OK, I’ll skip the boring part about our flight from LA, except to say that we left an hour late and still got into Orlando only moments after our original arrival time, thanks to some wicked tailwinds. This means the cross-country flight was a blazing 3 ½ hours long, and when you’re getting free onboard WiFi, it feels even shorter!
Originally we’d planned a mellow arrival-night dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel and not much else, but my plans for “mellow” never really pan out because, well, we like to have FUN! When DISer BeatlesBlonde (Rachel) graciously invited us to her wedding-night dessert party, I jumped at my first-ever opportunity to be a legitimate, on-Disney’s-list guest at a wedding event. No more stalking for me! However, her party started less than 2 hours after we touched down, and we needed to grab our suitcase, our rental car, and a bite to eat on the way. I also complicated matters even further when I tried to save 10 measly dollars on our rental car reservation by bidding on Priceline and got a car from Hertz—the only company not on-site at Orlando International Airport (at that time). ARGH!
The moments between hitting the tarmac at MCO and breathlessly gliding past the Event Guide at Rachel & Chauncey’s dessert party were a tightly choreographed blur not unlike a ballet, but with more cussing.
Patrick went to the baggage claim. I got on the Hertz shuttle. I got off the shuttle and ran to the john. I got back on the shuttle. The shuttle started up and then stopped and waited at the next terminal. Finally, the shuttle ventured out into Real Orlando. Patrick got the bag and got on the next shuttle.
I arrived at Hertz and watched in envy as a dozen Hertz #1 Club Gold members were dropped off first at their super-special check-in area, but then I smirked when the bus drove both of the rest of us about 20 feet to the empty check-in area for the rabble. I wasted precious seconds fiddling with the self-service kiosk before realizing it was another luxury not afforded Priceline purchasers and got in line. I observed the desk agents shooting the breeze with each customer, offering just about every kind of visitor tip, including restaurant recommendations, so when it was my turn I blurted out “I’mtryingtogettodinnerandneedtodothisasquicklyaspossible.” It worked!
Just as I’d loaded the car, Patrick got off the shuttle, and we went blazing down the highway in the car that was soon to be dubbed “Vanilla Ice” by Rachel & Chauncey.
The Verdict: Despite what I’d heard from some well-meaning DISers, in our experience, using an off-site car rental agency really does add at least 30 minutes to your airport getaway time vs. using an on-site rental car company.
Fortunately, the first and only time Disney’s new Online Check-in service worked for us this trip was at BoardWalk Inn that night. Patrick dropped me off and I ran to the check-in desk. The CM punched something into the computer, handed me my welcome packet and pointed me in the direction of our home for the next three days.
The rooms have recently been remodeled, and they’re beautiful! When he got there with our luggage, I made Patrick take a bazillion pictures of the place while I troweled on the slap for Rachel & Chauncey’s dessert party.
I kept noticing all kinds of things in this regular Deluxe Resort room that I haven’t found in the Disney Vacation Club units – double sinks, more and better lighting, decorative coverlets and pillows, a makeup mirror, more drawers, a hairdryer that isn’t bolted to the wall…
And best of all, we had a great view, even in our standard room. DVC makes you use more points to get a view room, and you usually have to reserve 11 months out if you want even the hope of a chance at getting one.
Daytime View Shots:
Knowing we were not going to make it to the International Gateway to meet Rachel & Chauncey’s guests by 8pm, we decided to keep our original dinner reservation at Kouzzina and meet up with the group closer to IllumiNations’ start time.
I’m not sure what the consensus is on the DIS Boards (what am I saying—there’s never consensus on the DIS Boards!), but I do know that the Podcast crew has been less-than-impressed with Kouzzina as a replacement for Spoodles. However, I like to think that I am an adventurous eater, despite the whole “no fruit” thing, so I was ready to be impressed.
Patrick couldn’t tell what was different about the place, but we think this might be new…
We started with the Podcast crew’s reviled Avgolemono Soup cuz I’ve always loved it at other Greek restaurants. They bring you an artfully arranged bowl of rice with a preserved lemon slice…
…and then pour the soup into it. I’m not sure that it added much to the experience, but hey! At least they’re trying to do something different.
It was OK—not as thick and creamy as I’m used to, but apparently swanky clam chowder isn’t supposed to be thick and creamy either, so whaddo I know?
