Animal Kingdom Villas Archives

March 31, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0


Our Fantasy Maiden Voyage trip actually starts with a short trip to Walt Disney World...if we have to fly all the way across country we might as well visit the parks!

This time we are staying at Animal Kingdom Kidani Village, in a savanna view studio. We figure what's the point of staying at Animal Kingdom if you don't have a savanna view? We are overlooking the Sunset Savanna, though these next few photos were taken from the Sunset Savanna Overlook outside Sanaa.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Sunset Savanna has zebras, and they are bullies. This ostrich is all riled up because the zebra on the left had just charged at it, even though the ostrich was minding its own business and not bothering the zebra.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

We had dinner at Sanaa. It was really a wonderful dinner, and our server, Rico, was really good, and we had a lot of fun with him.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The towel animal in our room was a butterfly, and the card says: "A family is like a forest, when you are outside, it is dense, when you are inside you see that each tree has its place." Yeah, I have family members like that... ;-)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Despite the three hour time difference we managed to go to bed and get to sleep at a reasonable time, and were up this morning in plenty of time to make it to Animal Kingdom a little before it opened at 9:00. We got Fastpasses for the Safari - knowing that now that the rules have changed, we would actually have to be back BEFORE our Fastpass window expired. We did a quick ride on Expedition Everest - that'll give you an adrenaline rush and wake you up in the morning!

We usually have breakfast at Pizzafari, but this time we tried Tamu Tamu instead. Lee had the breakfast flatbread, with egg, cheese, and ham, and I had the yogurt parfait. The flatbread was not what we expected - instead of flat and baked, it was folded in half like a sandwich, and the contents were only barely warm. It tasted ok, but I think we'll go back to Pizzafari. The yogurt parfait was about what I expected, except that I was hoping for fresh berries and got strawberries in syrup - ick. Mushy and way too sweet.

Once we got on the Safari we had a LOT of delays...we'd move a bit, then stop and wait and then move some more. What normally takes 20 minutes took about 40 minutes. We think some of it was because of animals on the road - this giraffe was right next to the road, and was checking out all of the trucks as they drove by. Gave us a really good look at him/her, though!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

But the delays had really affected the lines - the Fastpass line was all the way back to the entrance and then into Harambe! And the Standby line was way out into Harambe, also, and was at least an hour.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

We went looking for animals - no otters in sight and the lemurs and cotton-top tamarins weren't cooperative. Got this view of the Tree of Life, though - there are lots of different animals depicted in this section!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

On the Maharajah Jungle Trek we saw this unusual bird - the Bar Headed Goose. It can survive at higher altitude than any other animal on the planet - it migrates over the Himalayas and flies at altitudes of 30,000'!!! Climbers on Mt Everest have reported seeing them - and in this case seeing a flying goose was not just a symptom of oxygen deprivation...

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

I don't remember what kind of deer these were, but there was quite a herd of them on the Jungle Trek - there were 4-6 others that aren't in this photo.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The main thing I wanted to see today was the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot - we used to get to that almost yearly, but we haven't been in quite a while now.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

So from Animal Kingdom we took a bus to the Epcot Resorts, and went into Epcot via the International Gateway - which brought us in right at the UK. The topiaries of the characters from Winnie the Pooh were right there.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

As was the very colorful Twinings Tea Garden.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

For lunch we had Fish and Chips. This squirrel really wanted to help us with some of our lunch...he was cute, but we didn't feed him. :-)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Canada Pavilion has the Victoria Gardens, "inspired by the spectacular Butchart Gardens". Inspired yes, but as I was just there last May, right before our Disney Alaska cruise, I can tell you that this just doesn't compare with the real thing.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

It was a picture-perfect day at Epcot - sunny and in the 80s, but not really humid, and there was a nice breeze most of the time. Really nice to be outside most of the time.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

I'm not going to show you pictures of all of the topiaries, but will share some of them. I guess this is American Gothic Mickey?

