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Old 01-21-2014, 09:53 PM   #1
lborne
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A long review of a quick trip - includes AKL, Disney Quest, EPCOT, MK, FP and FP+

A long review of a quick trip - includes AKL stay, EPCOT, MK, Disney Quest, and mid day switch from legacy FP to FP+

The guilty party : me - DH (45), DW (age censored), DS15 and DS10.

I promise as many photos as I can upload. Most will appear in later sections.

In my trip reports, I like to highlight important tips. So throughout, when I have an important tip or fact, it will be proceeded by the word TIP: like in this example:

TIP: If you bring Mickey a bit of sharp cheddar cheese, he will let your family stay overnight in the castle.

Notice that tips, are not always facts. You should be able to notice the difference on your own, but if not, there is the helpful book in the "Dummies" series entitled "You Big". Just ask the librarian for it.

Seriously, there actually may be a tip or two you can use.

Having lived most of my life within driving distance of “THE EVIL EMPIRE” as it is known to us locals, I have been countless times and have thus built up a resistance; much like some people can build up a resistance to cobra venom. In all those visits, I have accumulated a great deal of knowledge that I can’t remember. Luckily, we have the DISboards – which I frantically use days before each visit to answer all the questions my wife asks me – like “Can we use these E-tickets I found from 1973?”

I’m sure most of you reading this are Disney fanatics like myself. But you have to realize that we are in the minority, and even our friends who live here within hours of Disneyworld think we are crazy for going as much as we do. I find that especially true with my fellow dads. Seems like the moms and kids are always pleading with the dad to give in and go to Disney. My guy friends just don’t get my passion for the mouse.

I think there are some major misconceptions that keep dad’s from wanting to vacation at Disney.

TIP: Yes, it is going to be a while before I actually get to the trip report, so relax and take your xanax already.

One misconception about Disney that keeps Dad’s busy suggesting other vacation destinations such as “The Bratwurst Festival” in Wisconsin, is that the majority of your time at Disney is spent waiting in lines. This is not really a misconception, because it is true. You wait in lines long before you ever get on one ride or attraction. You wait to pay for parking, to park, for the parking lot tram, the bus, the ferry, and the monorail. You wait in lines to buy tickets, to have your bags checked, the get your finger scanned upon entering the park, to have Goofy sniff your private regions – well, that one is voluntary, but the line is still long. But wait, there’s more. You will then wait to rent a stroller or wheelchair. You will wait in lines for the attractions. Then, after a full day of waiting, its time to turn around and do it all in reverse. At least you people who fly into Orlando get to practice at airport security. I’m not really sure what my point was here, but one additional tip comes to mind:

TIP: Never calculate the ratio of time spent on rides vs time waiting in lines. And never ever divide that number into the amount of money spent on your vacation.

This year we purchased the Florida (including Miami) Resident 4 day passes + more. The “more” being 4 days of water park, golf, putt putt golf, ESPN, DisneyQuest and some other things we did not care about. All for about $175 per person. (Don’t feel bad, we pay a lot more than you do for hurricane insurance). For those of you not living in Florida and dismayed at the high prices, I suggest you find the very helpful book “Disney World on $3200 a day”.

We also have the “After 2pm” water park passes which means we get to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach just as most people are leaving to buy Noxema. If you want to know about the water parks, PM me, but I am not reviewing them here. Suffice it to say that we’ve been to all the water parks in central and south Florida and will not go anywhere again except the Disney ones. Absolutely, hands down, Disney water parks are the best by a wide margin.

One big decision we made is to stay at an official Disney “you will have fun, or else” resort. We typically never stay on-site because of the huge cost differential. But you can find many who argue either way here on the DISboards. The decision basically boils down to whether you want to have a “total Disney experience” by which I mean spend every single dollar in your bank account, or have more space in your room for things like sitting or setting down your luggage.

Staying off site does not necessarily mean staying at a Holiday Inn Express, the Motel 6, or those rooms thet rent by the hour (Ask for Bob for a special ½ hr rate). There are some very nice resorts outside of Disney World that are extremely cheap compared to Disney prices. For example, my family and I have stayed at resorts owned and run by mega hotel chains such as Sheraton, Marriott and Chester's Muffler Repair and Lodging. At these resorts, we get a 1 or 2 bedroom condo with a full kitchen for under $1000 a week. Sometimes we’ve gotten them for less than $500 a week. Now granted, these are not up to Disney quality. For example, Mickey won’t give you a wake up call, but for the savings, we can pay off the checkin clerk to give us a call and mimic the patented Mickey voice.

