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This was a last-minute trip. I had depositions scheduled during my son’s spring break week, and the Tuesday before the break they were canceled. I was also in possession of Southwest vouchers resulting from mechanical problems with flights I’d taken in the prior weeks. So I had the bright idea of a last-minute getaway, which I’d originally thought would be a resort-only trip, some relief from the relentless, below-average temps all winter.
SW’s “wanna get away” fares aren’t available if you’re within a week of travel, so this trip had to start no sooner than the following Tuesday, and ended up being Tues-Sat. Fares are obviously very high between spring break and a week until travel, even in the lowest fare category, but very doable with vouchers. POR was between $250-300/night (preferred room was the only option available). Easy to book DME online, and the confirmation email referenced not having magic bands and giving your hotel reservation number, which was good info.
After booking flight and hotel, decided to do a park day at AK. A couple of days later, on Thursday, I discovered EMM at TSL, and got those tickets for Friday of the break - Wednesday was also available, but that was our AK day.
AK - I was able to get FPs for Dino, KS, and Up (or EE if we’d wanted them, DS won’t ride) 8 days out (well, Tuesday afternoon for the following Wednesday), for a party of 3. All were afternoon/evening, but AK was open until 9 pm. On Sunday before the trip, I was able to modify a FP for the Up bird show to get FoP at 5:15pm. I had planned to RD AK, but with this and the one-two punch of Daylight saving change and time zones, we’d “lost” two hours from home time, and really enjoyed being able to ride FoP without worries. I know that people will tell me this isn’t possible, but I was able to modify to get the FoP right around the time of the 5:01 same-day fast pass “drop.” It could just be a coincidence. But I’m in the habit of periodically trying to modify to get better FPs during the day, and if you’re doing that, too, you might try during the drop times. Otherwise, I think getting FoP on a Sunday night before the Wednesday park day is nearly miraculous.
DHS - at 10 days out, got morning TSM (9:45) and ST(11:00), early afternoon ToT (2ish), not interested in RNRC. No dice on SDD.
Tuesday, March 12
Arrived Tuesday afternoon, grabbed lunch from Chik fil A in the airport. Gave luggage claim check at DME desk, because no time to get luggage tags. Bag arrived in room with no problems, but the staff person at the desk/podium for DME was not friendly about the claim check at all, and we worried that we wouldn’t see our bag. Sat on the bus for a while before leaving MCO, glad to have gotten lunch.
No need to check in at POR, room was ready during flight (landed at 12:35 pm), had magic bands from prior trip and all worked to unlock the door.
Had a dinner reservation at Cape May. There was some weirdness with getting there via Lyft. The first driver got all the way to the POR gate and then abandoned the ride or was turned away. Found another driver, about a 7 minute wait, and then about mid-way through that person’s approach, a new driver was assigned, who was still 9 minutes out. In all, waited about a half hour for a Lyft (regular, not Minnie Van). Just FYI, leave yourself some time.
Cape May was fine. Very nice server. Some issues with the buffet - the carving station was just empty (no food or person there) for an extended period of time, and a child was touching each of the fruits (while her mother looked on) and no one did anything about it or removed the food that was touched. So just beware if you’re getting “kid-friendly” food that you might want to take it from further back, away from grabby hands. Otherwise, though, I enjoy Cape May and would visit again.
Took the bus to Disney Springs and then the boat back to POR. The boat is so pleasant.
It was coolish on Tuesday, low to mid 60s. A real pleasure coming from the Midwest, but not pool weather. We hit the arcade and were in bed early.
Wednesday, March 13
Y’all will be shocked and dismayed, but we ended up sleeping until 10 am. We had granola bars in the room, then headed over to AK and soaked in some Pandora ambience. Had lunch at Satuli Canteen. It was a one-and-done for me. Nice atmosphere, but the menu has changed (I was looking forward to the rice base, but now it’s rice and beans, which is a different flavor). I didn’t care for the potato hash - a lot of the potatoes were not cooked. The sliced steak and sauce were good. Companion who had chicken on the beans and rice really liked it. Kiddo found it hard to eat the dough-wrapped hot dog.
