Thanksgiving Day – Guest Post from Kris

Today we have something special! A Guest Post! Kris & Kevin (K2) joined us on Thanksgiving Day for all of our Adventures. Kris has beat us to the punch by writing up her impressions and thoughts. Thank you so very much for contributing!

Disney Does It Right!    🙂

I’ve been saying that for 25 years ~ and they are still getting it right!  Seems no one else can compare to their level of detail and perfection.  Disney Doesn’t Disappoint…

We had the extreme pleasure of having Nick and Nora as our “personal guides” in planning our awesome activities on Thanksgiving Day.  Their expertise with all-that-is-Disney made both our itinerary and our ease of getting around the properties a “walk in the park”!  Ha Ha (enough of the cute stuff…)

We started off with early breakfast at Kouzzina at Disney’s Boardwalk.  I don’t usually like early mornings, but the excitement of our day’s adventures had me ready to go.  We had a pleasant breakfast, in very nice surroundings and with great service.  Nick and Nora have already shared pics of our morning feast (here) … I was the one with the Bloody Mary!  Kouzzina has a very unique menu, which I liked, yet it didn’t have “weird” stuff on it that no one would eat – more like I wanted to try one of everything on it!  My waffle with the mascarpone was better than expected.  I’ve never had that combination and it DID work very well.  The Bloody Mary made a great presentation, but was a little too spicy for my liking.  I would definitely like to try more of their menu items in the future.  What I do appreciate most is the excellent, cheery service.  I can overcome just about any dining dilemma if the service is good.

After breakfast we took a stroll around the Boardwalk, just as sleepy guests were beginning to emerge for their morning brews.  We’re glad Nick and Nora like to walk! 🙂

OFF TO ANIMAL KINGDOM for our African Trek.  Traffic was light on this holiday morning and we arrived well ahead of our scheduled Trek time.  This was a great opportunity to see some of the wildlife before the crowds hit.  Nick and Nora’s expertise in navigating the park was very helpful since we only had about an hour to kill.  They were able to get us to some of the MUST SEE exhibits with no wasted time. 🙂  Be sure to walk the nature paths through places like the aviary – they are less crowded, lots of beauty to see and MUCH more shaded.

Our Trek began “behind the scenes” in Harambe Village.  Check in was VERY easy and quick.  Reservations were in order and all we had to do was sign a waiver.  Nick got a survey on how the reservation process worked when booking – so that they have feedback on how to keep improving. They had us store all of our belonging in a locker (the four of us shared, the lockers are fairly large), then we were off to suit-up for the Trek.  You do have to weigh-in before they cinch you into a vest/harness apparatus – don’t worry, no one else could see your weight except the guide behind the counter!

The harness was not uncomfortable, though the straps were snugged up to keep it secure.  There is a bungee-type strap that is used to connect you to the overhead guide wires or supports when viewing the animals from “the edges” or crossing the bridges.  I felt like a little kid with one of those harnesses that parents tether toddlers to so they won’t run off! The vest portion of the harness had plenty of pockets and hooks for storing any needed items.  Otherwise, you could only carry something if it was on a strap around your neck.  If you drop anything – consider it gone for good.  NO RETRIEVALS!

We had a test bridge to walk across to make sure we could handle the two on the Trek.  It was a perfect “Disney Bridge” – complete with broken/missing planks, shredded netting, wire cable railings, etc.  Unfortunately, one of the other guests and Nick both got cuts on their hands from an UNEXPECTED fraying on the cables.  Staff immediately inspected the bridge to correct the problem!  All of this preliminary preparation is done “out in the wild” – not in a sterile building.  Disney really likes thing to be (as they call it) on-stage.  Again, they didn’t disappoint.  The staff, as well, was decked out in their safari gear and were cheerful, helpful and knowledgeable.

Lauren and Chris were our guides – taking turns as the guide/photographer.  They gave us a quick briefing of our tour and gave us some Jungle Juice to hydrate before we set out.  Also provided was an aluminum water bottle for use during the Trek and you got to take it home!  However, they were not of the usual Disney high-quality. 🙁  Kevin and one of the other guests found theirs leaking.  But, they quickly exchanged them for new ones.

One thing to be sure of on this Trek is to have stable shoes (closed-toed are required) as you WILL be trekking along narrow, natural paths.  We had to dodge some tree limbs and step over many roots and rocks.  While it isn’t vigorous, you do have to concentrate on where you’re walking.

