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Old 07-10-2010, 04:29 PM   #1
ehagerty
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June 6-18, 2010 - BLT, BWV - Well Planned, Perfectly Executed!!

Introduction

Characters:

Our family (NY):
DH53 - karate instructor, facing major back surgery on our return; wheelchair for endurance
Me55 - project manager for global IT projects; loves planning almost as much as the execution
DS22 - started new job, can only come for 5 days; first curtailed WDW vacation
DS20 - works full time during summer; probably would have taken the time off, but has serious girlfriend and doesn't want to be away that long

Brother's Family (Ohio):
DB40: project manager for roadway design (roundabout, safe walks to school, converting public right of ways to trails, etc.)
DSiL(38): OB-GYN; met DB at Notre Dame = both played french horn in the marching band; carries her Disney mug wherever she goes; cheerfully lets DB do the planning and follows with enthusiasm (and without complaint)
DNc(9): Cheerful and charming; intelligent beyond her years
DNc(7): Classic middle child and my namesake; everyone comments on her eyes (you'll see)
DNw(4): Gentle, quiet, thoughtful

I don't think there is an easier family to get along with than this one. Which is one of the reasons I was more than happy to share a vacation with them.

Background: I am the fourth of nine children, DB is the 9th. I was 15 yrs old when he was born, so he is much younger, although the "gap" appears to narrow over time. He is the only of one the nine to live out of town - a whole 5 hours away, near his wife's family (it was a medical school decision). He is very good about bringing his family to the "family compound" (where my parents have a house attached porch and deck to my sister's house) roughly every other month.
Aside: A few years ago, DB was talked into a time share in Wmsburg VA. It was a classic story, and he accepted another "carrot" in the near future to go to another time share. Fearing he would be talked into it, I suggested he take the DVC tour with me in 2006 so that he would know a good timeshare sales process from a poor one (hard sell). He ended up buying DVC, and avoided the one in the offing. One of my contributions to his "buy/no-buy DVC" analysis was the comment that he might see more of his family in WDW than at home (Ohio), as another brother, uncle and I already belong. I think it has been working out rather well!
Anyway, the point of the extensive backdrop is that DB and I both enjoy the planning process. We shared schedules, ticket analysis, evaluated the cost-benefits of the various dining plans, must-do's, try something new's, etc.

As a result, he and I had our worksheets in our wallets for reference, but it seemed simple and easy to everyone else.

What you can expect in the coming threads - pictures and insights related to:
- Our first stay at BLT
- Alternative Dining, because I don't like the current dining plans, specifically 80% eating in the room, 20% fine dining
- Park planning when everyone does not have AP
- Spending the morning at Ft Wilderness, including Segway trail ride, pony rides
- Introducing DB and family to mid-afternoon breaks at the room / pool
- Victoria and Albert's - twice in one week (an experience I used to consider "once a decade")
- Date Night Dinners built in for DB and DSiL
- Family Dinners for my family

.... more to come

First Picture - Sunset from our BLT balcony:






.
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Old 07-10-2010, 05:27 PM   #2
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June 6, 2010 - Travel & BLT Check-in

Airport - Travel was, as is mostly the case, uneventful. Even the TSA process was flowing smoothly today, with no wait - just the usual pull things apart, put them back together and hope you leave nothing behind because even though we are leaving in the afternoon, we still did not get enough sleep last night.

Luggage - I checked a large bag containing mostly food (cereal, snack bars, small freezer bag with frozen homemade chili (which served as the coolant), multiple varieties of cheese, a week's worth deli meats (calculated per person, per day, per sandwich), 3 pounds of German bread (the only kind that can travel without changing shape), thin, plastic dinner and snack plates (studios only have disposable plates; previous attempt to re-use them on prior visits only confirmed that they are, indeed disposable); couple large plastic wine glasses I saw on sale the day before we left (love Wegman's), large plastic double glasses (I like my fluids and I like them cold, without sweating), Brita pitcher, laundry sheets (3 in 1, detergent, softener dryer - DSiL brought the same ones - great minds...) whatever we might need, that I knew from experience would not be there. This is a partial list - and we used absolutely everything. Weighed it at "50.0" pounds. I laughed out loud and texted DS20 about my perfect packing job. He usually pre-tests the bag-weight, but he wasn't there to help me.... So easy to leave the bag at the counter and have it show up in my room!

