out and wandered around the Contemporary, trying to find some interesting photos. Once you get past the cool a-frame building, there isn’t a ton of photographic interest, so I basically just wandered. Sort of like the rooms themselves, it’s just a modern looking hotel with a really cool hook in the design.

As a kid, I always thought the Contemporary was about the coolest hotel ever, an impression formed entirely as we whisked through it on the monorail. Even when we first returned to Walt Disney World as adults, it was a dream to stay there. Now that we have stayed at many other nice modern luxury hotels around the world, the luster of the Contemporary has sort of worn off for me. Like I mentioned in the first installment, Sarah really liked it, and I love being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom, but it just isn’t a top hotel for me on a list of Walt Disney World hotels at which I’d personally want to stay.

For me, where Disney excels is in the creation of hotels that blend nice accommodations and interesting themes, with an emphasis on the themes. You can get luxury hotels anywhere in the world; frankly, many brands and boutiques do these types of hotels much better than Disney does. Themed hotels are rare, and themed hotels that are well-executed (rather than just a light bit of window-dressing to differentiate the supposedly ‘themed’ hotel from countless other hotels in an area) are exceedingly rare. For this reason, I’d much rather stay at a hotel like Port Orleans Riverside or Wilderness Lodge than the Contemporary. I still liked the Contemporary, but Sarah is enamored with the hotel, and it just doesn’t quite do that much for me.

We got a really late start that morning, and headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekends just before lunch… (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 3

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After all of the excitement of leaving the Magic Kingdom and waiting for the monorails (if you haven’t read the previous installments of this Walt Disney World Trip Report from the 24-Hour Party in the Magic Kingdom, click here to start with those), then getting back into the room and getting ready for bed, it was just after 8 am. Yet, some “genius” had decided it was reasonable to make a lunch ADR for us in Epcot for 1:30 pm. In defense of that person, after the last two 24-hour parties at Disneyland, we had gotten up around noon each time and headed back to the parks. So maybe it was entirely reasonable for that person to make a 1:30 pm ADR, and maybe you should all just get off his back, okay?!

Ultimately, it turned out to not be that big of a deal. While we both were tired and probably could have slept a little longer, we both have a difficult time sleeping while it’s light out, so the quality of our sleep would have been low. Instead, we quickly got ready and made our way over to Epcot. We even made some FastPass+ reservations on the monorail; admittedly, it was pretty nice being able to make these in advance and not having to run around picking up paper FastPasses.

I’m actually looking forward to making some further in advance of our next trip. We don’t typically do much advance planning these days, but I don’t consider spending 10 minutes to make a Toy Story Mania, Soarin’, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass+ reservation all that much work.

Lunch was at Restaurant Marrakesh, a spot we had decided on after much deliberation. We debated doing it, Teppan Edo, Monsieur Paul’s, Rose & Crown, Nine Dragons, or Chefs de France. We settled on Restaurant Marrakesh for lunch and Chefs de France for dinner. For as many Walt Disney World restaurants as we have experienced, we actually have not done several in World Showcase, with Restaurant Marrakesh being one of those restaurants. This has nothing to do with the ethnic nature of these restaurants (we are open to just about anything), but more to do with lukewarm reviews for many spots. (more…)

Walt Disney World Memorial Day Trip Report – Part 2

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It was mid-afternoon during the Rock Your Disney Side 24-Hour Party, and despite being up since 4:30 am and only having had about 4 hours of sleep the night before, I was feeling pretty good. Everyone has always told me that I wouldn’t be able to keep up my “hyperactive pace” as I got older, but since graduating, I’ve found that I’m now able to sleep even less. Not that any of you care about that, but I pride myself in forcing myself to push the limits, so humor me. I’m sure it will catch up to me at some point, but hopefully by that time science finds a way to replace the weak parts of me with robot features.

Sarah, on the other hand, was not doing so well. She had met me in the park after 10:30 am, and was already feeling like she needed a nap to make it through the night. In fairness, she didn’t slept until 10 am, but she takes longer to get ready and wasn’t in much of a rush to get to the park. I guess sunrise photos present a challenge when taking iPhone photos for Instagram! ;)

We decided to grab some coffee and cola from Auntie Gravity’s (their iced-coffee is small and disgusting, for what it’s worth) and wander around Tomorrowland for a bit to see if that worked as a pick me up before she decided whether she’d walk back to the Contemporary for a nap. We did the Peoplemover a couple of times, getting off in between because there was actually a line for it! I’m not sure how many times we did the Peoplemover total during the 24 hour day, but I’m going to go with “a lot.” I have some roughly hour-long gaps in between some photos, and most of those gaps can be explained by relaxing on the Peoplemover. For the record, neither of us fell asleep on the Peoplemover. It really was just a matter of relaxing and chatting. I’m a staunch ‘no talking during attractions’ person, but the Peoplemover is one exception to that rule, which is partly why we do it so much.

After these rides, Sarah decided to play it safe and head back to the room for a nap so she could make it all the way through the night. I hadn’t been taking many pictures during the afternoon, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to wander around and get some shots. Here’s what I came up with… (more…)

Disneyland Christmas 2013 Trip Report – Part IV

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Time for the final installment of our Disneyland Christmas trip report. Read the previous parts here. Candlelight Processional was next on the agenda. We’ve been to Candlelight Processional numerous times at Epcot, seeing a range of narrators from Neil Patrick Harris to J. Peterman from Seinfeld. I’ve always enjoyed it, but I can’t say it’s the highlight of the Christmas season at Walt Disney World for me. It’s not worth the long wait in standby and since we’ve already seen it several times, it’s difficult to justify the dinner packages. Sarah also enjoys it, but could take it or leave it.

Despite this, we were intrigued when we realized that Candlelight Processional would be occurring during our Disneyland trip, and looked forward to attending, even if it meant dealing with congestion and heavier than normal crowds. Taking last year’s anomaly out of the equation, Candlelight Processional only has four performances each year at Disneyland on two nights. There is no seating for the general public (in the past there have been very expensive VIP dinner packages, but none this year to our knowledge), but day guests can stand outside the roped-off Candlelight Processional seating area. Prime spots fill up fast, and we’ve heard of people camping out for hours for benches or good views. (Disclosure: we were invited guests of Disneyland at Candlelight Processional–the invitation included our seats plus a one-day Park Hopper ticket for each of us–we’re APs, so those went unused.)

Candlelight Processional is definitely more of a spectacle at Disneyland. The backdrop of the Main Street USA Train Station is much nicer than the America Gardens Theater at Epcot, and the seating area feels more intimate and inviting. The various lighting and other effects are great, and really add to the sense of pageantry. The procession from Fantasyland to Main Street is also a really neat touch. Kurt Russell was the narrator for the performance that we saw, and he did an excellent job, as did the choirs and orchestra.

All in all, it was an excellent show that surpassed the Epcot version, although I can understand the differences. Epcot’s show is run from a utilitarian perspective; it wouldn’t make sense to have an intimate show in Epcot (the theater there could be twice as large and it would probably still fill up for each show!) since it’s for all park guests–or at least those who purchase dining packages. While it would be cool if Walt Disney World still did it on Main Street, that just isn’t feasible, and I prefer that everyone has the opportunity to see Candlelight. (more…)