Our First Magical Poly Vacation: April 14-21 2012!

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by DaveinFallsChurch, Apr 22, 2012.

  1. auprincess

    auprincess DIS Veteran

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    We've been late January 2 years ~ the crowds were great, but I enjoyed the pool this time too!! It will be hot in August. We actually start school the first week of August, so it's either summer (not what I want to do, IF it is the only option, we would probably go last week of May/first week of June). I'm hoping the girls will have a couple days off in October for a fall break; if they do, I might just pull them out for a few days then.
     
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  3. 204charity

    204charity DIS Veteran

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    Dave,

    What resorts have you guys used over the years?
     
  4. chocolateMinnie

    chocolateMinnie DIS Veteran

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    The intro photos definitely reeled me in :goodvibes:
     
  5. SCRAPBOOKQUEEN

    SCRAPBOOKQUEEN Mouseketeer

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    Can't wait to read your report. We went to the Poly twice to Kona. It was beautiful!!!

    Scrapbookqueen
    Kellie:)
     
  6. DaveinFallsChurch

    DaveinFallsChurch DIS Veteran

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    Welcome!! I have to agree with everything you said about Poly!

    Charity, in 2008 we stayed at All Star Movies. We thought it was good. Didn't spend much time at the hotel though so hard to comment on the food and pool options. In, 2011 we stayed at Saratoga Springs because my parents went with us and we needed a 2 bed room suite. We liked it a lot especially with all the dining options in walking distance at DTD.

    Thanks!! I'm in trouble though since I put out the good stuff up front! :lmao:

    Thanks for joining in! We really enjoyed Kona as well!
     
  7. DaveinFallsChurch

    DaveinFallsChurch DIS Veteran

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    Saturday, April 14th – Arrival and SeaWorld Morning

    Ok, as Peter Pan would say, Here we gooooooo!

    We were flying out of Baltimore (BWI) Airport at 6:40am. The airport is about an hour drive from our home in Northern Virginia. There are closer airport options but we’ve always enjoyed flying Southwest Airlines to Orlando especially since there are no baggage fees. (I know, I sound like one of their commercials) And when you have a 5 and a 2 year old, no baggage fees can save you a LOT! To give us a little extra sleep time, we have been spending the night before our trip at the Four Points Hotel located in the airport. And that’s what we did this time. Checked in on Friday night around 8:30pm and everyone went straight to bed. Would have checked in a little earlier but there was a three-car accident on Beltway heading out of DC and it took us about 30 minutes to drive through a 2 mile stretch.

    On Saturday morning, DW and I woke up at 4:15am. Once both of us were ready, we woke the kids up at 4:50 and we were out of the hotel by 5. Kids were pretty excited although a little groggy. Can’t blame them with such an early start time. Our plane departed without a delay, and 1 hour 45 minutes later, we landed in Orlando. Of course no one got any sleep during the flight. The kids kept both of us pretty busy during the flight. But I don’t think I would have been able to sleep even if I had the opportunity because I was as excited about the trip as the kids, if not more! During the flight, I was also rehearsing in my head the plan titled “Operation: Get out of MCO ASAP!” I mean, the whole point of leaving at the crack of dawn was to maximize our first day so it would be a shame if we ended up spending more time at the airport than needed.

    My father-in-law was flying in from Columbus, OH to join us for this trip. His Southwest Airlines plane was scheduled to arrive only 10 minutes after ours. So the plan was that DW and the kids would wait for him at baggage claim while collecting our bags while I head to the rental car desk to check in. We were renting a minivan from Dollar this time and to save time, I had enrolled in their Express program where I entered credit card and license information online. The website said that at MCO I would still have the check in at the desk but there would be a designated line for Express card holders. I figured, by the time I got our minivan ready, FIL would have met up with my family, have their bags collected, and would be waiting for me on the curbside.

