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Old 06-05-2012, 02:31 PM   #1
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 14

May/June 2012 TR - The Good and the Bad

A warning...This is going to be long and at some points probably sound like a rant. Know that our family loves our Disney vacations, this one included, so anything I write here is meant to inform, not flame or unnecessarily bash. We will be going back next year and I'm sure for many years to come, just one man's trip report so take it for what its worth. You can always skip down to the summary at the end.

Family of four, myself, DW, DD 8 and DD 7. Decided to drive down for the first time from NJ. Split stay, 4 days at CSR and 3 days at Poly. Bought park tixs for 6 days with DDP (1TS, 1QS, 1Snack/day). Had reservations for the following:
Backyard BBQ
Hoop De Doo Review
California Grill
Ohana (dinner)
Crystal Palace (lunch)
Via Napoli
Sci-Fi Dine In Theater

Trip was booked and dining reservations made in late January direct with Disney via phone. Because of split trip, needed two reservation numbers, 1 for the package at CSR and 1 for the room only reservation at Poly. Inconvenient, because now I've got to keep track of both and I have to juggle 8 different keys to the world but not a big deal, just happy to be going to Disney. I informed the booking CM on the phone what we were trying to do, 6 days for the parks, 1 day off for the pool and Downtown Disney, meals for 6 days and a stay at two resorts. It was suggested by the booking agent that I put all the tickets and everything on the first reservation so that it saved money due to the lower cost the tickets the more days you add on. Would have cost more to buy a 4 day MYW ticket for CSR stay and a 2 day MYW ticket for the Poly portion (or 3 and 3, you get the picture). We planned on paying OOP for the other days worth of meals because we were under the impression that we had paid for 6 days worth of DDP when we bought a 6 day MYW ticket and we wanted to, of course, eat for all 7 days. I'll get to why that is not the case for those of you who may not know any different.

Day 1: Check in, 5/27 after driving for 15.5 hours we arrived at around 10am. Room not ready but it wasn't supposed to be as check in was not until 3pm. Wanted to make sure we planned for traffic/construction, etc. and hoped to get a little rest in the room before 6:30 reservation at MBYBBQ. Were able to get into the room around 1pm or so which was fine, took the kids to the pool, relaxed and all was fine. Some issues with kids cutting the line at the Jaguar slide since their parents did not supervise them and there were no CM's monitoring it but still had fun, just opted not to use the slide as much.

Got to Ft. Wilderness a little early so checked out the gift shop at the Settlement. Bought a snack and noticed on the receipt that there were less snacks remaining listed than I thought we should have. Had to head over for the start of the BBQ so I put it in the back of my mind until later. BBQ was fun, Micky, Minnie, Chip and Dale, and Goofy were all there. Food was standard BBQ fare, burgers, dogs, corn, salads, etc. beer and wine included. The show was just okay in my opinion, HDDR is a much better show. Singing and dancing and there was a guy doing rope tricks. Maybe it was just the audience we were with at the time but it seemed like a lot of the clapping/cheering and audience participation was forced. I would recommend the show if you have young kids and want to get these autographs "out of the way" so to speak but there are probably better values for your money unless you are really into the western theme.

After the BBQ, headed over to the concierge/ticket counter next to the HDDR building to ask about my missing snacks on my DDP. The CM behind the counter wanted nothing to do with me, was the first time I actually felt snubbed by a CM. Maybe it was because I wasn't a Ft. Wilderness guest, I dont know, but he told me he could not assist me and told me I needed to call reservations. He said that if we are staying at CSR for 4 days then we only have 4 days worth of DDP, not 6 as per the number of MYW tickets we bought. I could not believe this if for no other reason than I booked it through Disney by a Disney rep whose job it is to know this stuff. Furthermore the way that the trip was booked was suggested by the booking rep based on the information I gave her so if there was any error, it was not on my part.

As I was telling my wife about it at one of the little gift shop kiosks, a CM working the kiosk overheard and suggested that we contact the manager at CSR because it did not sound right to her. Okay, we would do that the next day since it was late and we had a long day and just wanted to get back to crash at CSR.

