In late September, I had to be in Orlando to speak at a technical conference, and Lisa joined me at the end of the week for a three-night stay in a studio at the Beach Club Villas, our new Disney Vacation Club home resort. It was a wonderful weekend getaway, and we enjoyed the opportunity to be at WDW during a period of lower crowds than those we had experienced during our last two trips (both during Spring Breaks adjacent to Easter weekend). We had a trip already planned for March of 2003, once again going during Spring Break (but not adjacent to Easter for a change). As we were returning home, we discussed how nice it would be to bring the kids down during a lower attendance period, and also give them a chance to make the trip by plane. (We usually drive.)
Since Lisa and I already had annual passes, and we had some DVC points to spare for a long weekend, we decided that the cost was reasonable and booked a one bedroom villa at the BCV for a long weekend in January. While most of the arrangements were made during October, we didn't tell the kids until the weekend before the trip, thereby setting up a nice surprise.
One other note: We had enough points for a three-night stay (including the higher-point requirement for Saturday night). I initially thought about taking an early flight Saturday morning. However, when AP discount codes came out in late October, I decided we would fly in on Friday afternoon and spend our first night as a cash stay in a standard Beach Club room, and then transfer to the BCV on Saturday.
The morning of our departure we awoke to eleven-degree temperatures, sub-zero wind chills, and no power. A transformer at the main substation for our town blew up (literally) about 5:30 that morning, and the whole town was without power. It was rather disconcerting making our final preparations and then departing under those circumstances. That, on top of several other things that had happened in the previous few days made Lisa and I begin to wonder if this trip was to be jinxed.
The good news was that our luck made a complete reversal once we left home, and almost everything went wonderfully from then on. This change in luck began almost immediately when we arrived at the airport and found a parking space very near the terminal (quite unusual). The lines at the Delta counter were not bad at all, but I opted to use the self-service kiosk instead, and we were through the check-in process (including checking two bags) in a matter of minutes. The security lines were also as short as I've seen them since September 11th. So, when we sat down at the gate, I looked at my watch and realized that we had made it from driveway to gate in just under an hour! (Pre-9/11 that would have been good...Post-9/11 it is amazing!)
Not only was our flight uneventful, but we actually arrived at MCO about 15 minutes early. As we deplaned we encountered one of the only pieces of bad news on the trip. Our stroller had been gate-checked, and the baggage handlers had managed to break off the padded bar that wrapped around the front of the stroller. However, it was not a major loss, and Abby quickly decided she liked the stroller better without the bar anyway, since she could now get in and out of the seat without assistance.
As soon as we reached baggage claim, I saw our driver from Tiffany Town Car holding up a sign with our name on it. Our luggage was already coming around the carrousel as we walked up, and we were soon outside waiting on the curve while our driver went to retrieve his van. Despite the fact that it was just after 5:00 PM on a Friday afternoon, traffic was not too bad, and we quickly reached our grocery stop. (Our driver chose a Publix on the Central Florida Parkway near International Drive.) It only took us about 20 minutes or so to pick up the items on our list, and then we were on our way again.
Upon arriving at the Beach Club, bell services took our luggage, and I went to check in. There was no line at registration, and the CM was both friendly and efficient. Our room was one of the renovated ones on the second floor. I had never stayed at the BC before, and I was very impressed with the room. It was very pretty, and quite roomy. Humorous note for the day: The inner bathroom (with tub and toilet) had a phone mounted on the wall. I've seen that in other hotels, but what I found a bit funny was that this phone had a clearly labeled "data port" on the side. Now I know that laptop computer users take their computers everywhere, but this might be stretching the paradigm a bit! :-)
For dinner, we decided to wander over to see how long the wait would be at Beaches and Cream. I've wanted to try this place in the past, but the crowds were a bit of a deterrent. The crowds were not bad on this night, and we were seated at one of the (two or three) booths in about 10-15 minutes. The burgers were pretty good, the flavored colas (I had cherry, Lisa and the boys had vanilla) were quite good, and dessert was excellent. I will definitely return to B&C in the future, but I may skip the main course and go straight for the ice cream and milk shakes.
Following the short walk back to our room, we called it a night.
We were up by 6:00 AM on Saturday morning (a common theme on this trip). The plan was to check out of the BC, check into the BCV, and then make it over to the Disney Studios in time for Early Magic Hour at 8:00. Bell services came within minutes of our call and collected our luggage, and we were down at the registration counter shortly after 7:30. Again there was no line (what a great trend!) and I got another great CM to assist me. To my absolute amazement, she told me that our room in the BCV was ready! While Lisa and the children started the walk to the Studios, I hustled over to check out the room (figuring if there was a problem that it would be easier to take care of now than in the afternoon after we returned). However, there was no problem. The villa looked beautiful. We were in room 365, a non-smoking 1-bedroom villa with an Epcot view. (Much of the view of the park was obscured by trees, but we were well positioned to see the fireworks over Illuminations.)
