Disney, Bay Lake Towers
Night of Joy
September 6-9, 2012
We are back from a very interesting and tiring long weekend trip to Walt Disney World. The main reasons for this short trip was to have my wife Kelli enjoy the Night of Joy concerts and for us to try a stay at Bay Lake Towers, one of the newest Disney Vacation Club resorts.
Day 1, Thursday September 6, 2012
We had a mid morning flight on JetBlue out of JFK airport. Kelli’s sister’s brother-in-law Tony was kind enough to drive us to the airport. Traffic was light and we made such good time that we shopped in the JetBlue Terminal. Kelli had fun shopping in the Ron Jon Surf Shop. We haven’t left NY and we already have a few souvenirs to bring back!
Security was a breeze (unlike the trip back - stay tuned) and the flight down was uneventful. We had a bit of a wait for DME. The bus first stopped at Old Key West Resort before reaching the Contemporary. As we stepped inside the lobby a CM stepped up to helped us. She was able to find our folder at the front desk so check-in was quick. Best of all the room was ready!
We were in a studio, room 8240 on the 12th floor. Our balcony overlooked Bay Lake and the marina/pool area of the Contemporary. We could just make out in the far distance Spaceship Earth at Epcot, the Swan & Dolphin Resorts, the Sorcerer’s Hat and the Earful Tower in the Studios and Everest at Animal Kingdom.
Kelli wanted to rest after traveling, this turned out to be the right move because heavy rain moved in shortly afterwards. I went for provisions and lunch and brought back a Marinated Chicken Flatbread - with oven roasted tomatoes, garlic, onions, arugula, and goat cheese, from the Contempo Café. We shared it and it was delicious!
I also brought back provisions from the Concourse Sundries & Spirits. At first I looked at Contempo’s single serving cereals but they were over $2.00 a piece. I could buy a small box here for less than $5, so I skipped the eggs and I’ll eat raisin bran with Kelli each morning. We still bought bacon – got to have bacon. I also grabbed English Muffins, milk and water.
We relaxed on the balcony and soon dark clouds and heavy rain moved in. We could watch this wicked weather safely and dry from here. The rain cooled the day’s temperature and it soon cleared.
We then walked over to the Magic Kingdom bus loops and took the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for our 5:15PM ADR at Boma- Flavors of Africa. We had a long wait for the bus and were running 15 minutes late. We met a family of three who were heading to the same restaurant so we showed them the way once we arrived.
For drinks, Kelli ordered the Godiva Chocolate Martini – (Stoli Vanil vodka, Godiva Chocolate liqueur, white creme de cacao and Frangelico) and I had the Pina CoLAVA – (Bacardi RAZZ rum blended with pina colada mix and raspberry puree.)
We were delighted to see the Peanut Soup and Watermelon Rind Salad back in the buffet. Our waitress recommended a lamb dish and the roasted loin. I found a hot pepper chutney that went great with the beef. As always everything we sampled was great. After dinner I suggested to Kelli that we check out the animals in the savannah out back of the lodge. Pink-backed Pelicans, Zebras and others posed for some great pictures. Then we happened across people roasting marshmallows at the camp fire. We felt like kids again roasting a couple and enjoyed eating them as well.
(By the way – do not misinterpret the last sentence. We roasted a couple of marshmallows, not a couple, we are not cannibals!)
We took the bus to the Magic Kingdom. Because of the two “Night of Joy” concerts on Friday and Saturday – this will be our only opportunity to see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. Many other people had the same idea and we ran into moderate crowds. In the town square I noticed that the Goofy statue was back on the bench. We made our way to Tomorrowland and rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority then found a place near the hub to watch the Electrical Parade, then stayed put for Wishes.
We enjoyed the easy walk back to Bay Lake Tower watching all the people and buses scrambling to get back to their resorts.