Day 2 - MK:
Got up early for MK. As always, MK is a highlight of our time at the parks. Was happy that the Goofy coaster was up and running, the remodel looked good to us and the coaster is the same otherwise. We got to ride the Snow White ride one last time before it shut down. We always try to have a lunch at the Pinocchio place and grab a table overlooking Small World so the kids can wave to the people in the boats. The changed it up this time where you are supposed to have your food before you can get a table but people were still forcing their way through and grabbing tables while someone else got the food. Fortunately, we were able to wait while a family finished up and we got one of the window tables so our tradition could continue.
Park not too crowded, never had a really long wait for anything. Took in Thunder/Splash/Space Mtns., the Raceway, Monsters Inc, CoP, Mickeys Philharmagic, Haunted Mansion (which I don't think I have ever been on when it has not been stopped for one reason or another), Small World, HoP, Peter Pan.
Merida from Brave is out near the Mad Hatter Teacup ride, right by where Belle used to be. They have a nice setup there where the kids can color and shoot the bow and arrow into a target. The CM's there seem happy to be working that particular event and Merida was really good. There were three little bears up there too which are kind of animated, dont recall if they talk or not but Merida makes reference to them when you go up for the autograph/photo. We were towards the end of the line, looked like about 50 of us went in but we were in and out in 10 minutes. Little cart right outside of the event where you can buy all of your Brave swag.
We saved PoC, Jungle Cruise and a couple of others for another day so that we could get back to CSR and fix our reservations and give the kids time to swim. Overall a good day at the park but I could not fully enjoy it with the reservation thing still hanging in the air.

Got back to CSR and this is where things got bad. My wife said that she would go to the desk to look into the issue with the reservations while I took the kids swimming. It was getting dark now, probably 8 pm. Wife was gone for about 45 minutes and came back very upset. She had tried to explain to the person working the desk what the issue was but that CM did not understand how the dining plan worked so she got the manager. Again, my wife explained what was going on to the manager but the upsetting thing about how this was handled, and the absolute worst part of this or any other Disney trip we have been on, was that the manager just dismissed us and said "I'm sorry if you misunderstood how your plan worked". Since when do people assume the blame is on the part of the guest before looking into the situation? Now there are probably any number of ways that this could have been handled that would have been better than the way this manager handled it. The manager could have simply said that she was sorry for the confusion, would it be alright for her to take a day to look into it, see what was said on the telephone, and then find a solution from there. That would have been perfect, at least then we would have felt like the original booking phone call was listened to so that they could see what we were told when we were booked. Blaming the guest and dismissing the guests concerns is not something I would have ever expected from Disney, especially someone in a management position for a resort. The lack of sympathy, compassion, or even the smallest amount of effort on behalf of this manager was inexcusable and really upset my wife, which in turn, really made me mad.
For all we knew at the time, based on the advice of the booking rep, we booked 6 days of tickets with 6 days of DDP. That is what we had assumed that we paid for. The thing is, you have to have at least a day of park tickets in order to book the dining plan but the dining plan is not based on the number of tickets you have, its based on the number of days you are staying at the resort. So the DDP is tied to both the number of days you stay at the resort AND the park tickets. If I had not had to go through this process I cant say that I would have understood it.

I went back to the room and called reservations and spent the next hour figuring out what to do. Got through to some very nice CMs in reservations and guest services who were able to find a solution. Of course, the solution ended up costing me another $500 and a re-book of the Poly but it was a solution I suppose. At the end of the day, if I didn't pay for something I don't expect to get it for free but don't sit there and say that I misunderstood what I was booking when I knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish, the mistake on the booking was not mine. MY mistake, in hindsight, was trusting that my vacation was booked appropriately and not double checking the reservation although again, without the knowledge that I gained about how the process works by going through this, I don't know how I would have known otherwise to check. So now we are back on track, a weight has been lifted, and my bank account is a bit lighter.

