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November 2007 Archives

November 1, 2007

Walt Disney World - What's New?

New to us, that is - since we haven't been here since last December. That's one of the things we really enjoy about Walt Disney World - it seems like every time we're here there's always something that's new, whether it's a new attraction or exhibit or live entertainment group.

Contrary to what you might think we aren't just eating around the world, though in the first four days of our trip it seems like that's about all we did (well, there was that little 8 mile run on Saturday night...) We did actually get out into the parks and try a few new things that weren't food-related.

Our first night here was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, so in addition to eating, we had the opportunity to see all the new (to us) things at Epcot. First was the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion. While I don't miss the annoying street vendors at all, I do miss the narration in the first section when you were floating by the pyramid, and they talked about the ancient civilizations. Now it's basically "it's a small mexico" with the Three Caballeros. My favorite part was something Lee pointed out to me - the "it's a small mexico" kids whacking away at a Donald Duck-shaped pinata. :-) I'm not sure it's really an improvement over the previous version, but in any case it's not something we'll be in a hurry to do again any time soon.

We also visited the Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery behind Club Cool. (We recognized the room - it's where they originally held the Segway Training sessions!) We had the exhibit all to ourselves, and enjoyed seeing the concept art and the original costumes and the various models. If you're interested in more information, as well as lots of photos, see Linda Mac's excellent blog entry on the Gallery, which is HERE.

At The Seas with Nemo and Friends we rode the clam-mobiles. We had done this before, but I hadn't seen it since I'd ridden the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland, which employs similar technology in producing the visuals of Nemo and Friends in their underwater environment. I think it's much better here at Epcot - especially the section where the Nemo gang appears to be out in the tank with the *real* fish. The clam-mobiles are also a lot more comfortable than those cramped submarines!

What was new since our last visit was the new (and much bigger) theater for Turtle Talk with Crush, though the show itself isn't very different. We lucked out and arrived just as they were loading the theater for a show. Crush always makes us smile. Awesome, dude. :-)

At Disney-MGM Studios (or is it now Disney Hollywood Studios?) we did a couple of new things - saw the Jedi Training Academy on its new and permanent stage - though it was the same Jedi Master we'd seen 2-1/2 years ago. And we watched Mulch, Sweat, and Shears on the Streets of America. They're a "Rake n' Roll" band working as landscapers while they wait for their big break. They put on a good show, performing songs by the Rolling Stones, Eagles, etc.


During Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party on Tuesday night we had a chance to do the two new things at the Magic Kingdom - and we were glad for the excuse to get out of the rain, too. I'm not enough of a Haunted Mansion aficionado to recognize many of the changes that were made during its recent rehab, but we noticed the creaking of the stretch room as it starts to stretch, the glowing eyes in the wallpaper, the glowing footprints overhead, and Madame Leota's floating crystal ball. And of course the creepy bride in the attic, with the husbands disappearing from the wedding portraits. Nicely done.

The Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club was fun - I'd heard some not-too-positive reviews of it, but we enjoyed it. (I have to say that there were members of the audience who seemed to be enjoying it a little TOO much, though - both kids and adults. At any other park I'd blame it on alcohol, but since it was Magic Kingdom during the Halloween party I'll attribute it to sugar overload.) Like Turtle Talk With Crush, this show also features real-time animated characters who can interact with the audience. (Disney is getting a lot of mileage out of that technology!) Most of the jokes are pretty corny but it was fun - and part of the fun is laughing with the audience members that they pick on and show up on the big screen. There are some truly awful puns, though.

Today (Wednesday) we finally made it to Animal Kingdom. The only new thing that I'm aware of there is a new spiel for Kilimanjaro Safaris - I'd heard they eliminated at least some of the annoying elements. The entire "Warden Wilson Matua" recording is different - it sounds like it could be the same voice, but I can't tell. That silly Miss Jobson, who doesn't realize that Thompson's gazelles are called "Tommies", is gone, though - as is the whole "Tommie" thing, which I always thought made Wilson sound like an idiot. No more Big Red and Little Red either - just a baby elephant that the wardens found which had gotten separated from his mother. But Wilson is still chasing poachers, and towards the end our mission (which we weren't even given a choice to accept!) was to help drive the poachers towards him. I have to say that it was less annoying than the original, but I still wish they would offer a poacher-free safari. We DID learn something new from our driver, though - elephants frequent the red clay pits because they rub their tusks in the red clay and then eat it - it gives them extra minerals, apparently.