Once back in our room I convinced Kelli to visit the Top of the World Lounge. We had to double back down to the first floor lobby to let the Cast Member lead us to the lounge elevator. The place had emptied out after Wishes, no one was on the outside viewing area so we had a little romantic time watching the castle and Space Mountain glowing in the dark. We headed in and there were 3 people plus the bartender there. Kelli was done for the night but I really needed a nightcap to take the edge off all the traveling and excitement of the day. I ordered a shot of Jameson and received a tall shot glass. Not bad for about $8.50. With the Tables in Wonderland card discount of 20%, plus the 18% tip automatically added it came to a little over $8. We left a $10 bill on the bar and called it a night. (Always take care of your bartenders)
Day 2, Friday September 7, 2012
We slept in a bit to be well rested for the evening. We made breakfast in our kitchenette and discovered that the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) did cheap out on the toasters. It was plastic with very thin heating elements and weighed only about half a pound. It took three cycles on high to toast one English muffin. But so far this is the only real minor complaint I have about DVC.
We enjoyed breakfast on the balcony. We watched monorails enter and leave the Contemporary, and a few people enjoying the grounds. We also notice Black Vulture after Black Vulture leaving the area trees and heading to the roof of the garden wing of the Contemporary. In the end we counted over 60 of these cool birds. We’re not sure why they congregate here.
We headed to Animal Kingdom by bus with a short wait, but then the bus stopped at the Wilderness Lodge, the Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian and then Blizzard Beach on the way. We were still in time for the first showing of the Festival of the Lion King. We took new pictures of Daisy Duck hiking with Huey, Dewey and Louie along the stream. A few mallard ducks were sleeping next to Daisy. Then we finally found the “fishing hole” where Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Pluto are fishing. We’ve always missed them since we cross the bridge at the Lion King on the right side going in. They are on the opposite side of the path from Daisy and the three boys.
We tried not to sit in the Warthog section, sorry Pumba; but we were wrong about which section that would be. And of course we took the fist bleachers on the right and were warthogs once again.
The sections going counter-clockwise on the way in are Warthog (first bleachers on the right), Lion, Elephant and Giraffe (with the giraffe section being the first bleachers on the left when going in.
As usual we thoroughly enjoyed the show. We then headed for the “secret rest rooms” (in Pizzafari). They are “secret” because they are not on the map. They generally don’t have the lines that the ones in Camp Mickey have after the show lets out.
Next was the Flight’s of Wonder show, which we haven’t done in a while. The show is always slightly different since not all the birds do each show. We missed the lizard bashing bird, but enjoyed a Toco Toucan, Harpy Eagle, Harris's Hawk, Grey Crowned Crane (named Fraiser of course) and other birds flying over the audience.
After the show we went looking for the corn dog nuggets we had last time. Unfortunately the little concession stand Safari Nuggets is now Safari Wings. So Kelli let me drag her to Yak and Yeti counter service where we split the Mandarin Chicken Salad and the Sweet and Sour Chicken. I enjoyed it; Kelli-not so much - the salad had carrots which can give her a stomach ache.
We decided to see what the wait was for the Kilimanjaro Safari and we ran across DeVine. I was able to pose with her and she tickled my neck with her leaves.
Safari had a 10 minute wait so we headed on in and got the front seat of the truck. It was nice to see a slightly different view, to see what’s ahead. Since it wasn’t crowded the truck was able to stop momentarily and some animals were very close and we got some good pictures. Since it was also hot, some animals like the lion and the warthogs were just sleeping lumps on the ground.
We did some shopping on the way out. Kelli got a great deal on a wool cap on sale. In the Oasis a cast member pointed to a sleeping Giant Anteater on the ground.
It was getting hot (92 degree with a feel like of 98). Back at our studio I did a 30 minute power nap. After that I let Kelli rest and went out to explore the resort and try to get a picture of the Avengers monorail. The court yard before the pool had both shuffleboard and bocce ball courts. People were playing in each one. The pool looked refreshing so after a successful shot of the monorail from the bridge connecting Bay Lake Tower with the Contemporary, I dropped the camera off at the room and headed down to the pool for a dip. I tried the slide once and then looked for the secluded beach behind the pool. To get to it you have to enter the fenced off pool and then look for a gate behind the stairs to the slide. Looks like a nice place to relax, if the pool activities aren’t too loud.