The two most important things we look for in an off site resort, besides cost of course, are location and if it includes a full kitchen. Location is important. If the condo is located, say in Butte, Montana, then getting to the parks at rope drop is going to be difficult. So you’ll want to check how far the resort is from Disney World. I recommend going to a mapping website and entering the resort address and then having it calculate the distance to the parks. Sometimes, these resort sites might say they are “Only 3.5 from Disney”. And you assume they mean 3.5 MILES. But in reality, they mean hours or million parsecs. You star trek fans know that’s not just around the corner.

Second, the whole purpose of staying off site is to save money and keep costs down so that you are able to pay the mortgage when you get home. It also means having plenty of cash on hand for adult beverages – especially when you forgot your medication at home. So in order to save the most amount of money, make sure your resort has a full kitchen. You will also want to check for an outdoor BBQ grill for when your wife complains about having to cook on vacation and tells you to grill something outside.

Another advantage of staying off site in a multi room condo is that you and your souse get a room to yourselves. Even in a 1 bedroom condo, the kids can sleep out in the living room on a fold out sofa. I don’t know why, but our kids absolutely love sleeping on a sofa that converts into a bed, despite the mattress being made of concrete. My wife and I slept on one once, and it took months of chiropractic help to fix. Maybe it is because when they were little, to get them to sleep there, we told the kids that the sofa was really a Transformer, and then showed them how it amazingly transformed into a bed and saved mommy and daddy’s sanity.

So the kids get to sleep out in the living room on the cool transformer sofa which means that the wife and I have a room all to ourselves. A room with a door and a lock. So when we leave the parks at 2pm so the kids can nap, we can sneak into the bedroom, lock the door, and – well, you know – take a nap too. Unfortunately now, our kids are way past napping age, but we still love the offsite condos.

Now, you can get suites at Disney, but they will cost you and arm and a leg. Actually, I priced and arm and a leg on ebay, and they can be had for a reasonable price if you are not particular as to what species, so I’m going to say that it will cost you MORE than an arm and a leg. But hey, it’s a vacation, and little Billy does not really need that operation anyway.

But every so often, we decide to splurge, sell grandma’s wedding ring, and stay on Disney property. This time, we chose the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Luckily, being locals, we had a car. So many first time tourists staying at a Disney resort without a car find themselves stuck at the compound with no means of escape. Not for lack of trying. Several guests have been seen trying to make a break for it by swimming across Bay Lake. They usually get about half way before they hear a tic tock sound coming from behind them. Don’t smile.

Of course, if you drive to Disney World, you will have your own vehicle unless you’ve stolen one. And if you stay at one of the Disney Resorts, you will have free parking to all the parks – so its like a $15 off coupon. Woo Hoo.

As soon as we had booked our room at the AKL, we were able to go on line and customize our Magic Bands.

TIP: Register on-line as soon as you get your reservation and customize the color of your bands. They ship within a few days. So many people at the parks had grey bands and we could not figure out why anyone would want grey when they could have pink or green or blue, until we found out that grey is the default color if you don’t change it.

Look out – two tips in a row.

TIP: If your trip is a surprise for the kids, be careful as the magic bands arrived in a brown box but with the return address saying Disney World. And inside is a very Disney looking box that would really give away your secret. Our kids used to have the bad habit of ripping open any package that came in the mail, until that one day when…. nevermind.

The magic bands were in a nice box and gave that sort of feel of when you open an Apple product. Not quite that nice, but at least I felt Disney actually put some thought into the packaging. Of course, my wife and a co-worker that I showed the box of bands to both wondered how much less our hotel stay would be if Disney did not have to send us the bands.



Anyway, about a week after the bands arrived, we got a small envelope in the mail from Disney. Again - watch out if you are trying to surprise the kids. Inside was information about the Magic Bands, the MDE website, FP+, etc. and how to register on-line and customize your MBs. However, we had already been on the web site, done this, and learned all about these items. In fact, our Magic Bands had already arrived.

Next up – check in and explore AKL.

