November 18th

I got up at 4:00 and was ready and packed by 4:30. About 5:00 I began the chore of getting Abby going, and she was dressed and downstairs in time for my planned departure time of 5:20. We had an easy drive to the airport, and found a great parking spot on the bottom floor of the deck nearest the Terminal 1 entrance.

Check in and security were both quick, and we were in the gate area by 6:15. Abby had a fruit bowl, and we split an order of cinnamon sticks. By 7:15 we were boarding, and departed on time at 7:40.

Our flight was a few minutes early into Orlando, and we were in the DME line by 9:45. After a short wait, we boarded the bus, and departed soon thereafter. We stopped at the Grand Floridian and Wilderness Lodge before going to the Contemporary, but still managed to walk into the Contemporary lobby at 10:30.  To my surprise, our room was ready!
We made a brief stop by the room (4th floor studio with a great view of the pool) and then proceeded to Epcot, making it through the turnstiles by about 11:30.

After grabbing fast passes for Test Track, we rode Mission Space (green side), and then browsed in Mouse Gear for a few minutes until our TT FP window opened. After a great ride on TT, we got a FP for Soarin', and then rode Spaceship Earth. We then proceeded to Italy for our 2:00 reservation at Via Napoli, arriving about 15 minutes early and getting promptly seated anyway. Abby and I split an order of calamari and a pepperoni pizza. The meal was excellent!
After lunch, we went to the caramel store in Germany, We then returned to Future World to ride Soarin'. After that we returned to BLT.

We chilled in the room until about 5:45, then walked over to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. We rode the TTA, Space Mountain, and Thunder Mountain three times (landing the back row on the third ride). We picked up a hamburger from Pecos Bill for Abby, and found a great spot along the parade route. The parade was cute and enjoyable, although I didn't find it as good as the Boo to You Parade at MNSSHP. After the parade, we enjoyed some cookies and hot chocolate, and then went to the Emporium for shopping.  After making our purchases, we watched the fireworks show from Main Street. Once again, I thought the show was good, but not as much so as Hallowishes. After the fireworks ended (about 9:45), we walked back to BLT.

After dropping our stuff off at the room, we went over to the Contempo Cafe where I picked up a pepperoni flatbread to take back to the room for a late dinner, and Abby bought some fruit loops for the next morning. As we got back to the room, we heard music and realized the Water Pageant was just starting, and were pleasantly surprised to find we could see most of it from our balcony. What fun!

After enjoying my excellent flatbread, we watched a bit of TV, and then turned in
November 19th

We left the room shortly after 8:00, waited a bit for the bus, and arrived at Disney's Hollywood Studios shortly after 8:30. While the security lines were non-existent, the turnstile lines were already pretty long. They begin letting people in about 8:40, and we were soon waiting at the rope at the end of Hollywood Boulevard.

At 9:00 the rope dropped and began the cattle drive (Eat More Chikin!) to Toy Store Mania. Since I am unwilling to run and/or knock people over, we were behind enough people by the time we got there to have about a 10 minute wait before boarding the ride. As always, TSM was an absolute hoot.

Abby and I next proceeded down Sunset Boulevard, getting a fastpass for Rock-n-Roller Coaster, and then riding Tower of Terror. We then wandered around a bit before returning to ToT at 10:10 (our RnRC fast pass time) to get a FP for that ride. We then entered the FP line for RnRC, quickly making it into the building where we waited...and waited...and waited. Rumors floating in the line were split between a ride malfunction and a temporary stoppage to clean up an er,uh, protein spill. Regardless, we gave up about 10:30, deciding to come back and try later. Abby was hungry, and we began a long odyssey of trying to find her something to eat. Apparently this time of year, pickins  are slim (even by already questionable Studio standards) before 11:30. We were finally able to get her a burger at the Commisary (which she enjoyed). Next up was the 12:00 American Idol Experience, with the winner being a good singer from Charlotte (who was unfortunately too old to qualify for the real AI even if he won the dream ticket in the final round).

We returned to Sunset Blvd to use our FPs at both RnRC and ToT. RnRC was working fine and was thrilling as always. This time we got the front row of our "elevator" on ToT, which made for a great ride there, too. Just outside ToT, Abby got a hot-fudge sundae which was probably big enough for two people. (I'm not sure she even managed to eat half.) We did a bit of shopping and then grabbed the bus back to BLT, getting back to the room shortly after 3:00. For the first time since we got here, we just relaxed, with Abby dozing off and me following (though not intentionally) shortly thereafter. At 6:30 (after trying for quite awhile to rouse Abby), we went over to the Contemporary Concourse.