Ground Transportation: Getting from plane to mini-monorail still brings a smile to our faces, even after 20 years of doing it!

Once on the ME, I called my uncle, who retired and relocated to Kissimmee and works part time as Jungle Cruise skipper. I had shipped a case of wine to his Florida address a couple of weeks before departure. I have been very happy with the wine club and figured, for about $15 a bottle, for 5 adults (of age), for 12 days, it might be a cost-effective alternative to buying all beverages on property. I wasn't willing to risk packing and shipping in luggage. Another seamless idea that worked out really well!!

So, my uncle beats us - by about an hour - to the BLT lobby, as the ME does its usual ME thing - making multiple stops before the CR. If I had been reading the disboards lately, I would have taken another poster's suggestion and gotten off at the PR and monorailed the rest of the way, but I don't claim to have thought of everything!!

Anyway, DH heads over to BLT to converse with DU, and I go to CR lobby to check in. I was rather disappointed that I called exactly at the 11th month window, and I was put on the 4th floor (my only request was "high up"). The check in person said there WERE no studios higher than the 4th floor. I said that sounded odd - that I would not have purchased BLT if that had been known, since I usually stay in studios and I was not interested in always being on lower floors. I was annoyed, but, turns out, misinformed. Learned later that what she meant, but seemed unable to articulate was that there were no studios AVAILABLE higher up that weekend because they were all in use as part of 2 bedrooms, due to spike in reservations associated with gay days (they didn't actually use the term, it was the "knowing eyebrow indicator") - they were at 96% capacity. Anyway, I returned to check in for my brother on Tuesday, and they relocated me as well, to the 12th floor. The 12th floor IS the highest floor for a studio, as there is no 13th floor, 14 and 15th floors are villas and 16th floor is the public viewing area and bar.

Our 4th floor room faced the CR (and monorail entrance) and the GF. There was a corner on the balcony you could go to for viewing Nightastic.

Rooms are very nice - I like the configuration. I did notice that the shared sinks (kitchen and bathroom) create a little traffic congestion if you, like us, plan to use the kitchen more than most. Also left wondering how toxic the inside bathroom doorknob must be....

I didn't take pictures of the room, because I had already seen so many on disboards and allearsnet.

Anyway, DUncle and DAunt monorailed with us to Captain Cook's at the PR for some CS food (including Dole Whip and CM discount), then watched Nightastic from our balcony. I decided to just enjoy the fireworks and get ideas for taking pictures on future nights, as we were going to be here for 5 nights. It took a call to the front desk to get the channel # for the music, which was a little hard to hear unless cranked up loud (we assumed everyone else was doing the same). The balcony doors appear to be soundproofed (like Ace Ventura 1).

There is a lot to like about just BEING at BLT - more on that later. There were a couple of issues I think they will need to address near term (note to WDWGuestCommunications....).
Bugs - mosquitoes in particular - not love bugs, which are seasonal. The bright lights and proximity to Bay Lake make for a torrent of bugs. They fly into your room while you are watching Nightastic and listening to the music from your TV through half-open, soundproofed doors. These bugs bite and then splatter during attempts to kill them all before you sleep and get eaten. When we first walked into the room we wondered why there were so many "dirty" marks on a ceiling paint job that is so new. Before we left, we had added more - they were smushed mosqitoes, full of our blood. These short-lived bugs also crunch underfoot the next day - on the walkways, on the connecting bridge - despite multiple maintenance people vacuuming them everyday.
Car Horns - I'd forgotten how fireworks can set off car horns. Every night. Same car. As soon as I heard one, I remembered hearing them from CG balcony - but at 15 stories up, it is distant, humorous and not too intrusive. From 4 stories, it is loud, persistent and irritating (because you can't hear the music from your room). I think, on check in, it is reasonable to add a request to turn off the horn-deterrent feature as part of the parking permit / literature. I also think they should put a standard "notice" on car windows to the same effect when horns go off. One car was there 4 of the 5 nights - in the same spot (handicap spot, white paint, sunroof) - with that horn going off about 8 times per show. Fortunately, from the 12th floor, it wasn't too bad - so it was really only an issue for us for 2 nights.
Enjoying the waterslide at BLT






.

