We went on a Disney Cruise just before Christmas in December 2018 with our friends the Riedels. See more about it at the 2018 Christmas Disney Cruise page. But before we got there, we spent a little time at Walt Disney World…
Sunday, December 16, 2018
We were up relatively early, because I had set my alarm for relatively early. After all, we had lots of fun ahead of us for the day, hopefully.
But first we had breakfast ahead of us. When we checked in the night before, the attendant lady had said, “We do serve breakfast in the morning, but it isn’t much.” That may not be a great sales pitch, but it was an honest one. Fortunately, we are not big breakfast eaters most of the time, usually to Jaylin’s dismay. But we all found something we could eat that would be enough to hold us until lunch, whenever that was.
After breakfast, and because it was Sunday, we had our own family church service in our hotel room. Sometimes it is nice to visit an area congregation when we are traveling, and sometimes it is nice to do our own thing. This time around, we chose the latter.
We then packed up the car and headed out, leaving the hotel right around 9:00. I had figured we had just over three hours of driving ahead of us, so 9:00 was right around when I thought we should leave. That way, we would not be there too early, but we would also have plenty of the day left when we got there.
There were cows across the street from the hotel. It almost felt like home.
Along the way we stopped at the Payne’s Prairie rest stop on Interstate 75. It is one of those that when we pass it, I think, “We should have stopped there.” For whatever reason, they have a large stone wall that looks like a snake, complete with eyes and a tongue. If that isn’t an interesting place for some family photos, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately, the walkway on top of the wall was chained off, so we had to be content with photos in front of the wall.
Laura, Jaylin, and the snake wall.
Doesn’t everyone take a family photo at a rest stop?
The drive was a good one, and it helped that it was another nice, sunny day out. Those days are much better than having to drive in the rain. There was one wreck on I-75 that slowed us down a little, but not too much. And we were passed by a Corvette, which is not quite the same as the Maserati that passed us the day before.
For lunch, we stopped near Ocala at a KFC/Taco Bell. I never quite know for certain what to get at those, because I like both. But for this time, we all settled on some good old fried chicken. It was delicious as always. That is not one of those places that we go to all that often, but the Colonel does not usually let us down. And we were glad that there were no signs on the door saying that they were out of chicken.
After lunch, we continued our drive down I-75 to the Florida’s Turnpike Toll Road, where we were once again thankful for our SunPass to let us zip right through the toll plazas. We made a quick pit stop at one of the service plazas, and I was interested to see a video monitor showing how much energy they were getting from the solar panels that were at one end of the service plaza area. Pretty cool.
We drove on slightly past our destination of Walt Disney World, driving to Target on US 192 to get the things that we realized we had forgotten. Walmart is usually our place for such things back home, but Target on 192 is always so much less crowded than the nearby Walmart, so we almost always pick Target when we are there, unless we want to experience a little bit of craziness. We had checked with the Riedels by text message, knowing that they had left home early that morning, to see if they needed us to pick up anything they might have forgotten, but they said they were good. And it was good to know that they were making it okay, too.
Once we were stocked up, we drove the short distance from Target to the Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World. The drive only took us about 15 minutes, which was even less time than I had thought. It was interesting to see all the new bridges that were open for the new entrance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and also to see the other bridges that are still under construction for the new entrance. When it is finished, the intersection of Osceola Parkway and Victory Lane will look completely different from how it looked just a few years ago. All those bridges hide the Wide World of Sports entrance, too. I bet that causes some confusion sometimes.
Because it was just after 1:00, I did not think that our room would be ready yet, but we figured it was worth a try. If nothing else, we could leave our car there and ride the bus to Disney Springs. But believe it or not, our room was ready! We got all checked in thanks to the very friendly cast member. He gave us our Magic Bands, which were all gray in color. That did not matter much to us, because they would mainly be used to unlock our room since we were not going to any parks. But they did have our name on the back of each one, which is always pretty cool to me.
Checking in at the Art of Animation Resort
We drove around to park close to our room, and we found out that we were in the Little Mermaid building of the Little Mermaid section. We knew what section we would be in, because all of the other sections at Art of Animation are suites, and we had not paid for one of those. Although we usually like to take the stairs, we decided to ride the elevator up to our room, because we had brought all of our luggage in on one trip.
Our room was nice, just as our room had been the last time we stayed there. I had forgotten that the tile wall of the shower looked like Ariel’s grotto from the movie; that is always a cool touch to me. We got our things situated, and then we decided to visit some of the other areas of the hotel before heading out to Disney Springs.
Magic Band power: activate!
As we left our room, I was interested to see some of the towers for the new Skyliner transportation system they are building. One tower was right behind our building, and a station will be out in the lake in between Art of Animation and Pop Century. It will be interesting to see what the whole thing is like once they get it finished.
As we were walking around the hotel grounds, Laura got Jaylin to pose with her with all of the different character statues around, imitating their pose that each character was making. Jaylin was not quite a willing participant in all of this, but he still did it, mostly. Laura told him that one day he would be glad to look back on all of those photos, but he wasn’t sure. We had fun with all of the character statues around the Little Mermaid area, as well as the Lion King area.
Laura, Jaylin, Ariel, and Flounder. There are lots and lots of photos like this. But they would bog down this trip report. So watch for them in a future post. Same with the Cars photos mentioned below.
We then walked over to the Cars area. Jaylin claimed not to remember visiting that before, but we have photographic proof that he did. The only problem with the Cars characters is that they do not have hands, so that made it a little difficult for Laura and Jaylin to match the poses. We decided just to take normal photos there instead.