Enjoyed the Gorilla Falls and Maharajah Trek trails. For some reason, the TP app showed Maharajah as closed, but it was open. Caught the Bollywood dance show. Had ice cream at Dino Bites. Rode Dinosaur, played Fossil Fun games, and played in the Boneyard. Rode FoP with FP.
Had dinner at Flame Tree, which was so awesome. Very generous portions. 2A 1C shared the sampler (chicken, ribs, and pulled pork) and mac and cheese topped with pulled pork, and onion rings. Only complaint was not enough mac and cheese. Chicken and ribs had great smoke on them. So pleasant to eat on the far side of the reflecting pool behind Flame Tree. We had this area entirely to ourselves. This is definitely a must-do for future trips.
We had a KS FP but kiddo was tired, and with the sun going down, it was getting a bit cool (low to mid 60s), so we headed out. This was our, uh, 14th trip to the World, so we’ve done KS many times. Otherwise, weather was amazing - sunny day, low 80s, no threat of rain, low humidity.
Thursday, March 14
Not a park day. Went to Disney Springs. Had lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express, which is always a favorite. Very generous portions.
Did The Void, the Star Wars version, which we’ve done before. So much fun. Party of 3, they did not put anyone else with us (on a prior trip, we did end up with a stranger single, which was a bit awkward as we tend to let the kiddo choose what he’d like to do and maximize his experience, and the single was not on the same wavelength).
Did some shopping, spent too much at Sephora and on athletic shoes for kiddo. Waited forever for a bus back to POR, should have taken the boat, but were at the far opposite end of DS. DS is HUGE these days, it’s a LOT of walking. Ended up walking almost as much as around AK.
Hit the pool at POR. A decent value tip, if you can deal with Disney pizza, is that you can get a large pizza in the food court for take out that costs about the same as real take out pizza at home, and can eat it by the pool. By far the cheapest meal we ever eat at Disney.
I had never seen this before, but there was a marshmallow roast from 6:30-7:30 behind the pool, near the playground. DS had a blast with this. There are smores kits for $5 (they don’t take cash), but that’s enough to make 3 smores. Overall, this was a very good time.
Friday, March 15
Realizing that we were going to be out of luck for the new TSL rides booking just a week before the trip, I did some sleuthing and found out about EMM at TSL, and I’m glad we did that.
We got up in the dark, had a couple of granola bars, and headed to the bus stop by 5:45 am. Ran into a group heading to Chef Mickey’s breakfast, the only other souls about that early. It looked like there was EMM at MK, because there was going to be an MK bus about the same time as ours. The DHS bus came by 6:15. We were through bag check and fourth in line for tapstiles at 6:36. FYI, there was heightened security, probably because of the New Zealand shooting, and we were all sent through metal detectors and saw county sheriff deputies. We were let in somewhere around 6:50, and headed back for drinks and pastries. We were at Backlot Express until about 7:15, hit the restrooms, and by the time we got to TSL people were already riding SDD. As we were walking into the park, they were announcing that TSL would open at 7:30, but it opened before that, probably before 7:20. So if you’re determined to maximize your time in TSL, maybe take that pastry and coffee to go, or get out sooner than we did.
We rode SDD x6 (not all in a row), Alien Saucers x3, and TSM x1. We did not attempt any meets. There was a restroom break in there, and grabbed water at the station in TSL. Could most likely have ridden TSM at least once more before the line built, but when we saw the hordes descending, we went to ride ST.
I did not find EMM to be crowded at all. SDD was a walk-on for most of the event. There was a bit of a line at one point, but when it was posted at 10 minutes, we were through the line, on the ride, and off within 10 minutes, so it was not much of a line. Saucers was always a walk-on. TSM was a walk-on, but there’s so much walking (the longest ride exit ever), that it felt like a waste of the time to ride it. Also, we easily found FPs for TSM, so we were able to come back and hit it again after EMM. There was always a line for Woody and Jessie, but Buzz was around the corner near the entrance to TSL and we could have popped in for that meet with only a couple of people in front of us if we’d wanted.