Day 3 - Epcot

Always one of my favorite places to go. Soarin' was great as always, and Mission Space was a first for me. Dont know why, just never made it over there before. Did the green line first and had fun as a family of four since we could each choose a position to be in control of during the ride. Kids wanted to try the orange line afterwards and I reluctantly agreed. Don't know if I have ever been closer to losing my lunch without actually losing it than I was when I got off that ride on the orange setting.
Turtle talk is always fun and I always enjoy the Living with the Land boat ride. It amazes me when I see how a lot of that stuff is grown. One of these days I'll take the tour.
The World Showcase is always the highlight for me though. Our favorite place to eat is Via Napoli, good food and always something for our kids, who are picky eaters. Also found the bakery in France this time around, never really noticed it before. Smells so good and there are so many things that look good in there. The kids were able to get their Duffy bear printout stamped at each pavilion and I never miss the log flume ride in Norway. There was not any special event going on at the time so I preferred it when the Beer and Wine festival or the garden showcase is going on but it was still a great time.

Day 4 - HS
By far my favorite ride is the Aerosmith coaster. Fastpassed it and then rode it standby while we waited for the fastpass to come up. ToT was good too and we always take in the American Idol show while we are there. The wife and kids get into that a lot more than I do. We did Toy Story which was fun but I'm pretty sure it's rigged, how else to explain my wife getting a better score than me?
Indiana Jones stunt thing was neat, we had not seen that before. I did not feel like I was wasting my time while I was watching it and I'm not really a big Indiana Jones fan. Three different settings where they do stunts from the movies, fighting and running around and all.
Probably the last time we will go to the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area or whatever it is called. Its just too crowded and my kids are getting a bit older now. The one rope climbing area was closed off but Im not sure if that was just a day thing or if they are remodeling.
Got to have lunch at Sci Fi Cafe, which we had done before. Wow, the double cheeseburger is huge. Definitely should not leave there hungry. Love all the old clips but it was quieter than I remember it being. Almost like being at church, in the dark. Still a nice little retreat during the day and I would recommend it if you haven't been there.
Otherwise, HS is still the same as I remember it almost two years ago. A must see for a couple of the rides but hard to spend a full day there.

Day 5 - AK

Mostly skipped the Dinoland area and Camp Minnie/Mickey. We saw the most changes at this park, not necessarily for the best.

The safari is now just a safari. I knew they were changing the story up but currently there is no story at all, it is just driving around looking for animals. I miss Simba 1.

Expedition Everest is still the same, a great coaster with usually the longest wait time. I always seem to find some detail I missed before though when waiting in line so its not so bad.

Rafiki's Planet Watch - We did not realize that the affection section of this was closed down until we got on the train. For us, that is the best area, the kids really like that one so it was disappointing. Not a big fan of the rest of the area although if you are trying to get all of the stamps from the different areas around the park or if you want Rafiki's autograph then you pretty much have to board the train and head out there. Its a nice area, just for me not worth the time out and back w/o the affection section.

Didn't do much else here, skipped the tree this time, and the Kali rapids. We didn't care much for the Lion King show or the Nemo show, seen those before and the Dino ride scares the kids. Definitely a half day park for us at this point.

Days 6 and 7 - MK and Epcot again

Just a once over at each park to grab some of the rides that we missed the time before. PoC, the dog has the keys back, Jungle Cruise could use a refresh IMO and Tom Sawyer Island is always fun for us because of the caves. We took flashlights this time and dropped some plastic gems along the way for the kids to find. They loved that but probably wondered why nobody else was finding any treasure...
Note to Disney - You need to have 2 boats running to the island and back, especially when its 90 degrees out and you have a line. One boat doesn't cut it, especially when you have to wait for the big paddleboat to pass by.
As usual, I was able to catch a little nap in the Country Bear show so that was fine by me.
Ate at the Biergarten for the first time. Had spatzel and shnitzel for the first time, both were pretty good. The show was decent but shorter than I would have thought. Not a must do for us again anytime soon but I would go back.

Other Dining:
Crystal Palace for lunch - Good to meet Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet. Okay selection of food. Felt a little rushed though. Always seemed like whenever I wanted to get something to eat i couldnt leave the table for fear of missing a character. We had done the breakfast before so we knew what to expect. Still a good time, even better if your kids are really into those particular characters.

