Ok. Here is my trip report for December 3-4, 2006. It is long, so bear with me.
Last year my wife and I were lucky enough to attend a fabulous brunch at Club 33 and then to enjoy reserved seating for the candlelight processional. So, when we were offered the chance again this year, we did not hesitate to do everything possible with our busy schedules to make it happen. Our adventures began when we arrived at the airport at 6:00 am on Sunday morning, and the trip from hell began. Everything seemed normal from the get go. I checked my email and surfed the web while my wife visited Starbucks, Cinnabon, and the magazine rack to purchase some essential “supplies” for our trip. Yes, Starbucks and Cinnabon are essential, but that is another story!
Once we boarded the plane, everything was set, and we would soon be on our way to Disneyland. Well, not so fast. We took off from Sacramento International heading north, but we kept heading north. We leveled off at about 10,000 feet, but the flaps did not retract. Next thing I know, we are passing the Sutter Buttes, and we are still heading north. I was just about to the point of asking what’s up when the pilot comes over the loudspeaker and announces that the flaps on the plane will not retract and that we will be landing back at Sacramento to transfer to a different plane. So we make a few turns and continue to circle the airport. Well, long story short, they declare an emergency and shut one of the runways to prepare for our arrival. All of the fire equipment was dispatched to meet us, as well as some other support vehicles. Now, I know this is pretty much a non-event, but some people on the plane were having downright panic attacks. Believe me, you would much rather have the flaps stuck extended rather than the flaps stuck retracted. So they do an emergency full-force stop which is about like slamming on the brake pedal in the car, and before you know it, we are sitting at the end of the runway. The fire department then had to check out the brakes and gear, and they required us to sit for another five minutes to let everything cool off. Finally, we taxi back to the terminal into the spot right next to the new plane they have waiting for us.
Southwest then assured us that we would basically all walk right off of this plane and on to the waiting plane and be ready to go. Sounds good, but of course that is not how it went. First, as we exited the plane they handed us all incident reports that they wanted us to fill out. No problem, we have a few minutes anyway. Well, before I know it we were standing in line for almost 30 minutes, and they are still not letting us on the new plane. According to their operating procedure, they will not let us on the plane until the flight crew is aboard, and the flight crew cannot leave the old plane until they fill out their more comprehensive incident reports. Finally, they let us on board, but at this time I am starting to get anxious about our noon reservations at Club 33. We were to meet the six other members of our party before noon, but at this point I thought we would be lucky to get their by 1:00.
Fast forward a few more minutes and we are all on the plane and ready to go, or so I thought. We sit and sit and sit some more. Finally, they come over the P.A. system to tell us that there is fuel on the ground under one of the engines and they need to take off the engine access panel to determine if there is a leak, or if it was just spilled fuel that no one bothered to report. Now, let me tell you that this doesn’t inspire confidence in the airline. A few people decided this was a bad omen and they were not going to fly with us. Anyway, we were not about to let anything get in the way of our weekend. Besides going to Disneyland, we were getting away from the kids for some much needed alone time!
About 10:00, we finally get everything set (turns out it was just a spill) and we are on our way to Southern California. I feel a bit of relief as the plane turns south and continues to gain altitude. Keep in mind that we were supposed to be on the ground at John Wayne by 9:00. The flight itself was uneventful, and four Sudoku puzzles later, we were landing in Orange County and on our way to the taxi line. The taxis were waiting, and we jump in one and were off. The watch says 11:15, so we are going to make it! We plan to drop our gear at the bell desk and head straight to the club. We get out onto 55 to head over to I-5 when we hit the wall of traffic. No sooner did the cab driver say that he would have us there in twenty minutes tops, we hit a wall of bumper-to-bumper traffic. They had the carpool lane and the left lane closed for “construction”. I say “construction” because we saw a whole lot of Caltrans vehicles, a lot of workers hanging out, but no visible signs of anything being done. I shouldn’t knock Caltrans, but it is one of those stereotypes that always seems to be true. So I told the cab driver my best Caltrans joke to help easy my anxiety, and after a few minutes we reached the end of the construction and was doing 100 MPH. Yes, the driver had a lead foot!
At about 11:45 we were pulling up to the Grand Californian, and this is where the trip from hell started turning into the best trip ever! As we are getting out of the car, Max from the GCH comes out to meet us. He asks me if I am (my name) and I say yes. At this point, I am thinking to myself that they lost our reservations, or something else went wrong. It was then that the notified me that I was selected as their Year of a Million Dreams GCH VIP of the day. What? You have to be kidding me, right? We go in and have a seat in the lounge and he starts to go over the details. My wife and I were shocked, but we basically blew him off because we needed to get to Club 33, and we only had 10 minutes left. He went though everything as fast as he could, and we were off. We didn’t receive everything that we were supposed to, but that is fine by me as I was expecting nothing. They upgraded us to a nice suite on the sixth floor, that was a little nicer than the standard suites that we have booked before when we stayed with a lot of people.
