Monday, July 11, 2016

Walt Disney World Trip Day 5: Yacht Club and Epcot

Read about day 4 HERE!

You need a little music for this blog - click here to get in the mood.

We finished up our stay at the Art of Animation Resort this morning. Mom and Dad consolidated their luggage for the future nights from two bags to one, since each night for the rest of the trip was going to be at a different hotel.

The biggest splurge of the trip was the hotel for day 5: Disney's Yacht Club. Even though check-in wasn't scheduled until the afternoon, we drove over after breakfast to see if we could just leave the car there and take advantage of the short walk to Epcot.

The lady manning the parking booth at the Yacht Club was very friendly and told us where to go after we gave her our reservation information. I drove straight up next to valet parking. The valets (who were dressed like a cougar's pool boys, IMO) directed us to the lobby, where we met The Captain. White pants, a blue blazer, and a sailor's cap greeted us warmly.

Since it was only 9am, there wasn't any line at the counter, and the lady there checked us in with no problem! There wasn't a room ready (no surprise) but they said they would text me with my room when it was clean.

Mom was thrilled with the Yacht Club. She had always wanted to stay in the Grand Floridian, and the Yacht Club is just a small step below the Grand Floridian. The lobby isn't as large and grand, but it's still very elegant and matches the yacht theming tastefully.

We left our luggage in the car, but took the back door out of the Yacht Club to the lagoon. We could have taken a boat, but the Yacht Club is so close to the International Gateway of Epcot that waiting for the boat would have actually taken longer time. Across the lagoon was the Boardwalk Resort, and closer to Hollywood Studios was the Swan and Dolphin resorts.

Our only FastPass+ reservation of the day was another ride on Soarin', and all of us agreed that it was a must! We got to walk through World Showcase before it opened up to the rest of the public since we entered through the "back door." It was really pleasant!

Soarin' was lovely once again. We once again were in the first row, so there were no feet dangling in view. I made sure to look around at the other sections of the attraction and how they were moving around. It was fascinating! Even better was the fact that, when the ride was over, we didn't come down right away!

We were determined to get to the American Adventure, so we hopped on a Friendship Boat and made it over to the dock at Morocco. We were able to watch the Voices of Liberty, a fantastic a cappella group that performs in the American Adventure pavilion. They sing right under the dome, and encourage people to sit right up at the circle to get the best sound from the singers.

The group made their way up the stairway of flags and into the theater to view what is probably the best show on property, the American Adventure. Yes, it's long. But it's done so well! And nothing beats the chorus entrance during the singing of "Golden Dreams." (It's at 2:30 of the YouTube link above.)

We exited the theater and went right back into the building to watch the Voices of Liberty once again. Each show is different, and we found out that there's even different singers! Actually, the soprano we saw the second time was featured in a viral video with Pentatonix' Kirstie Maldonado, and I'd seen her before. She can hit high notes that I didn't know were possible! I heard her since with Voices of Liberty during Christmas, and they sang a great version of "Go Tell It On the Mountain" that ended with a modulation that brings me to tears it's so perfect!

As we exited the pavilion, another a cappella group was starting to perform in the America Gardens Theater. This group - the American Music Machine? - did modern music, and is very similar to the kinds of groups you'd see performing nowadays. (They still weren't as good as the Voices of Liberty.)

It was time for lunch, so we grabbed another Friendship Boat and headed to Mexico and the Cantina de San Angel. While the counters from which to order from are outside, they have inside air conditioned seating that some people don't know about! We got a booth with no difficulty and enjoyed our nachos, empanadas, and tacos.

Fun fact: I mistakenly said in a previous post that we did the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion on Day 1, but it was actually on this day!

One more Friendship Boat ride brought us to the rear of the park once again, but this time it was because we were heading back to the hotel. I went ahead of the parents in order to grab all our luggage and meet them at our hotel room. Just being able to get to the hotel within 10 minutes of leaving the park was amazing. I wish I had the money to do that all the time!

Our hotel room was incredible. It was clean, big, and just enough Disney detail to make it a Disney room. While Art of Animation screamed "DISNEY!!!!!" Yacht Club just whispered it. And it was just enough.

Our balcony had a relatively small divider between us and the other rooms, but it had a tree right in front to make it a little more private. What wasn't shielded by the tree overlooked the valet drop-off at the front entrance, and I liked sitting out there and watching the Magical Express and Cruise Line buses dropping off and picking up people.

We didn't stay in the room for too long; I wanted to get out and enjoy Stormalong Bay. It's probably the best resort pool on Disney property! It's large, has a giant waterslide, a lazy river, and a sandy bottom! Since it was so special, Mom and I even convinced Dad to come with us.

Our arrival was in mid-afternoon, so the storm clouds were starting to roll in. Our first brief stop was to enjoy the white sandy bottom of the pool. But our real destination was the lazy river. I LOVE lazy rivers. I wish there was a mile-long lazy river somewhere that I could enjoy.

Unfortunately, while we were able to secure the tubes easily, it was a little hard to get the three of us situated in the tubes and all together! When we were finally together, I looked over at Dad and said, "Are you comfortable?" And he just said, "No." (You could kind of tell, too.) After one lap, he got out and decided to sit on a deck chair and watch us.