Coming up...More Food and Wine Festival, our thoughts on our first stay at Animal Kingdom Villas, and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - not necessarily in that order. So many things to write about, so little vacation left!

Walt Disney World - Crowds, Clouds, and Christmas

Thought I'd write a little bit about the conditions here this week.

Crowds: Because of the Food and Wine Festival, World Showcase at Epcot was quite crowded Friday night and Saturday, though lines for the attractions were short. Sunday afternoon and evening were less crowded, though - five minutes before IllumiNations started we walked right up to the railing near Morocco and had a really good view - not blocked by trees or islands. And during the week there's been almost no wait at the Food and Wine booths. This week we've found the waits in the rest of the parks to be quite short as well - less than 10 minutes for Expedition Everest, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and Tower of Terror. There's a big group from someplace called Hollister, wherever that is - we've seen groups of them in several parks.


Clouds: The weather has really been a mix of "nice" and "showery". The temperatures have been VERY pleasant - nothing higher than 81 (if that), but most days we've had showers off and on. The only really serious extended rain we had was (unfortunately) during our Halloween party on Tuesday night. According to the Weather Channel there's been some front pushing through Florida that's been bringing all of this wet weather, though it's supposed to improve over the weekend.

Christmas: Christmas has begun here in Central Florida. I knew that the Osborne Lights in the Studios started going up a few weeks ago, but on Tuesday we saw that Hollywood Blvd now has Christmas garland strung across the street and those tinsel Christmas trees on the light poles. There's also Christmas trees back around MuppetVision, and a big Santa climbing the side of a building. Today (Thursday) when we came in the International Gateway at Epcot we noticed Christmas decorations outside the gift shop there, as well as garland around the doorways in the UK pavilion. Once we reached World Showcase Plaza we saw that the Epcot Christmas tree had magically gone up sometime in the last 48 hours. There's also decorations in Guest Relations and over the turnstiles at the front of the park. Come on...Halloween is barely over!!! (And it's not over at the Magic Kingdom, where there is still a Halloween party tonight!)



Speaking of Halloween - they did some fun things here at Animal Kingdom Lodge. When we arrived on Tuesday there was a display of pumpkins set up in the Lobby. They had been carved by Cast Members, and there was a contest for guests to select the best in a number of categories, such as Best Animal Kingdom Lodge Theme, Funniest, Most Frightful, Most Original, etc. We voted, and I should've taken a picture of them, but I didn't get around to it, and they were gone by Thursday morning. There was a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt for the kids on Halloween evening - we saw quite a few kids in costume running around with papers in their hands and getting treats at locations throughout the Lodge. They seemed to be having a fine time. We opted for a "treat" and had dinner at Jiko - and I've never seen it so empty! Our waiter told us it was because of Halloween - people were out someplace with their kids instead of going out to dinner. Worked for us, since Jiko was nice and quiet. :-)

Events: The Food and Wine Festival at Epcot runs through November 11. Festival of the Masters is November 9-11 and Super Soap Weekend is November 10-12. On November 12 there's the first Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party of the season and The Osborne Lights at the Studios light up the night. Epcot's Holidays Around the World begin on November 23.

November 2, 2007

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party

This was the first time we've ever had the opportunity to attend one of the Halloween parties at the Magic Kingdom. We've gone to the Mickey's Halloween Treat party at Disney's California Adventure the last three years, and wanted to see how different it was here. (Not so different in most ways, much different in others, but more on that later.) Besides, we'd heard the Halloween party is a lot of fun - better than the Christmas party, which did not impress us.

We attended the party on Tuesday, October 30. After donning our costumes we took the bus from Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Magic Kingdom, arriving just about 7:00 when the party was officially starting. The lines for bag check weren't bad at all, and we received our orange wristbands. (That's wristband #3 for this trip - the other two were for Extra Magic Hours at Epcot and the Tower of Terror 13K.)

There was a cloud of mist around the Main Street Train Station, and a glowing Mickey pumpkin at the big floral Mickey. Pumpkin-headed scarecrows were placed around Town Square, and lots of jack-o-lanterns flickered in the windows on Main Street. The castle was spookily (is that a word?) lit.


