Boy, are my dogs barking. (Notices reader)
Oh, hi there!
I just finished one hectic adventure. So hectic that I had neither the time nor the energy to do my daily write-ups. So welcome to Part I of the tale of my final visit to Walt Disney World.
WHAT???? I hear some of you expostulate. Let me clarify.
Those who know me know of my fondness for the Disney parks. While I have enjoyed them as a solo visitor, I realize that adventures like this are even more fun when shared. So, barring unusual circumstances, the next time I visit Disney, it will be with friends and family.
Upon making this decision, I decided to plan a very special finale, especially as my last visit to WDW was ten years ago. Normally I visit during the summer, but that brutal heat and humidity eat me alive. Now my love for Christmas is legendary and having done an early family Christmas, a most wonderful idea struck me.
I would visit WDW right after Christmas and fuse my love for the holidays with WDW.
December 27 found me flying a non-stop flight to Orlando via Southwest. God was looking over me that day as a powerful tail wind brought me to Florida almost 40 minutes early.
During the pandemic, I finally caught up to the rest of the planet and invested in a smartphone. So I downloaded the My Disney Experience app and I’d highly recommend it for your visit to Disney parks. You can plan an itinerary, get tips, order food, make Lightning Lane and restaurant reservations (120 days in advance as opposed to the 60 using the webpage via a computer), and check into your hotel far in advance. On arrival day, the app will give you your room number and, with MagicMobile, your phone turns into the room key and park passes. That way you can bypass the front desk, go straight to your room, and have more park time.
But first, you have to get to your hotel. I made use of Disney’s Magical Express which provides free round trip transportation from airport to hotel for those staying on Disney property. Once upon a time, the Magical Express also took care of your luggage so you could skip baggage claim, but I learned that particular service was no longer offered when I booked this trip.
Regrettably, you will not be able to make use of this service as Magical Express ended operations as of Dec 31 so I ended up being one of the final people to ever make use of it. Mears, the company that managed Magical Express, will still work with Disney to provide transportation, but it’s going to cost you. Standard service will be $32 a head for round trip standard service and an express service will be offered for $250 (for up to 4 people). I’d stick with standard service as you’ll be on your way within 20 minutes. Outside of price, the only real difference is that express takes you straight to your resort while you might make a few stops with standard service which was how the Magical Express operated.
As my final solo outing, I decided to book a moderate resort (Disney’s middle tier). Moderate resorts will have some onsite restaurants and bigger rooms. I picked Coronado Springs and hit the jackpot.
Coronado Springs has been dubbed “the deluxe resort (top tier) priced as a moderate” and I believe it. It had recently gone through a massive renovation which updated the rooms and added the Gran Destino Tower which is a more luxurious set of rooms. The property also contains a fitness center and spa and is Disney’s largest property. It’s like a small town and has multiple bus stops. Since the price difference was negligible, I booked a preferred room with a king bed. Preferred rooms guarantee a good view of the property and usually contain a view of the lagoon or swimming pools.
I was notified that my room was ready while I was on the Express so I was delighted that I could go straight to my room without having to store my luggage since I was arriving several hours earlier than the 3pm check in time.
I entered the main lobby at Gran Destino where I was directed to my room. I felt my Christmas juices flowing as I gazed at the elegantly decorated lobby and couldn’t wait to see what the parks had prepared for Christmas. I took the elevator to the lower lobby and marveled at the button design as they were on the outside of the elevator. You press the button for your floor, then get a message saying what elevator will be transporting you.
It was a fair hike to my room at about 10 minutes, but I had a room on the top floor with a lovely view of the courtyard and swimming pool. A very spacious room awaited me and I put my clothes and toiletries away and immediately headed to Epcot. For those on property, complimentary bus service is available at all resorts. Some of the resorts also have alternate modes of transportation. Depending on where you’re staying, you might be able to travel via boat, monorail, or gondola.
EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is the park I always do on the first day since I can’t get a full day. It’s a more adult themed park as it’s very educational and cultural. While it does boast rides, they’re all very slow paced and perpetual motion based with a few exceptions.