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Mexico pavilion had their traditional, but always lovely, orchid display. These were so pretty! I took lots of pictures - there were so many beautiful colors and patterns! But I'm only going to share a couple of them here.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

And there were several "orchid trees" that had been beautifully decorated with orchids.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

I thought this field of flowers outside Akershus was very pretty and colorful.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

And the topiary pandas at China were really cute!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

This topiary dragon was very impressive. The spines on its back are pineapple plants with pink pineapples...the Festival had several displays with pineapples that were unusual colors.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The German train village was decorated for the Flower and Garden Festival and it had some miniature topiaries...and some zombie villagers. :-) (I hope when the Agent P adventure replaces Kim Possible that they don't remove the zombie villagers!)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

We had a chance to catch a set of the Voices of Liberty. They sang one song I hadn't heard before: Strike up the Band. Their closing number was a really moving version of You'll Never Walk Alone, which I've only heard once or twice before.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Alongside the American Adventure was the Toy Story Alphabet Garden. I really enjoyed this.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

A large Lotso topiary was in the center.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Around the rest of the area were pots with letters in them, and in the pots were plants whose names began with that letter. (I though they kinda cheated on Q and X, though.) M was marigold and milkweed.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

There were a couple of lizards hanging out on the sign. :-)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Lightning McQueen and Mater topiaries were in front of Japan, which I thought was an odd place for them. I guess it ties in with Cars 2, though.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Giant Apostle's Iris was very popular this year, and we saw it in lots of different places.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Cinderella and Prince Charming were in front of France.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The second time we went past Canada, Off Kilter was performing. Though Jamie, the bagpiper was missing, and they had a violinist instead. They still sounded good, but it wasn't quite the same.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Bambi, Flower, and Thumper are in Bambi's Butterfly Garden. This is much bigger than it used to be, though it didn't seem like there were as many butterflies. Or maybe they just weren't as concentrated since it was a larger area.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Lots of beautiful flower beds!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

We also went through the Pixie Garden. This is Fawn and her animal friends - there's a deer, a bear, and a cougar in this photo. (And in the background is a balloon that Tinker Bell built. But since pixies can fly, why would she need a balloon?)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

My camera battery went dead at that point, so I don't have any photos from the Festival Center or the front of Epcot. It was about 5:00 when we caught the bus back to Kidani - we actually had good luck with buses today, and pretty short waits.

For dinner we walked over to Mara at Jambo House. It's not really that far - less than 1/2 mile. After dinner we went to the Arusha Savanna Overlook. There were a LOT of animals out there - we saw oryx, wildebeest, waterbuck, crowned cranes, a giraffe, and this Patterson's eland came over to where we could get a good look at her.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

And tomorrow we'll be on the Disney Fantasy for her Maiden Voyage! You can be sure that @AllEarsDeb and I (@AllEarsLaura) will be tweeting from the ship while we are in port...Let the Fantasy begin!

December 11, 2011

December to Remember - Day 3


Today's big event was the Open House at one of the Grand Villas at Kidani Village. We arrived about 10:15, but other All Ears team members were already there and hard at work.

December to Remember - Day 3

The villa is two stories - there's a nice living room area at the top of the steps on the second floor.

December to Remember - Day 3

Here's the view out the huge picture window from the second floor balcony.

December to Remember - Day 3

We covered a lot of the horizontal surfaces with All Ears swag!

December to Remember - Day 3

In the dining area there were refreshments - here are some of the sweet treats provided by babycakes nyc (and some Mickey krispie treats, too).

December to Remember - Day 3

Fruit, cheese platters, drinks, and other snacks were provided by our sponsor, Orlando Stroller Rentals.

December to Remember - Day 3

Owner Shannon Tanner had a couple of their strollers on display.

December to Remember - Day 3

I think everyone enjoyed themselves - they could chat with All Ears team members, or take a Kidani Village tour with Jack Spence, or a Hidden Mickeys tour with Steve Barrett.

December to Remember - Day 3

There was quite a market in All Ears trading cards upstairs, as well as pin trading downstairs.

December to Remember - Day 3

Every half hour or so there was a raffle for prizes like t-shirts, hats, or bags.

December to Remember - Day 3

Thank you to all of you who came by and joined us - we hope you had a good time!

(For those interested in seeing more photos of the Villa - Jack Spence took a bunch of photos, and those will be making their way to AllEars soon.)

January 23, 2010

Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge

In December we stayed at the new Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village for the first time, and I've been meaning to post a follow-up of what I thought about it. There were a lot of things that I liked, but also several things that I didn't.