    The plan worked too well! When I got to the Dollar rental desk, there was a sign that pointed all Express Members to head straight for the garage. So, I figured that they must have a separate check-in area at the garage. Once I got there, I saw my name on their electronic billboard stating my car was ready to go in spot number 2! So, all I had to do was hop in and pull out of the garage after showing my license to the attendant at the exit. We had a Kia Sedona Minivan. Not as cush as the Town and Country we had last year (the sliding doors and trunk were not automatic…WHAT?) but we were only paying $280 for an 8 day rental so I was perfectly fine with that! That whole rental process turned out to be too short! I had to circle the airport twice while waiting for the rest of the family to come out on the curbside. Anyway, the kids were excited to see Grandpa. We secured the carseats at the curbside, loaded the baggage, and we were on our way to SeaWorld.

    This was our third trip in 4 years. And each time we started our trip by visiting SeaWorld before encasing ourselves in the Disney Cocoon. So I was able to drive to SeaWorld without needing a GPS or a map. I was so proud of myself ;). Not that it’s difficult, but still. The minivan two cars in front of me at one of the two toll booths was not doing as well. He decided to use the opportunity at the tollbooth to ask for directions. It involved handing the attendant a business card or something. Then he handed her a map. Then she took the map in to mark it with a pen. About two minutes went by like this before the grungy old looking pickup truck behind us gave a loooooong honk. The attendant was not too pleased with that and shouted something back. DW and I made sure that the attendant knew it wasn’t us that honked by giving looks to the truck behind us. Not that I don’t honk when I’m driving in DC traffic. But honking in Florida? Why would anyone have a reason to honk here so close to the most magical place on earth? ;)

    By the time we entered through the gates at SeaWorld it was exactly one hour from the time we exited our plane. One Hour! That has to be some kind of record, right? Okay, even if it’s not, I’ll just keep telling myself that.
    (Sorry, I am now realizing that I didn't take any pics during my record breaking getaway from MCO. Probably was too focused! :lmao:)

    After a brief bathroom break, applying sunscreen lotions, and checking in at guest services for the Behind the Scenes Tour scheduled at 3:15pm, we headed over to Dolphin Cove. Last time we were there, we were able to get in line easily for the dolphin feeding. However, that was during the last week of January which had far fewer crowds. The line for the next scheduled feeding was much longer this time around when we went by. We decided to skip it this year and headed over to the Stingray Lagoon. DW bought some feeds and FIL, DW, and DD got to take turns feeding and petting them as they swam by. I had no idea that stingrays could do this:
    [​IMG]

    They were swarming and poking their heads and mouths out of the water looking for food! They were acting like dolphins! FIL got a little wet from all the splashing the rays did.

    We then headed over to the viewing section of the Dolphin Cove. Didn’t get to see much from above the water viewing area. But once we got to the underwater viewing area, the kids got a very up and close view of the dolphins.
    [​IMG]


    Next we got in line to get seats for our favorite show at SeaWorld, Blue Horizons. It just has so many different elements including the dolphins, high wire acts, and birds! DD had been talking all morning about wanting to sit in the splash zone. She remembered from last year that the first few rows got splashed on when the dolphins did their tail whips (is that the correct technical term?). DW and I were a little skeptical about this request because the last time she got soaked at our local zoo after playing underneath one of the mist cooling stations, she was NOT a happy camper. So we decided to test this out a bit. We knew that there was very little chance of any water reaching the last row of the splash zone. And that’s where we sat. DD was happy with it at first since the bleacher was stamped with the words “soak zone” on it. The show was great once again. It’s such a high energy show!

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    Well, as expected, we didn’t get splashed and although she enjoyed the show, she had a little pout on because she didn’t get wet. DS loved the show as well.

    Next Up: Shamu Gives Us a Proper Welcome!
     
  8. auprincess

    auprincess DIS Veteran

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    love the SeaWorld pics!! I can't believe in the past 4 trips we never made it over there ~ next time!!