Dinner was at the California Grill. We were seated next to the window but away from the Magic Kingdom, but with nice view of the water bridge and Seven Seas Lagoon. For starters we had the Vidalia Onion Tart (red onion marmalade, heirloom tomato ketchup, sweet onion rings) and the Roasted Cauliflower Soup. Both were good though Kelli did comment that the tart was quite salty. I also ordered a Belgium Beer. I liked it so much I ordered a second later.
A huge rain storm moved in with some lightening and put on a show. At one point the water was running down the windows in sheets and nothing was visible.
For our entrées Kelli had the Roasted Organic Chicken (sweet corn cake, corn purée, petite carrots, chipotle emulsion and I had the Seared Diver Scallops (southern sweet corn risotto, spiced tomato broth, micro popcorn shoots).
(If you look over Mike's right shoulder you can just make out Cinderella's castle)
Our waitress asked if we were having dessert but we had not made up our minds on what to have, so she left. We decided but she became so busy with larger tables that she did not come back for a very long time. Although we wanted dessert we felt that if the wait was just as long to get the dessert, then wait for the bill, and wait to pay for the bill that we would run late. So when she eventually came back we just asked for the bill.
We headed back to the room to change into more comfortable clothing along with rain jackets and umbrellas. There was a light sprinkle of rain on the walk over to the Magic Kingdom, but it stopped by the time we reached the front gates. Many of the Halloween decorations were already up.
It was near seven so most of the Night of Joy crowd was already in and our wait for security and turnstile was very short. The kingdom closed for regular guests at 7 and many were still making their way out of the park. We had wrist bands indicating we had tickets for the Night of Joy (NofJ) and had to show the cast members them at the top of main street to continue. Kelli bought a NofJ T-shirt and we headed to the hub to wait for the first band to play.
I will say at this point Kelli was absolutely thrilled to be here both evenings and thoroughly enjoyed both. As I have never heard of most of these Christian Rock bands I would say the music was good enough to listen to and was very happy to be enjoying it with Kelli.
Each night there are three main stages with the bigger headliners appearing in front of the castle at the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage. Two other stages were in Tomorrowland: Rockettower Plaza Stage and the Galaxy Stage (this one was set up behind the scenes, you enter by going through a passageway underneath the TTA between the Carousel of Progress and Buzz Light-year, or where the character greet spot normally is.)
Each stage has three acts per night, starting at various times. There is another smaller stage in Adventureland where some more local people perform.
We position ourselves at the outer hub next to the popcorn stand and used the fence to lean against when we needed to rest. We could see the stage and the jumbo video screen but were not close enough for the more pack areas in front of the stage. We didn’t want to lose our coveted spot so it was basically 6 hours of standing, either waiting for the next band or listening to them play.
The first band at 7:45 PM was called Needtobreathe and their genre was rock. I would say a mix of rock and rock ballads. The proselytizing was there but I thought it was minimal. If your significant other drags you there – no need to worry about it.
A note about the crowd – generally well behaved, even when we saw some of the harder rock bands (MUCH better than at a regular hard rock concert). Yes, occasionally there were over zealous, energetic fans but they were few and far between. Most of the crowd liked to sing along with the bands and it made for some nice moments. We did have one elderly group in back of us having a loud conversation during one concert and it took two or three tries to get them to shut up. Some people are just obliviously dumb – you know the people, the ones who continually talk in a movie theater.
The next band at 9:50 PM was Chris Tomlin, genre: adult contemporary, which is accurate. A little slow for me but boy was the crowd singing along – even the ones walking by to get to another part of the park.
About half way through their set I went off to explore. Disciple was playing at the Rockettower Plaza Stage – more of a head banging rock band. They sounded good. You could get fairly close and you could easily sit a little farther away in and around the Lunching Pad (not open) area. There was some DJ/ radio station inside Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café but the food lines here were long, 20 people each line! I was glad to have a big meal before getting here.
The wait time for Buzz Light-year Space Ranger Spin said 30 minutes and the line was out the door (more on this tomorrow night when we do Buzz 5 times in one day).