By check out, we had watched the fireworks from our 4th floor balcony, 12th floor balcony, front entrance to BLT, 16th floor viewing area. More on that later.
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Old 07-10-2010, 05:38 PM   #3
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Joining in. Off to a great start and may I say that the Sunset pic is stunning.
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Old 07-10-2010, 08:42 PM   #4
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I'm gradually being swayed to stay at BLT!! BWV is the only resort I've ever stayed at but the views from BLT esp from higher rooms are awesome!
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Old 07-11-2010, 10:30 AM   #5
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Various replies

Quote:
Originally Posted by goofy's_gurl View Post
Joining in. Off to a great start and may I say that the Sunset pic is stunning.
Thanks for the encouragement. Many more pictures to come!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by heaven2dc View Post
I'm gradually being swayed to stay at BLT!! BWV is the only resort I've ever stayed at but the views from BLT esp from higher rooms are awesome!
We'll be discussing the pro/con of BLT throughout the course of the thread - stay tuned.
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Old 07-11-2010, 11:11 AM   #6
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I am enjoying reading your TR. We stayed at BLT - Bay Lake View last October and loved it, too ! We were in a 2 bedroom it was great
having 3 bathrooms. One evening we watched the MK Fireworks from the
Top of the World. The TOW also has outside area to watch MK fireworks, also an outside area to see Bay Lake and the Electrical Water Pagent. We enjoyed watching the Electrical Water Pagent on the beach at BLT another
evening. It was nice to walk to MK. Great water slide pic !
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Old 07-11-2010, 03:46 PM   #7
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Joining in! I always love your reviews on the restaurant board!
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Old 07-12-2010, 07:38 AM   #8
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Hopping on Board!!!

Can't wait to hear all about it....we are planning on going just about that time next year and would love to know what its like then!!
Great pics by the way............
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Old 07-12-2010, 07:16 PM   #9
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Monday - Magic Kindgom, Dining at Chez 7418 (our room) and California Grill

Our first full day was for DH and I, alone, before the extended family started congregating.

We've experimented with different ticket options, but have mostly been PAP holders, especially since they started offering the DVC discount. However, when planning this trip, it was time to re-purchase (we never "re-up"), as our passes expired last June - or decide a different ticket strategy was needed, as we have no "next" vacation planned at WDW, at least not in the next calendar year (fear not, DCL is getting our business....). I had to get re-oriented to the whole park-hopper-options-pricing - which my co-planner (DB) had already done and supplied. We compared frameworks, and I proceeded to buy 2 10 hoppers/water with expiry for DS22 and DS20 and one 10 day no expiry, with water parks (which I later converted to expiry) for DH. I have an PAP, as I have had weekend opportunities with work trips, and someone has to have an AP to get TiW.

Our BLT trip segment is focused on parks, restaurants and other activities that can be accessed with local, Disney transportation (monorail, boats, walking), specifically, MK, Ft Wilderness, CG and VnA.

Normally, I take pictures - and lots of them. I usually tell the people I am walking with to "keep going, I'll catch up with you" and stop for my shot. Not so much this trip. I was pushing a wheelchair the entire time we were out of the room. I stopped a couple of times, but the overhead of stopping the wheelchair, getting my camera out of the bag, putting it back in the back and getting the chair's momentum going took a little of the simplicity out of the experience. I tried leaving it out of the bag, but banged in on the wheelchair handles a couple of times before deciding I didn't need any pictures THAT much.

This trip then, most of the pictures will be where the wheelchair was not a factor - in a pool, at a restaurant - or when the kids were just too cute to miss the opportunity.

The other down side of fewer pictures is that I don't take notes. I count on pictures to jog my memory.

I do recall that this day was the second "unseasonably warm" day in a row. The temperature and humidity were more like August, which returned to "normal" June weather in a couple of days. Just another factor in being more likely to seek air conditioning than pictures. There's Florida-June-Hot, there's Florida-August-Hot - but nothing quite like Florida-August-pushing-a-wheelchair-hot. 100% saturation.

