(Finished!) A quick Jan. (WL concierge) trip: DH & I - the trip report (with pics)!
Characters: DH and I, mid-forties - no kids, yearly WDW visitors since our honeymoon in 1994!
Timing: We were trying something new - January! We've been in March, May, September, October, and December in the past. To be exact: January 24-27, 2008.
Day 1 (Thursday 1/24) – Arrival, Check-In, and the Magic Kingdom
Our morning flight on Northwest from Indianapolis to Orlando took off a few minutes late, but made up the time in the air. Unfortunately, there was a terribly bumpy, turbulent 10-15 minutes or so (that felt like an hour to me), but we survived.
As soon as we board the airport monorail back to the luggage claim area, it feels like our vacation has officially begun. Roger (of a recently DIS-banned transportation company, now apparently the Company Who Must Not be Named) was waiting there with a sign displaying our name. In all of the times we’ve used this Company Who Must Not be Named (at least 5?), we’ve always had Bob, never Roger, and so I was glad to meet him. We didn’t have checked luggage, so we headed straight out the door. My husband had tendon surgery in his foot in October so, even though he had the “all clear” from the surgeon; he brought his cane along as a precaution and to take some strain off of that foot. When Roger saw the cane, he immediately went to get the SUV and brought it right up to the curb for loading.
We were staying concierge level for this short trip, something we had never done before. :goodvibes WL is our favorite resort, so concierge was just icing on the cake. We stepped to the bell desk and told them we were concierge guests. Someone from the check-in desk met us in just a minute with all of our paperwork and tickets in hand. She escorted us upstairs to the concierge desk on the 7th floor where the concierge finished our check-in, explained the lounge and elevator to us, and escorted us to our room.
I’m going to just take a second here to voice a couple of minor disappointments with this concierge experience. :rolleyes: I know that this type of thing usually gets jumped on, so please understand my taking the time to express this slight disappointment. It didn’t ruin our trip or anything and I’m not mad. Just a little disappointed that, when paying that kind of money for a particular level of service…
I had mentioned when booking that we were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary – it was on the paperwork. I told the IPO that the concierge level was a surprise for my DH as an anniversary present. He knew we were staying at the WL but didn’t know about the concierge. When I had them booked our Friday evening dinner at LeCellier, I told them that was our anniversary dinner. I wasn’t looking for any kind of upgrade from our standard view room. I wasn’t hoping for free champagne or flowers or anything like that. However, I would have thought that somewhere along the way they might have mentioned our anniversary, given us silly anniversary pins, or sprinkled some confetti somewhere. However, there was absolutely NO ACKNOWLEDGEMENT WHATSOEVER of the event. Plus, they kind of ruined the documented surprise by calling our house the day before our departure and leaving a voicemail telling us to make sure we told bell services that we were concierge guests so we wouldn’t have to wait in line.
Our room was very nice. It was a double queen bed room with a woods view.
After a quick unpack and a snack in the concierge lounge, we hopped on the boat to the MK, arriving at the gate by 1:00 p.m. to the shock of our lives…
After waiting in a line about 20 people deep to order food at Pinocchio Village Haus, we found that there wasn’t a single available table available. :eek: Not inside, not outside, not upstairs. It was insane. DH and I sat on a bench by the door and ate our lunch.
There was a 60 minute wait at Big Thunder Mountain. There was a 50 minute wait at the Haunted Mansion. There was a 90 minute wait at Pirates! On a Thursday in late January?!!! :confused3
We waited for our favorites and then headed back to the WL, making an early day of it, to relax for the evening.
Day 2 – (Friday, 1/25) The Backstage Magic Tour and our dinner at LeCellier
First off.....HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!:banana:
So sorry to hear that the WL did acknowledge your anniversary and sort of spoiled your concierge surprise. I have to admit that I would have been disappointed had that happened to us when we were visiting the AKL. Especially as you mentioned when you spend that kind of money.
And it sounds like the MK was pretty busy for your first day, hopefully that changed as your trip progressed. I know when we went the first week of December we did not expect the crowds that were there. I think I prefer February or October.
Looking forward to your next installment!
Day 2 – (Friday, 1/25) The Backstage Magic Tour and our dinner at LeCellier
First off – sorry for the week between posts. It’s been crazy at work. The price you pay for a couple of days off!