Rode ST x2 with mostly empty ride vehicles, could have likely walked on at least twice more, but everyone was feeling a bit unsettled in the tummy between all the rides.
Breakfast was good. With your food “receipt,” you get 20% off at any store in DHS. I really liked the avocado toast (it’s not guacamole, it’s salted smashed avocado), the egg was overcooked but fine. Charcuterie platter was a bit meh, though I liked the smoked salmon. Shrimp and grits was very good, if a bit odd for breakfast. Kiddo did not care for the chicken and cronut (he liked the cronut, but not the chicken). We were welcomed to have as many dishes and return trips as we liked. My son also got 9 stickers from the cashier, which was very sweet. Pastries were all excellent.
Hit launch bay, met BB-8, watched the march of the first order. DS refused to do the Frozen sing-along and denies that he’s ever done it (he has, and sang so sweetly). Rode ST again with FP. Shopped for Star Wars stuff with the discount.
As usual, we regretted booking an ADR. We’ve been “held hostage” in DHS so many times by ADRs, where we were hot and tired and ready to go but couldn’t just surrender to the no-show fee. We were done with the park (just getting hot and tired and frustrated with crowds) by around noon, but of course we had a lunch res at 1:25 (wanted to leave enough time to digest a late breakfast). Mama Melrose was perfectly adequate.
Headed back to POR around 3. Hit the pool. Had dinner at the food court. Bayou Burger was actually quite good, I’d recommend (but wouldn’t travel for it).
Saturday, March 16
Departure day. Had a 5:50 am DME bus for a 9:15 Southwest flight. Took a while to get the luggage checked in, so arrived out front by about 5:15. An early day.
On the flight out from KC to MCO, checked in at 24 hours and got a B boarding pass (B30ish), no issues getting 3 seats together. For the flight out of MCO, lots of people get early bird, and checking in at 24 hours got us C3-5 boarding passes. Just in case, I did upgrade to A1-15 boarding at ticketing at MCO (you can’t do it online or through the app, just at ticketing or at the gate). It was $40/person, less in total than EB for the entire round trip, though more than EB just for the MCO-KC trip. In the end, it was probably not necessarily. Most of the passengers were families or other groups, rather than single business travelers, so I did not see the pattern of the whole plane filling up just aisles and windows like I see when I travel for work. So if you get an early C group pass, I would not necessarily despair of getting seats together (I just needed 2, DS9 could not handle being separated), but also be aware of the option to upgrade the boarding. No maintenance issues with the Southwest flight.
In all, just absolutely perfect weather. If I had stuck with my resort-only plan, I think it would have been a very good vacation value. POR rates were in line with what you’d expect to pay for a similar resort in Florida during spring break, and the transportation from the airport (and dealing with the luggage) has real value. All but arrival day was in the 80s during the day, great pool weather. It was coolish at night only in the sense that you’d want to get out of the pool around sundown, and it can get a bit breezy where you might want a light jacket or sweater at night.
TSL EMM was a fantastic experience. It was so refreshing to enjoy a ride and be able to get right back on it. I know people have praised the SDD queue, but the last time that I tried to RD it I had a problem with my band scanning and ended up heading in after the initial RD crush, I stood on my feet for a solid 90 minutes, a lot of it in the scorching sun (and with plantar fasciitis killing me), and I was so miserable that I just wanted to leave DHS after one ride. So being able to walk on, repeatedly, was amazing. I think it was a reasonable value for the price paid. I felt like it was not a well-known event. They did open up 7:00 reservations (because it was spring break), but it did not feel crowded at all. By contrast, I’ve found MNSSHP to be extremely crowded the couple of times we’ve gone, so I think they’ve got the capacity under better control for TSL EMM.