One thing we quickly noticed was that the Treat Stations had HUGE lines - much longer than anything we ever saw at Mickey's Halloween Treat. The lines for the attractions were short, though - we waited oh, all of maybe a minute at Haunted Mansion before walking into the Stretch Room. All of the hosts and hostesses were wearing ghastly makeup, some with cobwebs in their hair - they looked great! And on the lawn outside the Mansion (before you go through the turnstiles) was one of the Happy Haunts, surrounded by mist, and ghostly lit, sitting on a bench and talking to herself. Very cool.

It had been drizzling off and on all evening, but it had mostly stopped when we came out of Haunted Mansion. We met our friends Paul and Ilene near Country Bear Playhouse and waited for the start of the first parade. It started raining hard enough that we huddled under our umbrellas for a while, but fortunately by the time the parade started it had stopped. The wet street meant that the Headless Horseman went by at a trot instead of a gallop, though. Which was actually very nice since it was a lot easier to see him!

I loved the Boo to You parade. Lots of characters (some in costume) and great floats, especially the pirates and the villains. Though my favorite was the Haunted Mansion sequence - starting with the gravedigger and his bloodhound...so cute!!! And then the ghostly dancers, the HM float, and following it the zombie gravedigging drill team with their shovels. Terrific stuff! The pumpkin-headed guys on the whirling spheres were great, too - normally the creepy SpectroMagic dudes ride those - the pumpkin guys were a lot better.







The treat lines were still really long, but they were giving out bags of Kissables at the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean, and we practically walked right onto a boat. I guess everyone was in the Treat lines!

About 9:10 we went to the Hub to stake out a spot for the 9:30 Hallowishes fireworks show - and it started to rain. And this wasn't just drizzle, either. We got back under our umbrella, but since Lee was holding it the back of my skirt was getting pretty wet. Unfortunately the rain did not let up very much during the fireworks. A lot of people left, or sought cover, so it wasn't really that crowded - I was surprised.

The show itself was great - lots of interesting projections on the castle like jack-o-lanterns, flying spooks, and glowing eyes. I particularly liked the one in this picture, though I think it was a colorful pattern and not any particular image, though to me it looks like the face of the Wicked Queen from Snow White is superimposed on the highest tower - looks like a face wearing a crown with that high collar behind it. Or maybe it's just my imagination. :-)


The effect of the fireworks going on 180 degrees around you is very cool.

After the show we ducked for cover into the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club, then stayed under cover to get to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (no line), and then quickly ran to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority where we went around twice, since it was raining pretty hard and there was no one waiting to get on.

We'd planned to see the second parade, but missed it because of the rain...it must have been really miserable for the Cast Members.

By the time we'd made our second round on the TTA the rain had just about stopped - or was at least not much more than a drizzle. By the time we did the Fantasyland attractions, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White, Peter Pan, and Mickey's Philharmagic, it was midnight and the party was over. And of course by then it had stopped raining completely and turned into a lovely night. Sigh. Oh well, if I had to choose between it raining the night of the party or raining the night of the race I would have chosen rain on the party. Running in the rain is not a lot of fun, though it's standing around in the rain waiting for a race to start that is the worst part.

So what did I think of Mickey's Halloween Treat (MHT) at Disney's California Adventure vs. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom? I'm so glad you asked. :-)

I think I have to give it to MHT as far as decorating goes. In general the park has a lot more Halloween decorations than Magic Kingdom, and they add lots of spooky projections and many more ghost Mickey and pumpkin Mickey lights than I saw at MNSSHP. At MHT there's also lots of characters just out wandering around - now maybe that's normally true at MNSSHP, and we missed out on it because of the weather.

There's a lot more people at MNSSHP, and the treat lines are MUCH longer. Though the candy is a lot better at MNSSHP! We didn't get a whole lot of candy, but what we got was chocolate and not that yucky Willy Wonka Laffy Taffy and Now&Later-type stuff that we got at MHT. Lee thinks there are more treat stops at MHT, though I think they are about the same.

A lot of the Cast Members are in costume at MHT - other than the characters in the Parade we saw no Cast Members in costume at MNSSHP - just those wearing the MNSSHP t-shirts.

Even though there's more people at MNSSHP, the attraction lines were shorter. No 30 minute waits for anything like we had for Tower of Terror at MHT - almost everything we did was a walk-on. Now again, some of that might have been because of the rain.

