We continue on from Part 1, where we checked out Animal Kingdom’s holiday decorations, tried the excellent Ahi Tuna Nachos at Yak & Yeti Restaurant, and saw how colder temperatures affected the animals at Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Here about two weeks before Christmas, wait times remain reasonable.
Here’s a look at Expedition Everest in December:
We’ll take a look at wait times at other attractions, but it’s interesting that we see longer wait times from December 16th-20th than December 23rd-25th. It’s hard to say what December 27th would look like without technical problems and downtime, but the fact that the wait is already an hour by 8:45am doesn’t bode well for the rest of the holiday season.
Here’s Kilimanjaro Safaris:
It’s a similar pattern here, though wait times earlier in the month are actually longer than they are around Christmas. December 24th sees an average wait of just 49 minutes, which is shorter than 13 other days in December. The 10pm close on Christmas helps bring the day’s average down, of course, but even if you eliminate those two hours of 10-minute waits, the day’s average rises to 56 minutes. There’s still eight days earlier in the month with a longer average wait.
A look at DINOSAUR posted waits in December:
Things are a bit different here as the wait times around Christmas are longer than virtually any day earlier in the month. December 27th and 28th are not pretty.
Back to Everest, here’s some wide angle shots from a couple of rides earlier in the month:
And back to December 13th, I arrived with FastPass+ at 4:14pm to a 25-minute wait and was back out front at 4:25pm for a total experience time of 11 minutes. That’s right around average.
Disney has begun phasing out the after-attraction monitors that display the on-ride photos.
Whether or not the photos are going to link to my account and I’m eventually(?) going to be able to access them via the PhotoPass button on the My Disney Experience app, it’s still fun to get off a ride and search the screens for the right picture and see which bloggers just accompanied you. My estimation is that Disney is doing well selling the Memory Maker package and single image sales are rare, but there’s something quintessentially-theme-park about laughing with everyone else in the ride vehicle about the absurdity of what you just communally experienced.
The Cheeseburger Combos continue rolling out to Disney’s standard quick service outlets.
There is a considerable amount of “value” to be had if the burger is what you’re after – the Angus Bacon Cheeseburger alone is $13.29, which means you could rationalize that the drink and dessert only cost $1.70 more. Those on the Dining Plan can also pick up all three items for a single quick service credit now that only the entree and non-alcoholic beverage are otherwise included with each meal.
It may or may not otherwise be worth noting that Potato Soup has replaced Clam Chowder and Guacamole runs an extra dollar – it was previously included at the toppings bar.
Nomad Lounge is one of my favorite theme park additions from the last couple of years.
It’s an incredibly relaxing space with one of the better drink menus that you’ll find on property. I have a review of every drink in this post along with a look at all of the food that was originally offered and some more pictures around the lounge.
Here’s the current small plate menu:
While I loved the lounge’s atmosphere and the inventive drink menu, there wasn’t a single “small plate” on the original menu that I would have recommended anyone order.
This trio (read: three) of wings cost $10. Good? Sure. But that’s 30 bucks for nine small chicken wings.
Since opening, about a dozen different items have cycled through the menu, all of which the website has sampled at one time or another. This time around, I’ll focus on a couple of the “just added” dishes along with the dessert.
The $12 “House-smoked Kobe-style Beef Brisket Poutine – Steak Fries, House-made Mozzarella, Pan Sauce” wasn’t served particularly hot.
But it was a tasty blend of crispy fries, salty gravy, and little bits of overcooked beef. The gravy does make for a mushier situation and the soft mozzarella doesn’t work quite as well as your typical cheese curd. It’s far from the worst item on the menu, but it’s not necessarily a compelling purchase either.
The $14 “Tuna Tataki – Peppercorn Crust, Ponzu, Shishito Peppers” was not a particularly large portion, but the tuna was tender and fresh and the sweetness of the citrus-based ponzu sauce contrasted nicely with the hot peppers. It’s a good choice if you’re looking to nibble on a little something while enjoying a drink or two, but those nachos we saw at Yak & Yeti were easily 15 times more food for just two more dollars.
The $10 “Chicken Satay – Spicy Peanut Sauce, Cucumber Salad” was also served cold with a gooey, gelatinous sauce.
At about three dollars per skewer, there might be some value if the quality was higher. It’s not much more than a little bit of chicken on a skewer with an off-putting sauce. Again, your money is probably put to better use elsewhere.
Nomad is a good opportunity to grab a cheese or charcuterie board. Above is the $16 Selection of Artisanal Cheeses.
The $9 “Churros – Vanilla Crema, Chili-Strawberry” are apparently gluten free with five rods arriving in a precious little fryer basket. These are softer than your typical theme park churro and a lot more crumbly, but the spicy cinnamon and sweet sugar flavor is as pleasant as ever and the two sauces mixed together create a really tasty, fruity dipping sauce with a little bit of a cool vanilla flavor. I would have personally preferred more of a crunch – they are a little doughy – but it’s a fun, shareable dessert if you’re in the mood.
