|01-22-2013, 05:02 PM||#1|
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Royal Pacific, Swan and BLT review
Just back from 15 nights visiting Universal and Disney. We stayed 3 nights at the Royal Pacific and then 6 each at the Swan and Bay Lake Tower. It was a wonderful trip and we were very fortunate in terms of weather, with most days hitting the 80s and plenty of swimming. We traveled with a five month old and a five year old, and were joined part way through the vacation by grandparents and an aunt (they stayed at the Wilderness Lodge and loved it). I have a more complete trip report posted http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3052245 , but I am putting the resort parts here, too.
Universal/IOA/Royal Pacific –
I had not been to Universal in about twenty years, certainly long before Islands of Adventure existed. We were a little nervous that there would not be enough to hold the attention of our five year old at these parks, especially considering how much he loves Disney, but we are so glad we visited Universal. We will include it on our future trips. We loved our time there and wish we had stayed more than three nights.
The Royal Pacific was a great hotel. We had dinner the first night at the sushi restaurant in the lobby. We waited quite a long time for drinks - they arrived well after the food and only after a manager happened to come by and ask how everything was - but the setting was perfect for our first night and the manager was great. He chatted with our son about the Avengers, which was adorable. The public areas of the hotel were beautiful, staff were helpful and friendly and the pool looked lovely. We didn't swim while there but did watch part of a movie one night by the pool. We had dinner at the pool restaurant - the name is escaping me - during the movie. I had called down before going over with my son and the front desk assured us they were still serving and would be serving dinner until whatever time was posted, but when we sat down we were told the kitchen had decided to close early. The bartender was wonderful and was able to get us food anyway. We ended up waiting almost an hour all told, but we really appreciated the service. The only downside to dinner by the pool was that partway through the meal folks were smoking and we couldn't easily move with our food. We will just be more careful about where we sit next time. Room was clean and comfortable. We will definitely stay there again.
The express pass was an amazing perk, and we barely waited for anything (forbidden journey aside). There is more detail about our Universal/IOA experience on the full trip report.
Disney – Swan-
The Swan public areas were in great shape and the grotto pool was once again a big hit with our five year old (we stayed at the Dolphin once before). All of the staff we encountered were friendly and professional, and some were especially kind interacting with our five year old, who can be full of questions. We stayed on spg points in a resort view room with balcony. Our last room was an Epcot fireworks view room at the Dolphin (no balcony) on cash, not points, and the view was far superior from the Dolphin room. I don't need a balcony on vacation, and honestly this one was disappointing anyway. The paint on the railing was peeling and rusting and the balcony chairs were in bad shape (cheaper lawn style furniture that had seen better days). We didn't spend any time out there. The beds were very comfortable and we slept well in them, though our duvet was torn in places. The room in general seemed to need to be refreshed. I am not referring to decor - the room looked pretty much like the rooms on their website and our prior Dolphin room - but in addition to the state of the balcony and the duvet, there were lots of scuffs and even gouges on the walls, paint chipped, rusting in the toilet and on the door knob and hinges, etc. Nothing that would ruin or trip, but I expected a better level of care for the property, especially after our great visit to the Dolphin. I would have been more disappointed if we had paid cash for the stay, I think. These were not major issues but could be resolved with relatively minimal investment (or regular maintenance). I expected a bit more from Westin. Service was also a little sloppy sometimes. We noticed a dish of food that someone had left in the hallway when we went to the parks one day, and it was still there when we got back that evening. I did call room service to have them pick it up so no one would step in it, and they took care of it. The hotel provided a crib at no extra charge, and the fee was waived for a fridge for the room since we had a baby. Much appreciated! We signed up for the star points in exchange for waiving housekeeping. This worked out well, although when we did call to request a couple of things (coffee cups and garbage bags) they forgot the bags and then showed up over an hour after they appeared, around 1030, and knocked when the kids were asleep and we were in bed. Also, housekeeping was supposed to clean the room on one of our days and never showed up. We kept things pretty neat so it wasn't a huge deal. We would probably go back to the Dolphin over the Swan if we choose one of these resorts for a future stay. Using star points was easy and seemed like a good value despite the (mostly cosmetic) issues. I hope this doesn't seem like an overly negative assessment of the Swan. We did overall enjoy our stay there, and our son tied Swan for third place among his favorite places to stay at Disney; for comparison, he tied the Dolphin from our last stay - which he calls the triangle hotel - with Bay Lake Tower. (We also stayed at the Polynesian on that stay, and he ranked that second.) My husband and I agreed, though, that if we had stayed at BLT first and then moved to the Swan we would probably have been pretty depressed given the stark differences in quality/upkeep. Loved walking to and from the hotel along the Boardwalk.
