Friday, October 21, 2011

WDW 40th Anniversary Trip Report- The Old Ball and Chain's Version

DisKrazKate is my wife and thought it would be interesting if I wrote a trip report.  To put my opinion into perspective, I would say I am not Disney Krazy like my wife.  Disney World is a great vacation spot but my ideal vacation is Hawaii.  Which as her loyal blog readers know, we went to Hawaii this summer and we toured Aulani before it opened. That being said nothing is better than skipping around Disney World’s Magic Kingdom with my kids.  There is something about the pure joy in a 6 year olds’ smile, being a goof ball with his Dad.  My position is, if you are there you might as well embrace your inner kid.   My first trip to Disney World was with my wife and kids during the Year of a Million Dreams so that kind of sets what my expectations are for Disney service. Our home resort is Kidani Village in Animal Kingdom, which we bought into 3 years ago at the same time our good friends did.  I believe my wife and friends had secretly planned the attack in advance, when they ambushed me into buying Disney Vacation Club.  I will admit this was the best thing I ever caved in on.  Having DVC forces us to vacation.  Even better, we frequently get to do it with our closest friends and family.

Before we even left home, the vacation juju was working against me as many people in my office were getting sick, and decided to pass it on to me earlier in the week.   So on the Friday before we left, I went to my doctor to make sure it was not something more than just a cold.  My doctor thought it was just something viral going around. Since I was going on vacation, she wrote a prescription for a Z-pack just in case things did not clear up by that Sunday.   We left on Saturday and by Sunday afternoon I still was not 100% so I decided to get the script filled.   After using my iPhone, I found that I could complete a form and have it and the script faxed to Turner Pharmacy.  Turner will deliver to the resort as long as the original script at time of delivery is at the front desk.  This was really convenient as we went out to enjoy the park instead of going to the pharmacy or waiting around the resort for the delivery.  When you go to pick up the script from the front desk, make sure they check the safe as they originally did not find my script because it had been placed there.

The author, his wife DizKrazKate and the RNAWAYMAMA extended family at Epcot
After an 8 day trip to Disney World where we stayed at Bay Lake Tower, the overall vacation was a resounding success and everyone had a great time.  We celebrated our friend’s 40th and we celebrated Walt Disney World’s 40th.  I think it will be pretty cool to say we were there for the 40th.   I consider the trip such a success because I helped convince our friend’s 11 year old to start riding Big Thunder, Splash, Space Mountain and Test Track.  In addition to that, my youngest was tall enough to ride all but Space Mountain and my middle child got to ride Space Mountain for the first time.  We now have a group of roller coaster junkies.

Look, Mom! I'm tall enough!
I do have to give kudos to our friend’s wife.  She found a great gift for his 40th birthday that we all got to share in.  While trying to find a unique experience at Disney to do, she discovered that you could rent a boat from Disney to go out on Bay Lake to watch the “Wishes” Firework show.  This turned into quite an adventure.  As we were making our way to the dock at the Polynesian, we came across a pontoon boat.  It had a banner on it that said, “Happy Birthday” and her husband started cracking jokes about it being for him.  That was not the correct boat, but when we got to the end of dock where our boat was supposed to be, it was gone.  After finding a cast member and some anxious waiting by our friend’s wife…the boat she had rented returned to the dock.  It turned out the party that rented the pontoon boat had some how made their way on to our boat.  The boat was beautiful, it had 3 bedrooms, 2 showers, etc.  The boat quickly took the 14 of us to about the center of Bay Lake in front of Cinderella’s Castle.  We just made it for the “Wishes” fireworks.  They piped the sound track to “Wishes” over the sound system on the boat.  It was absolutely spectacular to watch the fireworks from the lake.  After the fireworks were complete, we cruised around the lakes and also watched the Electrical Water Pageant.  Disney did make it right by cutting the price in half.

