Yes, because you asked, demanded, pleaded, bribed and cried ... here's some quick trip observations from a great (they usually are) visit to WDW and Universal Studios.
Resorts: split my stay between the WL and the Swan (two of my faves) and was not disappointed at all!
WL renovations on rooms are complete and fantastic. From new, higher quality bedding (albeit they still are too cheap to triple sheet) and great, huge LCD flatscreen TVs to wonderful new lighting features and shelves under the sinks and new showerheads ... an all around upgrade that the lodge needed. Hell, they even have improved the quality of the toilet paper (likely due to the sponsorship with Brawny).
The hallways also look great, BUT are already showing gouges in walls, dents and scratches due to CMs with maid carts and luggage carts. Putting padding on the corners of the carts would cost nothing and reduce damage largely, but simple solutions seem to elude management at WDW.
Also, got a free, unsolicited upgrade to a courtyard view.
Lots of work being done still on the outside of the lodge and on the bubbling stream that begins in the lobby and travels out to the pool. Some rooms were awfully close to where men were on scaffolding ... very bad show. Artist Point is still very good, but a step or two below WDW's best. Serving plain bread with plain butter just doesn't cut it at a restaurant of this caliber. But the potato-chive potstickers may be the best veggie entree I've ever had anywhere.
Swan is even more upscale with all renovations complete. The place is more subdued and less over the top. Beds are still better than anything Disney offers. And the pool area has to be the most underrated on fan sites ... guess that has to do with the lacking of 'Disney magic.'
Also, renovations to Dolphin dining locales are complete with the Fountain (a MUCH better version of Beaches and Cream) and Pikabu (former Tubbi's) looking so much better. Tubbi's used to be so depressing and felt basement like, but now is very colorful with rich, bright hues and fish decor all over. Palios is closed for good at the Swan with a new Italian bistro set to open in Spring '07.
Most of the trip was centered around three fall events: Food and Wine at Epcot, MNSSHP at MK and HHN's at Uni.
From an enjoyment standpoint, I'm very pleased to state that MNSSHP has moved to the top of my fall event list. It actually is getting better with each year, and with Disney ... well, that's saying a lot. It's also a fun family event that seems to attract a wide demo from parents with young kids to tweens to couples without kids, many of whom are costumed a whole lot better than MK CMs.
HalloWishes is a great seasonal pyro display aided with half-perimeter fireworks. The music is a bit ... weird, but overall a great show. Boo to You is an addictive song and a better (BY FAR) parade than the sorry 100 Years of Snowglobes Now Minus the Globes for Your Dreaming Pleasure. Even this parade, with the Headless Horseman, has been plussed this year featuring a great Pirates float led by everyone's fave fem Cap'n Jack Sparrow. And the final float for Goofy's Candy Company may be a blatant commercial for a Disney 'brand' product, but it's fun just the same.
Lots of great lighting, spooky music, projections and as many pounds of free candy as you can carry make this a GREAT event and one well worth taking part of.
Oh, and maybe it was my going on a weeknight, but there were NO lines of more than 10-15 minutes for anything. Most were walk-ons.
AND READ THIS ANYONE WHO SAYS I ALWAYS BASH MK CLEANLINESS (which I do, but that's not the point) ... I was amazed at the fact the park looked spotless when I entered at 6:45 despite the fact Disney has long since given up clearing the park of day guests opting to arm-band MNSSHP guests instead. No trash could be seen on the ground or pouring out of cans. Things looked very, very good.
Food and Wine Fest at Epcot was a fun excuse to eat, drink, eat, drink, eat, drink, eat, drink, and drink some more. But it is starting to feel tired. Too many of the exact same booths selling the exact same stuff as years past. Samples are also getting smaller as the prices get larger. If I'm going to pay $125 to eat and drink my way around Epcot with a companion, I'm just going to make a PS for California Grill instead.
The endless waits with locals to get a free sample of wine at a seminar or a tidbit of food also just doesn't seem worth it anymore.
The Eat to the Beat concerts can be a mixed bag too. Seeing one Beach Boy with some other dudes (no, not John Stamos) was really kind of sad. But Little Richard, bless his heart, gave the crowds their monies worth and then some despite needing a hand to get on stage. And Three Dog Night, who I had never seen before, was actually great.
That brings me to Uni's Horror Nights. I posted a full review in the Other Theme Park thread started by TDLFAN, but I am thru with this event for a while. What was a great event has simply been ruined by having a Frequent Fear Pass for locals that ensures an incredibly packed park overrun by drunk 20-somethings and cursing teens. The haunted houses are all tired retreads. And the Universal 360 show is so bad it makes MGM's Fantasmic look like the greatest show ever staged. Nuff said.