For dinner, we both got pepperoni flatbreads at the Contempo Cafe. After a good (and quick) meal, we browsed the shops and then returned to our room. A little before 9:00 we went down to let Abby see the pool area, as well as our plaque at the Tempo Fountain. From there we went to the Top of the World Lounge (16th floor of Bay Lake Tower) to watch the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom from the observation deck.  The Top of the World provides a great vantage point for the fireworks, and we really enjoyed them.  From there we proceeded to the shore of Bay Lake to wait for the water pageant to start at 10:10. Abby had never seen it before this trip, and really enjoyed it.

Back at the room we discussed our plans for the next day, and Abby decided she would rather eat at Chef Mickey's for breakfast tomorrow than the dinner reservation we have there.  I checked online, and to my surprise there was a slot available, although only one: 7:10. After making Abby promise that she wouldn't give me trouble getting up in the morning, I booked it.  We shall see...
November 20th

We left the room shortly before 7:00, made the short walk over to Chef Mickey's, and were seated after just a few minutes. While we have had dinner at Chef Mickey's, this was our first experience with their breakfast, and it was quite good, with a pretty nice variety. The usual suspects came by our table (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald). Abby didn't want much to do with them, although (at my insistence) she did pose for pictures with both Mickey and Minnie. After a fairly quick meal, we were at the bus stop about 8:00 for a ride to the Animal Kingdom.

They opened the turnstiles about 8:40, but instead of letting everyone go to the rope in front of the Tree of Life (as has been my experience in the past), they instead held us at ropes just past the area beyond the turnstiles.  Very shortly thereafter, Mickey and crew pulled up in a large Jeep, and the opening ceremony began. We were let in without further ado about 8:45 or so, and proceeded (behind two cast members with a rope stretched between them) to Everest. We actually completed our first ride by 9:00. After our second ride, we grabbed a fast pass for later (10:10 return time), but kept riding standby, eventually taking a break after riding six consecutive times. We returned at 10:10, grabbed one more FP, and had ride number seven.

Abby had never ridden Dinosaur before, so we tried that next.  (Verdict: She will probably not ride it again in the reasonable future.) We wandered around a bit, returning at 12:25 for our eighth and final Everest ride. Next up, we split a BBQ rib platter at Flame Tree BBQ (one of my favorite quick service locations at WDW). Lastly, we did a bit of shopping before grabbing the bus back to BLT.

After a break at the room, we went down to the pool. I have been told that all WDW pools are heated, but ...  Ouch! That water was really cold. Abby had a good time, but I can't say that I ever completely adjusted to it. With the air temperature in the 70s, and the sky overcast, I was afraid that it would be even colder when we got out of the water, but honestly the water was so cold it was a slight improvement!

After cleaning up, we once again went over to the Contempo Cafe for dinner, choosing (at Abby's request) to get the food to go, and eat in our room. After dinner we bought some house shoes that Abby had had her eyes on, as well as a shirt, and some milk to go with her cereal for breakfast the next morning. We made one last trip up to the Top of the World Lounge to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks (Wishes this time instead of the Christmas Party fireworks), and then went to the back observation deck to view the water pageant from 16 stories up. A great viewpoint for this show that has been around for almost 40 years!

Finally, it was time to finish packing and call it a night. It will be DME time in the morning.
November 21st

I was up a bit after 7:30, and got Abby up at 8:00. We got ready and she ate her cereal. Hanging on our door handle were two envelopes, one with our hotel charges, and the other with our boarding passes and our airline luggage tag. We left the room about 8:45, made a brief stop at the Resort Airline Check-in desk where they took the bag we were going to check, and boarded the DME bus.  DME is not perfect, but when it clicks, it can really be convenient.

We arrived at the airport about 9:40, where we found a zoo even by Orlando standards. The local news had warned that since this weekend is the beginning of Thanksgiving travel week, long lines were to be expected.  I suppose it could have been worse (but it could also have been better). I was "chosen" for extra screening so while Abby stood over by the X-ray machine with our carry-on bags, I (obviously resembling the typical terrorist) was pulled aside for a pat-down. I can say I have no secrets now... It used to be you had to at least take somebody to dinner and a movie before getting that "friendly".

After an early lunch at Sbarro, we chilled in the gate area until flight time. As is so often the case, we were packed in like sardines. One of the flight attendants was doing battle with someone trying to save seats, which further slowed down the boarding process already hampered by the usual parade of folks bringing on enough carry-ons to equip the entire 82nd Airborne. But somehow we pulled out from the gate only a few minutes late and were on our way right as the first rain of the trip began to fall in Orlando.

After an uneventful flight, we arrived at our gate at RDU just a few minutes after the scheduled time of 2:00. Our bag was one of the first ones up, and we were home by 3:00.