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It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Update: 1/21/14

Discussion in 'Disney Trip Reports' started by Suziannie, Dec 28, 2013.

  1. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    So excited to be back from our truly Magical vacation! It took me a while because of Christmas but I'm finally ready to recap it and I hope someone enjoys it!

    A little about us...we're the Suziannie's and here we are in our new favorite family spot....the Magic Kingdom.

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    We're comprised of my husband Ben, our lovely daughter Vivien and of course me.

    A little (ok a lot) about our pre-trip planning can be found HERE and if there were Disboards awards I'm pretty sure I'm close to winning for most changes made before heading out on vacation. We went from an 11 day adventure to a quick road trip for a long weekend then to a 5 day trip.

    Trip Dates: Dec 5th-Dec 10th 2013.

    Overall the trip was great, and here's what's going to be covered in my report, in no particular order:
    First stay at Shades of Green, to be fair it was our first stay using any military oriented discount at all so if you're military and haven't been to Disney there may be some neat info for you.
    First time at Art of Animation (first time in a Disney suite too)
    Deluxe Dining plan with a toddler
    Magic Bands and Fastpass+ (and it all went very smoothly with one teeny exception)
    Photopass+
    Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party (Twice!!)
    Car rental
    Magic Express
    Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert & Fireworks Party (aka my favorite part of the trip)


    I'll be adding links right here...so hopefully there will be some good soon.

    As a disclaimer...I'm having some difficulty getting photos to stay rotated in Photobucket. Not sure what the deal is but if they are sideways I can promise you I tried a few times to fix it.

    Day Zero: Travel and arrival on Disney property.
    Day Zero Part Two: Shades of Green is fabulous!
    Day 1: 'Ohana means unlimited bacon
    Day 1 part 2: Art of Animation is amazing!
    Day 1 part 3: Cars Family Suite
    Day 1 part 4: Be Our Guest Restaurant and quickie tour of New Fantasyland
    Day 1 part 5: Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party & the Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert and Fireworks Party
    Day 2: A slow start to our EPCOT day
    Day 2 part 2: Seeing the world. The World Showcase that is!
    Day 3: Breakfast at the Crystal Palace makes for a magical morning!
    Day 3 part 2: Lobster topped burgers for lunch and a giant gingerbread house for dessert!
    Day 3 part 3: Because once isn't enough...Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
    Day 4: The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour!
    Day 4 part 2: We pulled a Fastpass for lunch!
    Day 4 part 3: You know what they say about best laid plans right?
    Day 5: Already? Day 5? But that's the end!
    Day 5 part 2: I guess it's really over now.
     
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  3. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    We really lucked out on our airfare. With a two year old I wasn't so keen on getting up for an early early morning flight so finding such a great deal on Spirit Airlines that was not only direct but well within our budget AND had a rental car was just too much to resist. Then the 3:30 departure just made our day. We were able to get up, have a nice breakfast then calmly finish packing.

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    I even managed to squeeze in a smaller suitcase inside the big one!

    We headed out from our home to the airport and were starting to get a bit nervous about the weather. December 5th, was the day Dallas got hit HARD with an ice storm. Luckily we only were delayed about 2 hours and managed to keep our daughter occupied with NO tantrums in the airport.

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    Once on board I strapped Vivien into her seat with the Kids Cares harness we got on eBay. I'd read about Spirits notoriously small seats and decided that bringing our car seat wasn't an option. I know she may have been ok without it but I wanted something else. So when I found them on eBay for $15 to rent and NOT the $80 they sell for I jumped on it. Overall it's fairly simple. Loop it over the back of the seat, then thread the two shoulder straps into the seatbelt. Easy. And secure.

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    Once in the air it was a short two hours until we were back on the ground. Not much later we were having some fun on the "Choo-Choo"

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    Baggage claim and car rental pick up went fairly smoothly. No photos though, between the stroller and the luggage cart we didn't have any free hands. Before too long we were headed off towards Shades of Green!

