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Old 08-04-2011, 09:25 PM   #1
magicbob
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First Trip Report

First report, not first trip.

Cast: Me, DW, DD21, DS14.

I'll start off by saying that my family deemed this the "Best Disney trip ever!"

This was our 25th Wedding Anniversary celebration, so I did splurge a little and surprised the family with lots of little extras. This was also possibly our last real "family" trip since my daughter will be graduating college next spring and striking out on her own.

This was also the first time we stayed on-site. I have family in the area, so we typically visit family and then go for a day or two with a 1-night stay at a cheap off-site hotel. We stayed 7 nights at All-Star Movies (23-30 July). I felt like a value resort was a good first stay option and I knew everyone would like the theming (which they did).

DAY ONE

Arrived around noon. Check-in was quick and smooth. We were in Fantasia Building 5 in a newly refurbed room. Arrived to find a towel mickey on the bed (which I hadn't prepped anyone else for, so it was a big surprise to them).

We grabbed a bite to eat at the food court (not a very memorable meal but good and also convenient), then swam at the pool. I had prepared myself for the worst given all the BTG threads, but the resort and pool were not crowded at all. In fact, we saw only about 3 BGTs at the parks. They seemed to be mostly family groups, not unaccompanied teens. The teens we did see were well-chaperoned and no behavior problems.

I lucked out with a free dining pin after I booked this trip, and I opted to pay the upcharge for TS DDP. I crunched the numbers and, since I wanted to do a few special meals anyway, I would have spent as much if we paid for those meals and scrimped the rest of the week. We had dinner at 1900 Park Fare. Cinderella, Prince, Stepmother, and Stepsisters were cute. Server brought us "autographed" placemats because we had our anniversary buttons on and also a cupcake with a candle at dessert. If we had not been on free DDP or I had paid $150 for that meal, I probably would not be too happy with it though. Food was just ok. Even if we opt for DDP in the future, I doubt we'll go back there. DD21 loved walking around GF, though. She really liked the elegant, victorian style of the resort.


DAY TWO

Next morning we hit MK at RD. Got on most of the "must do" rides before lunch. Ate at Columbia Harbor House ( a favorite lunch spot for us). Then we went back to the resort and swam/relaxed for a few hours. We returned to MK around 6pm. Did some shopping, etc. until dinner at CRT.

I'd had reservations (not the good kind) about eating here, because my kids (even the grown DD) are kind of picky eaters and I'd also heard that the overall experience can be disappointing (food quality, noise, rushed, etc.). We had eaten in the castle 15+ years ago (before Princess meals) and DW really wanted to go back, so I just took the plunge and made the reservation (the good kind!).

Well, everyone LOVED it. We got a nice table pretty close to the windows, so had a nice view of the carousel, etc. The server explained that our table was the first that each of the Princesses would be visiting, so each time one was introduced, we didn't have to wait for them to make the rounds. Even my teenage son was a good sport about talking to the Princesses and getting pictures made.

Full disclosure: we are not food snobs. Granted, I despise McDonald's, but we're quite happy to eat at places like Olive Garden or Applebee's. I often see people deride these chain restaurants (along with WDW restaurants), but we find places like that to be quite tasty and just fine for an evening out. If you are a food snob, I guess you can take my positive food reviews with a grain of salt. I will also say that the DDP allowed everyone to go hog wild and order whatever they wanted, including MANY desserts. We typically scrimped on food in the past to keep cost down, so splurging on many nice meals went over great with the family. Happily, something went off in my kids' heads recently and they have started to be much more adventurous in their eating habits, so I didn't have issues with them being unable to find things they would eat on any of the menus.

DD and I had the roast beef, which was very good. Not overcooked... a nice medium. DW had the cobia (fish). She said it was delicious. DS had fried chicken (not too adventurous on this meal).

DW and I had the dessert sampler. Although they are very small portions, a taste of three different yummy desserts was plenty filling. DD had just the mouse and DS had ice cream. They also brought us an anniversary cupcake, which we donated to DS to go with his ice cream. We didn't feel rushed at CRT at all. It was a little loud at times with all of the young kids, but we enjoyed not only our family’s interactions with the Princesses, but also getting to see some of the little ones reactions around us.

After dinner, we watched Magic, Memories, and You (WOW!!!) and Wishes. Then rode some more stuff. The park was open for EMH until 3 am, but around 1 am, I called it a night and we headed back to the resort.

DAY THREE

We slept in the next morning until almost lunch time. Then went over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and grabbed lunch at Mara. DS had a cheese flatbread. I had veggie flatbread. DW had African Stew. DD had (most of) a half rotisserie chicken. All was quite tasty! I knew we had to try the infamous Zebra Domes for dessert. GREAT! In fact, we ate at Mara again at the end of the week to get some more.