MHT has the Tower of Terror, MNSSHP has the Haunted Mansion - you can't do a Halloween party without SOME kind of spooky ride! Though I have to say the Haunted Mansion gets the edge here.

Parade and Fireworks - MNSSHP does this far, far, better than MHT, which doesn't have a fireworks show, and has a fairly pathetic parade. I loved the Boo to You parade - I really wish we could've seen it again. And the Hallowishes fireworks show was frightfully good. :-)

I'm looking forward to attending the MNSSHP again some year - though hopefully without the rain next time!

To finish this off, here we are in our costumes - you've heard of Disney's upcoming movie, haven't you? Beauty and the Jedi? :-)


November 3, 2007

Eating Around the World - Days 2 and 3

We didn't get to Epcot at all on Saturday because of the 13K race, but we more than made up for it on Sunday and Monday - on Monday we started about 12:30 and didn't finish until 8:30 - though we did take some time for some attractions!

Our first stop on Sunday was France, where we had the Quiche au Fromage de Chevre (goat cheese quiche) and I had the Sparkling Pomegranate Kir. Both were excellent - we both really enjoy the tang of goat cheese.

At Australia I tried the Grilled Lamb Chop with Caramelized Onions. Of everything I tried at the Festival I think I was the most disappointed in this - I thought it was a very small serving for the price, which at $4.75 made it the second most expensive food item in the entire Festival. I think the lamb tasted fine - there just wasn't a whole lot there to taste!


Next up was Italy, where I had the Insalata Caprese - three small balls of fresh mozzarella chese, some chopped basil and grape tomatoes in a light dressing. It was tasty, but I've had better - the mozzarella wasn't as fresh and tender as it can be. They weren't overly generous with the basil, either! Lee tried the Lasagna al Forno - baked spinach pasta with meat ragu. At $3.00 this may be the bargain of the Festival - it was a very generous serving! Lee enjoyed it, and I had a taste of the spinach pasta, which was good, though quite different!


At Germany we tried the Debriziner Sausage with Sauerkraut in a Pretzel Roll, and I had the S.A. Prum Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett, while Lee had a Beck's Oktoberfest. The sausage contained beef as well as pork so I didn't try that, but I had half the pretzel roll and some of the sauerkraut and I really enjoyed that - I love the pretzel sticks they serve at Le Cellier. This was not quite that good. The wine was nice, though I prefer the Spatlese that I had on Friday night. Lee said the sausage was ok, but he also liked the pretzel bread.

The Durban Spiced Chicken on a Skewer from South Africa was another winner in my book - in fact I liked it so much that I went back and got a second one that I ate all by myself, rather than splitting it with Lee. :-) The chicken was moist with a little crust on the outside from being grilled, but a really good flavor. It was served on a square of corn meal cake.


On this particular night India was NOT out of Samosas, so we finally got to try one. It's a fried vegetable dumpling filled with spicy peas and potatoes, and served with tamarind sauce. We also got another cup of the Curried Butternut Squash Soup that we liked so much the first night. The Samosa had a little bit more of a kick than the soup, but it wasn't too hot even for my tender palate.


At Turkey I tried the Pistachio Baklava and a glass of the Kavaklidere Selection Beyaz White Wine. I admit it, I'm a baklava snob - my mom, though as far as I know she has not a drop of Greek blood in her, makes excellent baklava, and just about every one I've ever tried can't compare to hers. (Though the pistachio baklava that the Morocco booth had two years ago was really good - quite different from Mom's, but still excellent. I forgot to mention before that I tried this year's Walnut Baklava from Morocco on Friday, and it was just ok.) This one had sort of an odd flavor - not really unpleasant, but not something I was interested in trying again. The phyllo was also quite substantial and not light and crunchy. The wine was good, though - it wasn't sweet, but it was a bit fruity and crisp. Overtones of pears and apples - that kind of thing. :-) Lee had the Manti with Yogurt Sauce which was the Turkish version of beef ravioli. He said the beef was quite good, and the yogurt sauce was different.


Our final tasting of the night, which we purchased 5 minutes before Illuminations started, was the Pecan Pie from the Oklahoma Rose Rock Diner. We thought the top and crust were a bit overdone on this particular one, but it was really very good, and not overly sweet like pecan pie can sometimes be!