Arriving at the Contemporary Resort was a disappointment in contrast with arriving at Kidani Village.  At Kidani, they greeted us by name while at the Contemporary they just guided us to the check-in desk.  The Contemporary is no different than any other hotel that you would go to in any other city, which was a let down.  Over the course of the week little things stood out that made Bay Lake Tower look like it was poorly conceived and poorly put together.  Even though it is only a few years old the furniture looks cheap and it is already showing the wear.  The doors to the bathroom look like they were cheaply hung closet doors.  The very least the doors should have been true pocket doors.  The trim work that was added to prevent people from seeing you using the toilet looked very cheap and in one case was not even completely painted.  The wall behind the counters and the stove in the kitchen had some glass like or plastic surface that had obviously been damage at some point because Disney had hung some brushed metal on the one side and used 3M double sided foam tape to hang it rather than replace the damaged section.  Our friend’s room was missing an electric outlet cover.   I will say, I really liked the comforter that was on the master bed better than the one in Kidani.  My other big issue with Bay Lake was there was no way to get to the Contemporary without getting soaked when it rained.  Rain blew through the walkway and as we went to go through the doors from the walkway into the Contemporary water poured down.

Middle child coming down the water slide at Bay Lake Tower
By far the pool and splash pad at Kidani surpassed Bay Lake Tower.  The splash pad at Bay Lake Tower was a Mickey with 3 or 4 spots shooting up water.  Kidani has a slide, water cannons, several spots where water shoots up and other fun things in the splash pad area for toddlers.  The pool itself was fine and comparable to the pool at Kidani.  However, the steps leading up to the water slide at Bay Lake Tower’s again seemed like it was poorly put together.  Screws were only half way in and algae was growing all over the steps.

For our friend’s actual 40th birthday, we went to the top of Bay Lake Tower to watch the fireworks. It definitely gives a different perspective on the fireworks.  It is not quite as magical as watching it from Main Street USA or Bay Lake.  It was interesting from an engineering perspective, to see the different areas of the park where fireworks are launched in order to make the magic.  Our only big issue with the rooftop was there were mosquitos everywhere.  One might think that citronella or some other tactic could be used to keep the mosquitos away. I mean with all the engineering marvels that Disney accomplishes, one would think that they could keep mosquitos away from one of the signature selling points of Bay Lake Tower.

This trip included riding Star Tours for the first time since the ride was remodeled.  The 3-D version is fantastic.  The kids loved it, including our 4 year old, who got to ride it for the first time.  We were told there are 50 different versions of the ride so that is really cool.  Also every kid will be wishing to be made the “Rebel Spy”.  Our oldest got selected and has been talking about it every since.  So not to spoil it, I will leave it at that.

On day 7 of our trip was the 40th anniversary of Disney World.  I was signed up to run Mickey’s Halloween Family Fun Run 5k, but decided not to run it because I was still not feeling 100%.  I did rally and took my 3 sons to the park opening, arriving there at about 6:45 am for a 9am opening.  We were one of the first 1500 people in the park and were allowed to enter the park before the official opening.  We each got a wristband to buy something, we were not told what.  We made our way to the castle for the 10 am presentation.  I honestly thought Disney would make a bigger deal about the 40th given what the Year of a Million Dreams was like.  Instead, for our efforts all we got for free was a button, but pretty much everyone that came into the park got the button.  The presentation was fun but I am not entirely sure it was worth getting up at 6:45 am.