    But first....we needed to make a stop at Downtown Disney to exchange our vouchers purchased on base for real live tickets so instead of the big sign....our signal to welcome us to Disney was this:

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    Which isn't bad at all really. I mean Disney is Disney right? My husband decided to wait in the car with it running where the taxis were while I ran over here to get the tickets taken care of.

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    Not a bad plan as we were back on our way to the hotel in less than 20 minutes. I have to add that the exchange process was so simple. She took our ID and even though it was just me, she didn't seem to mind that I had my husbands too. She also linked our bands and made sure our Fastpass+ weren't effected. And...I picked up the remaining Christmas Party tickets we didn't get mailed to us. Easy Peasy!

    And soon enough...our GPS was directing us right under THIS sign.

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    I felt like a kid as we drove past the parking lot. At one point a monorail train zipped past us too! So exciting to be so close to the magic!

    I knew Shades was close...but I guess I didn't realize how close. In about 5 minutes were past the gate and these gentlemen were welcoming us with a warm salute:
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    I'm going to pause here because I want to dedicate the next post to the hotel.
     
  4. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    Check in at Shades of Green was a breeze. The person at the desk was lovely and handed me our keys, parking passes and a bunch of other stuff. She made it a point to show me on the map how to get back to our room from the parking garage and then back down to where the buses were if we needed. Lovely service!! The hotel is wonderful and I didn't think to take some photos of the lobby because it was late and I'd left Ben and Vivien in the car. My husband had the foresight to get Bell Services to take the bags while I was in there so the only thing I needed to do was give them our room number and we were off to the parking garage.

    Which was close...but it did take us some time to get to the room. It's a BIG hotel! Once there we were so impressed!

    I'd heard a lot of negative and a lot of really great things about it. My brother in law actually convinced us to try it out and we're so glad we did, we're also a bit sad we didn't stay longer. The rooms really are quite large. Here's the view from the door.

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    And here's the entry way with closet on the left and the bathroom door on the right.

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    I rotated this photo not once, not twice but three times. It just wants to be sideways I guess.

    Dresser and TV area:

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    Beyond the beds is a nice sitting area.

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    Behind the curtains is a sliding door that was practically right next to the swimming pool:

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    This was taken the next morning, it was nearly midnight by the time I took pictures.

    But I think this view is what make me love this room. Once the door was open I could even hear the whistles from the boats on the lagoon! So much magic-and really nicely priced too. We paid more for the pool side room, but even that was only $105 a night. No taxes either! My husband works hard for the Navy, and was in the Army for a long time too, so it's amazing to be able to be rewarded with perks like this!!

    But back to the room tour...

    Standing right at the partitions between the sitting area and the beds. It's really a large room:

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    Here's the bathroom:
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    I was really impressed with this area. Very nicely done in my opinion. Quite spacious, and you could tell here the most that they designed this with generous ADA considerations. There were many bars in the shower/tub that would be helpful and the room was big enough to easily navigate a wheelchair. Really nice touches I think.

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    Over all it was a typical hotel room. Larger and nicer appointed than say La Quinta or Best Western...definitely nicer than the value rooms.

    Our bags arrive really quickly, but I guess they don't have many people to deliver to at 11:00pm.

    Once we were settled in we turned on the tv and ordered some food. Since we were in a hotel room we got a club sandwich. We weren't terribly hungry but needed something so we all shared. I really thought I took a picture of the plate but I guess not. Here's my little family enjoying a late night snack:

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    And I think that's about it for this night. We were asleep before 1am because we had an ADR at Ohana, but even that was a bit too late. More on that next time I guess.
     
  5. merbobear

    merbobear DIS Veteran

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    Following along, looks like so far you had an easy time getting to Orlando..and now the fun begins! :)
     
  6. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    We really got lucky. We were delayed a total time of just over 2 hours BUT...we were also one of the last flights out of Dallas that night since the ice storm hit right as we were leaving. So lucky!

    My take away from that is....to always plan on an "extra" day to travel without park tickets or ADR's when going to Disney. Makes things far less stressful! We had planned on arriving in Orlando around 7pm then after checking into the hotel grabbing a quick dinner at the Poly and catching the fireworks from there....but you know what they say about best laid plans!
     