I checked my Verizon app, and it said there was a 40 minute wait for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and 20 minutes for the Haunted Mansion. Not too bad waits but we knew all of them would be nearly walk-ons the next day. Early September has some of the lightest crowds for the year.
After a rest room break I met up with Kelli. Chris Tomlin had just finished an encore. I told her the rest rooms near the Tomorrowland Terrace were not busy so I held our spot so she could stretch her legs (and sit down for a while).
When she got back and since we missed dessert; we shared a Mickey Ice cream sandwich while waiting for the last act.
Casting Crowns came on at 11:55 PM, another adult contemporary group. They sounded good, lots of crowd participation and singing along. They ended around 1 AM. We were extremely tired. We walked back to Bay Lake Towers and were so glad when we walked passed the bus station that knew we would be in our room within minutes. We didn’t have to stand & wait for the bus and stand some more on the bus. Bay Lake Towers is the place to stay to do “Night of Joy”
Day 3 Saturday September 8, 2012
We did not set a wake up alarm but I woke up at 6:50 AM and decided to make it to Disney Hollywood Studios for the extra magic hour at 8 AM. Kelli stayed back and slept. The bus took longer than expected due to loading a motorized chair which the guy did not know how to drive. We just made it there by 8.
With light crowds everything was nearly a walk-on. I did the Tower of Terror and Rock-n Roller Coaster in quick succession then powered walked to Toy Story Mania. The wait was only ten minutes and I rode alone. That left me with more high targets to shoot so I did fairly well.
I quickly circled over to the Muppet store to find the Statler and Waldorf T-shirt that our friend Bill wanted then quickly walked to Star Tours. I had the probe droid, pod races and Yoda in this version of the ride. I then headed to the front of the park. I had done four rides and one purchase in an hour and 20 minutes.
The sun was beating down at me at the bus stop. It was going to be very hot today. After I got back Kelli and I walked over to the Magic Kingdom and headed for Tomorrowland. The crowds were very light. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin said it was a five minute wait. That was inaccurate by a long shot! I timed it and it took 30 seconds from the entrance to our XP-37 Space Cruiser.
After beating Emperor Zurg in the Gamma Quadrant we decided to ride again. I did better this time but just missed 600,000. I’m tall so it takes a few moments to figure out where my laser blaster is pointing. I wanted to max out my score so we went on a third time, again walking right onto the ride. My aim was lousy this time so I let Kelli steer after the first room. It was a wild ride. If you want more of a challenge on this ride, let your wife drive. It actually made the ride a lot more fun!
Next was Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. This is always something new and different. You never know what to expect with the audience participation. In Buddy Boil’s mind reading segment where he tries to the guess the number the lady chosen blurted out her number right away. Buddy handled it great, at first saying “this is going to be easy” then stretching it out till the whole audience was laughing hysterically.
We then ran into PUSH, the talking and traveling trash can. I can watch him sneak up to unsuspecting tourists all day. I think more adults are freaked out by him rather than children. You never know how people will react.
We strolled over to Fantasyland and decided to check out the new Dumbo queue. There was no wait so we took a spin.
Walls are still up on the expansion. But Kelli did find the Beast’s footprints on the ground and I posed with Ariel (the things you’ll do in public for a good picture).
Lunch was at the Columbia Harbour House. I had the Fried Shrimp Basket and Kelli did the kid’s meal PB&J, which was probably a lot healthier than my meal.
Next was the Haunted Mansion. We bypassed the new interactive queue and had a short wait to get into the stretching room. It always amazes me how so many people do not notice Madam Leota’s headstone while waiting there. Although - this was the first time that I noticed the moving shadow on the ground in front of the “empty” piano/organ. It just goes to show you, you’ll have more fun if you just take the time to notice your surroundings on and off the rides.
It was really hot now and we wanted to rest up for the final “Night of Joy” so after shopping on Main Street - being mindful we brought only carry-ons – we headed back for another afternoon power nap.
We also had to pack since we didn’t have time tonight or tomorrow morning. We were also watching the reports of severe weather back in New York on the Weather Channel. Two tornados actually touched down in Brooklyn and there was film of one of them. Fortunately they were weak and very small and we found out later no one was hurt.
