We arrived at the airport about 12:15, well in advance of our 1:30 flight on USAir's MetroJet service. Check in was quick and uneventful, but we found out that the incoming flight was already behind schedule and that we were definitely in for at least a slight delay. Well, our slight delay turned into nearly an hour, but we finally departed on one of MetroJet's colorful 737's about 2:25. Fortunately, with good weather on both ends of the flight, our flight arrived only about 35 minutes behind schedule at about 3:50.
We quickly claimed our baggage, and proceeded to the National Car Rental counter to claim our reserved vehicle. Under the system National has in place in Orlando, after handling the paperwork at the counter, you just walk out to the aisle for the chosen car class (intermediate in our case) and choose from whatever is available. We ended up with a Plymouth Breeze, which was quite adequate for our purposes. Taking the south exit from MCO, we basically had a quick and easy ride into Dixie Landings, where we arrived about 5:00.
We checked-in, went to find our room (3764) in Alligator Bayou, and then settled in. About 5:30, we wandered around Dixie Landing's beautiful grounds for awhile, ending up at Fulton's General Store for some brief browsing, followed by dinner at Boatwrights.
On our last trip to Disney World (December, 1997), we also ate at Boatwrights and had been very pleased. This visit also got high marks. We started with Garlic Cheese Bites, and two salads with smokehouse dressing. For our entrees, Lisa got the roasted chicken, and I had the Pirogue o' Pasta and Seafood (blackened shrimp, scallops, and catfish served over pasta with a garlic cream sauce). It was excellent! After the meal, we shopped a little more, and then took another leisurely stroll around the grounds before calling it a night.
Deciding to wait on breakfast until later in the morning, we left DxL about 7:30 to drive over to the WDW's newest theme park, the Animal Kingdom. We parked, hopped a tram, and arrived at the gates slightly before 8:00. I'm not sure when they opened, but they had been open long enough that we had virtually no line at the gate.
We headed for Countdown to Extinction, but had to wait a few minutes at the ropes near the Tree of Life. At 8:00, the rope dropped and we were on our way. Since CTX is one of a number of WDW rides that discourages the participation of expectant mothers, Lisa found a comfortable bench while I checked out the ride. There was no line yet, and I basically walked right into the pre-show, and was soon boarding one of the ride vehicles. What a hoot! It's a fairly dark ride, and very rough (hence the warning to expectant mothers), but a lot of fun.
From there we proceeded to the only other AK ride on which I intended to leave Lisa behind: Kali River Rapids. However, I didn't feel as guilty about this one, as Lisa insisted she wouldn't ride it even if she wasn't pregnant. (Those "You WILL get wet" signs did not appeal to her one bit.) After proceeding through the very scenic queue area, I walked right on to the ride. I enjoyed the ride, although I probably wouldn't wait in a long line to ride it, as it seemed to end much too soon. I did get pretty wet, although not as drenched as some other folks I saw. At the end of the ride, the cast member at the loading area gave me the option of staying on for another trip around, but I decided to move on.
While looking for some place to grab a bite for breakfast, we decided to stop in and catch the next showing of "It's Tough to be a Bug" underneath the Tree of Life. It was a great 3-D show, with a number of neat effects. To me, this show is much better than the "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" show at Epcot.
After the show, we stopped at the Tusker House Restaurant in Africa for a sausage-and-egg biscuit (me) and an egg-and-cheese croissant (Lisa). This was probably the worst meal of the trip. With beverages, it was about $15 for a meal that was of a quality below that of the average fast-food stand.
Next we explored the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. We saw a few interesting things, but the gorillas seemed to be hiding that morning.
We then proceeded to the long queue for the "Festival of the Lion King" show. I had heard good things about this show, with some accounts even branding it as the "best show at Disney World." However, no amount of buildup could do justice to this show. This is Disney at its absolute best, and is an absolute don't-miss event for anyone visiting WDW. While the show does have very large audio-animatronic Lion King characters, most of the performance centers around singing, dancing, and some fairly impressive gymnastics.
After a little shopping, we decided to split a turkey leg and a couple of cokes. We found a (somewhat) shady and out-of-the-way bench and took a little break. With the sun now beating down in typically relentless Florida-fashion, I intensified my hat shopping and bought an Animal Kingdom logo hat for a little sun-protection.