I had booked the Backstage Magic Tour for this trip. For those of you who don’t know about this tour, here’s a link to information about the various tours: http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/tours.htm
(No pictures in today's post - as cameras weren't allowed backstage on our tour!)
This tour is the 7 hour tour that takes you behind the scenes at 3 of the 4 parks plus several support areas. It also includes lunch. I wouldn’t recommend it for a WDW newbie, but, for seasoned veterans, DVC members, yearly visitors, etc., it is a great option if you have a day that you can feel you can spare! It’s important to note that you don’t have to use Disney admission tickets for the day of your tour, as the group travels in and out together. Of course, if you’re going to visit a park after the tour, you do have to have a ticket of some kind.
The weather today was chilly at first, but warmed up a little when the sun came out. It was a breezy 62-65 degrees. Long sleeve t-shirt with jeans and a windbreaker weather.
We were up bright and early and enjoyed breakfast from the concierge lounge. We had to make our way to Epcot to meet with the tour group by 8:45 a.m. We got there early and waited by Epcot Guest Relations for the rest of the group. By 8:45, 22 guests and the guide, Nancy, had arrived. After some signatures and the distribution of neat in-ear devices that allowed us to hear her clearly no matter how far away we were from her (so she didn’t have to yell), we were off through the Epcot turnstiles. After a brief restroom break, we walked backstage and boarded the Disney Cruise Lines bus that would be our transportation for the day. The bus was very, very nice and there was a cooler full of bottled water at the front from which we were encouraged to grab a water whenever we wanted.
I’m afraid I won’t get all of the details right if I try to recall everything we did in the order that we did it, so I’m just going to try summarize what was included on our tour. Our guide, Nancy, was a long-time CM who was just wonderful!
I think these groups typically visit the American Adventure in Epcot, to see the inner workings, but AA is down for rehab right now, so we didn’t do that.
We visited the Epcot cast building, where thousands of CMs pass through every day. We saw all of their amenities, plus the costume area (amazing), a small tailoring area, and the room where they clean and restyle the character’s wigs.
We visited the Disney Florist and saw them making the gift baskets and floral arrangements for conventions, weddings, etc. Quite an operation.
We then visited a free-standing building that was specifically for show costuming. We saw small replicas of the princess brides’ gowns that we would see later in the day at the parade. We then walked back into this building to see where the costumes are designed and created. We even saw the large scale cutters and computerized equipment that allow them to cut out material for many costumes at one time.
We then headed for the Studios, where we took another restroom break and then saw the maintenance/backstage area for Tower of Terror, learning how that ride actually operates and what is done to maintain it. (I think maybe this was the substitution for the regular American Adventure tour.)
Next stop was the backstage area behind Pirates of the Caribbean at MK where we saw the building where the parade floats are stored. We got to get a close look at them, particularly how they are lit for the nighttime parades. A few steps from this building were the boats for the Electric Water Pageant. It was amazing how simple those are, if you’ve ever enjoyed them from shore.
It was lunchtime. I think the tour used to go to Mama Melrose, but, instead, they are trying something new. We headed to the Wilderness Lodge where we found several large tables set up in the Whispering Canyon Café. We had great, interactive servers. The food was wonderful (the all-you-care-to-eat skillets and a wonderful fruit cobbler). Several in our tour group hadn’t visited the Lodge before and were very impressed with the lobby.
Totally full, we boarded our bus and headed to what was, personally, the most interesting stop of the day: the Central Shops. This is where Disney builds, paints, and repairs everything for the parks. Ride vehicles were everywhere. Skins for audioanimatronic animals from the jungle cruise. We even got to peek into the audioanimatronic workshop where we got to operate some demonstrator versions and talked to someone who maintains and creates these wonderful things!
I think this tour typically also visits the warehouse where the holiday decorations are stored (across the street from the Central Shops), but visiting in January, this wasn’t a possibility, as they were very busy trying to get everything back into its place.
We boarded the bus and headed to a backstage area behind the Plaza Restaurant at the MK. We then went down some steps and found ourselves in the famous utilidors! (DH and I had seen these before on a Keys to the Kingdom tour, but it was interesting nonetheless!) We walked our way around the loop and came back up at the same spot we had entered. We then made our way down Main Street, where people were crowded to see the 3:00 parade. Nancy told us all about Main Street, forced perspective, and the significance of the names on the top windows of the buildings. Then, I was surprised to learn that we had a reserved priority viewing area to actually see the parade (something that DH and I never do since we don’t have kids and find it prime time to get on some of the more popular rides). It was neat to see the culmination of so much we had seen earlier in the day, i.e., the costumes, the floats, etc.
