|Day 1, Sunday December 30, 2001
This was a day spent traveling to WDW, then enjoying the Coronado Springs resort and MGM studios (including the Osborne lights).
I donít normally spend much space in the trip report on the journey through the airport, but these are different times we are traveling in. So, just to provide a gauge for other folks going through this in the near future, Iíll let you know a little of what it was like. I have a feeling it has actually relaxed since the tragedy, but itís very different than it was before.
We arrived at the airport at 8:00, and were through security by 9:15. So, overall, it really wasnít that bad a time. But, we did have a couple of bumps on the way through.
Actually, security didnít take as long as initial luggage check in. The luggage line was kind of hefty, then we were randomly selected for a special x-ray screening. It seemed like about one in three groups were tapped for this extra screening. Just a spot check, I suppose, and our number came up.
To my surprise, the bag that had all of my extra computer cables in it went through the x-ray screening fine. As Iíve mentioned, this is the first trip on which we are both taking our laptops. I was going to pack all of my little peripherals and extra wiring widgets in the carry on in which I was packing the laptop.
|But, Debbie suggested at the last minute that I separate out only what
I needed on the plane or in the airport into the carry on, and to put the
things I would want in the room into another piece of luggage. Considering
all of the extra screening at security, this was probably a good idea.
The less clutter in your carry on, the better.
Nonetheless, the extra wires and the card reader in the checked luggage didnít attract attention in the x-ray, but the camcorder did! Had to open the suitcase in which the camcorder and digital camera, with their little carrying case, were carefully wrapped in layers of clothes. Then, tuck everything back away again. All in all, the little check in exercise was over fifty minutes, and we cruised through the security gate in about 25.
At the security gate, each of our bags were x-rayed, and we had to separately take out laptops out of our bags, and pass them through the x-ray. That went fairly smooth, with no extra questions or delays. But, something else caught me by surprise. I have been taking some pills, and had some in my pants pocket. Suprisingly, this is what tripped the metal detector, and was caught by the wand pass. I had even forgotten about the pills, or would have taken them out of my pocket in the firs place!
So, be prepared. They are watching more closely, and you may be surprised at what slows you down. But, 1:15 wasnít that big a deal to me--I was expecting worse. And it does make you feel a little bit better somehow that there is more attention being paid. Plus, everyone we dealt with was extremely courteous. It wasnít a bad experience, but do allow yourself a bit more time than you are used to.
|We would have gotten away with being about 2:30 early (took 1:15 to
get through security, and they started boarding almost 50 minutes before).
But, we had allowed more time than that, and did not feel rushed.
One other minor beginning thing. We took a shuttle from the house for the first time, we usually drive and park. This was just a little more expensive than parking for 9 days, and it was certainly more relaxed. I might do that again.
The flight down was delayed briefly by some sort of medical emergency with one of the passengers. I believe things turned out all right. It put us into Orlando a little later than planned.
Unfortunately, our initial seat assignments were for two seats together, and one in a different row. The agent at check in wasnít able to mover us all into one row, but did put me in an exit row.
So, I missed Debbie and Nick, but enjoyed very much the extra leg room. I was actually able to start my trip report on the way down. I didnít get to use the laptop in the airport, but it was a boon companion on the flight, letting me listen to my own music (lots of mp3s on the hard drive), start the trip report, and answer some e-mail Iíd saved before I left (but had to send later, of course).
I love Tiffany Town Car! The driver was there right by the baggage claim, with his little sign with our name on it.
|He walked over with us to baggage, we snagged our luggage (OK, the
wait there was really kind of long), and we were on our way. I chuckled
as we walked past the rows of people waiting to board Mears.
After having used Mears for the first and last time on our last trip, we
will always use Tiffany in the future. Itís not that much more, and
itís a hundred times better. No waiting, no hassles, and a nice car
to read in. We had a nice chat with the driver between the airport
and Coronado Springs.
Coronado Springs is gorgeous! This is our first time at this resort, first time we have even been on the grounds here. It is definitely a big place, but it is pretty. The way the grounds are built around the lake, the decorative Hispanic styling of the buildings, the typically perfect Disney landscaping, all combine to make a very beautiful place to stay.
We also have the fortune of being here while the holiday decorations are still up. There is an enormous tree in the lobby, beautifully appointed. There are huge, beautiful arrangements of poinsettias at various locations through the main building. Stars hanging from the ceilings of the hallways, and floral arrangements adorning the corridors.