Activities - Magic Kingdom
Pushed DH in wheelchair from BLT to MK, where I'm sure we enjoyed some old favorites and street entertainment, before wheeling back to shower for dinner at CG.

Dinner - California Grill
We are big fans of CG, but have not eaten here recently. Our table was in the Wine Room - a quiet room in the southwest corner of the dining room. It seemed to be populated with an older, quieter crowd - less hectic than the main dining room, with a different view:

The view from the wine room, overlooking Bay Lake:






Chef Michael and Floor Manager Sara were on hand to chat and provide an amuse bouche - a soup with spring, green vegetables. Sara was very charming and stopped by frequently to chat.


Chef & Sara:






Amuse Bouche
Chilled cucumber, curry, lobster, watercress oil (according to some scribble notes I found on my menu here in my Ziploc bag of documents) - this was very yummy - perfect, subtle blend. I use curry - just a half-pinch - in my pan-searing flour for scallops - makes for a perfect "mystery note"....






Bread & Butter






Fried Crab and Corn Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Summer Squash Slaw, and Remoulade





...with a close up






I elected to have Yoshie's Deluxe Sushi Platter (Maki and Nigiri)






DH chose the Seared Bison with Zellwood Sweet Corn Risotto, Fiddlehead Fern, Wild Mushrooms, and Cherry Demi



I went from never hearing of Fiddlehead Ferns before, to having them twice in a few weeks AND reading about them in Cook's Illustrated magazine AND the seeing them for sale in the produce section of Wegman's.


For dessert, we shared this strawberry delight






When I first saw the dessert plate, I thought "Hey, that reminds me of pastry Chef Jeff and the February Wave Strawberry dinner" - pretty sure they said he created this as well. He does great work.

Click on links below to see the Wave's TiW February Dinner
Strawberry Dessert link


The entire meal was as satisfying as ever. There are fewer pictures than usual because
- There are fewer of us eating (2 instead of 4)
- Those of us are ARE eating, eat less than we used to. We weigh a little less to, so it is OK
- Dining plans don't suit us, so we don't automatically have multiple courses
The room was a nice change-up and quiet. It lacks the drama of the view and sunset (and lighting for pictures), but if it is "quiet" you seek, it is nice to know it probably available for the asking.

After dinner, we wheeled back into the MK to see Nightastic from the locus of the show, Main St. I have a couple of pictures on a future post. This is all I have for today, as we were leaving.






Thank you all for following along. If you have specific questions, let me know and I will try to weave responses into the narrative!
.
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Old 07-12-2010, 08:39 PM   #10
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Wow ! Awesome food pics !
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Old 07-12-2010, 10:08 PM   #11
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I love your food reviews and pics. Thanks for sharing.
You had mentioned Sabres and Wegman's before
we may live in the same area.
Keep up the great TR.
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:27 AM   #12
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Joining in.
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:55 AM   #13
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Tuesday - Relaxing & Dining at BLT

This will be a short post. I don't have a lot of words to describe relaxation - kind of like my Florida cousin when she saw snow for the first time (this was the 60's) - it was "cold and wet". Relaxation is kind of like "unplanned, not-working." I'll provide what I can....

Working with our new park-hopper status, we elected not to "burn" a park day today. With a new resort to explore and enjoy, we just stuck with BLT.

As my brother's family was flying in this evening, I went to the CR lobby to pick up my brother's room keys, because I knew he would be arriving right around fireworks time and I wanted to save him the lobby stop. During the course of the conversation, I was offered the room move for myself ("higher up," remember?). Initially, I wavered, because of the whole repacking, unpacking thing. But DH encouraged the move so that we would be happier with the view and be on the same floor as my brother. It only took about 15 minutes and was well worth it.

I'm sure breakfast included Cracklin' Oat Bran - that most versatile of cereal - works in bowls with milk, easy to pack in Ziplocs for snacks. Even passes for dessert on occasion because it looks like mini-cookies and contains cinnamon. Brought my coffee and cinnamon chunks from home. Brewed some tea in room for lunch (brought tea bags and inexpensive plastic pitcher from home).