On Monday we met our friend Kenny about 12:30 and started eating. First up was Oklahoma's Three Sisters' Cafe where we split the Three Sisters' Soup - Spicy Zucchini, Bean and Corn Chowder and Lee tried the highly rated Seared Buffalo with Scalloped Wild Onions. The soup was quite good - in addition to the veggies it had some crisp croutons in it. Lee liked the buffalo, though he didn't give it a rave review. I thought the wild onions served with it were good. Lee also got a cup of the Sweet Tea. He doesn't usually like things that are really sweet, and I have no idea how he could drink this since it was way too sweet for me, but he liked it.

At Morocco we all tried the Chicken Bastilla. This is something I've had at the Marrakesh restaurant and really like - it's mildly spiced chicken wrapped in phyllo dough and baked, then dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Sounds like an odd combination but it really works!


The guys split the Crispy Sukiyaki Beef Roll at Japan. Lee enjoyed this - the roll was made to order with warm beef rolled up in warm rice, and then the slices were lightly grilled to brown/toast the rice.


Lee had the New England Crab Cake with Barley-Lentil Salad at the Hops & Barley Market. It was a pretty generously-sized crab cake, and it had a whole lot of crab and not much filler. Which meant I didn't really like it - I like the filler better than the crab. :-) Lee enjoyed it, though. I think he had a beer, too - I'm not sure you can buy something at the Hops & Barley Market without buying a beer to go with it!

At Ireland Kenny got a Boxty and Lee and I split one - but we'd had that before. Lee had the Grilled Beef with Chimichurri Sauce at Argentina, and said that was excellent. It was another generous serving, and the beef was served on top of some really good mashed potatoes - I got to enjoy that part. :-)


Neither of the guys was interested in anything from Chile, but I tried the Tomatican with Manchego Cheese. This was a tomato stew with corn, onions, and garbanzo beans. I couldn't really detect the Manchego cheese, though. The serving was large and filling - but I wasn't really that impressed with it and couldn't eat it all, and Lee didn't want more than a few bites.


Kenny and I both had the Greek Salad at (where else?) Greece. I tried the Boutari Moschofilero that was the recommended pairing, another not sweet but nice crisp white wine. The salad was topped with sliced Kalamata olives and goat cheese, with a light vinaigrette dressing and a wedge of pita bread. A nice change from all the meat that we'd been eating!

After that we stopped eating for a while and enjoyed The Voices of Liberty, The American Adventure, visited the Festival Center in the Wonders of Life pavilion, played games in the Siemens exhibit under Spaceship Earth (Kenny and I apparently have a future as surgeons and Lee as a fast-driving secret agent), and visited The Land where we saw the Circle of Life movie and did the Living with the Land boat ride.

It was time to eat again after that. :-) Lee got the Maple Custard topped with Almond Crumble from Canada. Not nearly as good as the Maple Creme Brulee that Le Cellier serves, though, and it was a tiny serving.

We stopped at New Zealand and had Lamb Sliders - roasted lamb with mustard sauce on a soft roll. These were another of my favorites - and the CM serving them up was very generous with the lamb (when I had one again the next day the CM was pretty stingy and just gave me two pieces of lamb, as opposed to the 5-6 I had this first time). We also received an impromptu "Magical Moment" - the CM pouring the wine had somehow ended up with two extra glasses of Villa Maria Pinot Noir and gave them to Lee and Kenny, though Kenny passed and the woman behind him was happy to take it. I don't usually like red wines much, but this was not bad (hey, when it comes to red wines, from me that's high praise!) - it didn't have that oaky, smokey, tannic bite that I dislike.


The guys had the buffalo at Oklahoma again, and we stopped in front of Japan to listen to the Matsuriza drum group. While we were standing there Kim and Marta saw us as they were passing by on their way around the world. We chatted for quite a while before we all moved on. At Poland Lee tried the Cabbage Roll with Spiced Beef. He wasn't too impressed by the first bite that was all cabbage, but once he got to the beef part he liked it.


By this time we were running out of new things that we wanted to try, and were having some of our favorites instead. So I had another Samosa and Lee had some Rice Pudding at India, and I had the Chilaquiles again and Lee had the Beef Quesadilla at Mexico. In fact we ALL had something from Mexico - here's Marta, Kim, and Kenny with their Chilaquiles.