Last edited by lborne; 01-22-2014 at 06:28 AM. Reason: I can't spell
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Old 01-21-2014, 10:25 PM   #2
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No way am I'm missing out on this trip report.
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Old 01-21-2014, 10:30 PM   #3
JYL13
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what a fun bedtime story ... I'm subscribed, and waiting for more!
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Old 01-21-2014, 10:46 PM   #4
RDawn
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Loving this trip report!
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2 trips in High School, off property
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Old 01-22-2014, 12:27 AM   #5
jrj
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Oh my goodness! I've laughed so hard thus far, can't wait for more

Tip: Do not drink whilst reading this hilarious TR for fear of forever ruining your laptop
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Old 01-22-2014, 02:17 AM   #6
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I'm hooked! Looking forward to reading "Dad's" perspective. My husband is a closet WDW fan, but I'm slowly drawing him out!
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Old 01-22-2014, 08:46 PM   #7
lborne
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Sorry, no update tonight - I actually had to work at work today. But I promise the next chapter tomorrow night. However, it will be Disney Quest rather than AKL.
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Old 01-23-2014, 06:21 PM   #8
lborne
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Disney Quest

I lied. This chapter is NOT about AKL. I forgot all about going to Disney Quest first, and since my OCD will only allow me to go in chronological order, this chapter will be all about Disney Quest. Sorry, but trust me, it is for the best.

I'll try to scale back the humor too and actually have some substance that you can use to make informed decisions - not really - no, really.

Staying on Disney property and buying park tickets are a surprise for our kids. A big surprise because they really want Universal / IOA tickets. They think we are going to Fun Spot in Orlando, which they are mildly excited about since we've never been (an will probably never go). They also think that we are staying at one of the usual condos we typically stay in, but that we are dropping off mom to get her hair done at a special salon that happens to be near Downtown Disney. Our kids know the area as well as we do, so they would pick up on the fact that we have passed Fun Spot, so we had to make up that little white lie. And it also keeps them from thinking anything is odd when we approach DTD.

TIP: Lying is not good, but in this case, it was necessary. So lie whenever necessary.

We pack up the Honda minvan and head to Orlando. That reminds me of a funny story. When the kids were little and out of strollers, they could walk all day long going from attraction to attraction and never complaining. But as soon as it was time to leave, they would whine and their legs would immediately become jelly. So once, after a full day at Sea World, it was time to leave and they started their whining. I said, how about we do one last ride on the Odyssey, but I pronounced it Odd-a-SEA with the emphasis on SEA. They were overjoyed and did not suspect anything until we got about 20 paces outside the exit. By then, it was just a short distance to carry them to the minivan.

Fun Fact: Did you know that EPCOT had a restaurant called the Odyssey? The building and sign is still there, but it is only used for special events. Most people taking a short cut from Future World to Mexico pass by it and never know.

You know, I think if I left out all the fluff, this trip report would only be about a paragraph. But I assume if you are reading trip reports on the DIS, then you have plenty of free time for me to waste.

And weeeee're back.... So the drive was pretty uneventful. We stopped at a Denny's for breakfast and wished we'd not. About an hour later, we were fighting the DTD traffic and the kids were starting to get suspicious. Mom would never get her hair done here because it would cost too much. As we passed the main shopping area where we usually take them, and headed to the West side area, they were really confused. There is a lot of construction going on as Disney is building multi level parking garages. I wonder if they will start charging for parking once it is complete. Ha Ha  that was one of those rhetorical questions where everyone already knows the answer. We find a parking spot and then break the big news to the kids - you guys were adopted. Thank goodness cries the oldest - that explains a lot. Yes, we are a very sarcastic family.

TIP: Avoid the Dennys on East Osceola Parkway. Its the new one. I'm sure you'll remember.

Seriously, they are super excited to go to Disney Quest because they are boys and love video games. (Me too!!!) But also because they (Me too) have asked to go there every singe time we've been to Orlando and we've (meaning DW) always said No because she thinks it is just a giant arcade and arcades are giant money sucking pits. But also because all of our friends who have gone said it was not worth the price.

We go to the Guest Relations counter right next to DQ and exchange our computer printout receipts and get 4 plastic cards, each good for 4 days at the parks and 4 other activities as explained in the first part of this trip report.

We then walk a couple feet and enter DQ. I get a Dilly Bar. Then we place our cards next to the reader and scan our fingers, and we are in. They are having people enter an elevator, but just before we enter, the cast member says we can go through the exit  which we do because it seems quicker and the elevator is already completely full and I find most elevators smell like cable grease and BO.

When we enter, the first thing I notice is how loud it is. Im a bit sensitive to loud noises, so it is probably just me, but after 3 hours, DW had had enough of the noise too.