Lunch - sandwiches. Dinner - homemade chili (now thawed), and cheese plate (5 yr cheddar, Emmanthal, apricot stilton - and some others) - and a bottle of the cased wine (a "summer selection") with my DU and DA. I am not recounting room meals because they were spectacular, but because I'd forgotten how easy it is to pack a checked bag with good food - enough so that we only ate out a couple of times this week.

During the early 90's, shortly after we bought DVC (and had access to studio kitchen), I discovered that, if I reduced my food spending, we could go to Disney twice a year instead of once (the cost of dining out offsetting the price of a second set of airplane tickets). That was our strategy until I discovered food coupons in 2001. Coupons morphed into DDP - which we used for a couple of years - until you have to pay the tip out of pocket. At that point, maximizing the food selections also maximized out of pocket tipping, which no longer showed much of a break-even when compared to TiW - once that became available to AP holders. Reason for long story? Encouraging others to experiment with this approach.

Anyway, that was some "filler" thinking, as I have few pictures for this day

What pictures I DO have, are us RELAXING in the BLT pool, with my Canon D10 water camera (2009 - camera people usually want to know):

DH, in pool, facing BLT






DH, in pool, facing BLT water slide






DH enjoying slide






DH, underwater, without goggles






And that's all she wrote about relaxation.




After our relaxing dinner, in the our new room, on the 12th floor, we went down the hall to my brother's room - probably THE ideal studio view in the entire resort. DB called from airport and we positioned ourselves to be able to watch both Nightastic from DB's balcony AND arriving ME buses. I told my brother "no need to go to CR lobby - just head over to BLT - we are already in your room." Fireworks just started as the bus pulled in. I went down to BLT portico as they ran toward the resort and we watched the fireworks from THAT vantage point. Cool moment.

Took a couple of moments to appreciate the lobby and get oriented, then right up the elevator. Once off the elevator, you get a nice night-time view of the lights around the pool from the hallway - kid-quote "awesome."

As we entered the room - with curtains wide open, and MK lit up, I hear DSiL murmur "awesome." Moments later, DB comes in and quietly says "outstanding."
Aside: In case it is not obvious, we are relatively quiet people.
DH and I had debated which room to take, as we were moving into both rooms on the same day. Should we keep the "great view" room - or let DB's family have it? In that moment, I knew we had made the right decision.

We resisted the inclination to go for a late night swim, knowing we had a FULL day planned for tomorrow, one that starts early. For THAT day, I have MANY pictures.


p.s. Odd thought I just had - last and only time I actually wrote a TR was when I had major surgery in 2003 (pre-dates my digital camera, so it is very descriptive and wordy - but it is still out there on the DIS somewhere). This report coincides with DH major surgery (week we got back from vacation). More on all that later, but apparently we have to have a surgical recovery to have enough time to do a TR.

p.p.s. Wegmans? Sabres? Thursday in the Square? Free concerts at Artpark, Gateway, Albright, etc? Yes, I'd say we are neighbors!! We're almost neighbors with 1000happyhaunts, too, although I've never met her!
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:30 AM   #14
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Love your pics! Great shots of you and hubby coming down the slide I just love it when you get the reaction you hoped for when someone sees an awesome view for the first time. I remember in December 2008 I had a boardwalk view and was there four days before my DD and DGS arrived. I decorated the room with Christmas lights and also the balcony. I had the curtains shut so when they arrived, it was like opening a curtain to a grand event - she was in awe. I can't wait until my next trip as we are getting a boardwalk view again and it will be my youngest 2 sons' first trip and I can't wait for them to see the view!
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:11 AM   #15
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Yes Wegman's, Sabres, Thurs. in the Sq., Art Park, Albright, Taste of Buffalo,
Allentown Art Fest. Hope the surgery went well for your husband.
Did not know 1000HappyHaunts lived near. Your comment about
V & A twice - loved the pics. We have never been there. Our next trip is in October. Staying at BVC for the first time. Son is a Marathon runner.
He has finished at WDW several times. Daughter is in training. They
decided to enter the Food & Wine Half Marathon Relay this October.
She is doing the shorter part of the relay. It is new at WDW this year and it is at night ending in Epcot with a post party after. Should be a good time.
Take care.
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