Ohana for dinner. We did this last time and loved it. This time I think our reservations were just too late in the evening so we missed the show and the waitstaff did not seem to care if we were there or not. Disappointed this time but like I said, only because of the timing and because we had looked forward to it so much. Definitely a ton to eat here for any carnivores out there. We will try again another time for an early reservation, ours was for 9:50 and we didnt get seated until about 10:10.

Hoop Dee Do - Fun, but again, vegetarians beware. I actually got sick off of the food this time, not sure if it was the ribs, chicken, or what. The show is the best one at Disney though IMO, always a lot of fun and audience participation.

California Grill - I will always make a reservation here, every time I go to Disney, until the day that I die. Best restaurant we have found at Disney and certainly pricey enough. I'll gladly spend two TS meals on it each time though. The steak is just incredible and they have options for anyone. Even dessert, my kids got the sushi dessert platter which is rice crispy treats rolled up in fruit roll ups and other things that are actually candy or fruit snacks made to look like sushi. Really neat. Plus, the view for the MK fireworks is one of the best. This is the only place I will ever make a reservation after 9pm at again.

Misc./Lessons Learned:

1. Don't split your stay if using the DDP. Even if you think you can do it, its not worth the hassle. Just don't. You will thank me later.

2. The CM at the gift shop kiosk is not an expert on the DDP so while the advice he or she might give is friendly, take it for what it is worth.

3. If you want to use DDP then you need park tickets and a stay at a Disney hotel. The number of days you get on your dining plan correspond to the number of days you are staying, not the number of days of tickets that you have. Also, if you ignore my advice on step one, you better be sure that you book tickets and DDP on each resort you are staying at, not just on one unless you plan on paying OOP for the meals after your first stay ends.

4. Ride times - The standby times for most of the rides were grossly exaggerated. We got into lines expecting to wait 40 or 50 minutes based on the times and got through in 10 or 15 in most cases. The only one that was off was the Jungle Cruise, not sure why but we had a 10 min longer wait.

5. Pin Trading - If you want to get into the trading, they sell a starter pack of 6 pins and a lanyard for $19 if you spend $40 at many of the gift shops. Since there is a good chance you will end up spending $40 on things at one point or another, get it done in one place and you can pick up these 6 pins cheaper than anything else out there. Then you can use them to trade for better/other pins and save a few bucks.

6. Late Reservations - Especially if you have kids, not worth it just to get in somewhere. Only exception is if it includes a good place to watch the fireworks, like at California Grill. I don't think I will make dinner reservations past 8pm in the future.

7. Backpack - This was our first trip without a stroller, which was handy for carrying bags and stuff along with kids. I looked around and ended up getting a backpack, which I can recommend for any of the Disney parks or rides as it is roomy, lightweight, and it meets the requirements of what you can bring into the park. I bought a Timbuk2 Phoenix backpack and had it 3/4 full most of the time and had no issues with it. It fit on every ride, was quick through the security lines, and really did the job for us. If you are looking for some additional room, you cant go wrong here.

8. Loved the Polynesian as it was our first time there. From the lei's they give you when you arrive to the aloha's everywhere you go, to the pool, food and shopping, etc etc etc. we loved it all. Will definitely be back there at some point. There is an electrical light show out on the water at about 9pm most nights that you can view from the beach. Grab a spot, some lounge chairs or a towel about 10 minutes prior and watch the show. Lasts for about 15 minutes. You can stick around afterwards if the weather is nice too and get a great, uncrowded view of the fireworks. Seriously, there is no reason to ever have to watch the fireworks at a crowded park again if you know where to go.

9. Bounceback offer at both CSR and Poly was the up to 35% off, it looks like it is printed on a stopwatch. I know its been mentioned on other threads, just updating that it has not changed.

Overall we had another great trip to Disney. I know I have put in some complaints here but mainly they are to hopefully help others who might find themselves in a similar situation...and also so I could vent a little. We try to go back every year and nothing that happened this year will change that. We did run into more CM's than before that were either unhelpful or disinterested than I can remember but they are still the minority. We also had many helpful CM's that would answer questions, make suggestions, or even just offer a friendly hello or aloha. You aren't going to find that anywhere else. I'll update as necessary and will be happy to answer any questions if anyone has any.

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