Thursday, November 3, 2011

Walt Disney World Halloween 2011 Trip Report Part 1

I got back from a Halloween/wife's birthday trip to Walt Disney World. This was the first time I've ever taken more than one WDW trip in a calendar year. My wife agreed to the trip only if I could keep it relatively cheap, luckily this wasn't a problem because Disney is offering hotel only discounts for annual passholders! The only downside is that to save as much money as possible we had to stay at a value resort (a first for us). More on that in a bit.

The "mood lighting" on Virgin America
After years of flying with Delta to Walt Disney World (only because they are the cheapest), we were lucky enough this year to be able to fly on Virgin America. The difference is noticeable the second you come in contact with your first employee. All of Virgin's flight attendants and airport employees are so laid back and cool about everything. It's like they are actually trying to make flying as comfortable as possible. While we were waiting to take off I tweeted that I noticed all of the flight attendants were so pretty and perky looking, even the older ones. A far cry from some of the beat down and sometimes downright sad employees I've seen while flying with other airlines. As you can see above the inside of the plane looks perfect. Everything was clean and well-kept. They even had some cool looking lighting that they call "mood lighting" while you load and unload the plane.

Flying over downtown Long Beach, California. My home town.
Like I was saying we normally fly Delta because it's usually the cheapest when flying out of LAX to Orlando. This time though the prices for all of the airlines were more than I was willing to pay (the price I kept seeing was over $300! That's way more than we normally pay). After listening to an episode of WDW Today where they discussed Priceline's name your own price option I decided to give it a try for our trip. Before you use this service they ask you to enter the travel dates you desire and then the system will show you different odds of the results you may get. It is important that you agree to these odds because if they accept the price you enter than you credit card is automatically billed after you enter the price. The dates I entered (October 27 to 31) said that we had a 90% chance of getting a non-stop flight, a 100% chance that the flight will leave between 6am to 11am (and a similar percentage for the return flight departure time), and one of eight airlines that could end up being the one you will travel with. The major airlines are in this list such as Delta, Continental, etc but the one we were hoping to get was Virgin America.

Each seat has it's own TV screen with satellite TV, movies, and games. They even have the original Doom.
I liked the odds for the dates selected on Priceline so I entered a bid for the amount of money that would be the same (or sometimes slightly cheaper) than we normally fly for. I bid $200 per a person, and to my surprise it accepted it! (If it does not accept your bid then you have to wait 24 hours before submitting a new one). The cherry on top of the sundae was that we would be flying on Virgin America. After we had such a great experience we agreed that we wont be flying Delta anymore.

On Disney's Magical Express!
During our last trip to WDW in May we decided to rent a car (mostly so we could easily make it to Universal Orlando to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter). I don't like spending the extra money on a rental car, and I also hate driving myself while on vacation. I see why a lot of people like the independence of having their own car but I sit in traffic over 2 hours every day on the way to and from work and the last thing I want to do is sit in traffic while trying to leave a crowded theme park parking lot on roads that I am not familiar with. Besides all that, we knew we wouldn't be leaving Disney property for anything on this trip.

The best thing about Disney's Magical Express? The video they play while going to and from the resort!
Disney's resort to theme park bus transportation system is by no means perfect, but my wife and I have never had a problem with the airport to resort bus (known as Disney's Magical Express). There were 2 stops before our resort (Coronado Springs and All Star Sports) but the ride still didn't feel like it took very long. I didn't keep track but it was maybe 40 minutes from the time we left MCO until we got to our hotel. This time always goes by quickly thanks to the great video they play on the bus. Call me crazy but I always look at this as one of the moments I'm looking forward to most on WDW trips. It's almost like you know the trip has officially begun when you see the video.

Our "resort" All Star Music
I'm not trying to sound ungrateful but I am a total hotel snob. When I first walked in to All Star Music I was a bit shocked by how cheap everything looked. I understand and respect that value resorts have a needed place in the Walt Disney World resort roster, without them most families probably wouldn't be able to stay in a Disney owned resort. But for my personal preferences I like staying in the moderate resorts (and the deluxe obviously, but we have only visited, not stayed in any of those). For example, returning from the parks to the beautifully landscaped grounds and themeing of Port Orleans Riverside is much more calming and relaxing than arriving back to a three story tall cowboy boot at Music. Luckily the room wasn't bad at all. It was small but I could only see this being a problem if you spend over a week in it. My wife and I only spent 4 nights in it, so the cramped space didn't bother me. With all that being said, you get what you pay for when it comes to Disney resorts. 

Yikes!
Probably the best decoration in the resort. Three Caballeros located in the middle of the pool.
 Enough of the resort talk. On to Epcot!

Spaceship Earth. Seen from the bus loading area of Epcot.
We landed in Orlando around 3 PM and after doing all the usual hotel arrival stuff we got on the hotel bus and headed to Epcot. it was 6 PM by the time we finally got in to the park and we were both starving. Our flight left Los Angeles at 7 AM and we had only eaten small snacks. Food and Wine Expo was going on during the trip so the original plan was to try out some of the items around the World Showcase.

Jennifer with the delicious cheddar cheese soup from the Canada pavilion.
The plan to eat F&W items for dinner was quickly de-railed when we realized the portions were WAY smaller than we had thought. I wouldn't mind the small portions if the price was lower but the cheddar cheese soup from Canada was $3.50 for about two table spoons worth. We tried another item but by that point we had already spent over $10 for a very small amount of food. I get that the point of F&W is to sample new things but it didn't make sense to me to spend this much money (and more importantly, time) eating these samples. We decided to head to Via Napoli for a real dinner.

The Carciofi!
We tried Via Napoli for the first time during or trip in May. We both loved the Carciofi pizza. It has Artichoke, Pecorino, Mozzarella, and Truffle oil. It is huge and absolutely delicious. A lot of people talk about Via Napoli being over rated but for the amount of quality food you get for the price it's going to be a must eat on every vacation my wife and I take from now on.

The weather was perfect on our first night in town.
I'm not even joking when I say WDW needs more slow moving boat rides.
Jennifer and her troll friend.
After dinner we went on the first ride of the trip which some how ended up being Maelstrom. Maelstrom is weird mix of unsettling plus awesome plus scary and a little dash of being hilariously outdated. I love it. More rides need to send you through backwards while animatronic polar bears scream at you. I was reading somewhere that the ride was originally supposed to be focused exclusively on trolls, but the sponsor wanted all aspects of Norway to be covered. So oil rigs ended up being the answer? That's the magic of Maelstrom.

The American Adventure
We had some time left before Illuminations so I issued Jennifer a challenge. For the first time ever, could she stay awake through an entire showing of American Adventure. My guess was no, we had been awake since 5 AM (Los Angeles time) and it was now 8 PM in Florida. That, and the fact that Jennifer is a very sleepy person.

I was shocked and amazed that I actually took got a couple of good pictures of American Adventure. No flash, of course.
This show still amazes me. I doubt there will ever be another attraction like this ever again.
To my surprise, Jennifer stayed awake through the entire American Adventure showing! Spread your golden wings Jennifer!

Illuminations as seen from Norway
Illuminations was amazing as usual. We've found that Norway is an excellent viewing area for the show so we always try to show up about 30 minutes early to get a spot at the railing. On our previous trip the pyro barge was down for refurb, but this time it was back and looked great.


After Illuminations was over the park was closed. I grabbed a obligatory night picture of Spaceship Earth. After that we went back to All Star Music to go to sleep early.

Part 2 will be posted on Monday! It will feature our day in Magic Kingdom and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party.

1 comment:

  1. I totally want to fly Virgin now! Sweet planes. Your night shots are awesome!

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