Dinner was at The Wave...of American Flavors restaurant in the Contemporary. They have a unique deep dark blue waiting area but we were only there for a minute. We sat at a nice table for two and had excellent service. Kelli was concerned about what was in the multigrain bread and the chef came out to tell her in did have sunflower in it. She is intolerant of sunflower and the chef brought out some white bread for her. She really wanted to try the butter with Hawaiian sea salt.
At first the menu seemed blah, but our waiter pointed out the beef and pork tenderloins as being excellent. Kelli ordered the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Butter, Potato Gateau, and Spring Ratatouille and I the Locally-sourced Thompson Farms Pork Tenderloin in a Charred Herb marinade with Bread Salad and Bourbon-grilled Florida Peaches along with a Side of Potato Gateau with Goat Cheese.
We were very pleased with our meal; it outshined the California Grill both in meal and service.
I also enjoyed their Organic Beer Flight (six ounces each of blonde, pale and brown ale). Kelli had the Black Cherry Twist – Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon, Cranberry Juice, Sweet-and-sour, and Sprite. I tasted it as well and we agreed it was the best drink of the trip.
We were too full to have dessert, maybe next time; I’d like to try this one again. We went back to room to change. Tonight we had clear skies, no threat of rain so we were smart and traveled light (meaning no cameras and other gear).
We headed in a little after 7 PM and headed straight for the Galaxy Stage where Kutless a rock band was playing. The stage is back stage of Tomorrowland; behind the TTA between carousel of Progress and Buzz Lightyear. The area was full but we could see the band through the entrance way. As people left we were allowed forward by security. I will say the Disney security and crowd control was excellent.
After they finished we had an hour before having to get back to the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage for Third Day; another rock band. So we did two more trips on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. The line moved very fast and we were on in 5 minutes. It seemed to us wait times were shorter on Saturday than Friday.
We were able to get much closer to the castle stage, just right of some small trees near the partner’s stature. Third Day put on a good show but they did proselytize more and also tried real hard to sell their new album which seemed like a strange mix to me.
After their performance we took a walk and rested on a rock wall outside the Ye Olde Christmas Tree Shop. The last show off the night was MercyMe at midnight; we had recently seen them at Citifield after a Mets game. About two songs in, the band was interrupted by shouts for 911. It seemed a girl had passed out near the stage. The lead singer did a good job dealing with this scary situation. The crowd was concerned, quiet, and very cooperative. We have yet to find out if she was alright. The rest of the set was a bit more subdued due to the situation and I think the entire crowd appreciated it
It ended at 1 AM and we were in bed around 1:40 AM
Day 4 Sunday September 8, 2012
Woke up at 6:30 AM after less than 5 hours of sleep. We finished what food was left in the studio for breakfast and enjoyed the balcony one last time. We needed to catch our Disney Magical Express bus service to the airport at 7:50 AM.
The bus also picked up at Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian. This killed our plans to shop at the airport.
There were short lines for security, but we chose the wrong line. They had just switched the person reading the X-ray images. The lady was pulling every other bag for a hand search; one person in front of me, then my laptop bag, Kelli’s purse, then two more after her.
OK - I had a screwdriver in there. –BUT this is the picture of it – come-on!
The sub-mini screwdriver is only an inch and a half long!
They sent my bag through again and it was pulled again! Afterwards - looking through the bag the only thing possible that could show up on the X- ray is the AC adaptor on the power cord! (the fat part of the computer’s electrical cord). Imagine all the business people this TSA employee will delay!
Fortunately, we were at the start of this mess, so the delay was only fifteen minutes. I felt sorry for the people behind us.
Our flight was on time and Tony and Theresa picked us up. I had to fight to stay awake on the ride home.
Our next trip is only a short time away. We will be back for a much longer trip for the Food and Wine Festival in Epcot. This time we will be staying at our home resort – Saratoga Springs.
Michael and Kelli
We hope you enjoyed our trip report and pictures.
To read more of Kelli and Mike’s Trip reports visit: http://www.bochnik.com
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