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Friday, June 8, 2012

Thanksgiving trip to Walt Disney World - November 1997 - Day 0

Day 0, Tuesday, Nov. 24
Getting there. All Star Music.

Whenever we take a trip, Andie and I try to do our traveling in the evening. This way we don't waste precious vacation time in an airplane or a car. To that end, we booked a flight out of Newark Airport for 5:00 Tuesday evening. Since we live in the suburbs and therefore going home before going to the airport would be a waste of time, we decided to bring the kids with us to our offices in the city. We drove in, something we rarely do, in order to make it a little easier. I took Nat to my office, while Charlie went with Andie. Needless to say, neither of us got much work done that day.

We left the city around 2:00 and drove to the airport. I dropped Andie and the kids off and went to park the car in long term parking. For those of you who are familiar with Newark Airport, I had to park in the one lot that is not serviced by the monorail as they were full. This meant parking the car and taking a shuttle bus. I was very happy that we left plenty of time, because getting to the airport, parking and checking in took much longer than I expected. As an interesting side-note, I overheard an airline employee tell one of the passengers that flights to Orlando were among the only ones that they don't pre-board people with small children. "Everybody would be pre-boarding" he said.

When we arrived at the Orlando Airport one of the first things I said to Andie was "My God, even the airport is beautiful!". Palm trees, beautiful plantings, a warm breeze blowing... definitely *not* Newark Airport. I picked up our rental car (white generic GM something-r-other) and we were off to our first destination, All Star Music Resort.

One problem with arriving at your destination at night is that, since it's dark, you don't get as much of a "feel" for the place as you're driving through it. On the other hand, you do get to "discover" bits and pieces of the area you're visiting as your trip unfolds.

We nearly missed finding the ASM because it appears to be the one resort that doesn't have signs all over telling you where it is. I'm not sure why this is true, but I suspect it's a budget thing. Anyway, we did find it with no problem thanks largely to Andie's sharp eyes.

Our decision to stay at the All Star Resort for our first night was purely financial. We were going to arrive pretty late and the plan was to get up first thing and hit one of the parks. I couldn't see spending $200+ for an extra night at Wilderness lodge when the All Star would do just as well for $90. I must say that, driving up to the ASM, that I was immediately taken by what a cool place it is. Older kids and teens that go to WDW must love this place. It's very in-your-face. Everything is blown way out of proportion. Yes, it's basically a Motel 6 on steroids, but all the Disney touches lend the place a special atmosphere. If your budget only allows for staying here, you won't be disappointed. No, it's not the Grand Floridian, but it is a very nice hotel with it's own special charm. I hope to stay there again someday.

We did have a small problem checking in. The check-in area seemed poorly marked to me and, as a result, I waited about 15 minutes in the wrong place when I should have been able to walk right up and check in. I seem to recall reading this complaint of the AS Resorts either in one of the guide books or on the Internet. At any rate, I complained a bit to the Cast Member who checked me in, but she smoothed out my somewhat ruffled feathers with here cheery efficiency pretty quickly. This scenario, of a problem situation being handled by a competent Disney CM with aplomb, is one that would be played out several times on this trip.

We were in the "Jazz" wing of the ASM. Huge saxophones graced each of the buildings. The Jazz building has a nice location - close to the food court area - but from a musical preference standpoint I would have preferred the Country Faire. Besides, those giant cowboy boots looked way cool.

Our room was small but not *too* crowded. If we had more than four people it would have been too small. The rooms are well appointed and clean but far from luxurious. About on par with your standard Best Western. The decorations were a bit loud for my taste, but that's a minor complaint. These aren't exactly rooms that you want to "hang around" in any way.

Once we were settled (we were switching to the Wilderness Lodge the next day so we couldn't get *too* settled) we ordered some food. The only room service available for AS is an extended Pizza delivery menu, but we didn't feel like Pizza. Instead we ordered Chicken Caesar Salad, Bread Sticks and wine. While we were waiting for the food to arrive I decided to go for a short walk and get the lay of the land. Mostly I wanted to check out where we could get breakfast the next morning as we were planning to leave early and make Early Entry at Disney MGM Studios. The Pools, one shaped like a piano and the other a guitar, looked like a lot of fun. I regretted the fact that we wouldn't be able to make use of them.

The Intermission Food Court was a very pleasant surprise. I looked over the choices and was pleased to see that they stocked fresh fruit and other healthy items as well as the standard food court faire. I asked one of the CMs on duty about hours, and was pleased that they opened at 6:00 AM leaving plenty of time for a quick breakfast before our trip to MGM.

I went back to our room. Nat, very excited needless to say, was jumping on one of the beds. When she tried to jump from one bed to the other she fell off and hurt her leg. She was fine within a few minutes, but this incident would come into play later in our trip.

After eating our supper (a little over $30 including tip - not cheap but I've seen worse) we decided to hit the sack. We were all pretty excited (well, maybe not Charlie) but we were also very tired from our long day and had no problem falling asleep.

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