  7. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    Sadly our night at Shades of Green ended with a way too early wake up call.

    I know I posted this already...but waking up to this beautiful clear sky and already hot and humid weather we weren't exactly complaining about being up so early.

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    I really wish we had more time...but we had at 8:45 ADR at 'Ohana. So we were up early and got our things together to check out. Which we didn't actually have to do...but we did have bell services come get our bags and then we were off!

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    Since my daughter is so young we weren't able to do Bibbity ****ity Boutique and I knew that princess dresses were going to be hit or miss (and in hindsight it was a miss because we did bring her Sofia the First costume and she didn't want anything to do with it) we planned on mostly Disney character t-shirts and a matching bow. This skirt is something my mother bought for her for Disney. I had a matching bow...not sure where it is yet. We also did that thing where I took a photo of her every day before leaving the for the parks. She turned out to not be a flight risk though...more on that later.

    Anyways...we were off. We were going to walk but decided not to at the last minute so in about 30 seconds we were across the street and at the gate at the Poly. They waved us in with no issue and soon we were having our photo taken here:
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    We had a bit of a wait since we were early. I'd budgeted some extra time to get our Photopass+ voucher exchanged. Which didn't take long at all. So I had a chance to look around a bit.

    It truly is a beautiful resort though. We'd be lucky to get the opportunity to stay there, and I have to say it's something I've wanted to do for years and years. When I was little I had a WDW coloring book that included several pages of each of the resorts-at the time it was limited (it was around 1981) but I clearly remember both the Contemporary and the Poly in that book.

    Anyways...we enjoyed our wait since there was a lot to look at.

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    Soon enough we were whisked away to our table...which was next to some windows that afforded what I can only imagine must be a great view. The windows were all fogged up though so we couldn't see out.

    Didn't matter because then they brought us some of this...
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    Which was delightful. But the juice (I didn't get a chance to grab a photo because I think I drank all of the juice as soon as it was brought to us) OMG the juice. I need to figure out how to get some of that stuff!! Yum!!

    Here you can see how foggy the windows were.
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    And my daughter's bow. It doesn't show but the inner ribbon has Belle on it. Super cute!

    A little bit of fruit came next...
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    Followed my one of my daughter's favorites...
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    Lilo!! Lilo was super sweet. It was my daughter's first character interaction and she did really well I think. It goes by so quickly I had a hard time capturing it but I'm pretty sure she got a hug.

    Next up was the little parade they do around the restaurant and we got up to do it, my husband took some pictures but we can't find them now. I'm sad because we were right behind Mickey.

    Once back at the table this was there...
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    And then someone came by to drop off some of these:
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    And all was right in my world. We didn't have too much time to linger over the food though because next up came:
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    Stitch!

    And then...
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    Pluto stopped by, he spent a little extra time goofing around with my daughter. So sweet!

    Then Mickey stopped by and my daughter tried to share her Mickey waffle with him!
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    And soon enough the food was gone and the bill on our table. We'd forgotten to ask about plate sharing because my daughter was under three so I kind of assumed they added a child's meal to our tab. They didn't, which was a nice thing since she actually ate quite a bit. We attempted to pay for the meal with a dining credit and our bands...but couldn't. So we paid cash and then worked that out later at the hotel. We later learned that the dining plan isn't actually activated until you get to the hotel check in. Good to know!

    After a quick restroom stop we headed out to the monorail.

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    And in the blink of an eye we were hoping back off the monorail. Super excited I started snapping photos almost instantly.

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    Does that view fill you with anticipation or what?

    There were a lot of people there but it didn't take too long to get through bag check and then we got to try out our bands...
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    Both of which worked perfectly and we were off in seconds!

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    That first time I set my eyes on Main St USA. It just never gets old to me.

    We had a 10am Fastpass+ for Space Mountain and it was right around 9:40 so we didn't really want to meander as much as I'd normally do the first day in Magic Kingdom.

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    Gotta love that view too.

    We were expecting somewhat lower crowd levels. But...Friday Dec 6th was one of the parade filming days so MK was a bit crowded. It was also a party night so I think a lot of people we there since it closes so early.