Since I have lots of photos of the room, I'm going to start with some of the things that aren't so photo-intensive - and also start with the "negatives".

Pembe Savanna - this was the savanna view we had, which is on the "back side" of the resort. It's a lot narrower (especially where our room was) and doesn't have as many animals as the Sunset Savanna - I was very disappointed in how few animals we saw from our room. Next time I will request an even-numbered room - those look out onto the Sunset Savanna.


Internet access - though it was free for us as DVC members, the network connection was in the Master Bedroom and NOT out in the living area as it is at most of the other resorts. That was very inconvenient for us since there were nights when I was up late blogging and Lee wanted to go to bed. I wish they would go wireless like they do at the Disneyland resorts. Next time we'll have to bring our own (much longer) network cable, I guess.

Air Conditioning - This was really annoying. There is a vent on the ceiling right inside the doorway to the room, and it was CONSTANTLY blowing cold air - it's on a building-wide system and you can't turn it off. So it always seemed cold in our room - we actually had to turn the heat on! The maintenance people came to our room one morning because they were changing A/C filters and we asked about it - they seemed pretty frustrated about it, too. All they could do for us was close off the vent a little bit, which helped, but did not get rid of the problem.


Motion-activated fans - these were in the bathrooms and the toilet room and were also annoying since they made a fair bit of noise. You sure couldn't sneak to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

Parking - Since Kidani is so large and spread out it was nice to be able to park under the building and relatively close to our room. But there's only one entrance/exit to the parking, and if your room was on the far end of the building like ours was, it was quite a long and circuitous road to get there. There did seem to be another exit about halfway, but it was blocked off for some reason. The garage is divided into sections named after Lion King characters (Timon, Pumbaa, Simba, etc.). The cast members at check-in really need to tell you what section you should park in, otherwise you can end up a LONG way away from your room. There's a place on the room key envelope where that info is supposed to be provided but the CM who checked us in didn't fill it in.

Dining - There is NO quick-service option (especially for breakfast) at Kidani, and the "store" is woefully small with a very poor selection. Yes, you can take the bus over to Jambo House and go to Mara, but that's quite a ways to go (and could be quite a wait for the bus). Lee walked it one morning, and even at his pace it took 13 minutes to go one way (of course from our room it took five minutes just to get to the lobby!). Sanaa is really good, though, and we really enjoyed our meal there - we will definitely eat there again, and we hope the menu stays as varied and interesting as it is and doesn't get "dumbed down" as we've seen at other WDW restaurants.

The Lobby - I really loved the lobby at Kidani. It feels like a scaled-down version of the one at the main Animal Kingdom Lodge, but it also seems more inviting and cozy. I really liked the glass torch lights. And the Library room was a nice place to hang out, too.


The rooms are beautiful and large - we stayed in a one bedroom villa, and it was very comfortable - I could easily stay there for several weeks or months and feel quite at home! I did find them to be a little bit dark, though - which fits in with the theme, but I prefer something brighter. And it took us a long time to figure out the light switches! Many of the lamps had their own switch, and in some cases the switch was on the *cord* and not on the lamp itself. In the dark the night we arrived those were very hard to find.







I LOVED the master bathroom - it was HUGE!!! I would especially love to have the big walk-in shower at home...




On very cool thing about the one bedroom villas is that they have two full bathrooms, and the second bathroom was very nice, also.



All of the detail in the decor was really amazing - the designers out-did themselves this time.

There were Lion King characters carved into the furniture:






And also painted on the murals in the master bathroom:



And even woven into the curtains!


Lee noticed that the legs on the dining room table had hooves like a giraffe.


And here's the back of one of the chairs out on the balcony:


There were lots of other interesting decor details, too - I liked the ostrich egg in the lamp.





One interesting thing at Kidani: there were quotations painted on walls all over the building - one cast member told us that there were 40. I think we saw 10 or 12 of them - given the size of the building it would take a long time to roam the hallways and viewing areas and track them all down. Might be a good rainy day activity, though!



