We flew out on Saturday morning from Manchester. Bit of a glitch as the plane we were due to use had a problem and left orlando a few hours late, but they swapped planes and thankfully, we were only delayed 30 mins which was made up during the flight.
We flew upper class this time and I must admit it was amazing. There was a queue at the checkin desk but they whisked us past it and opened up a new desk. They seemed to have all our details ready and so the normal typing of essays that goes on even with online checkin, seemed to be short circuited and we were out of there and up through fast check security. I dont know if Manchester was on a higher alert than usual but there were queues at all the security lines so having fast track did actually help.
Then through to the lounge. We're very used to the Escape lounge being snotty with us because we get access for "free" from the bank. They often say "we're full" even though we know they have a second lounge they can open. So I thought I'd try an experiment this time.... showed the bank access card and immediately a smarmy smile followed by "we're completely full", then gave in the upper class lounge invites. Sigh followed by "yes sir let me show you to our business lounge" which was across the way, same style as the "busy" one and completely empty. Anyway, once in there it was nice enough, bacon and sausage sandwiches were ordered and a variety of drinks consumed.
Soon enough it was time to board. Again upper class very useful in terms of boarding first. Once on and having turned to the left, it was easy to find our seats or perhaps I should say pods. We chose 6a/k which were recommended by Sir Slowhand. They were indeed great. Right in the nose cone of the 747 so no one walking past all the time. The windows were fine to peer out of but they didnt have any storage at all. However, not a problem since there's only 1 seat either side, all the bins were half empty. So that proved to be fine.
Once sat down, we were offered champagne, proper champers not the "sparkling wine" which they point out isnt champagne in premium economy. Also top ups were plentiful . It's a small cabin and before take off I think we pretty much knew every one else and we'd all decided to take full advantage of the champagne to the extent that the crew dedicated a couple of people to opening bottles and going round topping up. Needless to say, my memory gets fuzzy after this point
The UC cabin was great. Small, quiet and just exactly how flying should be. As everyone else has said, it makes putting up with anything less very very difficult indeed. Seat very comfortable with plenty of space and of course it folds down flat for sleeping. That's an interesting process in itself. The cabin crew come and press some buttons which unfolds the seat and reveals blankets pillows and such. So by the time they've finished, it really is comfortable and great for sleeping.
For the first time ever the food was "ok->good". I can't go for "great" because the menu had been suddenly changed and the new didnt seem as good as advertised. I had mackerel for started which was SOOOOO tiny I had to try not to giggle but in fairness, it was very tasty and a nice change. Beef fillet had changed to beef stew which was a fairly typical stew. Desserts very nice and the cheese tray/port excellent too. Throughout the meal, the service was restaurant quality. The table was laid, proper cutlery used and options offered and the passengers names used which is a nice touch. I couldn't actually eat all on offer, it was too much and in terms of drinks, at this time I had a couple of glasses of different wines to try, a glass of port, a glass of champagne etc. even I had to admit to being beaten and just gave up and went to sleep.
Flash forward to America.... landed slightly ahead of time. People warned me immigration queues were bad now, 3/4hrs, well not yesterday, it was completely empty and we were through in 10mins or less. Bags straight out first on the conveyer so that was immediate. Over to alamo, we'd done the savetime stuff and although it's often debated, we decided to try just going to the garage. They briefly checked and said yep long as we have the bar code we didnt need to go to the desk and directed us to the row of cars. We'd chosen an SUV this time but after going through the options DW, who enjoys driving in the states, liked a ford escape which although not really the same size as we ordered, was new and nice so there we go. It's actually a great car and we're really enjoying it, especially like the sirius radio.
Out of the garage we had full instructions from Wendy on how to get to the I4 and it was perfect. (basically comes down to north exit for as long as we could, followed by exit 1b). Through 2 tolls, onto i4 and blam all great.
So we had time to do a quick publix stop for fried chicken and onto the villa. The kind villa owner had arranged everything for us perfectly and everything was immaculate as it always is. Dumped the cases and headed back out for that 730 ADR at le cellier EPCOT.
Parked at the boardwalk as you all suggested and valet parked. Quick boat ride to EPCOT and to guest services where a very confused CM looked at our uk 21 day ultimate voucher and got totally stuck a few mins of explanation and all done, we received two RFID cards one for the annual pass, one for the 21day. These cards are proper plastic like credit cards unlike the rubbish cardboard APs were made off but dont have the expiration dates on, so the CM wrote those on. We also bought tables in wonderland which doesnt do much these days except "pay for the gratuity". It's $100 for AP holders but we'll save way more than that in tips especially since we'll be visiting victoria and alberts later in the trip!
Next to the park! I didnt see any old style park entrance at the international gateway they were all mickey heads with rfid. LOADS of cms helping people and despite having just bought them, all went well and through we went. It seems a LOT faster than the old style!
Le cellier on time for our 730 reservation although not seated until 8pm I was started to doubt we'd be out for our illuminations at 9:30 but still. We had the cheese plate to start with along with the ice wine flight (which turned out to be three rather strong dessert wines). Main course was pepper steak with au poivre sauce for me and rib eye with red vine reduction for DW. I'd have to say although nice, mine was total pepper overload. If I was on a snobby cooking programme I'd have to say that the flavours were clumsily overdone rather than being subtly applied. DW's was really nice though, the sauce a perfect companion to the very sizeable steak. LE Cellier was as ever packed and apparently still booked up 6 months in advance. It's another dining plan casualty in my books having believed its own PR and thinking it's the very pinnacle of fine dining which it sure isn't ;-) but still, it's a nice, if expensive, steak meal at the parks. For the two of us, with a couple of cokes and the small wine flight for one, it came to $145 as ever, you can get SIGNIFICANTLY more and better offsite but par for the course for Disney.
A nice walk outside and illuminations was just about to start so we took our spot and watches. Wonderful as ever and because it's christmas time, we had the extra five minutes of "peace on earth" which, if you've never seen it, is amazing and they seem to fire off more fireworks in those special five minutes than the other twenty!
Back to the boardwalk on the boat, and then back to the villa to sleep having been mostly awake for 24 hrs at that point
So everything worked out really well and I do think the upper class experience, whilst not worth the thousands they charge if you don't use miles, is great. Certainly easier to arrive somewhat relaxed when traveling that way.
Today we plan to chill a little. Maybe a mall later or a quick shop somewhere but no huge plans