    Soon we made that right turn...
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    And my oh my oh what a wonderful day.

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    Stopping for a quick photo and you can see my distraction technique of the day...my daughter is really into writing and wanted nothing more than to scribble in her autograph book. So obviously I bought her one of her own so we'd still have a few autographs.
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    From there it was getting hard to navigate the crowds (seriously it was so busy!!) and headed to ride Space Mountain. We used the rider swap and were done by 10:20. Which was awesome. We stopped to get a drink, then headed over to see Mickey again on Main St. BUT...my daughter was fast asleep so we decided to hit up Big Thunder Mountain instead. After that it was a little before 11am and we wanted to head to Art of Animation so we could get lunch and a short rest before our dinner reservation at Be Our Guest that night.

    So...off we went back up Main St. And found a Photopass photographer. Or maybe he found us?

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    The toddler sleeping through photos was kind of a theme the whole trip. Not sure if that was because she was overwhelmed or what. But she slept a lot more than normal this trip. A lot.

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    I was able to confirm that the flags are not "real" US flags. In fact it's fairly easy to spot from the street level if you look up.

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    I love Disney Christmas decorations. The attention to detail is just so amazing.
     
  8. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    I left off as we were leaving Magic Kingdom for the day...
    We spotted one of the more fun resort boats on the way back to the monorail:
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    Once back at the Poly we skipped back to the rental and then over to Shades to get our bags. Within 30 minutes we were pulling into Art of Animation! The traffic was moving too quick (more likely...I was too slow) to take a photo of the sign. But we were in the lobby shortly there after. I was expecting it to be hard to get a parking spot but there was one right up front! Nice!

    Once again I left the baby with my husband and they dealt with the bags while I did check in.
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    Apart from a group of what I think were college program kids the lobby was fairly empty and we were done in about 10 minutes-and that includes the time for them to get a manager to "refund" our meal and apply dining plan credits. Nice!

    Love the tree!
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    We headed straight over to Landscape of Flavors and spent quite a bit of time wandering around trying to figure out what to get. I decided on the Surf & Surf "burger".
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    I don't know what my husband had, some sort of sandwich. Both were excellent though. The crab cake on mine had great big chunks of crab on it! Yum!!

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    We had resort mugs (that Rapid Fill system is really cool by the way!) so we used our drinks on chocolate and regular milk (pre-packaged) for my daughter in the morning. And instead of a "real" dessert we got grapes for future snacks for my daughter.

    After lunch we headed down to Route 66:
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    We're not big fans of the movie Cars. We like it, but really we're just not that into it. So when we found out that we had to stay in the Cars section instead of Lion King we were a little disappointed. But honestly the area is so well done it was amazing to walk through it! Really great job on pretty much everything now!!

    And soon we were in front of our building:
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    I was really hoping we'd be in this section. I'd requested something close to parking/transportation and technically this is close to the parking lot but we left the car closer to the lobby side. Our thought was that way if the buses take too long we could run to the car and not lose too much time.

    But that's where I'm going to leave it for this part of the entry. Next up...the room!
     
  9. katt789

    katt789 DIS Veteran

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    I’m here to join in! Looks like there’s lots of new stuff I’m excited to read about! Awe man, I already can’t remember our dates, but we got hit HARD with a storm up here in Calgary the day we left! Flights delayed and cancelled EVERYWHERE, luckily we had decided to rebook to leave the night before! Bonus!

    Such a short flight! Glad there were no tantrums or anything and that you were well onto your way to the resort! Ah, driving makes the sign pictures FAR superior! Lol! I feel like I’ve definitely seen signs for Shades of Green but haven’t ever SEEN IT or pictures, I’m excited!

    Oh my goodness that price is wonderful!! Glad that you guys can get a reward like that for serving, that’s awesome! The resort looks nice, pretty standard, but I guess I love my Disney themeing lol! 1 AM is a late night! Lol, I guess travel day isn’t much and sometimes a lot of sleeping on the plane.