On the first floor was Pirates of the Caribbean (I can never remember if it is 2 Rs or 2 Bs). This was a fairly slow day and we were there right at opening, but the line was already large enough. We waited about 10-15 minutes. In this virtual game, you board a sailing vessel (there were several of them) where one in your party must be at the helm steering the ship and the others man cannons and fire at pirate ships. Firing the cannon works the same way it does on Toy Story Midway Mania ride where you pull a ball on a string. This rated as one of the better rides by our family, even though there was something we had to do to collect treasure, but we never really figured it out.

The next ride we went on was the Virtual Jungle Cruise where you and your family sit in a rubber raft in front of a large screen which projects a river and surroundings. Again, there are several stations, so it was only about a 10 minute wait. You are given paddles which evidently can control where you go, but it did not seem to work for us. The current of the river took us where it wanted. It is a fast current, and you go over rapids, waterfalls, etc. while the raft you are sitting in actually moves up and down. A virtual guide is talking to you in the beginning and end, but we could not make out anything he was saying. We liked this ride a lot anyway, especially since you don't get wet.

From there, we went up stairs to the second floor and waited in line for Cyber Space Mountain which is actually a banned CIA torture device. In this ride, you design your own roller coaster and then you get to "ride" it. By ride it, I mean they put you in a big metal cylinder, close the door, and spin you like Sunday's laundry until you hit the emergency stop button at which point they speed the spinning up. Once off, you are ready to lie down and cry mommy for the next few hours. I bet the elevator right at the entrance goes directly to this ride. That way Disney gets your money, spins you in their machine of death, and then you immediately leave and they dont have to man any of the other attractions. Actually, it was an OK ride. We prefer the motion of The Sum of All Fears. We did not ride this one again.

TIP: To experience the same thrill as Virtual Space Mountain, drink until the room spins, then have someone push you really fast on the local playground merry-go-round. Its a lot cheaper.

Next we waited in line to try out Aladdins Magic Carpet Ride. In this ride, you put on a helmet looking device, sit on a motorcycle type seat / stand thing and the attendant hooks a virtual device to your helmet which covers your face and projects the image DIRECTLY INTO YOUR EYES. Well, in mine, only one eye projector worked, so I did not get the full effect. Four people start together and you can see each other by moving your head to look around. You control your flying carpet by pushing a steering device forward and turning it to go left or right. The idea is to collect some jewels, or some such thing. Once again, it was difficult to hear the instructions or to figure out exactly what was going on. Now I know teenagers feels all the time. I rate this one a 1 out of 5, but mostly because with one of the two projectors in my headset out, I was just completely lost as to what I was supposed to do. Typical says DW.

Even though there were plenty of other things to do on this floor, like the Radio Disney Song Maker, or Animation Academy, we chose to do the big attractions first - so we headed up to level 3 where we rode Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blaster. This is essentially bumper cars except that they can shoot large rubber balls via a cannon. One person is the designated driver (that's usually not me, but was this time), and the other person is the designated shooter (that's usually me when we are talking about tequila shots). The object of the game is to hit the other cars with a cannon ball which will cause them to spin for 15 or so seconds. The balls are on the floor, so to collect them, you drive over them and they magically appear on the floor of your vehicle  kind of like McDonalds wrappers. The shooter must pick them up, place them in the gun chamber, lock the chamber by rotating a knob, and then hit a red button to fire. The wait was maybe 15 minutes and the line moves in groups of 24 since there are 12 cars. DS10 and I were in one car, and my wife and DS15 were in another. Both us grownups were the drivers. It was an OK ride, but there were some issues. First, sometimes there was a delay from when the red button was pushed to when the ball was actually fired. And 90% of the time when we hit a car, or we got hit, there was no affect. No spinning or anything. The one time we did get hit, I thought I was back on Virtual Space Mountain. Controlling the cars was even more challenging than a regular bumper car because you had forward, reverse, and a pedal for turbo boost which did not seem to do anything. DS15 was ticked at DW because she did not realize the car had reverse and was stuck most of the time. (Insert women driver jokes here).