    How was Saratoga Springs? We drove through OKW (are they kind of set up similar?) ~ thinking we will need at least a 1 bedroom next time since we'll be an official family of 5 since youngest DD will be 3 then. But it just seemed so spread out ~ I mean, how do you refill your mug? Can you park at the pool if you drive to it?
     
  9. DaveinFallsChurch

    DaveinFallsChurch DIS Veteran

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    We liked staying at Saratoga Springs although I think it lacks the Disney atmosphere that we were encased in at Poly. The suites are very comfortable. We were in a 2 bed room suite which came with a full kitchen and a spacious living room. You're right, the buildings are much more spread out but I don't think this is much of an issue if you have your own car or rental. If you didn't, then I think it would be a bit more inconvenient especially if you got assigned to a building that further away from the central lobby building. Parking is VERY ample so you could easily find spots near any particular building. They have a main pool next to the lobby building. They also had a "satellite" pool in the Grandstands buildings which is where we stayed. And if I'm not mistaken, they either are in the process of or finished putting in a third pool. Not sure about the refill mug question since we didn't use it then.

    Overall, it just felt like we were staying at a generic condo. It was very quiet too during our stay.
     
  10. 204charity

    204charity DIS Veteran

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    Great start Dave! Now I guess I had better start on mine. Well, maybe tomorrow afternoon or evening I'll really get started on it.....lol
     
  11. DaveinFallsChurch

    DaveinFallsChurch DIS Veteran

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    Thanks Charity! I can't wait to read your trip report!
     
  12. emma212010

    emma212010 DIS Veteran

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    Yay!! I love landing in MCO, but you're right- GET THE HECK OUTTA THERE ASAP!!!! No time to waste when you land in Orlando! ;) How awesome and convienent for car rentals! I love it when there's no hassles. What a great idea of going to Sea World first before Disney! I always hate leaving Disney property when I'm there because I always feel lost, and like I'm losing valuable Disney time! :laughing:
     
  13. DaveinFallsChurch

    DaveinFallsChurch DIS Veteran

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    Yup! We also like to do SeaWorld on our arrival day because a) it doesn't take a full day for us to tour the park, and b) if our flight gets delayed we still won't miss any Disney Park days!
     
  14. Blessed_wth_Triplets

    Blessed_wth_Triplets DIS Veteran

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  15. DaveinFallsChurch

    DaveinFallsChurch DIS Veteran

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    Saturday, April 14th Part II - SeaWorld Afternoon

    Now it was time for a lunch break and we decided to try the Voyager Smokehouse. It was mostly BBQ items to pick from. The food was just okay. And I was glad we didn’t purchase the all day dining. The lines were long even if you were getting in one to get just a drink. If we had purchased the dining plan, we would have felt obligated to eat our dinner as well in the park to break even. But since we didn’t enjoy the food all that much, we decided that we would do carry-out at one of the restaurants outside the park after we leave.

    After lunch, we headed over to the Wild Artic exhibit. Since DS and DD aren’t tall enough, we skipped the introductory simulator ride and walked straight into the exhibit. I had remembered enjoying this exhibit a lot more the last time. There were fewer active animals but that could have been the timing of the day. The beluga whales were being fed by a couple of visitors who must have signed up for one of the VIP tours. The walruses were just veging out without much movement. I can’t even remember what the polar bear was doing. Napping I think? We got out of the exhibit a lot sooner than I thought and through the exit gift shop. Of course the kids found all sorts of souvenirs they wanted to buy but we had to get going to find a seat at One World (Shamu’s show).