    I totally get that, early morning in Disney, that’s totally cool! I’ll get up at the crack of dawn every day if I’m waking up to heat and humidity and MAGIC! Love the tutu! And the great idea of taking a picture, that is really smart, even for all adult groups! I’d start searching for someone and completely forget what they were wearing! Lol. I ADORE the Poly, I only wish it wasn’t so dang expensive! If I’ve got the extra cash to go deluxe, I still don’t have enough, lol! AKL or YC it is! Lol. It’s so gorgous though, the grounds, the rooms, the EVERYTHING I LOVE IT.

    I LOVED THE JUICE AT KONA!! I assume it’s the same juice, so tasty! The blend of fruits is so awesome! Raspberries in the fruit?! That’s interesting! Also, I spy a Cindy bib, which is SO SO SMART! Don’t think I’ve seen bibs on small kids, just smears of food and ice cream bars, good thinking! Glad you guys enjoyed Ohana, we did breakfast there our first trip ever, and on our last day, it was less than thrilling for us bahah! It looks like you guys had fun though!

    THAT VIEW THO!! The little peak of the train station, UGH, CRYING! Friday the 6th! AH! We were at Epcot that day, and park hopped for lunch at CRT and MVMCP! I wonder if we crossed paths at all! We found the park to not be crowded at all on the 6th, but we weren’t there til nearly 2:30 for our lunch. I watched the Xmas day parade performance of Ne-yo and was all “it so wasn’t that crowded right there….” We found wait times to be okay too! That castle pic is GORGEOUS!

    Love AoA! Stayed in the Mermaid rooms opening day!! It was great! Loved the Lion King suites too, the whole place is gorgeous! Awe! You guys do the same thing I do on the DDP, I’m not big on fries, or desserts, so I swap out for grapes and carrots and the such to save for later! Yay! Did you guys not get the option of choosing what suites you were in? I have zero interest in Cars, haven’t even seen it, so I chose LK for our Oct trip!

    Excited to read more and all about the rooms!
     
  10. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    :)
     
  11. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    We headed into the building and noticed a neat hidden Mickey in the carpets
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    The themeing throughout all of Art of Animation is really almost over the top-not in a bad way, but they really pay attention to detail here!

    One thing we noticed though-as soon as we walked into the building we lost cell service. It was the spotty service you typically see in a large hotel or shopping mall it was GONE. I'm fairly certain they are doing something to block or at least hinder it in there. Thank god there was Wi-Fi!

    Anyways...our room wasn't far down the hall, we also requested first floor.

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    My husbands band worked just fine...we went ahead and checked both my band and my daughter's too. No problems!!

    Once inside I took this blurry shot:
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    I was kind of impressed our bags were already there! It had been less than an hour since we'd checked in and gave them our room number. Nice!

    When you enter the living room area of the suite there's a little kitchenette complete with a microwave, fridge, sink-even some big serving spoons, a can opener and a stack of paper plates and bowls. Cups and coffee cups were there as well.

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    Opposite the cute couch was this dresser/closet area:
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    Coffee table. They don't miss a beat here!
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    Inside the bedroom. The little traffic cone lights were killing me they were so cute! There were a few in the living room too.

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    I also really liked the artwork. There were three or four pieces like the one in the bedroom-nice landscape "Paintings" with the characters fit in nicely.

    One each of the dressers there was a little power center strip thing:
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    Very handy-even though I never go anywhere without a power strip anymore. One just lives in our big suitcase.

    The little postcards embedded into the furniture were cute!!
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    The bathroom was really nicely done I think:
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    Giant sink area! Not at all like what we're used to at All Star Movies and Caribbean Beach! Under the counter it was open so you could put a bunch of stuff there too. The room was certainly big enough for two people to get ready at the same time. I even brought a chair in one morning when I was feeling a little sore so I could dry my hair in comfort.

    My shower at home isn't this nice.
    [​IMG]
    Or big. In fact this shower is what started me thinking that I should skip a few Disney vacations and renovate our house.

    :rotfl: Yeah right.

    Anyways...
    The second bathroom is much smaller, but still nicely done.
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    Cute shower curtain:
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    Here's the table/murphy bed:
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    It was nice to have a big area to set everything down. One night we ended up bringing food back to eat and it was great to have a real table to sit at!