Next on this floor was the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam. You and 11 or so other people stand on these giant floor waxing machines (Well, that's what it looked like, but I guess it is supposed to be a hockey puck and stick) that pivot as you lean to one side or the other, front or back. A giant screen in front of you projects a pinball machine / hockey rink. You stand on your puck and hold onto the stick and move your body in the direction you want your corresponding numbered puck on the screen to go. The idea is to hit various things to score points and try to get past the goalie to score really big points. Disappointingly, the virtual pucks did not seem to go anywhere I wished them to go. All the virtual pucks seemed to kind of shake all over the place with no rhyme or reason, even though everyone was supposedly controlling them. It reminded me of the vibrating metal football game I had as a kid where the plastic players would randomly move all over the place until they fell down. At the end of the game, they project the scores and announce the winner's puck number. It was a little girl who was about 5 which confirmed my suspicion that there was no real control. I could not have been beaten by a 5 year old girl. On a positive note, it was a good workout with all the leaning and all.

At this point, my wife and I needed a break - mostly from the noise. So we let the kids go off and play some of the arcade games located on a couple of the levels. We found a quiet area on level 3 or 4 with lots of booths for eating or just relaxing without all the noise. After a while, the kids found us and wanted to do some more of the bigger attractions.

We went to level 5 and tried out the Ride the Comix attraction. I don't know why it is called this, as you don't ride anything - even virtually. As before with Aladdins Magic Carpet Ride, you put on this helmet, lean against a sort of standing seat thingy (I have no clue what it is called), strap on a seat belt (but you are standing), and the attendant clamps the VR device to your helmet. You have a light saber as your weapon which you must hold with both hands. You then virtually fight various bad guys with your light saber by swinging it around at them. As with the other games, it leaves a lot to be desired. I did not care for this "ride". The best part of this attraction is just watching the other people swinging their arms in the air at nothing, wearing these ridiculous VR helmets. You also do get a good arm workout.

Our final family ride was Invation! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. The ideal number of people for this ride is 4. This time, DW was going no where near this ride. How many of you remember the Magic Kingdom attraction that this is supposedly based on? Only 7 of you? The one that was there before the Stitch attraction took over? Ah - OK, now you know what I'm talking about and the rest of you have at least heard about it - right?. It frightened little children an my DW. I mean really literally terrified my DW. And it was all my fault which I am reminded about every time she gets the least bit scared, aliens are mentioned, DisneyWorld gets mentioned, on Halloween, and basically every other day just to make sure I have not forgotten. We had both been on Mission to Mars, the ride before the ExtraTerrorestial and it was a tame simulation of going to some red planet. But neither of us had been on this ride and I had read about how scary it was. DW was hesitant to try it and so to help ease her fears, I may have made up a lie that it was not a scary ride at all and the alien ends up being Mickey dressed in a spacesuit. Plus, Disney is not a proper place to scare a child, I told her. But once those bars came down on her shoulders and locked her in the chair, I knew it was going to be bad because she started to freak - and the lights were still on. I laughed pretty much throughout the show due to her screaming. She can do TOT and all the roller coasters the kids can do, but she does not like the be scared like that. It is the only attraction at Disney World she would never do a second time - besides Hall of Presidents I mean.

TIP: Yes, I said it is OK to lie, but I didn't mean to your wife.

Anyway, this ride at DQ was nothing like that. There are 3 shooters and 1 navigator, but you can choose to use autopilot so that you don't need a 4th person. You go inside a round room and sit in the middle - two people facing one way and two the opposite. The screen is like 360 degree circle vision - all around you. As your virtual ship flies around, the goal is to rescue spacemen that are running around on the surface. The navigator would do something and move toward them, but our navigator was back in the quiet area and remembering how mean I was to her. The gunners shoot aliens and their ships and whatever else appears on the screens with bullets or missiles. Ammo is unlimited. The gun sights are controlled by a joystick, but it was not precise at all. A small movement of the joystick and the gun sight would be clear across the other side of the screen. This was not enjoyable and we all agreed we would not do it again.

For the last half hour or so, we just played arcade games, ski ball, etc. Normal games that you can find in your local arcade, and also lots of classic games. One of the big reasons I always wanted to go to DQ was to play the classics. But recently, several bars have opened up that have classic games to play as long as you purchase a few beverages, so I've been getting my fill of the classic games (and beer DW yells over my shoulder).

All in all, we agree with most of our friends - that Disney Quest is just not worth the money. We kept saying how we would be very disappointed had we paid the full $45 per person ticket price - after tax, it would have been over $200 for the entire family - ouch. The virtual reality games and other games, such as Buzz and the Mighty Ducks are just not yet ready for prime time. They have some major issues that keep them from working as planned. We all were disappointed in attractions here. I'm sure we will use one of our added passes for this again, but I'll be brining ear plugs and a good book.