Jambo House vs. Kidani



Hmm...I've stayed at both now...and they both have their stronger/weaker points. The rooms are a lot nicer at Kidani, since they were built as DVC Villas to begin with, and are not converted hotel rooms like Jambo House. But there's a lot more dining options at Jambo House, and it doesn't seem to be spread out quite as much. I also think that any of the savanna views at Jambo House are better than the Pembe Savanna (but Arusha or Sunset savannas at Jambo are equivalent to Sunset Savanna at Kidani). Parking is more convenient at Kidani - once you get there. :-) I think the lack of dining at Kidani is a big problem - I don't think most DVC members cook while on vacation, but still, it's nice to have ready access to some grab-and-go type items for breakfast or a quick snack, and that's just not available at Kidani.

December 11, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 4

We get up this morning...the morning that we are LEAVING Kidani Village...and of course all of the animals have suddenly found our savanna. Sheesh...they are as uncooperative as cats! The nyala (which we had not seen at all until this morning) were out grazing:


And a pair of waterbuck were camouflaged in the brush:


And we had one of the okapis, though it was about as far away as it could be and still be in view. The impalas were out there, too. What was going on - "Laura and Lee are leaving - time to move back to the savanna!" :-)


Or maybe it was the, black clouds out there, and it started raining about 10:30. Oh great...the day we are switching resorts and have no "home" to hang out in, and it rains. Sigh. Hard to plan based on weather when you make reservations 11 months in advance! Though I remember the last time I scheduled a trip where we had to change resorts in the middle - and I said to myself: "Self, this is really not a very good idea - what were you *thinking*?" And then I went ahead and did it again this year. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think in the future I will limit myself to one resort per trip - it's just such a hassle to move.

After we'd loaded our bags in the car we went to the lobby to hang out in the library for a while in hopes of better weather. And I wanted to take a video of the moving butterfly ornaments on the tree - I received a message from the Baines Family asking me to video it. So this is for you! :-)

I didn't count the number of butterflies on the tree but there were more than this. Many of them apparently had "damaged" wings and weren't moving very much - these two were still doing pretty well, though.

The rain had apparently stopped, so we headed out to the Boardwalk - but it started up again - not hard, just steady. We arrived at the Boardwalk about 12:15, and, wonder of wonders, our room was actually ready!!! Even the Cast Member who checked us in was surprised. We have a one bedroom with a Boardwalk view up on the 5th floor. Ahhh. You know, I liked Kidani Village, but coming back to the Boardwalk really DOES feel like coming home. One of the first things I noticed is how much lighter and brighter the room is compared to Kidani. Of course the decor also isn't as exotic, and it doesn't have two full bathrooms like Kidani, but still, it's comfortable and familiar and feels like home.

By about 12:45 it had stopped raining, so we went into Epcot - I wanted to see the Voices of Liberty doing some of their Christmas sets. We took umbrella and rain jackets, though. The weather had *really* cooled off - it was almost 75 at 10:00 in the morning, but all it did was get cooler after that. I'd changed into long pants and even with a light jacket I was sometimes chilly.

On our way in from the International Gateway we passed the Kim Possible station and discovered they were still recruiting, so we volunteered to be agents - we had time to see the Voices of Liberty before saving the world, though. :-)

We saw the 1:15, 2:40, and 3:10 performances of Voices of Liberty - they are really incredible. We even heard a couple of songs that were new (or new arrangements). Here's a couple of them...the first is one of my favorites, Joy to the World, and second one is one of the few numbers I've seen them really do for fun - I don't know the name of it, but it talks about "What a merry Christmas tree", so that's what I call it.

In between Voices of Liberty sets we dealt with killer robots, monkey ninjas, and secret rocket bases on our Team Possible missions. The park was not very crowded, but there were a lot of other people doing them, too - we had to wait behind three other parties before we could trigger the final effect in China!


We were also in Mexico and Japan. I think that Germany, which we did back in March, is still my favorite, though. It is really a lot of fun to see what the Imagineers have come up with as interactive bits in the various pavilions - there are a number of pretty clever things. The robot "bebe" in Japan was pretty good - a robot brat who needed to be burped, apparently!

We also tried something that Erin had recommended - the hot spiced wine in Germany. That tasted really good on a chilly day!


While we drank our wine we sat on a bench and listened to the Holiday Storyteller in Germany, and saw the giant nutcracker come out and join her - that seems like the kind of thing that would give children nightmares!