Bay Lake Tower-
We drove our own bags over to Bay Lake Tower when we switched resorts and took that as a day off from the parks. We checked in early, around 11, and were told our room would be ready by 4, but it ended up not being ready until about 430, despite calls from us hoping up get in by 4 as promised. We spent the day by the pool as planned, but we had a dinner reservation at V&A that we were hoping to get to on time so starting around 3 I panicked a bit. We ended up being a little late to the dinner because of the delay but had called the restaurant in advance and they were able to accommodate. We stayed in a 1 bedroom at BLT, originally facing the interior/lake and then moved on the second day to a lake view room which had a view of space mountain, the castle and fireworks to the left. Really a nice view and a great space. I think these rooms are much more impressive in person than in photos. There was no remarkable wear in either of the rooms we stayed in, and in fact we were impressed with how well they have been maintained. We never heard a sound from any of the other units when in our rooms. The 1 bedroom was enormous and we really appreciated the space - and the washer/dryer! I think we did laundry daily between swimming and a baby who spits up A LOT. We used the pack and play provided and kept it in the bedroom, and our older son slept in the living room on the fold out chair, which he enjoyed. Mousekeeping was great. Bed was super comfortable. Our son absolutely loved the large jetted tub in the master bath and begged to have his baths in there. We didn't really miss having a quick service location at BLT as we could easily go to Contempo Cafe, and we also kept plenty of snacks and breakfast items in the kitchen in our room.
Elevators were a headache - we were lucky to be on the 5th floor so we could just walk over to the Contemporary to grab the monorail, but when we drove to other parks or walked to the MK, we had to take the elevator. One of the elevators in our wing was out on at least two of the days, and in the evenings one is dedicated to the Top of the World Lounge, so that left one elevator for everyone else. When we first noticed that an elevator seemed to not be working (we had been waiting quite awhile and saw only one operating in that time, other than the top of the world elevator), we attempted to report it to the front desk and were semi-rudely brushed off, told that there was nothing wrong with any of the elevators. A maintenance person stopped us a few steps away to say that we were actually correct and the elevator was down, and that he was in the process of trying to get it fixed. The same front desk person was rude to my husband on another day for another issue. We also had another person give misinformation about airline check in rather curtly, although I appreciate that that particular person at least followed up by calling to correct the misinformation originally provided (though no more pleasantly). This was very strange to me. In general, the staff we encountered at BLT were friendly and professional, and we especially had positive interactions with certain front desk staff who went out of their way to assist on matters, with the lifeguards who were so friendly to us and our children and the staff at the pool bar where we got snacks on a couple of days. It is also odd to experience unpolished service at this price point. I have never, for example, experienced anything approaching rudeness from anyone at, say, a Four Seasons hotel, nor from anyone at prior Disney stays at the Contemporary or Polynesian. We did have one less than stellar encounter with someone at the Grand Floridian, but it was only one isolated incident among many positive experiences so we ignored it.
On one of the colder days, we came back to the room early and hoped to watch a movie before heading back out for the Main Street Electrical Parade. The cables appeared to be missing from the DVD player, so we called down and were told someone would be up in 5 to 20 minutes. About 45 minutes later, we called to check in again and were told they would investigate and call right back. My husband and son gave up shortly thereafter and went to play in the arcade at the Contemporary. A little over an hour later I went downstairs to check in person on my way out to see if this could be fixed while we were out. The person I spoke with was so helpful and apologetic and got everything squared away while we were at the parade. Anyway, these service hiccups did not tarnish our stay and we really enjoyed the room and amenities. We also enjoyed using the Contemporary pool, but I think all of us thought that Bay Lake Tower slide was more fun
Our full trip report has lots more about Disney, including our meals, as well as our car rental and stroller rental experiences.
Hope this is helpful and I am happy to answer any questions!
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