But if you have younger kids, or ones who have never seen an X-Box or Play Station, then there is some fun to be had here. Although many of the reviews I read said the DQ is for teens, I disagree, unless you drop them off so they can socialize without their parents being there.

The next chapter is actually going to be AKL check-in and exploring. I promise. And there will even be some photos.

Last edited by lborne; 01-23-2014 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 01-23-2014, 06:36 PM   #9
jrj
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Old 01-29-2014, 12:55 PM   #10
lborne
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Now with photos

The following trip report is new and improved with even more photos.

It was finally time to leave Disney Quest and we were all ready – despite only having been there 3 hours. No dragging the kids from this place. It reminded me of a casino - loud, no windows, and no one was leaving with more money than they came in with.

At this point, the kids obviously know we have Disney tickets and are going to EPCOT tomorrow, but they don’t know we are staying at AKL. This they can be certain of, because even if we did stay on property, DW would only authorize a value resort, where we’ve stayed a few times before.

We can't keep the secret long because we are heading deeper into the Disney lair and not taking the exits for I-4 or 192. When we pull up to the guard shack at AKL, the kids are going crazy they are so excited. To be honest, we are all excited. Having been to the AKL before to eat and explore, we know why it is a deluxe. It is a beautiful resort with an incredible lobby.

After parking we pass out the magic bands. I've tied them to our room and our water park passes, but not our Disney tickets just yet because we wanted to use the legacy FP at EPCOT the next day. That did not quite work out how we wanted - but more on that in the next chapter. Check in would have been very quick except that there was a problem with a couple of our Magic Bands not being coded correctly for the room lock. Luckily they discovered this before we were up at the room. We requested a microwave to be sent up to the room.

TIP: There is no charge for having a microwave for your room - other than a tip for the person who delivers it.

They bring a small microwave, suitable for beverages, popcorn, or small TV dinner entrees. Don't forget to remove the plastic wrap from the mashed potatoes. Don't plan on cooking a turkey in it. They do sell microwavable food at the gift store. I saw some very unappetizing items, such as cheeseburgers and burritos. And they were not that cheap.

We only paid for pool view, and were assigned room 2034 located at the very end of a wing. It took us a while to find it. The first thing we noticed was that the elevators are quick. Much appreciated and not expected based on all other methods of Disney transportation.

The microwave got there about the same time we did. Amazingly, the Magic Bands unlocked the door. I was very skeptical, but they worked flawlessly our entire trip – especially for purchases - hmmmmmm. Although DW was annoyed whenever I touched my MB to hers and yelled "Wonder Twins Activate".

We all rush to the patio to see our pool view. This was it....


This is not a pool view.


Not exactly what we were hoping for. No pool can be seen – just the hot tub – but also some maintenance trucks and the security fence. Or as Disney would say - Bad Show.

DW called the front desk and we got reassigned to room 4460. Then, something MAGICAL happened. No, we were not upgraded. In fact when we checked in we asked if we could be upgraded, but were told that the entire place was booked solid, which we later discovered was a big fat lie. Having worked in a hotel at reception, I used to lie a lot too – mostly because I was lazy and didn't want to do the work required to change a room in the system. No – the MAGICAL thing was that they reprogrammed the new room door to our Magic Bands remotely. We did NOT have to trudge back down to the front desk and wait in line to have the MBs recoded or anything.


Front door of new room with non-removable shield to help in the unlikely event that a rhino gets loose inside the hotel.


We got to the new room which was really far from the first room, and again, all rushed to the balcony to see the view. This is what we saw….


Now that is a Pool View


Much nicer and worth the extra we paid for the pool view.

The first thing we noticed about this DELUX room compared to a VALUE room is about an additional 2 square feet. Gosh this seems a lot smaller than the Poly or Contemporary. However, I must say that after all the horror stories I’ve read about Mousekeeping, the room does seem pretty clean with the exception of two things that made me wonder if maybe it just seemed clean because it was so dark. First, there was some kids dirty sock in the middle of the room. If you happened to be in room 2034 mid January, and your child is missing a sock, its under the bed where I kicked it. So if a sock is in the middle of the floor, you wonder if they vacuumed at all. Second, I found the plastic cover to a razor on the bathroom counter. No big deal really, but, like the sock, makes me wonder if they even wiped down the countertop.