Now for some random thoughts about Epcot and Disney-MGM, the only two parks I visited for non-events.
MS never in three days had any posted waits longer than 20 minutes, which likely meant it was always a walk-on. Test Track was usually posted at 40 minutes with actual waits closer to 20.
Nemo, as I've posted in other threads, is a good addition but nothing to get excited about. This isn't an Everest or a Soarin. It's a solid C-Ticket. No more. No less. I do think it will be a big hit with families and hey, that's what it was built for, right?
I would have preferred an updated sea base with an added thrill ride and family component as was pitched to WDI. Instead we have a Nemo-themed aquarium.
Also, pretty much everything you've read here of late is true. SSE will be getting a major overhaul but will keep its spirit intact. Canada and Norway's new films should debut next year (Canada's in January). Mexico will go down soon after for the Three Caballeros overlay.
Imagination is still in limbo with Disney desperate to make sure the third redo isn't a disaster like the last two, and that means they're doing a lot of thinking about what's going to be done.
WoL's reopening took many, including Epcot VP Brad Rex, by surprise. But higher-ups want added capacity for the holidays with Nemo, Soarin and TT expecting huge lines.
A new film is being created for Soarin, although it may be one for the yet-to-be-announced but happenning none-the-less DSP ride instead of a completely unique one for Epcot, which will get it first anyway.
The on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-etc Epcot parade has been put off again as funds will likely go to the new Illuminations show to debut in fall '07 for Epcot's 25th.
The Steve Davison nighttime extravaganza for DAK is still on the table, but don't look for it before 2008.
OK ... enough from the CM/WDI/Insider grapevine.
Spent some time at the Studios and saw some good things merchandise wise. Sid's is once again selling a great collection of memorabilia type items and Hollywood-themed items. Keystone Clothiers has reopened after a major redo and looks terrific. The merchandise has also taken a turn for the upscale with a wide range of clothing and Disney watches for sale.
Star Tours looks and feels a lot more than 16 years old. Very tired.
ToT is so much better than at DCA ... I apologize again to anyone I told there isn't much of a difference. Boy, I haven't spent enough time at this park recently to realize just how much better and fully realized the FLA version is (and that's leaving out the whole 5th Dimension debate).
Saw Fantasmic again.
Wasn't at all impressed with Fantasmic again.
It's a commercial for 1990s animation. It doesn't flow properly. The stadium seating is a pain and takes away any magic, and the bought at WalMart boat in the finale really is sad.
Millionaire has been gutted and infrastructure for Midway Mania is being readied.
One great thing at the Studios is on Monday nights, the current EMH night, they really have a party atmosphere as they turn up the pop Disney music, add characters around and turn up the special lighting ... it makes the park feel so alive and joyfull ... at least until one looks at the BAH.
Great Movie Ride is still one of the best things about the park, but the finale movie really should have been redone instead of just removing clips and inserting Forrest Gump, Jack Sparrow and Marlin and Bruce from Finding Nemo.
Dining wise, I ate well. Thanks for asking. Despite a recent change in chefs, California Grill is still a treasure. The tamarind BBQ filet is one of the best pieces of beef you can eat. Captain Jack's in DD is a great, peaceful lunch spot that I hope doesn't disappear for a leasee, but fear it will.
Artist Point remains very good, but not great.
And Trail's End at FW is one of the best, hidden gems of Disney dining for basic comfort foods in peace and quiet. Great salads and soups and cafeteria quality entrees.
A sad note from FW though as the Petting Zoo basically doesn't exist except to give pony rides. No cows. No goats. No donkeys. No livestock. Just ponies. I guess the lawyers and the penny-pinchers win. And what was once a lively, but laidback corner of WDW just becomes empty.
Other negatives: Mansion NEEDS a rehab badly ... a major one. CBJ too ... Pirates as well. All of them suffer from one common theme -- terrible audio problems.
Lounge chairs at WL pool remained covered in bird waste for entire stay as they clearly don't wash them down at night.
Oh, and the fries at the ABC Commisary are inedible.
That about covers it ... If I think of anything else, I'll let you know.
All in all, a great trip even though the weather was HOT for October and even though I wasn't able to find time for DAK as I had to go visit old WL furniture at Mouse Surplus!
Oh, and I also spent some time with some very nice folks ... you know who you are!