April 2001 Trip Report: Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire--Play It!"
Dates: April 16-23, 2001
Transportation: Southwest Airlines (from Detroit Metro Airport) and Tiffany Town Car
Resort: Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort
Parks: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Magic Kingdom, Pleasure Island
Restaurants/Eateries: Jiko, Boma, more to come later
Other: This is a research trip to check out the new resort and new attraction. Most of our time will be spent researching in great detail and thus will go outside the realm of the typical vacationer experience. Thus, this resort may not make for scintillating reading, but it should be full of great observations, facts, and information.Updated 04/17/01
Day One: April 16, 2001
LIVE Report -- posted at 1:00 am (tired and bleary-eyed, but happy to be at Walt Disney World! Note: We plan to fill out this report later, as we have time, so do check back!
So, what is it like? What is it really, really like?
First, the flight down: We flew in on Southwest Airlines, which was a real change of pace from our usual airline (Northwest). We boarded on time in Detroit and found seats together (Southest is first come, first serve -- no assigned seating). After a brief, unaccustomed stop in Nashville to pick up a high school marching band from Cleveland, we arrived in Orlando, waited too long for our baggage, and courtesy of Daniel of Tiffany Towncar, arrived at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge by 4:00 pm. We had to wait a few minutes to get onto the resort grounds -- the guards at the security gate were refusing entry to anyone who wasn't on their list of registered guests and/or diners with priority seating reservations.
Our first impressions of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge: We were expecting an African cousin of the massively imposing Wilderness Lodge (only bigger), but that's not what we found when we walked into the lobby. Everything seemed more cozy and intimate than we'd anticipated. The vaulted, thatched roof is only three floors overhead, and the guest check-in area is tucked into a nearby alcove under a much lower ceiling. With its warm, stick bamboo and wood construction, the Animal Kingdom Lodge feels more like a cross between the Polynesian Resort and the Wilderness Lodge. Despite its 1300 guest rooms (more than twice that of most of Disney's deluxe resorts), you don't feel dwarfed by your surroundings. And what surroundings! (But this is a big tease -- we're much too tired to describe the decor at this late hour, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow's report for more detail on that!)
After checking into our room (second floor, savannah view), taking lots of photos, and unpacking, we made our way down to Victoria Falls Lounge to meet Deb (Wills) and her friend Linda. After some wine (Jennifer) and port (Dave), we went down to dinner. We had a totally enjoyable dinner at the Lodge's "fancy" restaurant, Jiko, in the equally delightful company of Deb and Linda. We sampled a wide variety of flavorful, inventive dishes and had a blast sampling an even wider variety of fine, South African wines. It's a wonder we can type at all!
Now we sit here in our savannah-view, king-bed room, looking out onto our own patch of "African" savannah. At the momehnt, the savannah is quiet, illuminated by the dim, "artificial moonlight" and moistened by automatic sprinklers. But despite these other-wordly touches, it's really quite impressive. We have a great view of grazing Thompson's Gazelle and a variety of storks and other large African wading birds. We can really imagine kicking back here at the Lodge and never venturing into a theme park. Of course, we are due at Disney-MGM Studios at 9:00 am tomorrow morning (yikes!), so that's hardly a possibility. Obviously, its time to sign off -- we'll have more for you tomorrow!
Next Report: Day Two