Marta and Kim wanted to get out of the park before Illuminations started so they left, and Kenny, Lee and I watched it from World Showcase Plaza. It really wasn't crowded at all and we enjoyed the show, even though it was three out of four nights that we'd seen it (and who knows how many hundreds of times Kenny has seen it!)

We had a good day, and it was nice of Kenny to come out and play (and eat!) with us.

November 5, 2007

Tower of Terror 13K - Reader Comments

I wanted to share some of the comments I've received from other participants in the Tower of Terror races and from the party attendees.

From Ray:
I couldn't agree more! This was one of the worst prepared races imaginable. No one had any "official" information-cast members to volunteers were all giving out conflicting information on course expectations and party information for those not running. Seemed like no one knew for sure exactly what was going on. This was reinforced by the traffic conditions that delayed the race start--Disney got surprised by the lack of coordination and communication. Add to that the lack of Disney touches on the race--no characters, or any real "specials" along the course and it became apparent this was not even 2nd rate as a race or event.
The medal was cool. The shirt was ok.
The water stops were well stocked and well manned.
The course was "easy"--for a 13k, pretty simple route.
Bad "show" for Disney--no seeminlgy thinking through any particulars of a race or of a Disney event for this (even the pre-race stuff on screen was lame).

From Susan:
Just a quick comment on the late start of the race Saturday. Since you walked over from the Boardwalk hotel you missed the horrible traffic jams that were taking place on all roads leading to the Studios. My sister and I stayed at the Caribbean and we left at 7:45pm, thinking that would be more than enough time to get to the Studios. We were wrong. At 8:15 we were still sitting in traffic, going absolutely no where. In order to even get out of the Caribbean you had to turn right, head toward Downtown Disney and make a u-turn. Finally, I drove to the Boardwalk hotel, and crossed there into the Studios parking lot. Traffic was backed up in all directions. A lady who came from a hotel on International Drive told me traffic was backed up to the Interstate and people were getting out and walking on the sides of the road and medians. The only way to be fair to all those people stuck in traffic was to delay the start of the race.

I think Disney really messed up in having no transportation for runners staying onsite. I also think having 4000 people trying to enter a parking lot while you are also emptying the parking lot of day guests was not the brightest idea either. All in all, though, my sister and I had a great time (6.5K) and we will definitely enter again next year.

From Patt:
This is only my second Disney race (having done the half marathon in 2006) and I enjoyed this race as much, if not more, than the half. We also did the 13K and liked the night atmosphere more than the morning/day. Anything I don't have to get up at 4:00 AM to do I like more. ;-) Agreed, this was the inaugural race and they do need to think things through a little. A coworker did the 5K and even she was saying she thought there should have been different medals. I'll be signing up for this race again next year.

From Masayo:
I agree, it's not a Disney race. It was pretty much a confusing and disorganized race I think. For us party goers (and race cheer stations/spectators) we got just that wrist band, no map or no directions on where we can cheer for runners or what else was going on. I'm so glad that I was with Deb, Beci, Mike Newell and Linda Mac on that night. I don't know if I could have enjoyed the night otherwise with such little information.

November 10, 2007

Animal Kingdom Villas

We're DVC members and spent the last three nights of our trip in the new Animal Kingdom Villas (AKV). We have not stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge in quite a while, but we get over there just about every trip to have dinner at Jiko or Boma or both.

Back when they first opened up AKV for reservations I booked a Savannah-View Studio for three nights. Check-in on Tuesday afternoon was easy, and since it was a bit after 4:00 our room was ready. We were in a room along the Zebra Trail on the 5th floor, overlooking the Uzima savannah.

The room was gorgeous but a bit dark - that seems to be the major complaint about the decor. Since the DVC rooms at AKV were converted from existing hotel rooms the studios have no closet - that's now the location of the kitchenette. So instead there's a big wardrobe - half of it contains the vacuum cleaner, ironing board and iron, and the other half has a closet pole and hangers. Not a lot of closet space, but it worked ok for us. I think it would be pretty cramped for four people, though.


The queen-size bed is tall with a lovely dark wood headboard. We found that the bed creaked and the sheets were too stiff (starched?) and rustled any time either of us moved. The mattress was fairly comfortable, though - not too firm and not too soft. In the other half of the room is a sofa which pulls out into a queen-size bed, and a table and two (very heavy!) chairs, and two wooden footstools/coffee tables.




