Steve 19 Dec 2009 December 5-12, 2009 December 5-10 Boardwalk Villas Resort December 10-12 Animal Kingdom Villas The Cast Steve - That would be me. A bit less than the virile and strapping man you remember - back when I first started chronicling these adventures. Nevertheless, I'm still aging like fine wine although my wife keeps sniffing the cork and questioning the "born on" date. Barb - The woman who completes me. my sentences, anyway. Planning This was to be our yearly winter trip to the World. We kicked off a renewal of our Annual Passes in January and took a quick trip for the Flower and garden Festival in May, so this is our attempt to get one more trip on them. We have visited once before in December, in 2003, and really liked everything about it: the Christmas music and decorations that seem to be everywhere, the Candlelight Processional, the Epcot Storytellers. And let's not forget the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which will be called the Osborne Lights from now on - I'm not typing "the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights" again and the abbreviation of OFSODL is just kind of silly. While the "ice lights" on Cinderella's Castle are new for us, we also believe the Holiday tags at the end of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (IROE) and Wishes are as well. Neither of us remembers anything different in the fireworks from 2003 so I'm betting those tags came later. Why did we pick the dates we did? It certainly wasn't because we wanted to share the week with Pop Warner (a bad thing) or the RADP meets (a good thing). I made the reservations at our 11-month window before I knew about either event. We will, however, do our best to avoid one side (Pop Warner) and I'll do my best to make at least one of the RADP meets - right now, I'm targeting the big one at the International Gateway (IG) on our arrival day. This trip originally started out as a typical (for us) 5-day trip. Our trips with the whole family are usually 7-days but when Barb and I go solo, five is usually enough. We had some additional DVC points this year to use or lose so we extended our stay at the Boardwalk Villas by one day, arriving Saturday instead of Sunday. We also tacked on two days at the end, choosing Animal Kingdom Villas, a resort where we haven't stayed previously but have wanted to. We chose Jambo House over Kidani Village. I know I may regret it and there's something to recommend each of them but, deep down, I wanted to stay in the "main" building. We'll save Kidani for a later stay and see how this works. What's left? Oh, yeah. Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). The window was still at 90-days for us (it's since gone to 180) so I was on-line early one Sunday in September to use the (then) new On-Line Reservation system. I had a few difficulties and certainly have some suggestions to make it a bit more guest-friendly but in a short while I had secured most of what we needed. I had a bit of trouble getting anything at the Rose and Crown when I specified two people. I bumped the number to three and. voila! I had my choice of times. I'm not advocating you do that, I'm just saying. I also tried, unsuccessfully, for a reservation at Le Cellier. A few words here. Le Cellier is NOT our favorite place. We've had two very nice lunches there and three not-so-nice experiences at dinner. Not that it was terrible but the place is small, dark and the food was mediocre at best. We have had a "just OK" Strip Steak and Chicken Breast and a downright nasty Prime Rib. I subscribe to the "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is enemy action" theory and we've given Le Cellier a wide berth since our third try in 2005. Nevertheless, I am nothing if not persistent and I convinced Barb to give it one. more. chance. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Nothing available for two, three. anything. I also tried, again unsuccessfully, to nail down a Fantasmic! dinner package. Even at the 90-day mark (including my +10) I still couldn't get anything. Given our problems trying to see Fantasmic! last January, shortly after they began the cutback to two shows per week, I'm not sure if we'll even try this trip. We'll see. Transportation? I secured our flights on Southwest as soon as the window opened. We're right around $250 each round trip. I've toyed with Town Car service, rental cars, etc. but have opted for the more favorable price of Disney's Magical Express (DME). We've used DME every trip but one since its inception and have never had an issue. I do have a car reserved for a couple of days - we had talked about heading to the Kennedy Space Center but, as of now, I think we've successfully talked ourselves out of that. My dad (Pop for those of you that remember his 2001 trip with us) is now 94 and has given us a few scares over the past few weeks. Just before Thanksgiving, his leg acted up and we were convinced we'd have to cancel and eat the DVC points. As of now, however, he's doing OK and our kids will be handling the Pop and Gunnar (our dog) sitting duties. Nothing left to do now but wait and watch the weather forecasts. And then. I received a call from Mark Goldhaber of MousePlanet two days before we left. He asked if I was interested in covering a press event for the 35th anniversary of the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue. It's Thursday, December 10 and includes tours of Fort Wilderness, a press reception with Q&A and a Hoop Dee Doo show. Was I in? Do you need to ask?