One set of parents that was near us obviously did not have a good grasp of the Cars characters. The mom said to her child, “Look, there is Taw Matter!” The dad replied, “I think his name is Rusty.” Rusty? Really? Come on, dad - get with the program here! We laughed about that one for several days, especially whenever we saw Mater on something.
From there, we went to the main lobby building and looked around in the gift shop for a few minutes. But we did not buy anything there, knowing we could come back for it on our way back to our room later on. It was interesting to see what all they had, however.
Our next stop was Disney Springs, so we walked out to the bus stop area. As it turns out, there was a bus going to Disney Springs that was just waiting on us. Perfect timing! We hopped aboard, and the bus pulled out. It was like we had our own personal bus service, except that we shared it with the 30 or so people who were already on the bus.
The bus dropped us off at the front entrance to Disney Springs. We checked out all of our favorite shops, stopping off in such places as Uniqlo, Sanuk, Vera Bradley, the Marvel shop, Disney Style, and several others. I will keep you guessing as to who likes which store, and how much we may have bought in each one.
Cool fishing bobber snowmen at the Boathouse restaurant at Disney Springs
We eventually made our way into World of Disney. This was our first time in the store since they had finished remodeling it, because much of the store had still been closed off during our summer visit. The store is much more open now, with the removal of many of the walls that had created rooms before. I thought it helped foot traffic to flow even more. But Laura thought it was even more overwhelming than before, because you can see even more people in there with you now since there are not walls to block your view of everyone. We shopped for a while, and we found a few things to buy for other people.
Christmas colors in the World of Disney
As we were waiting in the checkout line, which actually moved rather quickly, we spoke briefly with the cast member who was in charge of pointing people at the front of the line to the next open register. Laura said something about there being several people there, but he said, “Actually, this is a rather slow day for us. Some days we get over 50,000 people in here throughout the day!” So we were glad to be there on a “slow” day.
When we went back outside, Laura got a phone call, so we stopped for a minute so that she could talk. About that time, I happened to notice that the setting sun was making some really cool colors on the clouds. I walked over to the railing by the lake to get a photo. (See the photo in Colorful Sunset at Disney Springs.) It really was a nice night. It was slightly cool out, but we were by no means cold, because we had come prepared with long sleeve shirts. It was definitely warmer than it had been back at home before we left, and the temperature was right around 60 degrees. But we were still hoping it would be even warmer than this during our cruise.
I had seen several people mention the Christmas Tree Trail online, and I knew Laura would enjoy seeing it. So once we saw where it was, we made our way over to check out all of the Christmas trees. The trail wandered through what had been the old Downtown Disney Marketplace bus stop area. Every few feet, there was a Christmas tree, and each one had a different theme. Some were themed more to characters, and others were themed to movies. Toy Story, Muppets, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Princess and the Frog, Frozen, and on and on. One of Laura’s favorites was actually the Star Wars tree, which was topped by a glowing light saber. There were so many neat ideas, and it was cool to see them all. It was also cool that it was snowing, especially because it was the fake snow and not the real snow that would have made us all cold. I like the fake snow that they have there.
The Mary Poppins tree on the Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail
After the Christmas Tree Trail, we stopped by a few of our other favorite stores: Tren-D, Marketplace Co-Op, the Christmas store, the Art Store. But we were getting hungry, so we started looking for a food store, commonly referred to as a restaurant. Jaylin mentioned the D-Luxe hamburger place that we had eaten at on our summer visit, but the line was pretty long there. We put our name on the list for a table at Frontera Cocina to get some Mexican food, but we eventually decided to skip it, so we went back by and told them to take us off the list. Nothing was really sounding that great to us. We eventually decided to head back to Art of Animation and eat at the food court there.
Christmas in the Town Center at Disney Springs
I liked the Christmas lights on this palm tree.
The Disney Springs Christmas Tree
We stopped by a few more places before making our way out to the bus stop to go back to the hotel. And then we remembered just how long of a walk it is to the bus stops for the lower-price resorts. We definitely got our steps in for that day. But the good thing was that there was once again a bus waiting for us there. And as soon as we boarded and got our seats, the driver pulled away. Pretty nice service!
One more Christmas photo from Disney Springs
When we arrived back at Art of Animation, we headed straight for the food court, because we were all starting to get hungry. We each got different things. Although I had thought we wouldn’t use it, we had set up our Magic Bands for charging, just in case we might need it. But when we were ordering, we got separated by time, because my line was slow. So Laura and Jaylin went ahead and paid for theirs with Laura’s Magic Band. And then I paid for mine with my Magic Band. It all went to the same credit card, but it was pretty handy to be able to do that without any trouble.
I ended up with a hamburger, which i s what I usually get at places like that. It was good. The place was not overly crowded, so we did not have much trouble finding a place to sit. While we were eating, it was interesting to see how many people were in their pajamas. At a food court. At 7:30 at night. Seriously. And not just kids, either. Who knew wearing pajamas in public was a thing? Not me. But we did not bother going to the room to change into our pajamas and coming back. We just stayed there in our regular clothes.
Once we had finished eating, we made our way back to our room for the evening. We checked out the television, but there was not all that much on. We saw the end of Finding Dory, but that was about it. So we ended up going to bed rather early. And by early, I mean before 10:00 PM. That is really early for us, but we were enjoying the break from chores at home, so we did not complain. And with all of the walking that we had done, we did not have any trouble at all falling asleep.
Check back soon for the next part of the 2018 Christmas Disney Cruise trip report, where we actually arrive at the ship!