After lunch we toured AKL a bit, looked at animals on the savannah and spoke for a while with a couple of CMs from Botswana. I have to say, one of the few negative things for this trip was the heat and humidity! I grew up near WDW, and we've been there in the summer many times in the past, but several days were almost intolerable heat and humidity, even for me.

In the afternoon, I took family over to tour and shop at Polynesian. Then I surprised them by renting SeaRaycers and boating on 7 seas lagoon. Everyone had a blast! I rode with DS, so he could drive the boat, which was thrilling for him.

We continued our resort hopping that evening with dinner at Yacht Club (Captain's Grille). DW and I had the market fish (Salmon flown fresh from Scotland). Salmon was TO DIE FOR! DS and DD both had Steak. They were really jazzed about the fact that, not only was the food great, but that they were actually allowed to order a $30 steak!!!! Thanks again, Free DDP. Desserts there were also wonderfully decadent.

DAY FOUR

Visited DHS. Arrived well before RD, which put us near the front of the TSM dash. I grabbed FPs for later and we rode standby with little wait. Rode the new Star Tours three times throughout the day (got to see almost all of the sequences).

I had a lunch ADR for Sci-Fi, but no one was really that excited about the menu, and we were hungry before then, so we ate lunch at Pizza Planet. The kids liked their pizza (I recall that it seemed kind of bland a few years back when we ate there, so I had a meatball sub, which was ok). We got Rice Krispie treats for dessert, but saved them for later. Then we went to Sci-Fi at our ADR time and just got milkshakes.

We rode the rest of the rides and saw the shows at DHS. It's honestly our least favorite park, but we did want to see TSM and the new Star Tours. Plus my kids had never seen Indy Stunt Show, which they enjoyed. We didn't bother with F! Been there, done that (and didn't care to stand for 90 minutes and fight the crowds). Instead, we left early to get dinner over at the Port Orleans food court.


INTERLUDE:

A little hiccup with our trip: On the morning of Day Four, I noticed water dripping from the ceiling over the vanity/sink area. I called maintenance to report it. I was worried that maybe someone upstairs had left the tub overflowing, flooded the bathroom, etc. (maybe it was those darned broomsticks!). I figured they would go upstairs, turn off the water, mop up, drip stops, problem solved. Well, we get a call saying to stop by the front desk when we get in.

We stop at the front desk and I’m told we have to move because of the water damage to the room. YIKES! I’m thinking there was just a little drip when I left, did things get worse while we gone? I really don’t like the location of the room they want to move us to, and DW has gone back to the room and called to let me know there’s no significant water damage, just a tiny water stain on the ceiling near the sink where the drip was. So I’m asking “Is this move mandatory, because we’d rather stay put.” Well, they had already changed the room in the system and said they would have to reprogram our KTTWs, etc. At this point, I’d been at the front desk for 30-45 minutes and I told the manager that we really would like to go get some dinner. She told us she needed more time to get the KTTWs straightened out, so we wouldn’t be able to use our DDP. Instead, she said to bring her the receipt and she would reimburse me (and that meal would not count against our DDP). This was good because it gave us an extra meal for the day we checked out. So we ate at Sassagoula (not great, but ok… I’ve had Beignets at Café DuMonde in N.O. over the years and these had a funny taste. Maybe it was the kind of oil they use). Oh, well. It was a “bonus” meal, so no harm done.

We get back from dinner and the manager tells me the KTTW are not ready. Some kind of error code is coming up. Well, it occurs to me… I had the 2-day tickets that were on them removed by guest services and exchanged them for paper Armed Forces Salute tickets. So I tell her about that and she agrees that’s probably why the computer won’t cooperate. Well, at this point it’s pretty late and we can’t get into our room. But I’m not letting this spoil my good mood.

This was a fairly big inconvenience, but we lucked out and got a pretty great pixie dust compensation for it. After fiddling another 10 minutes or so with the computer the manager says, “I’m just going to rebook you.” Well, in order to rebook, she had to add 2-day tickets back to KTTWs. She tells me those are no charge (this is almost $700 worth of tickets). The DDP was also reset for the four nights. We technically lost 3 snacks, because we hadn’t used many. But we had used a bunch of TS (including 2 credits apiece for CRT), so resetting DDP ended up giving us 4 extra TS and 4 extra QS credits (I felt that 2 extra meals for all four of us was a fair trade for 3 snack credits).

So, for our trouble we ended up with about $900 worth of meals and tickets for free.