It was after 3:00 and we hadn't had anything other than spiced wine since our (late) breakfast, so we stopped by the UK to get an order of fish and chips - with plenty of malt vinegar, of course! It's really nice that they have moved the ordering station away from the pick-up window - I think that makes things go a lot faster. Though there really wasn't a line today - just two other parties in front of us.

After we walked out back out the International Gateway we did something we have never done - attended the DVC "Merry Mixer". It's a holiday event that DVC puts on several times during December for members - there's entertainment, characters, the opportunity to buy exclusive merchandise (the line for that was HUGE), refreshments, and of course you could learn more about DVC and buying more points if you wanted to, though they really didn't push that at all. We didn't stay long, but we did get this holiday photo taken!


It was oh, 4:30 or so when we came back to our room to rest, work on photos and video, and that sort of thing - it was nice to have a short break today! This evening we decided to go to the Dolphin Fountain for dinner - they have good soups, sandwiches, burgers, and flatbreads. They are better known for their ice cream but neither of us felt much like having ice cream tonight!!! Even Lee was cold as we walked over there - the wind blowing over the water made it seem a lot colder than it really is.

The place was busier than I've ever seen it and pretty noisy - next time I think we should just get take-out and eat in our own room! But it was good - I had the turkey burger, which I think was a handmade patty and not a pre-made frozen thing, and Lee had the Cuban Pork Fladen (flatbread), which was basically a big open-faced ham and cheese sandwich. We both enjoyed our dinners, and were both members of the clean plate club!

It was after 7:00 but we decided to walk over to see the Osborne Lights - this time at our OWN pace, unlike last night. The park was open until 8:00, since that's when Fantasmic! started, but we knew the lights would be on for quite a while after F! got out. We weren't sure how crowded it would be back there but it was VERY nice - the least crowded I have ever seen it, except maybe for one night I was there when it was raining and a lot of the lights were out. But tonight was dry and almost everything was working (the big globe wasn't spinning).



We were there for at least half an hour and saw/heard three of the "dancing" numbers: Jingle Bells by Barbra Streisand, and Nutcracker Suite and Christmas Eve/Sarajevo, both by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Sarajevo is one that we really love - it was the first song that Lee choreographed for our Lights of Winter at home (and we used it several years before Disney did!). Lee also took some time to see how the Disney people did the connections on some of their lights...


Quick stop back at the room to pick up Lee's video camera (the room is pretty much on the way to Epcot anyway!), and then we went into Epcot to see Illuminations again, though we probably could have seen most of it from our room. We went to Germany for a little dessert, though - one of their gingerbread cookies with chocolate Mickey ears. That's one of my favorite holiday treats, and it was good.

And then we saw Illuminations again. The holiday finale is still spectacular, and I am always grinning like a fool at the end when all of those shells go off and light up the sky!! It is just amazing.


I can't believe that tomorrow is our last full day!!! We want to do a few more things in Epcot tomorrow, and will be going to the Magic Kingdom tomorrow afternoon for a tour that Erin is doing - which concludes by watching the castle lighting ceremony that we didn't see last night.

January 23, 2009

Disney Cruisin' - Day 1 and 2

We're not actually cruising yet, but we are at least in Florida, so we are that much closer!

We left San Diego this morning at the very civilized hour of 9:30. We usually have crack of dawn flights which require us to get up at 4 a.m. - instead we got up at our usual time and still had time to eat breakfast and read the paper before we left home.

Of course the disadvantage is that we didn't arrive in Orlando until 7:30 p.m. - which meant we didn't get to go to a park at all tonight.

We used Disney's Magical Express bus service for the first time to get us from the airport to the resort. It was quite easy - we put the DME luggage tags on our bags when we checked them with the airline this morning, and then all we had to do was wander out to the DME desk at the Orlando airport and get on the bus they pointed us to - Disney takes care of picking up the bags and delivering them to our room. The bus was completely full (we couldn't get seats together!), but was only making two stops - Pop Century and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Most of the passengers got off at Pop Century. We were at the hotel about 90 minutes after we got off the plane, so that's not too bad. Our bags arrived in our room at 10:40 p.m.