Mom and I were just about to relax in a quiet area of the pool with a nice little waterfall when suddenly..."BOOM." Thunder. And as they are trained to do, the lifeguards all said that the water was supposed to be emptied immediately. Well, bummer.

Sure enough, as we headed back to the room, it started to rain. Of all the days for it to have an afternoon shower, it had to be they day when we were at the amazing pool!

Mom and Dad changed back into everyday clothes, but I decided to keep my swimsuit on. Mom found Toy Story 3 on television, and the two of us enjoyed watching that fantastic movie. After that, I suggested a tour around the resort. (My real motivation was to get us over to Beaches and Cream.)

We looked around at the store, viewed a smaller, unoccupied pool right next to the tennis courts, and passed the Yachtsman Steakhouse, the top-tier restaurant at the Yacht Club. We passed by the salon, the gym, and finally was over at Beaches and Cream! Dad was skeptical, and I kept giving them chances to say "No," but both of them kind of shrugged, not too keen on going in. But I needed to show them Beaches and Cream! (If you've been there, you understand.)

We got on the waiting list, and Mom and Dad sat outside (it was a little cooler than usual) while I decided to take advantage of my swimsuit and go back into Stormalong Bay! I did the lazy river - which was much emptier after the storm went through - and also found the entrance to the waterslide. It was across the walking path and up to the top of the mast! You actually ride down the mast back into the pool. It's a pretty great slide!

I was able to make the most out of the wait time, and by the time I was done, Mom and Dad had been seated at the counter (the best place to eat at Beaches and Cream),  had ordered my recommendation - the No Way Jose - and were already starting to eat it! The No Way Jose is vanilla and chocolate ice cream in a giant glass dish and covered in chocolate and peanut butter syrup, chocolate chips, and whipped cream. In short, it is one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. It also is something that should be shared, so the three of us all conquered it. (I have eaten one by myself, but would not recommend it!)

We enjoyed watching the waitresses creating other ice cream creations and having pleasant conversations with the people around us. We even saw the construction of the Kitchen Sink, and I think that watching its construction was more fun than trying to eat it. We even saw the whole can of whipped cream (the whole can??) put right on top!

It kind of ruined supper for us (we had it around 4) but it was so worth it. I'm glad we were able to eat there.

We needed to rest after our indulging, so we enjoyed some quiet time in the hotel room. Mom and Dad took naps, and I watched The Princess and the Frog. It was kind of clear that we weren't going to head back to the parks, and that was okay. We were not only able to take advantage of the closeness to the parks, but we were also able to just enjoy the hotel room!

After the naps and rest Dad and I ventured out into the Real World for a few things. We picked up more breakfast food and ended up getting dinner at a McDonald's that was nearby and bringing it back to the hotel. It was a great way to have a nice, relaxing, small dinner!

As we were driving back to the hotel, I told Dad an idea that I had. We had been tracking the tropical storm that sounded like it was going to hit Orlando the next day. We were planning on doing Hollywood Studios that day, but I was worried that the rain would cancel the nighttime shows: Fantasmic! and the Star Wars fireworks. So even though we didn't have a park hopper pass, I was going to take the 20 minute walk and catch the Star Wars fireworks from the outside of the park.

When I told him my plan, suddenly Mom said she wouldn't mind going with me! She probably volunteered to do it so that I wouldn't be walking alone, and I appreciated the company. Still, it was a longer walk than the one to Epcot.

We walked around the Yacht Club and over to the bridge to the Boardwalk. We crossed over and went past the Swan and the Dolphin. As we left the resort area, suddenly I heard a loud swelling of music. The walking path was on the left of the river, and the backstage stage for Fantasmic! was on the right! So we were actually passing by at my favorite part: when Mickey emerges at the top of the mountain and shoots of fireworks everywhere. And we could see the fireworks from where we were standing! It was so great! (And bittersweet, and you'll find out why in the next post.)

We were going in the wrong direction as we finally made it to the parking area of Hollywood Studios. However, since everyone was streaming out, no one was sitting on one of the many benches that surround the entrance. And as soon as Mom and I sat down, the fireworks started!

We had a great view of the fireworks, but the audio wasn't too clear. Mom told me to go up a little further, and I actually made it right to the entrance before a cast member told me I couldn't go any further. But I did hear more of the audio, and it was a really nice fireworks show.

Mom wanted to take the resort boat back to the Yacht Club, and to my delight, it was pulling up right as I was exiting from the fireworks! I yelled at Mom and we both took off for the boat entrance and were able to get on the first boat that showed up.

The ride was nice, and we were back at the Yacht Club very quickly. We didn't go to the room right away, instead sitting out on the beach in some
chairs and enjoying the view of the Boardwalk all lit up. (In light of recent events, that's kind of weird to think about right now.) But our day was done, and we slept in very comfy beds in a very comfy room in a pretty great hotel!

Hurricane Colin comes a-callin' during our trip to Hollywood Studios, but there's only one thing we missed the entire day! CLICK HERE to see what it was!

Dad's Epcot/Yacht Club Top 3:
Bronze - No Way Jose
Silver - American Adventure featuring the Voices of Liberty
Gold - Soarin' (again!)

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