We found out later that the rooms on the floor above had pretty bad carpet damage (hopefully not brand new refurb carpets) and those guests had to move, but they weren't sure why our room was even notified (maybe because I made the call to maintenance is the only thing I can think of).

Anyway, what could have been a real drag turned out to be a major plus given how much free stuff we got!

Now back to our regularly scheduled program:

DAY FIVE

Visited EPCOT. Arrived at RD. FP for Soarin’ and rode standby. FP for Test Track. Visited most of the rest of Future World before lunch. I booked an ADR for just DW and I at San Angel Inn. I’d heard that the food had improved there and I always thought it would be a great atmosphere for a meal. But I figured my kids would stick their noses up at it, because they don’t like Mexican food and especially if it’s prepared with actual vegetables and such! I was going to send them to Electric Umbrella for Chicken Tenders, but they looked at the menu (and really liked the idea of eating there) and said they would eat there. It was a very nice meal, although a little on the spicy side. Ok. I realize Mexican food is supposed to be spicy.

We spent the afternoon in World Showcase. I tried an Almond Sweet Pretzel from Norway. Yum. We ate countless delicious pastries in France. Double Yum.

We caught a performance of Off-Kilter which was really good and a few minutes of the new British band. There was a U2 tribute band playing on the big stage in front of American Adventure, we listened for a few minutes as we walked past on our way to dinner.

Dinner was at Teppan Edo… another really great meal. Food was good and the chef was entertaining. DW and I had been to a Japanese Steakhouse before, but the kids hadn’t and got a kick out of the antics. DS even got up the nerve to try a piece of Sushi. He didn’t like it, but I was shocked that he would try. I only discovered that I liked Sushi a few years back on a business trip to Tokyo. I was invited to dinner at a Sushi bar and I couldn’t offend my host, so I knew I was going to be eating it even if it made me sick later. I was pleasantly surprised how good it was. Nothing like I expected.


DAY SIX

Slept in. Then headed to DTD for shopping and lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express (Marketplace location). Wow. This is pretty much a TS meal for a QS credit. OOP it would cost almost as much as a TS meal, though. The food was excellent. Captain’s Grille was my favorite dinner and WPE was my favorite lunch.

After shopping, we went back to the resort and swam for a while. Then changed for dinner at Ohana. I really liked the food here. Family said it was ok. They did like the atmosphere and the entertainment a lot, though. After dinner, we walked down to the beach and watched the MK fireworks, then headed back to our room for bed.


DAY SEVEN

Visited Animal Kingdom. DW rode Everest for the first (and probably last) time. We rode Dinosaur and Kali River Rapids, then explored the jungle trail before lunch. Had lunch at Yak & Yeti. Meal was good, but not quite as good as the first time we ate there. Although, I had Fried Wonton dessert this time and liked it a lot.

We rode the Safari, and explored the rest of the park after lunch. We popped over to AKL for dinner at Mara (really liked those flatbreads and Zebra Domes!). I was about ready for bed, but this was our last night, we had PH tickets (another first) and MK was open until 3 am. I told the kids if we go there, we’re not staying until 3 am. I had to drive to South Carolina the next day and then the rest of the way home the day after that. We went and rode PotC, HM, and SM. Used last snack credits on more Dole Whips (I forgot to mention that we’d gotten some previously at MK as well as at Poly). I think we got back to the room around 1:30 am.


DAY EIGHT

We got up at a reasonable hour, finished packing, loading the car, and checked out by 11 am. We headed over to DTD and used our “bonus” QS credit for lunch at WPE. Spent a few minutes making some last minute purchases and then got on the road by 1 pm. I would have liked to leave a little sooner, but this still got us to our hotel at a reasonable hour (around 9 pm). We hit some traffic on the second day of driving but still made it home around 8-9 pm.


And thus ended our "Best Disney trip ever!" (until the next one, that is!)
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Old 08-08-2011, 08:34 PM   #2
cesariofamily
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two thumbs up

I enjoyed your trip report! We love CRT too and I can't understand why everyone is so negative about it. Glad you had a great trip.
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Old 08-08-2011, 09:15 PM   #3
heaven2dc
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Great TR! Sounds like you had lots of pixie dust

We loved Yachtsman - my boys enjoyed order big expensive steaks too They kept asking "Are you sure?" when I told them they could order any entree off the menu.
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WDW Trips: March 1997 (BWV), February 2008 (BWV), December 2008 (BWV), Nov/Dec 2010 (BWV)

Disneyland Trips: September 1983, AP Holder July 2013 (twice), August 2013 & November 2013

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