We proceeded to the Maharajah Jungle Trek where we observed some very large bats, a tapir, and a few sleeping tigers.
It was about 2:00 by the time we exited the Jungle Trek. It was now uncomfortably hot, and that discomfort was magnified by the degree of congestion in the park. We decided to bid a fond farewell to the AK, and proceeded back to DxL.
Lisa needed to rest for awhile, so I decided to wander around the grounds at Dixie Landing and take a few pictures.
At 4:30, we left the room to head over to the Disney Marketplace. We had planned on taking the boat on the Sassagoula river, but the boat wasn't running due to some stormy weather in the area, so we took the bus. The Marketplace has really changed since we were last there, and we had a good time browsing around. We especially liked the Lego Imagination Center and the amazingly huge World of Disney store. I found one of the "Walt Disney World Forever" kiosks and spent some time choosing tunes for a souvenir CD. Finally, about 8:00 we took the relaxing boat ride (which was now running again) back to DxL.
After a busy day, we really just wanted to hang around the room, so we decided to order a pizza (which is the only "room service" provided at DxL). It was fine, and made for a nice, relaxing way to end our first full day at WDW.
On Saturday, we were going to start our day at Epcot, and would be moving from DxL over to the Grand Floridian. We got up about 7:15, and called for luggage pickup about 8:00. The bellman took our luggage, promising that it would be delivered to the Grand Floridian by mid-afternoon, we called in our express checkout, and we departed for Epcot about 8:30.
We were at the Epcot gate by about 8:50. It was already open, so I rushed ahead to get in line for Test Track (another no-expectant-mothers attraction). There was no outside queue yet, but I did have to stop once I reached the door. The sign there said to expect about a 30-minute wait (before 9:00!), and that turned out to be fairly accurate. Fortunately, the queue area is pretty interesting (at least for a first-timer), so the time passed pretty quickly. As for the ride itself...
Well it was over a little more quickly that I would have liked (given the wait time), but I overall I give it a definite thumbs-up, especially the high-speed run outside the building.
I found Lisa, and we swung through Ice Station Cool and sampled a couple of the international beverages. We then proceeded to the Land, where we had each had a pastry for breakfast. After that, we caught a performance of Future Corps, Epcot's own drum-and-bugle corp. They were great! I enjoyed their performance so much that I bought a CD of their music later that day before we departed Epcot.
It was now about 11:00, so we proceeded over to the World Showcase, first stopping at Norway to ride the Maelstrom. We bypassed the show at the end as we have both seen it several times. From there, we headed for the American Adventure. This is one of Lisa's favorite attractions at Epcot, and at all of WDW for that matter. (It's pretty high up on my list as well.) For lunch, we grabbed a couple of hot dogs at the Liberty Inn. For dessert, we headed toward Japan, where we each had a tasty Kaki Gori. We wandered around World Showcase a little longer, then returned to Future World where we found a very short line for Spaceship Earth. After riding inside the golf ball, we did just a last bit of shopping, then began to make our way to the Grand Floridian.
We arrived at the Grand Floridian about 3:00, where we took advantage of the valet parking. Lisa relaxed in the GF lobby while I went over to the check-in desk. Shortly thereafter, a concierge came over to greet us, tell us about all of the amenities of the resort, and lead us up to our room. Of course, this was all quite a surprise to Lisa. While I had told her that the last half of our vacation was in the Grand Floridian, I "neglected" the minor detail that I had reserved one of the GF's honeymoon suites (which are on the concierge levels in the main building).
Our honeymoon suite was every bit as outstanding as one would expect from an establishment of the Grand Floridian's caliber. We had one of the "octagonal" rooms in one of the GF's "turrets." The main room was a large area surrounded with windows and a nice view of the beach, lagoon, Wedding Pavilion, and Polynesian. There was a king size bed, a wet bar, and even a CD player for us to use to listen to the "Walt Disney World Forever" CD that I had purchased the day before. The bathroom area was even more impressive, with a garden tub, phone, huge double-sink vanity area, speakers to pipe in the audio from the television, and a walk in closet with robes and slippers.
After relaxing for a few minutes, we decided to stroll the grounds and take a few pictures. About 5:30, we returned to the concierge area to partake of the hors-devours that were available. On returning to our room, we found that the concierge had delivered a large autographed picture of Mickey and friends in front of the castle wishing us a happy 10th anniversary.