We had a smooth and painless checkin, with a very helpful CM at the desk. And they did a great job of fulfilling our room request. I had actually asked for Casitas 1, but emphasized I wanted to be close to the bus. They put us in the Cabana closest to bus stop 1, which is a very short walk from the bus. In addition, it is very close to both the dig site and the quit pool. You couldnít ask for a better room (at least for our preferences).
|The plan was for us to head over to MGM right after checkin, because
I wanted to make certain to see the Osborne lights. But, Nick kept
begging to swim. I told him we had a plan, but he said that was before
he knew how cool the pool was. Now, after a long trip, Debbie would
just as soon sit and unwind, so she wasnít much support. I finally
caved in, and Nick donned his suit and headed for the pool. I was
fighting the last vestiges of a cold, which I didnít want to worsen,
so I didnít join him.
The pool here is a gorgeous thing. A towering Myan pyramid sits at the center, covered with giant vines and roots. I couldnít help thinking it was very Disney. Who else would put that much effort into something just to sit in the middle of a pool and be looked at? The slide with the crouching panther looked pretty cool as well, and Nick took advantage of it.
Well, after I pouted for a while and Debbie rested, she suggested that we try to catch the Osborne lights with a late trip to MGM. The thing that concerned me was that although I had read somewhere else that the lights would be up through January 6, the paper from the front desk at CS said January 2. So, pointing this out to her and acting sullen did the trick, and we agreed to let Nick get in about 90 minutes of swimming before heading over to MGM.
|We were very glad we did. I donít recommend going that late (we
got there near 8, but the park was to be opened until 10 this night).
The ticket window was closed, and all business, including activating our
APs, had to be done at guest services. The wait there seemed interminable.
By the time we were through that and the additional security, it had crept
close to 8:30.
But, the lights are an amazing and marvelous thing! The entire backlot is covered with what the signs indicate to be something like 3 million bulbs. There are carousels of angels that must be twenty feet tall, Mickeys and Minnies and Menorahs and stars of David and Santas and flying saucers and Christmas trains, and a life-size nativity scene, and Christmas trees and a New Yearís countdown, and tin soldiers, and a red, white and blue Mickey....
OK, it is really hard to describe, and incredible to see. I tried to take some pictures with the camera flash disabled, but they donít do it justice. I didnít bring the camcorder, because itís performance at that light level isnít as good as the still (unless you go into false color infrared mode, but that is self-defeating for colored lights). Three blocks of some of the most beautiful Christmas lights youíve ever seen, laid end to end.
You exit and leave from New York Street, where it was gently snowing. I was a little surprised when I first realized the snow was cold to the touch (I expected something sort of plastic). Closer examination shows that it is some kind of frozen soap suds (spewed from machines on the roofs of some of the buildings), which must melt more slowly than plain water. Itís a great illusion, but I wouldnít recommend trying to catch them on your tongue.
|We decided to try a late walkin at the Sci Fi, as we didnít have PSís
anywhere. They said we would have to wait twenty minutes for a car,
but could have a picnic table immediately. We took the table, and
were glad we did. Debbie said she liked it better than the car.
It was a space-age green, with metallic flicks through the paint, and the
kind of round metal table that fits right into the theme of the place.
I still think that Sci Fi should be serving burgers and fries. I find that a lot of the menus around property now seem to be a little too much alike, and often miss the theme of the place. Regardless, the meal we ended up with was very good this time (the last time at Sci Fi, I had the herb chicken, which was kind of disappointing). Debbie and I both had the barbecued ribs, which were extremely good. Whatís kind of funny is that they said they were having some kind of plumbing problem in the kitchen, and everything came out on plastic plates, with plastic dinnerware. They were very apologetic, so I think they were serious. But, here we were at this picnic table under the stars, eating corn on the cob and barbecue ribs off of plastic plates. I felt like we were at a company picnic.
It was a great meal, good atmosphere, impeccable service and a little bit of funny serendipity. Overall, a much better experience than the last time I was at Sci Fi (when I was disappointed at how they had changed the menu).
By the time that we left Sci Fi, the park was closing. So, we meandered back to the bus stop. Well, we tried to. It turns out there is no bus stop marked for CS. The legend still shows bus stop number four as the CS stop, but the sign there now exclusively shows the Animal Kingdom Lodge (and the AKL line is huge). What ended up happening is they literally called the people wandering around looking for the CS stop our off the curb, and we huddled on the corner of the street until a bus pulled up for us. I must have a bus curse around me or something. Anyway, they clearly need to fix this.
When we got back to CS, we had a little energy to spare, so we walked around the grounds and the main building, and tried to snap some pictures. I feel like there are a couple of good ones in there.
We headed back to the room. I downloaded the pictures from the camera to the laptop, and we all enjoyed them. This allowed me to erase the camera card so it would be ready for the next day. Then, Debbie and Nick went to sleep, while I worked on my trip report. How did I ever make these trips without a Power Book ;^)?
It was a splendid Disney day. Tomorrow is New Yearís Eve, and we are expecting to be out till 1 in the morning at the Magic Kingdom.
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