40th Anniversary Parade
From the presentation at about 10:30 am, we started making our way toward Frontierland.  On our way, I saw two lines forming at the Diamond Horseshoe.  One was for our wristbands and the second line was for those who did not have a wristband. By this point, we had heard there would be special shirts, art and pins for purchase.  It was only a half hour before we were to be let in so I decided to get on line.  The line was already 100 yards long.  Thus began the saga of waiting in line. Shortly after getting in line my wife had to head off to a Disney Mom’s Panel event at Epcot.  11 am came and went, noon came and went and rumors were flying that they had run out of shirts.  Even a couple cast members were saying it.  The line barely moved.  Having already waited 2 hours, I could not leave the line…call me stubborn, and I knew my wife would be very disappointed.  She did give me an out at this point but I was determined.  We finally got in the door around 1 pm.  I was able to buy 8 Mickey 40th pins, 2 per wristband.  I bought a handful of ladies t-shirts and men’s t-shirts for our group. There were some nice lithographs for sale and the artist was signing them.  Basically, you could by 2 of each of the special pins and then you could shop for shirts, art and other memorabilia.

My general impression of this saga was that Walt would not be happy.  First there were no kid’s sizes.  I am sorry but this is Disney World, it was made for kids and adults.  Secondly, we were told we would be let in at 11 am and it turned out to be after 1 pm before I was let in.  I know there was another couple 100 yards of people behind me.  My friend stood in the standby line for 5 hours to get the pins.  The slow line was partially due to small size of the space.  Disney had only 8 cash registers open and 6 were dedicated to the pins and 2 were for all other merchandise.  Cast members were being pulled from other parts of the park to help because there were not enough staff members there.  At one point, I saw someone in a wheelchair unable to fit between the cash registers.  As I told a cast member, I did not blame them but this was poorly planned.  I know it was by choice that I stayed in line but I never thought it would be that long.  The issues were clearly on management, that failed to plan.  They needed a larger space, better layout for traffic, and they needed kids sizes.  Also, Disney should have just given the pins out to the first 1500 people.  I am sure they spent more money on prizes during a week of the Year of Million Dreams then they would have spent giving out pins to the first 1500 people.  I also felt like there was some misleading information, because with the exception of the pins and art signing, the shirts and other memorabilia turned out to be the same at other stores including the shop in the Contemporary.  I am glad I got the pins for the kids but I felt terrible because they basically stood in lines from 6:45 until 1:30 pm.  I decided to cave in that night and bought the boys the Mickey pirate ship they had been asking for, because they had been so good in line.  I hope Disney figures out how to do this better in 10 years for the 50th.

The crew on Splash Mountain. No worries, the Grim Reaper is actually DS6!
The final fun story from the trip comes from that night.  The two dads took the 6 older kids to Thunder and Splash.   While getting on Splash Mountain, I decided to video the ride.  There were a total of 8 of us.  Three boys were in the front seat.  I was in the second row with my youngest son.  My friend was in the third row with his 11 year old son and his 6 year old daughter. The fourth row was empty. As we went down the big drop, I realized my hat was still on as it flew off with my 40th Anniversary button attached.  I heard my friend yelp seconds later. It had hit him in the face but for some reason he did not hang on to it =).  As it turned out, his son sitting next to him had left his grandfather’s Brewer’s hat on too, and it flew off as well.  As we entered the station, the cast member let us stay on the ride since there was no one else there.  I told the cast member that tweedle dee and tweedle dumb had left their hats on and lost them at the big drop and asked if there was any way to get them back.  The cast member said sadly no, that the hats were probably gone.  I was disappointed, as I had not only lost my hat but I had also lost the 40th Anniversary button.  My friend’s son was disappointed too, because he had lost his grandfather’s hat.  However, in true Mickey Mouse Magic, my friend’s lovely daughter handed me my hat as we left the loading area for the second time.  It had evidently hit her dad in the face and fell to her feet.  My friend quickly looked back in the fourth row but could not see the Brewer’s hat.  Again Mickey Mouse Magic was on our side.  Having gone down, the big drop a second time and as we exited the log boat, he looked down and there the Brewer’s hat sat in the bottom of the fourth row.

All in all it was a very successful vacation and I am looking forward to staying at our home resort of Kidani Village this February when South Bend is covered in 2 feet of snow.

1 comment:

  1. You have great friends! Boat ride was awesome..... Thanks awesome wife! Great trip.