Next we hopped onto the monorail for a leisurely visit to the Magic Kingdom. In between browsing through various shops, and just generally enjoying the atmosphere of an evening at the MK, we rode the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.
After enjoying a brief Magic Kingdom visit, we took the boat back over to the Grand Floridian, and went over to the beach to catch the Electrical Water Pageant. Unfortunately, we had been misinformed. While the GF beach is a wonderful (and romantic) place to relax in the evening, it is not the place to view the water pageant, unless you want to view the back side of it (without audio) while it is in front of the Polynesian Resort. Finally, about 9:30, we were convinced that we had missed it, and returned to our room for a quiet dinner from room service.
After getting up about 7:15 and getting ready, we took the very short walk over to the concierge continental breakfast. For a continental breakfast, it was a pretty impressive spread, including croissants, pastries, various fruit, and even "doughnut holes." After a more than adequate breakfast, we boarded the monorail about 8:30 for the short ride to the Magic Kingdom.
Upon entering the MK gates, we proceeded to the rope across the bridge at the entrance to Adventureland, and waited for the 9:00 rope drop. One thing was different from my previous experiences at the rope drop: A set of cast members, at least one from each of the major "E-Ticket" Adventureland and Frontierland attractions (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Jungle Cruise), led the way after the rope dropped, forming sort of a human "pace car" to keep the crowd moving at a walking (or at least sub-running) pace. I followed the CM headed for BTMR, one of my personal favorite attractions at Disney. (Lisa followed at a more leisurely pace, since this was another ride that she would have to sit out.)
I walked onto the very first train of the day at Big Thunder Moutain Railroad. Upon exiting the attraction, Lisa still had not arrived, and there did not appear to be a line yet, so I decided to go around one more time. Again, there was almost no wait, and this time I achieved the roller-coaster enthusiast's nirvana, a seat in the last car! After a wonderful ride, I met up with Lisa and we decided to work our way slowly over to Tomorrowland for the Carousel of Progress.
As it turns out, the COP doesn't open until 11:00, so instead we decided to try Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. It was almost a walk-on. We enjoyed it, but Lisa's laser gun wasn't working correctly. So, after wandering around a little bit, we decided to go back and try it again. Amazingly, in that short time period the wait had ballooned to about 20 minutes or so. However, it was worth the wait, as it is indeed a cute ride, and makes for a nice replacement for the Dreamflight attraction that used to occupy that location.
Next we stopped for a quick snack at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, browsed a few shops, and rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. It was now lunch time, so we stopped at the Columbia Harbour House (Frontierland) where Lisa got a bread bowl of vegetarian chili, and I got fish and fries.
By this time, it was well after 11:00, so we went back and rode the COP. I enjoyed the show, although I liked the old music ("Now is the time, Now is the best time...") better than the current music ("It's a great big beautiful tomorrow...").
We began to work our way back down main street, stopping for a last couple of gifts/souvenirs, and a treat at the confectionery. Then it was back to the GF. After a short break, we got some ice cream at Gasparilla's and then took a nice stroll down the path that leads between the GF and the Wedding Pavilion. This provided a different vantage point for some more pictures of the GF and the monorail.
7:00 found us at the Grand Floridian Cafe for our dinner reservation. We started with a bacon-wrapped shrimp appetizer. For our entrees, Lisa had the Grand Floridian Sandwich and I had the pan-seared Red Snapper. We finished with a cappuccino. Upon returning to the room, we found that the concierge staff had left us with another anniversary gift...a bottle of champagne (Korbel) and a rose. (Nice touch!)
About 9:15 we went down to the GF dock for our second attempt to catch the water pageant, and this time we were successful. As many times as I have seen the pageant, I always enjoy it, and it made for a nice close to our last full day at WDW.
With our flight not until 1:50, and with no intention of going to any of the parks, the stage was set for a leisurely morning. We rose about 8:15, and ordered a nice room service breakfast (eggs and bacon for Lisa, sausage and egg omelet for me). We finished packing, and I spoke to the concierge who finalized our checkout, called a bellman, and arranged for our car to be brought around. Shortly after 10:30 we bid a fond farewell to the Grand Floridian, and WDW, and headed for the airport. Car return, flight check-in, and the flight itself were all relatively uneventful, and we were home by about 5:00.
'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)