After quickly checking out the room, I hustled to catch up with the family, finally reaching them just before they came alongside the Community Hall over at the Boardwalk Resort. We were a little later getting into the park than I envisioned (about 8:20), but it didn't matter. The crowds were light enough that a headstart was really not needed that much. Here are the attractions/shows we did at the Studios (in roughly sequential order):
Weather note: During our trip, Central Florida was going through a period of unusually cold weather, even including a few snow flakes on the morning of our arrival day. I am used to sweating in jeans and T-shirts at WDW, so it was quite a change to walk around in jeans and sweatshirts and barely keep warm. The shows at the Studios were especially uncomfortable since the seating area is covered (normally a blessing).
After our time at the Studios, we walked back to the BCV and called bell services to deliver our luggage. After relaxing for about an hour, we took the very short walk to the International Gateway entrance of Epcot. We arrived just a few minutes early for our 6:00 seating at Restaurant Akershus in Norway. We were seated immediately and had a very nice meal. I love the buffet at Akershus, and it is one of my favorite restaurants at WDW. The rest of the family tolerates, if not actually shares, my infatuation with the Norwegian restaurant.
After our meal, we rode the Maelstrom, and then headed back to the room, stopping at the store in BC to pick up a few perishable items like milk and cheese. The kids got comfy and watched a DVD, and we were in bed not long after the fireworks ended.
Sunday morning found us rising at 6:00 AM once again, this time with a plan to hit Early Magic Hour at the Magic Kingdom. As we approached the BC bus stop, an MK bus was pulling away. However, the next bus arrived in about ten minutes and there were plenty of seats. We arrived at the MK, cleared the security checkpoint, and made it through the turnstiles by about 8:15. Much like the Studios on the previous day, the MK was about as uncrowded as I have seen it. Here are the attractions/events of the day:
When I read the list of things that we did prior to lunch that day, I find it almost amazing. (Remember that this was with three children, and we weren't in full-out commando mode.) That's a tribute to off-season crowds and EMH.
When we left the MK, there was a bus waiting at the BC pick-up point, and we were quickly back in our villa. For dinner, we cooked our first meal (of what I expect will be many) in a BCV kitchen. It was nothing fancy, just spaghetti and garlic bread, but we found it to be a very enjoyable experience, and a great way to wind down after a day in the parks.
It was Super Bowl Sunday, so Lisa and I watched some of the Super Bowl in the master bedroom, while the children watched a DVD. It's great having two televisions available.
On Monday, we were up at 6:00 AM (Do you see a trend here?), and arrived at Cape May Cafe shortly before our 7:30 seating for the character breakfast. It was here that we first heard about WDW's encounter with the "Slammer" worm. The CM had to take our word on our PS time, as the reservation system was completely down due to the effects of the worm.
The breakfast buffet was good, well-stocked, and had a nice variety (even Krispy Kreme doughnuts). The character interaction was also good, although Abby didn't want to have much to do with the characters (Goofy, Minnie, Chip, and Dale).
After breakfast, we headed for Epcot. First stop was Test Track, where Scott and I basically walked right into the pre-show. As the great ride came to an end, I noticed that there were no riders waiting to board. (The next set was still in the pre-show room.) Sure enough, as we were getting read to undo our seat belts, the CM asked if we would like to stay on and ride again. As I can see it, there are only two possible answers to that question:
We chose answer one! After our second ride we did have to get off, and then Lisa and Scott rode it twice. The attractions/events for the rest of the day:
Due to having such a large breakfast, we never had an official lunch, choosing instead to have a few snacks, including (at various times) french fries, funnel cake, and Kaki Goris.
After we left Epcot, we swung by Seashore Sweets on the Boardwalk and picked up a treat for everyone, including an Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie for me.
After returning to the room, I placed a pizza delivery order with Pizza Hut. We ordered BC room service pizza on our September stay and were very unimpressed. So, this time we decided to order from an off-site vendor. The driver called the room when he was about ten minutes away, and I met him near the valet parking desk. The pizza was hot and quite good. This made for an economical dinner, and once more we enjoyed being able to wind down in the room rather than drag the kids to another restaurant after a long day.
Since we did most of our packing on Monday night, we "slept in" on Tuesday, not getting up until nearly 7:00. Our van from Tiffany Town Car arrived on time at 8:30 and we had a quick ride back to MCO. Once again the Delta Kiosk made for a fast check-in, and the security lines were practically non-existent. (When we had arrived at MCO on Friday, we had noticed the security lines as we passed through the terminal, and they were horrendous, so the lack of a line today was a pleasant surprise.)
Our departure was on time, and the flight uneventful, and we were back home by 2:00.
It was another wonderful (albeit short) visit to WDW, our first as a family in DVC accommodations. While the weather was a bit colder than ideal, it was actually kind of an interesting twist from the usual Orlando sweat-athon, and certainly didn't put a damper on any of our activities. Other than being chilly, the weather was beautiful. The reduced crowd levels were a real treat as compared to our usual spring break trip. And we really enjoyed our one-bedroom villa at the BCV!
'73 (offsite) - '76 (offsite) - '80 (Cont) - 12/87 (offsite) - 5/89 (Cont) -
5/90 (GF) - 6/91 (Cont)
6/92 (DxL) - 12/94 (DxL) - 12/97 (DxL) - 5/99 (DxL/GF) - 2/00 (OKW/DxL) - 4/01 (DxL)
3/02 (POR) - 9/02 (BCV) - 1/03 (BCV)