Apparently Animal Kingdom Villas has gotten the memo from Boardwalk Villas, and our studio is almost allllll the way at the end of Kudu Trail - about as far as you can get from anywhere. :-) (We always seem to get the rooms at Boardwalk that are at the end of the hallway.) We are on the 5th floor overlooking the Arusha Savanna - we've been on Uzima Savanna the other times we've stayed here, so I am looking forward to seeing our view in daylight!


After we quickly checked out our room we made the long trek back to the lobby to get something for dinner. It was about 9:00, but fortunately Boma was still open. There weren't very many people there and they were able to seat us right away. We always enjoy dining here, but tonight was especially nice just because it was so empty! Our server said it had been a very slow night. Boma is usually extremely noisy, and you can hardly hear yourself think, but tonight it was much more pleasant. We enjoyed the wide variety of foods on the buffet - I had a watercress salad and a tomato and goat cheese salad that were new to me, and both yummy. I missed my roasted vegetables, though, but there was an excellent rice dish, and the Marrakesh couscous was also good. For dessert, in addition to the zebra domes and chocolate mousse crunch Lee and I both tried the cocomisu (tiramisu with coconut), and that was really good.

Empty Boma

It is COLD here - in the 40s when we arrived, and supposed to get down to 28 tonight. Brr. But it's supposed to be 75 tomorrow. I hope that's right!

Ok, it's now Friday afternoon - I wrote the preceding last night after we arrived. So I'll add in Day 2's activities, as well!

We had no place to be at any particular time this morning, so we attempted to sleep in. The screaming baby at 7:00 didn't help, nor did the exercise class that was apparently going on in an open area of the hallway at about 8:15. Oh-kaaaay....

It was a beautiful day outside, though still chilly (~42 at 9:00). The animals didn't seem to be too anxious to be out and about, either - we could see a couple back in the trees, but nothing close.

On our way down to The Mara for breakfast we could see Kidani Village out of one of the big windows - that's the new DVC Resort that will be opening in a few months. We are looking forward to our first stay there later this year.


After a quick breakfast we stopped at the Disney Cruise Line desk to check in with them before we headed out. Since we are not on one of the Land/Sea packages we can't actually check in yet and get our stateroom key and all of that, but they still needed to take our information for our transportation to the port tomorrow - like knowing what room to come to tomorrow morning to pick up our bags! Which we have to have packed and ready by 8:00. The bus to the ship doesn't actually leave Animal Kingdom Lodge until 12:30, though. We were a bit concerned about that, but the ladies assured us we'd still arrive in plenty of time to be on board the ship well before 3:00. I guess we'll find out for sure tomorrow, but you'd like to think that Disney has this down to a science.

We took the bus to Animal Kingdom after that. That has to be the shortest bus ride between any resort and theme park here at Walt Disney World. Lee needed to get a new Annual Pass, so that was our first order of business. We plan to be back another three times this year.

Animal Kingdom was really not crowded at all. The weather had warmed up enough that it was very comfortable in the sun, but still cool in the shade - I wore my polar fleece pullover all day, but Lee was ok in shirt sleeves.


Lee noticed that the Lesser Flamingos near the Tree of Life had what appeared to be some much brighter pink feathers than usual.


After we got a Fastpass for the Safari we went over the Flights of Wonder show - on the way we saw DiVine putting on a show.


Flights of Wonder was quite enjoyable. They had a bird we hadn't seen before - a sulphur-crested cockatoo named Pogo, who did all kinds of crazy movements when given some very subtle physical and verbal cues. He'd spin around on his perch, flap his wings and shake his head, ruffle his feathers - it was really fun to watch. And they had my favorite - Sluggo the Black Legged Seriema - who slams a plastic lizard to the ground multiple times. (Not that I have anything against lizards, but Sluggo does them in with such verve and enthusiasm!)

At the very end of the show when they bring out lots of different birds, one of the handlers had one we hadn't seen before - a Bateleur eagle, which is found in North Africa.


We went on a really excellent safari after that - for a change many of the animals on the savanna were actually near the place we enter the savanna rather than where we exit. We even saw a baby giraffe - though from this photo you can't really tell how small it is in comparison to the adults who were nearby. Our safari driver was very good, and very enthusiastic - his name was Alex. He even made the lame parts fairly interesting.