After the parade, we boarded our bus for the final time. We were taken back to Epcot where we were all given a special Backstage Magic pin.
DH and I had just enough time to grab a quick (10 minute wait) ride on the re-done Spaceship Earth before our early dinner reservation at LeCellier. Our meal was as good as always. We enjoyed it very much. It had been a long day though, so we decided to head back to the Lodge to rest and enjoy that evening’s wine, cordial, and dessert offerings at the concierge lounge.
Actually, even though we took no pictures during the day, I'm going to plug in some of my favorites of the Wilderness Lodge, including the amazing details of some of the light fixtures here for your enjoyment:
Day 3 – (Saturday, 1/26) Epcot and the Studios (in the rain)!
Day 3 – (Saturday, 1/26) Epcot and the Studios
We had intended to start the morning off at the Studios and even had a reservation for lunch at 50's Prime Time, but we were disappointed that we hadn't gotten to do much at Epcot the night before (we were tired and it was crowded), so we cancelled our lunch reservation and headed over to Epcot at opening.
It was very breezy and cool again with a likelihood of rain. BRRR. Why does 55 degrees feel so much colder in Florida than it would at home?
We got to Epcot at opening and I headed straight to Soarin' for a fast pass while DH rested his foot. He wasn't having trouble walking, but speedwalking wouldn't have been a good idea. I was in the first group of people to hit the fast pass machines, so that worked out great.
We then did Test Track with no wait, followed by the "less intense" side of Mission Space with hardly any wait as well. It was then time for our Soarin' fast pass! We were lucky enough to get the front row - the best seat for Soarin' with no view of people's feet dangling above you! Perfect!
We headed back to the World Showcase right at 11:00, starting at Mexico and working our way around to all of our favorites. It started to rain by the time we got to the U.K., so we put our name in for the Rose and Crown, waited under an umbrella on a bench, and were seated in about 15 minutes.
Spaceship Earth (ARMLESS!!!) on a dreary day:
After lunch we decided to take the boat from the International Gateway launch over to the Hollywood Studios. It was raining pretty hard by then, so many people seemed to be leaving Epcot by boat for some of the Epcot resorts.
By the time we got to the Studios it had let up to a light drizzle. DH determined that he was afraid he'd "brace his foot" and hurt himself if he did ToT or RnR, which are the two primary reasons for going to the Studios in the first place, so we took it pretty easy here. It was more crowded than we expected, mostly because the car stunt show had apparently been cancelled due to the weather and they had emptied out that entire stadium at once!:eek: Apparently several people had been huddled there under the roof(?)
We did the Muppets and Star Tours and walked through the shops before finally accepting the fact that the rain wasn't ever going to really stop and heading back to the Wilderness Lodge.
We actually ended up making a meal out of the concierge offerings that evening, as neither of us was very hungry. They had yummy pork roast with macaroni and cheese as well as some delicious minestrone soup. Coupled with the bread, cheese and wine, that held us over until dessert time. We relaxed at the Lodge, explored a little bit, found a wonderful seating area with a fireplace where we sat for about an hour or so. Very relaxing!
Edited to add that I met a DIS-er this evening! Known as Agnes on the boards, she had sent me a PM when she realized that our paths might cross. When she saw me taking pictures of odd things - like the sign outside the presidential suite, she approached me and asked if I was posting a trip report somewhere - was I Dodie? It was great! The first time I've ever met a DIS-er in real life!
Day 4 – (Sunday, 1/27) The Magic Kingdom and home again!
Day 4 – (Sunday, 1/27) The Magic Kingdom and home again!
The towncar Company Who Must Not be Named was scheduled to pick us up at at 3:15 p.m for our 5:25 p.m. flight home, so we had all morning and most of the early afternoon to enjoy the Magic Kingdom, our favorite park.
Having learned our lesson from the terrible crowds at the MK on our arrival day, we knew we needed to be there at opening if we had any hopes of seeing our favorites!
We grabbed our final breakfast in the concierge lounge, stopped to thank the concierge hosts, checked our bags with the bell desk for the day, and headed for the boat launch.