The room had a queen size bed (I think – I can never tell) and bunk beds. But what we are not used to is that all the beds are in THE SAME LITTLE ROOM. As a family, we actually like each other, but we never do well sleeping in the same room. It is much better when DW and I have our own room separate from the kids - especially if it is at a different resort from theirs. And of course, having the kids in the same room as us means that there is no "extra evening magic hours", if you know what I mean.

Yes, I know what you are thinking…. just send them to look at the animals or give them $500 for the arcade and you can have some grown up time. HA HA. But you forgot about the Magic Bands, which brings us to the next tip.

TIP: Don’t forget that your kid's Magic Bands allows them to enter the room without knocking or even the telltale noise of a key being entered into the reader.


Bunk beds save space, but always cause an argument about who gets the top.



Having the sink outside of the bathroom is always a nice feature.



The wallpaper in the vanity area. DW just shakes her head when I take these kinds of photos.


I helped DW unpack by telling her to hurry. Then we went exploring. We stopped at a little outside area on the second floor where there were rocking chairs and one of those giant binocular things on a stand bolted to the floor that usually take quarters to work, but this one was free. Like anyone would steal this monstrosity. Can you imagine going to an opera and pulling out one of these giant things. Both boys were really impressed that we could see giraffes and zebras right from the hotel.


Notice the giant binocular thingy.



How do giraffes scratch their neck? On a fallen tree.



Some other animal we saw, but I think from a different area.



We were getting hungry, so went down to the Mara counter service restaurant. It was not very busy at all and the cast members were very helpful. You view the menu on large LCD screens that alternate between two pages of options. Then you place your order with a cast member who checks the selections off on a pad and hands you a buzzer. He mentioned that everything is made to order, so that my picky DW could have it her way. Which is the only way there is.

DS10 got the kids chicken nuggets. They were about the size of a half dollar but not as tasty. He was disappointed, but it was a good life lesson. In fact, this would make a good tip.

TIP: Only order chicken fingers and not nuggets.

I got the Falafel Pita which was a normal pita but instead of lamb or other meat, had Falafel patties inside. Falafel is usually shaped like a meatball, but these were flattened into small patties to better fit inside the pita. Falafel is made from fava beans and chick peas and spices. DW had the chicken pita. DS15 got the BBQ chicken flatbread. I also got a Casablanca beer imported from Milwaukee or Morocco – I can’t remember which. We all enjoyed our dinner. For a CS restaurant with no one else there, it did take longer than anticipated, but paying with our MBs was fun. I’m sure people spend a lot more when it is so convenient.



Thank goodness you can get beer and other adult beverages at DisneyWorld. I suppose the MK is the only place you can't. Why not at the MK? I don’t really know. I think it was Walt’s wish to not have drunk parents beating each other up in front of the kids over who gets the best spot from which to watch the parade. Then, he died and those in charge decided the OTHER parks were not really included in this “declaration” to be a dry park, especially when you consider a Budwiser goes for $6 or more.

It was getting cold so we went back to the room to grab jackets. Then we wanted to roast marshmallows. Surprisingly, there was no additional charge. Outside was a large gas fire pit with places to sit around and stay warm. If it is too cold outside, there is also a fire pit inside, just off the main lobby. I forget, but somehow they keep the kids from jumping in the fire or throwing your luggage in. Outside there was a separate small wood fire pit for the marshmallow roasting. 3 very nice cast members gave everyone wooden sticks and as many marshmallows as you wanted. They kept an eye out for the teens that just liked to create flaming balls mellow, like my son. We also were out where you could see all the animals. The sun was setting and it was a really nice view of the savannah.


Be careful not to poke your eye out with that stick.


The kids wanted to go exploring (aka, back to the room to watch TV or play games), so DW and I looked around. We found another nice overlook area with rocking chairs to watch the animals just before it got too dark to see. We then found the Sunset Lounge, which is not a bar, by the way. It is a quite area off the lobby where there are items that one would have taken on an expedition to Africa in the 1800’s. There are also lots of photos taken by the famous American explorers Louis and Clark Kent as depicted in the movie Superman. Really, it was the photos from Martin and Osa Johnson's explorations. Either way, the photos and simulated artifacts are interesting and if you have some time, you should check them out, along with authentic African art on every floor. Plan a couple days just for this, and note that there are no fast passes available.