We arrived at the green door at 12:05, and our party was nowhere to be found. I pressed the little button and announced myself, and they let us right in. Our party had literally just been seated. I still cannot believe we made it on time, well, basically on time. Lunch was fabulous. Lobster, prosciutto wrapped shrimp, lobster ravioli with garlic shallot alfredo sauce, prime rib, champagne, desert bar, YUM! There were some seriously big lobster on the trays with the lobster tails, crab and shrimp. 2-footers at least! We had a great time at brunch, spent some time on the balcony, soaked up the ambiance, and then we headed downstairs to do something I have always wanted to do. We headed over to New Orleans Station for a trip around Disneyland in the Lilly Belle.
Inside the Lilly Belle, we had a wonderful cast member with us who was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the trains as well as the history of Disneyland in general. He told us lots of interesting facts and answered our questions. My wife and I signed the book, and before too long, we were done with our ride. At this point, we started queuing up for our seats for the processional.
The candlelight processional was wonderful. We were sitting by Andy Garcia, about six rows back. I will spare you the details of the processional, as it has been covered by others here. Overall, I thought it was better than last year. Maybe because it was warmer and not quite as windy as it was last year.
After the processional, we walked around and enjoyed the sights, did a little shopping, and headed over for the 9:00 Fantasmic! My wife and I were offered VIP seating for F!, but we declined so we could sit with our friends. We ended up sitting dead center, about 20 feet from the rail. Perfect viewing spot. I did notice that some of the pyrotechnics were not used because of the wind, and they cancelled the fireworks altogether. It was funny to see the transformation of the evil queen to the witch. The wind blew the smoke away so you could see the evil queen drop down into the stage and the witch rise up. That was a first for me.
After F!, we rode HMH, and then headed back to main street for some more shopping and looking around. After a bit, we said goodbye to our friends, and we headed back to the park to ride some rides. The park was unusually dead Sunday night. Not like last year at all. We rode Indy, Splash Mountain twice, Big Thunder twice, Space Mountain, and Peter Pan all in about 90 minutes or so. Splash was nice as we walked right on and had our own log. As soon as we pulled into the loading area, we started chanting one more time, one more time. No one was in the queue, so they sent us around again.
We hung out riding a few attractions, more shopping, and people watching. Finally, when they announced that the park was now closed, we headed out for the hotel. Upon arriving back at our room, we were greeted with a very pleasant treat. They had left roses all over the room, along with some pictures and balloons, and they set out robes and slippers. The bed was covered in rose petals in the shape of a heart. They knew we were also there for my birthday, and somehow that got mixed up with VIP services as “anniversary”. My wife and I enjoyed that a little more anyway.
Monday was a pretty uneventful day with lots of the major e-tickets that we don’t ride with the kids. Tower and Screamin’ to name a few. We had lunch arranged for us at the Blue Bayou which they told us would be comped, but then they had a shift change and the new lead was not clear with what was going on. I happily paid as I wasn’t expecting the free lunch anyway. Kind weird the miscommunication there. They all knew we were the prize winner from the GCH, but no one really knew what that meant. We were told we were supposed to have some other amenities, but we did not receive those either. Again, I just feel lucky with the way everything else went, so I wasn’t about to complain and press my luck. I did stop by City Hall to praise some awesome CMs, and to pick up my birthday button. Oh, and they were expecting me because I had a phone call from Goofy waiting for me.
Before too long, we were back at the airport and heading home. This time the flight went smooth and was on time. A little over an hour later, we were in our car heading home from the airport. What a fantastic trip. I’m looking forward to next year, hoping we will be lucky enough to get the invite again.
Oh, and I did get a chance to speak with Sioux again about the waitlist. Last year during CP, they were up to 1999. This year when I asked, I was told they are still on 1999. Sioux shared a little more info with me too. She told me that the waitlist is now over 1,000 names long and that they are predicting 8-10 year waits. However, take that with a grain of salt because they never really know how long it will be, just where they are at now. Maybe someday my name will come up, but I still have a long way to go.
And finally, the pictures:
This is Max, our VIP host:
Look who came to lunch with us!
Some of our crew hangin' out:
More of the crew:
This is Robert, one of the more senior CMs at the club. He is fantastic! I told him I wanted a "little" prime rib, and by a "little", I mean "a whole lot". He carved me up a piece fit for a king.
The ice sculpture looks the same as last year, with the exception of "2006":
Yep, thought so. Here is last year:
Check out that lobster! This tray is almost three feet across!
I'll spare you more shots of the buffet and the club since there are so many out there.
So, here is us heading for the Lilly Belle:
Here is some of the crew. That is my wife hiding in the back on the left:
Another shot from the inside:
We signed the guest book which is completely full. I had to find a place to squeeze in my name. Oops, the flash reflected off of the name plate:
Ok, here is the whole gang:
My wife looking out the window as we pull into Main Street Station:
Steve, our most wonderful conductor:
The view from our suite:
With the front of the park roped off for candle light, we were able to snap a quick pic with no one up front:
The view from my seat. I took the far end to let the first-timers be closer to the action:
Another shot from my location:
Hey, there is soapy snow in the air:
And one more. Please, don't try the snow. I did, and it tastes like soap. Duh!
My wife with Mater:
And on the train:
And me on the train with my button:
Getting ready for launch:
That just about does it. Here is a sampling of my trip. Feedback is welcome. Feel free to tell me it was boring and waaay to long.