I found the bathroom a bit cozy - it has an extra-wide door on it, and I had to stand against the tub to be able to open the bathroom door. It's a nice big tub, though, with a curved shower curtain rod. And the border of the shower curtain has little hidden mickeys in it - those were cute.



We found our room to be very quiet - we never heard anyone on the other side of us, though we could hear those annoying stupid people who yell in the hallways and/or let the kids run wild and yell in the hallways.

We didn't have a very good room location as far as savannah-viewing went - our room was on the inside corner with the "people corral" (used in the event the building has to be evacuated) right behind it. It looked across the savannah towards the other wing of the building - we could see the viewing area that's near the pool. It also never had a lot of animals on it - there was almost always at least one eland on it, though - it seemed almost like they had decided it was "their" part of the savannah, and the other animals stayed away. We did see several giraffes cruise through at various times, though. One evening there was also a bontebok and an impala, but never groups of animals. We know they were on the savannah because one afternoon we went all the way to the end of the hallway and out onto the external stairway, and we saw a number of Thompson's gazelles and impala, two of the giraffes, several bontebok and some other antelope-type creature I couldn't identify. But they were on the far edge of the savannah and not the main part that was viewable from the majority of the rooms.



And there were these animals, that I didn't recognize:


We were somewhat disappointed in the food selection at The Mara - the last time we were here, they had some more interesting/exotic food items available for lunch and dinner. This time it was mostly the regular food court fare - pizza, burgers, chicken caesar salad - though they did have homemade soups and an "African stew". I was also disappointed that in the grab-and-go section the 4 piece assortment of zebra domes and chocolate mousse crunch was gone - now it's just zebra domes. Though I found out why when we ate at Boma - the chocolate mousse crunch is just a bowl of chocolate mousse now, and not those little individual servings with the crunchy chocolate cookie on the bottom (and the cookie was my favorite part!).

Boma and Jiko did not disappoint, though, and still remain our two favorite restaurants on property. We had a lovely dinner at Jiko on Halloween night - the restaurant had lots of empty tables and we enjoyed a nice leisurely dinner. Boma the next night was as busy and noisy as it always is - but we were dining with friends and enjoyed the company (not to mention the food and desserts!) despite the atmosphere.

I was very impressed by the bus service - we never waited more than 10 minutes to catch a bus either to or from the parks, and usually it was less than that! We came back from Epcot one afternoon and were the only two passengers on the bus. Though one thing that annoys me...the walkway to the Animal Kingdom Lodge bus stop goes right by a smoking area - I had to hold my breath every time we went past it. Bleah.

Sooooo...Animal Kingdom Villas gets a big thumbs up from us - good thing, since we bought points there and will be staying there over the next 50 years or so. :-) Since the current rooms were converted from existing hotel rooms, I AM looking forward to the opening of the Kidani Village units which are being built in a separate building with its own savannah. They should be a little larger and better laid-out.

November 18, 2007

Animal Kingdom - You "Otter" See This!

One of the things we love about Animal Kingdom is taking time to watch the animals, whether it be the tigers and bats on the Maharajah Jungle Trek, the meerkats, gerenuks and gorillas in Pangani Forest, the cotton-top tamarinds or lemurs around the Tree of Life, etc.

One of our very favorites, though, is the otters. And this last trip they put on quite a show for us! There were three of them, and they were romping and frolicking all around their enclosure - swimming around their island, running through the grass, and even posing, all three together, on the end of the island by the viewing area. They make the cutest little chirping noises, and they were doing a lot of that. I love otters - they always look like they are having fun!


Another special animal sighting this trip was one of the hippos in the underwater viewing area on the Pangani Forest Trail. It was doing hippo aerobics - underwater laps around the pool. We'd see it pass by the glass, and then about a minute later it passed by again as it completed another lap. I don't think I've ever seen a hippo in that pool that was doing anything other than sleeping before this! It's really amazing to see how gracefully they move in the water.


The siamangs and gibbons in Asia are often really entertaining to watch, too. It's a lot of fun to watch the parents and the babies playing together. This trip we saw two of the siamangs going hand-over-hand on the ropes between two of their towers. That was really cool to see!


So next time you're at Animal Kingdom, take a few moments to watch the animals - you never know what you might see!

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About November 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in November 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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