We went back to the room and forced the kids to turn off the TV and continue to explore the AKL with us. Next up was watching the animals with night vision goggles. We walked out around the pool area and saw a sign indicating the way. There were two cast members from Kenya who were organizing the sighting expedition. They gave each family 1 goggle (small binocular size device) and some simple instructions such as don’t look directly at bright lights or lick the lenses. Everyone thought this was pretty cool – at least for 3 or 4 minutes. Everything was green, and then when you were done and looked around, everything seemed bright purple for a minute. This was what our family decided was the best part – trippy. The guys from Kenya were a hoot to talk to and very nice guys. One of the things I love about Disney – especially EPCOT is that there are employees from all over the world and you can learn a lot about their culture and their country if you take time to talk with them. There are even actual Canadian’s in the Canada pavilion at EPCOT. Evidently they have been there since it opened in 1982 because after experiencing the warm Florida weather, they agreed to work for beer.

There were two movies playing poolside. DS10 and DW sat on some pool chairs to watch Silence of the Lambs - or maybe it was UP. DS15 and I headed back to the room. I stopped to see if the sauna or steam room were open, while DS15 continued back to the room. The sauna and steam room were closed and it was only 8:30pm - bummer. I got back to the room and there was no DS15. He had gotten lost and wandered around for 15 more minutes. And he can't wait to drive by himself.

I got on my swim suit and went to one of the two hot tubs that I had seen. One was a little more hidden and out of the way, so quieter. It was very chlorinated, which I know is necessary for a public toilet. I was only there about 25 minutes, and then went back to the room and sat out on the balcony and enjoyed some wine we had brought. Soon after, DW returned because the movie broke down near the end. It was only around 9 pm but the boys were ready to sleep.


Night view from the balcony


DW and I headed down to the Victoria Falls Lounge. Earlier, it was crowded because of football playoff games being shown and also because of all the people waiting for their dinner reservations. But now, by 9 pm, it had thinned out and we were able to get a table for two. The drink menu has plenty to choose from, but is mostly the same for all properties. In the front of the menu is 3 or 4 drink specials that can be found only in the Victoria Falls Lounge. There were only 3 food items, all appetizer sized.

I ordered the other African beer choice (there are only two) - Tusker. Neither African beers offered are anything spectacular, but it is nice in keeping with the theme. DW got a chocolate martini which is not a specialty of the lounge. She thought it was very good. I also ordered the hummus trio which consisted of sun dried tomato, olive and white bean hummus. All varieties of hummus and the bread / crackers that came with it were very good. The service was fantastic. My wife inquired about some of the wines and our waitress was very knowledgeable and offered her tastes even though she knew DW was not going to order a glass. The lounge is one of the better that we've been to on Disney property. We might not stay at many Disney resorts overnight, but we explore them and frequent the lounges.


The other African beer served at AKL.


Overall, we were glad we stayed at the AKL but we can't see doing it again unless we got two rooms or a suite. Having talked to several other families that were staying at AKL, we discovered that the biggest complaint is how long the busses take to get to the parks. Mousekeeping did not get high ratings from others I talked to either. Other than the two items in our room left behind, we also saw a rubber glove used by mousekeeping out in the hallway for the duration of our stay. And room service trays left out after 3 pm seemed to stay until 11 am the next day.

So concludes our quick visit to AKL. Next up, if anyone is still reading this... anyone...anyone, will be the Hawley-Smoot Tarif Act followed by our day at EPCOT where we switched from legacy FP to FP+ on the fly.

I realize I did not include may tips. Well, I'm not going back and adding any, and even if I did, they would just be made up.

So does anyone care about the day at EPCOT? It takes me like 10 minutes to write these reviews and I'd rather be doing something worthwhile like having a beer.
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Old 01-29-2014, 06:31 PM   #11
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Old 01-29-2014, 08:28 PM   #12
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Yep...still here and still enjoying your TR
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Old 01-29-2014, 10:45 PM   #13
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Great update!
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Old 01-30-2014, 04:39 PM   #14
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Love your trip report & tips! Especially enjoyed the shout out to Ferris Beuler.
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Old 02-01-2014, 08:50 PM   #15
lborne
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Well, I had planned another update by now, especially since I have up to 3 people following..... But then the weekend appeared, and it is the Super Bowl weekend to boot, so I'm busy smoking ribs, frying chicken wings, gator and other delicacies and don't have time for the Epcot day right now. But I promise to have the update by Tuesday - maybe. Go Manning - no matter what team you happen to be playing for.
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