The MK was scheduled to open at 9:00 a.m. The concierge had told us that the boats would start running at 8:00 a.m. Apparently that was incorrect. By the time the first MK boat arrived it was 8:30 and there were over 100 people waiting on the dock and only 35 or so would fit on that first boat. It was FREEZING cold out there in the wind on the water too. Someone said that they had seen that the windchill that morning was near 30 degrees. There were some pretty unhappy people left standing waiting for another boat, I can tell you that. (This was our only transportation issue during our stay.)
We rarely arrive at a park BEFORE it opens, although we almost always try to arrive as early as possible, so it was nice to see the little opening ceremony at the MK:
Again, due to DH's ankle, it was our plan that I would charge in with the throngs to get a fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and then meet him near the Haunted Mansion.
This is what the Frontierland looks like at rope drop on a cold, dreary, damp Sunday morning:
Shocking! Isn't it?!!!!
We both loved the changes/updates to Haunted Mansion, which is our very favorite attraction. I was so relieved to see that they actually improved it, instead of messing it up.
We were able to jump on Pirates before using our fastpass for Big Thunder, which was great too. It was not nearly as crowded today (Sunday morning) as it had been when we arrived on Thursday afternoon. However, the crowds certainly did build during the day.
We were able to do everything we wanted to do with the judicious use of fastpass, including the Country Bear Jamboree, Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear, some our must-do attractions.
However, the weather forecast had really missed the boat on the weather today. Most people arrived believing that the early morning gloom and wind was going to clear up by 10:00 a.m. That didn't happen. You wouldn't believe the people buying up every sweatshirt and jacket in the park! It was COLD!!!
We had a great lunch at the Plaza (we'd made reservations via the concierge the day before). This is one of our favorite quiet spots in the MK.
Wouldn't you know it, right after lunch, about the time we knew we needed to think about strolling the Main Street shops and heading for the exit, this happened:
Yes. That's the sun. For the first time during our visit. Oh well. It made for a pretty boat ride back over to the Wilderness Lodge.
We got our checked luggage, grabbed a drink in the gift shop, and sat down in the lobby to wait for our ride. Bob from the towncar Company Who Must Not be Named was right on time (a little early actually), so we got to the airport in plenty of time.
Some final thoughts about our trip!
Some final thoughts about our trip!
It was, of course, wonderful to get away to our favorite place on earth.
Would we go again in January? I doubt it. The weather was just too if-fy and the crowds were far more than I had bargained for.
Would we stay concierge level again? In a heartbeat - if it was in the budget! It was wonderful to not have to think about what you were going to do for breakfast. It was so nice to unwind each evening with a glass of wine and a snack. Is it worth the extra $? I'm not so sure about that. It's a splurge, but nice. I wish they'd remembered that it was our anniversary, but, oh well. No big deal I guess.
Would I recommend the Backstage Magic Tour? Certainly to anyone who has been to WDW multiple times and is looking for something new and different to do. It does take a full day and it's certainly not "cheap," but it's very interesting!
Any questions? Feel free to ask!
Thanks for reading this far. I know I don't write "catchy" trip reports, but I hope this helps someone else plan.
I enjoyed reading your trip report Dodie. Thanks for sharing!:goodvibes
Thanks for the wonderful report!!!! We have been to the WL a couple of times but we will be staying club level for the first time this April. Thanks so much for sharing your report. I just love the WL and reading your report makes me want to leave now!!!:cloud9: :cloud9: :cloud9:
That tour sounds like a cool thing to do except your right about needing a day to do it. I was telling my DH about it and he said knowing me I would of come out of one of those backstage rooms sporting a costume--ready to jump on the back of one of the parades:rolleyes1 ( after 18 yrs of marriage ya really know a person huh?) Thanks again
Thanks so much Dodie for posting your little mini-trippie! I would definitely be interested in seeing the behind the scenes tour and the info you provided will be something I can share with DH to see if he would be interested. When we have watched the specials on the travel channel he always says, "that would be something interesting to check out some day."
And since we've stayed at the AKL and the WL is it's sister resort I would love to check that out too someday. Thanks for your opinions about concierge as that's something we've also considered but were wondering whether it would be worth it.
Thanks again for sharing your getaway weekend, and hopefully your next visit will be filled with lots of sunshine!:sunny:
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