Our first stop was to see the Hippo Expert!  Hippos are Kevin favorite. 🙂  This was our first use of the lanyard – attached to a heavy railing behind us – so we could walk to the edge of the “cliff” (not that far up, but out of danger) to get a good close-up look.  Our Expert began feeding one of the hippos while giving us great tidbits of information not only about hippos in general, but about the personalities of the two (males) in the exhibit.  I use the term exhibit very loosely, as this really is more of a natural habitat than an exhibit.  We did get to see a rare display – one of the hippos took a “dung shower”!!  Now, you’ll have to go for yourself and find out what that is………… Or, just use your imagination. 🙂

More trekking and time to cross the first – pretty long – bridge!  You DO have to watch your step.  There are some “missing” planks – not to fear, it’s all “Disney wood” – what seems to be some kind of composite – STRONG!  We had views of the female hippo enclosure – though not a very good view of them across the ravine and a small waterway.  Then, a direct right on the platform and directly onto another bridge.  WOW!  You are directly over what seemed like a hundred VERY LARGE crocodiles!  They were all (except one) sunning on the banks and atop each other – one was in the water.  They were so still you would have thought they were concrete!  However, they did take time to yawn very broadly – yikes!  The guide told us they do that to cool themselves off.  We then got to be tethered again so we could look right down on them from a lower viewpoint.  But, not low enough that they could jump up and get us!  Very fascinating. 🙂  Even though I see alligators where I live – these crocs were HUGE compared to what I’ve seen.

We continued through the brush and our guides pointed out different flora and fauna along the way.  They also showed us “Disney jaws” of some of the animals that they use for trail markers.  They were able to open the jaws and explained to us how each animal utilizes the “tools” they have for eating, defending, etc.

At the end of the trail we were able to shed our equipment – all 6.5lbs of it!  Next on to a small safari truck to see the big game up-close.  While this part of the journey is shared with the general public – coming through on large bus-type vehicles as part of the safari attraction, we were able to pull off onto smaller pathways and stop to view the animals.  They provided binoculars for us to use and we were able to observe giraffes, rhinos, elephants (including new little baby ones!) and MANY other beasts at a leisurely pace.

Safari Camp was next on the agenda.  Perched high up on the plain, we had a superb view of so much wildlife around us. 🙂  We had quaint tables and chairs, complete with black/red checkered table cloths!  We were served water and jungle juice and an amazing lunch in double-stack camping tins.  I’m sure Nick and Nora will share photos!!  Lovely and light – chicken curry, shrimp, smoked salmon, a most wonderful hummus with mini pita pockets (and I’m not usually a big fan of hummus) and edible flower … and a few other things that I can’t remember right this minute.  It was a plentiful amount and very tasty!

After lunch we were able to stroll down a boardwalk to a lookout area.  Again, binoculars and telescopes were there for our use.  We were able to see the rhinos and even the lion as he lay basking in the sun on the grass among the rocks. 🙂  Everyone was able to use the REAL bathrooms – which were in true Disney fashion – decked out in amazing detail with traditional African décor.  Once again – they are always “on stage”!  Back in the truck to finish our day among the animals.

Upon our return to base camp, we were informed about how Disney truly helps wildlife across the world with the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF).  A large portion of the cost of the Trek actually goes to the fund!  We were then allowed to designate where we would like our fund to be used.  There was a choice of about 4 different animals or giving to the general DWCF.  We were then presented with “Conservation Hero” buttons and took one final group photo.

Now – it was time for some sustenance!  We headed out of the secure camp area and voila we were at the bar!  We imbibed on a little adult jungle juice and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through more of the exhibits with Nick and Nora at the helm.  It had already seemed like a long, event-filled day and we still had one more item on our list.  Back to get freshened up and off to the Irish Pub – Raglan Road – at Downtown Disney for Thanksgiving dinner (here)…..

All I can say about Raglan Road is YUM YUM YUM!  Again, I’m sure you’ll see pics from Nick and Nora – we loved it so much we were back on Sunday night for dinner.  Kevin is in love with “SMOKEY CITY” – a lovely smoked Haddock dish recommended by Nick and Nora.  Without getting into too much detail about all of the food –  the best items I had between the two nights we ate there were the Risotto main dish, brussel sprouts done to perfection, potato bread and the apple/berry crumble was OUTSTANDING!  My only “gripe” with the place was that they only had one (alcoholic) cider and it was Magners, which is the only one I don’t like. 🙁

Again, I must comment on the service!  It IS very important to us and it was superb!  Just all around friendly, efficient and downright fun.  We were most impressed when Kevin received his Irish Coffee (does it sound like all we do is drink, or what…) that it really didn’t taste like it had any whiskey in it.  He (almost as an aside) mentioned it to the waitress, not expecting anything to be done about it.  But, within minutes, the Manager was at our tableside with a fresh one that he had made himself!  It DID taste much better and impressed the socks off of us. 🙂  Now we know why Nick and Nora love this place so much.  We walked out of there with a full belly, a light head (we were taking a taxi), a cookbook and some tasty whiskey marmalade.

What a fantastic day!

Kris

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