    Here's the bed folded down:
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    It was super easy-like one handed without much force to get it down too. Very nice. They also made it up every day-even though we put it back in place once we got up since it took up quite a bit of space like this.

    My daughter was terrifically impressed with a table that converted into a bed.

    Here's a better picture of the living area:
    [​IMG]


    Night time there was also wonderful:
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    And here's the Cozy Cone pool at night. It was usually full all day so it's fairly popular even with the Nemo pool being fairly close by. But I think even though I prefer the Nemo theme, I'd rather hang out in the cabana. Too cute.
    [​IMG]

    Overall I'm in love with this resort. Great job on all the teeny tiny details. Great customer service. Good food. Really awesome. I think the suites-which seem expensive are totally worth it. There's a lot of space and you could really sleep a lot of people between the beds and the pull out. There'd even be space for a small air mattress. With the kitchenette you could even save on food and eat breakfast and dinner in the room if you're good at microwave cooking that is. I thought the inclusion of paper plates, plastic knives and forks and even a can opener was a genius move!

    And I'll admit it here...we did take home the plates and bowls that were leftover. Which there were plenty of. I served our Christmas Dinner dessert on them. We're fairly casual here but I felt like they were our "good" paper plates. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. :)
     
  12. katt789

    katt789 DIS Veteran

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    Good to know about the blockage out with the discount, I thought it must be something like that, AoA is pretty picky when it comes to discounts I’ve noticed! Lol, but that is a pretty sweet one you guys got!

    Love the indepth tour of the suite! Same layout as the LK one I’ve stayed in! Lovely details, again, don’t know much about Cars, but they’re cute! Lol. I do agree that sometimes the suite is more of a bargain that two rooms! Especially if there’s lots of kids in your party, helps control everything, and the two bathrooms is wonderful!

    The area looks great at nighttime too!
     
  13. FallinlovewithDisney

    FallinlovewithDisney Earning My Ears

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    Last spring we stayed at AoA in a Nemo suite. :fish: Your Cars theme suite is even more adorable!! All your photos bring back great memories. I really enjoyed the food court too.
     
  14. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    :)
     
  15. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    Thanks! We really wanted the Nemo suite but not enough to pay full price I guess.

    I was so impressed with the options there. I've heard they haven't really made many menu changes so I'm not sure what to think of that. But we tried a good variety of the things there and really loved it all.
     
  16. DisneyLifer87

    DisneyLifer87 DIS Veteran

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    Subbing! :thumbsup2 You have an adorable family!
     
  17. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    Thanks!!
     
  18. NoOrdinaryPrincess

    NoOrdinaryPrincess DIS Veteran

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    Joining in! I'm so glad to see your SoG review! We've stopped by there to pick up military discount tickets, but have never stayed. It was nice to see the rooms.
     
  19. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

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    I'm glad to hear it! When we first started planning and decided to add a night there I couldn't find many reviews from people who have stayed there that seemed objective. Also my husband and I have always been big fans of the dining plan and Magic Express so this was sort of the best way to try it I think. I'd hate to commit to a week there and hate it. But really it just felt nice and relaxing, comfortable without being stuffy. Plus it's just nice being around other military families I think.
     
  20. TheMaxRebo

    TheMaxRebo DIS Veteran

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    Messages:
    3,292
    joining! Excellent start! Seems like you got a lot accomplished already ... I mean, checking into 2 resorts, out of one, breakfast at 'Ohana's, exploring the Magic Kingdom ... no big deal, really ;)

    and and I don't think I have ever read "that Rapid Fill system is really cool by the way!" on the DIS ... usually, um, different terms to describe it. Glad you liked it though. (we had no issue with it either but there have been some colorful threads here with people not being fans)

    oh, and I am still chuckling at the concept of "good paper plates" ... wonder if people stop buy your house hoping they will bget the good paper plates :lmao: actually, I guess I would treat anything I brought back from Disney as special too ;)
     
  21. Suziannie

    Suziannie Mouseketeer

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2013
    Messages:
    297
    :cool1:
     

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