Next was the Pangani Forest Trail. One of the hippos was actually laying up on the bank of the pool in the sun. The researcher there told us some things about hippos that we didn't know:

1. Hippos forage up to 6-1/2 miles at night.
2. Hippos can run 18 miles per hour!
3. A hippo's mouth opens 150 degrees - it can bite a 10' crocodile in half.

We went to Expedition Everest after that. We hadn't gotten a Fastpass, so we used the single rider line - we only waited 10 minutes or so. For lunch we decided to try the Yak and Yeti counter service place - it's never gotten very good reviews (though it's usually classed as mediocre and not bad), but we thought we'd see what we thought. I definitely go with the "mediocre" label - we get better Chinese food at the grocery store near us.

The entrees are served in a large "Chinese takeout" container. I had the honey chicken, which had rice in the bottom of the container, then some broccoli and carrots, with the chicken on top. Lee had the kung pao beef, which also had rice on the bottom. and then the veggies had been stir-fried with the beef. He said it didn't have a lot of flavor - even though he picked two pretty good-sized pieces of chile pepper out of it. Both of them were nice and hot and fresh, though. Probably the best part of lunch was the two iced teas I got from the Tea Company stand that's across from Yak and Yeti. They had quite a selection of hot teas, and three different kind of brewed iced tea. Lee had the raspberry and I had the "traditional" black tea. They were both very good.


We wandered around a little bit after that and visited some of the other animals around the Tree of Life before heading out of the park. There still weren't very many people in the park. The bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge was sitting at the bus stop when we got there, and left soon after, so our timing was good.

When we arrived back in our room I went out to the balcony to see what animals might be on the savanna this afternoon. I was not disappointed - there were 4 zebras I could see under the trees, and a giraffe came cruising by soon after. There were a couple of East African Crowned Cranes visible in the distance, as well as a Roan Antelope.


I caught one of the zebras doing its best "dead zebra" impression. :-)


It has been fun to sit here and look outside periodically and just see how the animals have moved around. We've seen two different giraffes, several ankole cattle, and a blesbok and a greater kudu.


Tonight we're headed off to Epcot to wander around and see Illuminations - which is at 8:00 and not 9:00.

And now we're back from that. It was another chilly evening, though not as cold as last night. The night before we left San Diego, since I still had room in my suitcase I threw in a polarfleece pullover and an extra pair of pants - and now I'm really glad that I did that!!!

It was strange going into the front entrance of Epcot - we are so used to coming in the International Gateway since we usually stay at Boardwalk Villas. Also strange was that there were no decorations whatsoever at the front of the park - we almost always come during the holidays, or Food and Wine Festival, or Flower and Garden Festival, so there are special decorations, but not this time.

Though Animal Kingdom was not busy today, apparently Epcot was - at 7:00 at night the standby line for Test Track was 60 minutes and Soarin' was 90 minutes. Wow.

We had dinner at Sunshine Seasons food court in the Land - mainly because it was inside! Though they have a nice selection of food, and after Tangierine Cafe it's probably our favorite counter service place at Epcot.

After that we wandered around Future World and World Showcase, taking some pictures.


It seemed strange for Illuminations to start an hour early (normally it's at 9:00), and there were quite a few people waiting for it up towards the front of World Showcase, though the crowds thinned out as we got back to one of our favorite spots near Germany, where we only had to stand behind one row of people, and most of them were sitting down.

Illuminations is always a great show!


It was Extra Magic Hours for resort guests from 8:00 until 11:00. We decided to take a ride on Spaceship Earth. Disney has stopped giving out wristbands during EMH - now they have Cast Members at the entrance to the attractions checking resort ids. We saw several people turned away because of that.

We were quite surprised when we got out of Spaceship Earth that the line was much LONGER than it had been when we got in it! Guess a lot of people decided to take advantage of EMH and ride it.

There was nothing else we really wanted to do so we headed back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. We need to get most of our packing done tonight since they will be picking up our bags at 8:00 tomorrow morning to transport them to the ship.

The cruise starts tomorrow (Saturday) - in 24 hours we'll be on the ship!

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.

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About Animal Kingdom Villas

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Animal Kingdom Villas category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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