Picking a main course was tough because, while I wanted something representative of Kouzzina’s cuisine and not some anonymous steak, most of the “traditional” items had something in them that lil’ old adventurous me didn’t want to eat, like cinnamon or Greek olives.
Patrick liked the sound of the Fisherman’s Stew, so we split that.
I should have known better – unless you’re at a super-high-end restaurant, the seafood in any kind of soup/stew is usually overcooked and heavy on the cheaper ingredients. Ours had exactly two pieces of dried-out white fish, three small scallops, a few mussels, and a bunch of overcooked shrimp. Of course, it wasn’t really designed to share, so maybe the quantities were acceptable. The flavors were OK, but the quality of the seafood was definitely lacking.
The Verdict: Despite the celebrity-chef endorsement, Kouzzina is, as I’d suspected, just a tarted-up version of Spoodles. (Breakfast review to come on Day 2…).
After dinner we legged it over to the International Gateway and around the World Showcase to Morocco just before IllumiNations.
Dessert Party Event Guide: “Hello.”
Me: “Hi, we’re on the guest list for this dessert party and we totally know the bride and groom, although I don’t see them here, but I am sure they are on their way because we have been invited to this party and we are totally allowed to be here!”
Guide: “O… kay.” [reaches to unhitch the rope] “Right this wa—”
Me: “Oh, I see your name is Carrie too! My name is Carrie! What a funny coincidence – ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Two Carries! Right here at this very dessert party, legitimately! What a small world! Hey, speaking of ‘Small World’ … all together now: ‘It’s a world of laughter, a world of—WHOA!” [Patrick yanks me past the rope]
They had the Build Yer Own dessert menu, which meant lots of fun toppings for mousse and brownies.
Rachel and Chauncey were so gracious and friendly, and we felt right at home despite not knowing anyone else there. The guys really hit it off, and Patrick was fascinated by the 3D technology Chauncey’s working on.
Ever the intrepid Disney wedding reporter, I was measuring the various heights of the wall at the Morocco dessert party location when IllumiNations started. We were off to the side where the wall is about chest high (for Gigantor here), about halfway between the shop and what is apparently the no-see-um buffet line, because my left foot got eaten alive!
Patrick got to take his first IllumiNations pictures with his new camera.
The holiday tag at the end of the show was so spectacular, even my iPhone pictures look halfway decent:
We really enjoyed getting to see the holiday version for the first time. Patrick actually got choked up – it was so beautiful! Of course, after we got back, we learned that they used to have an entirely new version of IllumiNations at the holidays, not just a different ending. But we didn’t know any better, so… cool!
After the show we got to chat with Rachel and Chauncey some more and see how long we could dig our heels in at the dessert party before they threw us out. Answer: About 20 minutes. Patrick and Chauncey prolly never woulda stopped talking about 3D if the Event Guide hadn’t started waving that cattle prod….
On the way out, we discovered that the happy couple was going to have to catch a Disney bus – a BUS! – back to their resort, on their wedding day! No one should have to ride a bus on their wedding day! (I mean, unless they are into that sort of thing…) So Patrick pulled the car around to the front of the BoardWalk, and we were about to get in when we spotted… Danger Frog!!!
Danger Frog knew he had to get the H outta Dodge, and fast! So he hopped on the speediest, sexiest vehicle in the lot…
Now I know that Rachel and Chauncey had the most beautiful wedding their guests have ever seen, but I am afraid that the thing everyone will remember most about that day is… Danger Frog!!!
As all of us stood around gawking and exclaiming and pointing, Danger Frog launched himself over the car roof and up the wall – it was quite a thrill! We finally tore ourselves away and drove the happy couple back to Pop Century.
On our way back to the room, we stopped to shoot the decorations and check out the gingerbread house in the lobby of BoardWalk Inn.
Someone who’s been to Walt Disney World at Christmas a lot mentioned that this year the resorts didn’t really decorate much outside.
The inside was gorgeous, though.
I liked the vignette with Donald.
The fireplace was the most appealing part of the lobby for me.
When we got up to the 4th floor, we stopped to investigate the little parlor off the elevator lobby. One of the things I love about BoardWalk Inn is all the little nooks and crannies where you can hang out. We ended up spending about a 20 minutes sitting here talking and checking Patrick’s email on the iPhone.
OK, wow, that took a long time to describe, and that was only about 1/3 of a day at Walt Disney World! Looks like this trip report will be another long one…