A Very Russo Christmas Trip Report - Planning

Parks, resorts, dining, attractions, vacations

Steve
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?
                                            
Sandi
Cool - Celebrity that you are :)
Look forward to reading about this event!