I do miss the old dessert, which was a fun and aromatic way to try a variety of flavors from Tiffins’ dessert menu.
I would reiterate that drinks here really are very good. These are two of my favorites with the $10 “Night Monkey – Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro Rum, Guava Purée, Mint, Coffee Simple Syrup, and Lime Juice with a hint of Cilantro” on the right. It’s incredibly well-balanced and a real sweet, spicy treat. Very smooth. Order one even if the description doesn’t immediately sound inviting. On the right is the $13 “Tempting Tigress – Russell’s Reserve 10yr Bourbon, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, Tamarind Syrup, and Lime Juice.” It’s a big drink for the money and mixes a healthy pour of Wild Turkey with the spicy rum-based liqueur along with the acidic lime juice and sweet tamarind syrup. Very good.
Here’s the current pricing:
At “just” ten bucks, the Night Monkey is a steal, particularly considering all drinks are made fresh.
Definitely consider a stop here to relax and rejuvenate.
Tiffins next door continues its constant menu changes with a new “tasting menu.”
While the “Taste of Tiffins” has been reduced to just two options at $28 each. We’ll get back over here for a full review soon.
Pandora – The World of AVATAR remains popular.
Na’vi River Journey continues posting a 60+ minute wait from around a half hour after Park open through Park close.
Here’s the chart:
As we’ve learned, the River Journey is much more forgiving in the morning than Flight of Passage. Here’s my last touring strategy post that started there after the initial rope drop rush had already passed. Still, the ride sees 90+ minute peak waits in early December when crowds are lower and 180+ towards the end of the month when crowds are at their highest levels of the year.
On this particular evening, I arrived with FP+ at 5:40pm and a 60-minute posted wait and was on the ride in under five minutes.
Here’s the chart for Flight of Passage:
With the overall average wait of 176 minutes, Flight of Passage easily sees the longest waits of any attraction at Walt Disney World. The 3-hour, 55-minute wait on the 29th should be the longest of the year. The 255-minute wait as early as 8am on the same date is not good and we may have the longest wait ever at 310 minutes on the 27th, Again, that is five hours and ten minutes. Not three hours and ten minutes.
The menu hasn’t changed much since opening back in May.
Kids’ Meals remain a smart choice for smaller appetites. You can substitute a small, refillable soda for the drink as well. We’re here for the significantly larger “Family Style Dinner” advertised on the left.
You might remember that I wasn’t particularly wild about the two specialty beers – Disney has since added the Orlando Organic Blonde Ale to the mix. It’s not very good either.
The $75 Sampler arrives with your choice of four proteins along with a bowl of each base and a pile of vegetable slaw, in addition to four non-specialty drinks like sodas and coffee.
Cast will carry your platter to the table for you.
And it’s obviously quite a bit of food.
Particularly in the steak department.
Here’s what a $13 Grilled Beef Bowl looks like.
Otherwise, there’s about six bowls worth of food here.
At $12 per bowl a la carte, plus four fountain beverages at $3.29 each, that’s about $85 worth of stuff for your $75.
One deterrent is that the food gets really cold, really fast as there’s nothing insulating the meat. Just a couple of minutes in, the steak and chicken might as well have come out of a refrigerator. I’ve never experienced that with the regular bowls. Another deterrent is that the platter comes with just two sets of tongs, which makes divvying up all of the stuff at the beginning of the meal time-consuming. You can’t really pass the tray, so you’re going to be doing a lot of plate and tong passing instead.
One other change is that the sustainable fish is currently cod, which holds up much better to the crunchy breading and tastes a lot better than the original mahi.
But the Sampler does afford the opportunity to try a lot of different combinations for about the same amount of money as four people would pay for an individual bowl and drink. If you can share a couple of refillable fountain beverages, then you may be able to stretch the food even further without much effort. The hassle of plating everything and the quick temperature drop of the food were enough that I would probably just get my own bowl on a subsequent visit, but it was kind of fun the first time.
I caught the 7:45pm performance of Rivers of Light, which was the second show of the evening. It was only about half full to the point where they were letting everyone in on the FastPass+ side in Asia:
There haven’t been a lot of changes made to the show since it finally debuted earlier this year. One positive move is that the shamans and acolytes walk down from the top of the seating areas to their boats as they did in the early previews. At least when it’s not as cold as it was on this particular evening when they didn’t. Also, the fire at the end wasn’t working, so an already-lackluster finale fell even further short. My opinion of the show along with a lot more pictures are available here and those thoughts haven’t changed. Some amount of narration about what’s going on would probably go a long way to making for a more coherent experience. People are probably a lot more forgiving on a cool night like this when we could arrive ten minutes before showtime and sit in the front row.
We’ll get back over to Animal Kingdom in the new year.