Epcot is also broken into two sections: Future World and World Showcase. Future World deals with science and technology (mostly) while World Showcase takes you on a miniature tour of the world.
I started things off in Future World by visiting Test Track. This is the lone power ride of the park which simulates the testing of a new car. This ride also boasts a single rider line so solo guests can bypass the main line and just fill in a gap. Groups can use this line, but you will be split apart. But I highly suggest using it as you’ll get to ride in about 5 to 10 minutes so you could do it several times over.
From there I also enjoyed rides on Spaceship Earth, Living with the Land, and Journey Into Imagination with Figment.
Spaceship Earth (pictured at the top of this article) is the ride in Epcot’s famed geosphere (or giant golf ball, as its nicknamed) which takes you on a tour through the history of communication. It’s also the longest ride in any of the parks at a whopping 16 minutes and is narrated by Dame Judi Dench. The ride is slated for a massive overhaul which will shut it down for two years, but that project was delayed by the pandemic and has not yet been rescheduled.
Speaking of the pandemic, masks are required on all rides and anywhere indoors. Now back to the rides.
Living with the Land takes you on a boat ride where you learn about growing foods. The fruits, spices, and vegetables you see growing in the greenhouses are actually used in Disney restaurants. Journey Into Imagination with Figment takes you on a tour of the Imagination Institute hosted by Dr. Nigel Channing (played by Monty Python alum, Eric Idle). Channing’s tour gets taken over by Figment, a talking purple dragon who teaches you how to unleash your imagination.
Then I made a stop at Club Cool which is an exhibit where you can sample Coca-Colas from around the world. It’s a good place to get free drinks though you can also get free cups of water at most eateries as Florida law mandates that it be available due to the sweltering heat in the summers.
They had actually changed up the flavors from my last visit. My favorite was Country Mix from the Dominican Republic which has a creamy, fruity flavor. Beverly, from Italy, is my least favorite and isn’t meant to be enjoyed. It’s a bitter aperitif meant to activate your taste buds so you can enjoy your meal more.
Then I began meandering around the World Showcase beginning with the giant Christmas tree. I admit I was surprised at what I considered the lack of Christmas decorations. Don’t get me wrong. There were elegant wreaths and lights everywhere, but I was expecting a lot of flash and pizzazz and not the understated beauty I saw.
Epcot is running its Festival of the Holidays so each country in World Showcase is doing little shows explaining how Christmas is celebrated in that particular region. It also does a Candlelight Processional telling the story of Jesus’ birth each night with a different celebrity reader each week of the holiday season.
Each region also has special food kiosks for the holiday season so you can sample food and drink from different cultures and each sample costs between $5ish to $15ish. I hadn’t eaten all day so I stopped at L’Chaim where I had a delicious pastrami on rye with a homemade pickle and mustard to tide me over until dinner.
I did walk through all the countries, but stopped at the Mexico Pavilion where I entered the faux Mayan pyramid so I could ride Gran Fiesta Tour, a boat ride that shows you the culture of Mexico under the conceit of Panchito and Jose Carioca of the Three Caballeros searching for Donald Duck so they could perform their concert.
Then it was time for dinner. Epcot has the best restaurants of the 4 parks so I had dinner there each night. For the first night, I hit up one of my favorites: Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion.
Teppan Edo is teppanyaki dining which means the food is cooked at your table. A salad course precedes the main entrée and it was served with a ginger peach dressing that blew my socks off. For my main course, I enjoyed steak, chicken, and shrimp served with vegetables and Udon noodles along with steamed rice and enjoyed some conversation with Dave and Kyla who were seated with me at the table.
With a fine meal under my belt, I enjoyed the Christmas lights as night had fallen and the geosphere had been turned into a mammoth Christmas ornament as it went through a beautiful light show.
I had thought about using my Park Hopper to dash over to Magic Kingdom, but it had been a long day. So I returned to Coronado Springs to go to bed as I had to get up mighty early the next morning.