Sunday, February 23, 2014

Trip Report: Walt Disney World - Ringin' in a Magical New Year!

Our 2013 holiday started with an Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Royal Princess.

Embarkation Photo

We planned to visit Walt Disney World for New Year's Eve because we purchased annual passes when we visited in October. However, hotel prices for that time of the year are steep - more than we wanted to pay. So we started looking into other alternatives. We had narrowed it down to the Swan or Dolphin resort which would be convenient, and we know that they are nice because we have stayed there before.... or the Bonnet Creek resort area because I've heard great things about Bonnet Creek, and I've always wondered about it. After much debating, we realized that this was our opportunity to try it out. With our annual passes, we got free parking at the parks, so transportation was not an issue. We also already had Magic Bands, and I had already made FP+ reservations on My Disney Experience (as annual passholders who stayed at a Disney Resort during Magic Band testing, we could make FP+ reservations up to 60 days out on our My Disney Experience account). It was the perfect time to see if an off-site resort could work for us, so we booked the Waldorf Astoria at Bonnet Creek.



Good-bye, Royal Princess!

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Hello, Walt Disney World!

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The rooms at the Waldorf are huge.

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One of our views -

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The bathrooms are also huge. However, I would've prefered a vanity outside of the bathroom to get ready at... or maybe a double vanity in the bathroom, at least.

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And clear showers aren't so good with families...

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It was a big room, but I thought it was missing furniture... or furnished oddly. See the little table by the window? Why is that there? They could put two armchairs on either side of it. Or they could put a table in that little alcove. Why is it furnished with a lone tiny glass table???

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Rachel just needs Disney Channel to be happy. Also, the beds were great. Rachel thought it was even more comfortable than a Heavenly bed.

That evening, I had made us a 4:30 ADR at Tokyo Dining for the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package.

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Now, I didn't really know what all the Candlelight Processional Dining Package entailed. I did zero research. I just thought it looked cool and booked it. It turns out that Tokyo Dining is one of the most expensive places for the dining package at $74.95 per person (which might have been why it was available). With the dining package, you get a soda or non-alcoholic drink of your choice, appetizer, entree, and dessert.

Rachel and I got the Bento Box...

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Mom ordered the salmon. She said that it was the best salmon that she's ever had in her life. Dad got the filet mignon.

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The chocolate ginger cake was amazing. I highly recommend it.

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Rachel got the green tea and vanilla ice cream swirl and wasn't a big fan.

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The green tea cheesecake, however, was really good.

After dinner, we had FP+ reservations for Soarin'.

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The gingerbread structures in The Land Pavilion were amazing.

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One of the cast members at Soarin' was hilarious. He busted through the gate to our loading area and exclaims, "I'm FREEEEE!" He then mouthed along to the entire safety video. "Put the belt through the loop."

After Soarin', we headed to get in line for the 8:15 Candlelight Processional. They had us wear stickers for the dinner package. The line stretched all the way to the Japan Pavilion when we entered and grew towards Morocco. We had done a dinner package for a show in the American Garden Theater before... way back in 2001 when Blast! was at Epcot (great show), and the dinner package got us seated in the front section. Well, it turns out that the Candlelight dinner package is so huge that it just guarantees you entry into the show. If you want to sit in the front section, get there early. We could have sat in the front, but Dad griped that he couldn't see everything, so we relocated to the middle section. They didn't let people who weren't participating in the dinner package in the theater until right before showtime. The show was not packed out, so I think people who weren't on the package were fine getting in. I think we would have been okay just doing stand-by, but I'm glad that we did the dinner package just because otherwise, who knows if we would have ever even gone to the show? I think the dinner package would be a good idea for the more popular narrators, such as Neil Patrick Harris.

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It's easy to just watch the Christmas tree choir the entire time, but the singers in the gold were younger (high school choirs invited to perform, I've learned)and generally more animated.

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Our narrator was Amy Grant, the Contemporary Christian singer. I thought that she did a fabulous job at narrating. She had a good voice for reading the script and great delivery. Also, while the choir was singing, she was very attentive and appeared truly interested in the lyrics (I read a blog several years ago about Abigail Breslin who wore a face which said, "I can't wait until this stupid show is over so I can go text my friends," the entire time). Sometimes, you would catch her singing along.

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Rachel thought Amy Grant's introduction was awkward. It had been raining earlier today, and apparently Amy didn't know that it had stopped. "Everyone look to the person on your right and tell them how wet you are." Except it had been two hours since it had rained, so no one was wet (and apparently Rachel has a dirty mind).

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The Candlelight dinner package also gets you a reserved area for IllumiNations. The section is on the Future World side. It's actually not a great viewing location because there is a large stage-like area which is elevated and in front of you. If we wanted to stake out a fireworks spot after the Candlelight Processional, there was plenty of availability, and we would have had a much better viewing location than the Candlelight area. However, we decided to go shopping at Mouse Gear instead because Rachel saw a man wearing a Minnie Mouse backpack that she really wanted.

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I didn't really care where we watched IllumiNations because I didn't bring my tripod and wasn't trying to get fireworks photos. It's hard to not photograph fireworks, though. I ended up taking a few cell phone photos and videos to send my friends.

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NEXT: New Year at Disney World - Day 2 - Waldorf Pool and Magic Kingdom