    DD once again piped up and said she wanted to sit in the soak zone. So we headed down the stadium and tried to find an available row in the zone that was furthest away from the tank. Once we sat down, we realized we were smack in the middle of the soak zone, and there were water puddles all over the floor. This was going to be a lot wetter than the previous show! I had packed some ponchos for everyone, so I pulled them out of the backpack and everyone put them on except for FIL. He just kind of draped it over his front like an apron. Based on the puddle patterns on the ground, he figured he would be safe from the splashes on his side of the row. Now, I remember being quite disappointed by this show the last time we saw it. There were more video footage than live action. But this time was a completely different story. There were a lot of live action performances by the whales. DW and I talked about it later and she thought this year’s show was a lot more jam packed. We think it was because the last time we were here it wasn’t that long after the tragic accident where one of the trainers was killed and they had just re-configured the show. Anyway, the show was great!

    [​IMG]

    So about half way through the show, DS fell asleep cuddled against DW still wearing his poncho. And a little after that, we reached the splashing part of the show. The first time one of the whales splashed our half of the stadium, it completely missed our section and even areas that did get splashed were a good 5-6 rows below us. So part of me is letting out a relieved sigh as it looked like we would be safe. I could see DD starting to pout again with her arms folded. While the whale was splashing the other half of the stadium, one of the trainers up front pointed to our section and mouthed “Did you guys get splashed?”. Everyone in our section shook their heads no, and the trainer gave us a reassuring thumbs up and mouthed “Get ready”. Even at this point, I was still thinking we were safe. I had my poncho on but not the hood. DD, DW, and sleeping DS had their hoods on. And FIL still had the poncho draped across his lap. As soon as I saw the whale position itself getting ready to splash with its tail, I knew we were going to get soaked. I quickly reached for the hood and tried desperately to cover my head with it but I wasn’t fast enough. Next thing I saw were bucket loads of water hurling straight towards us. We got SOAKED!!! We were all laughing. DS woke up (obviously) with this shell-shocked look at first. DD was giggling at how much Grandpa got wet. And boy, did he. Not only was he not wearing his poncho, but he was practically in the center of the splash! And about two minutes later the whale got us again. The kids loved it. DS, once he regained his equilibrium, all he could talk about after the show was how “Shamu splashed me with water and woke me up!” We all had a great time.

    [​IMG]

    So, here’s a public service announcement. ;) When wearing a poncho while seated in the soak zone, please remember to make sure you have the poncho tucked underneath the seat of your pants and not just flapping in the wind behind you like I did. When the water splashes down, it streams down the back of the bleachers to the seat of the bleachers. And when you forget to tuck in the poncho on your seat but have everywhere else covered, you’ll have a very very heavily soaked spot on your bottom but nowhere else when you take the poncho off. And when you have a very soaked spot on your bottom and nowhere else, it looks like you had an unfortunate accident in your pants. Don’t be that guy who looks like he had an unfortunate accident in his pants! It was very uncomfortable for at least 30 minutes.

    After the show, it was time to head towards the meeting place for the start of the “Behind the Scenes Tour.” I had initially bought tickets to the Penguins Encounter Tour as I had noticed that the penguin exhibit was closed for refurbishment. The Penguins tour sounded very interactive and youtube videos showed families interacting and petting penguins and puffins so I thought this would be something the kids would enjoy. Around mid March, SeaWorld Reservations called me to let me know they were no longer offering the penguin tour, but they could sign us up for the Behind the Scenes Tour which included petting a penguin and it was a lot cheaper. Sounded good over the phone so I went with it. Overall, we were a bit underwhelmed by it. Our tour guide was very nice and informative. But I don’t think we got to get as much interaction experience as I would have expected in a 90 minute tour. We got to look at some of the rehab/treatment tanks and heard how some of the turtles and manatees ended up in them. We then drove to the shark building and heard about different shark species. Everyone got a chance to pet a baby tiger shark. Then we went over to the Wild Artic building where we sat in next to the polar bear enclosure and they transported one of the penguins here. Everyone got a chance to pet it. In retrospect, I guess we were getting what we paid for.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Once the tour finished at the Wild Arctic building, we walked over to the Shark Encounter. They have one of those aquariums where you are walking “through it” with the tank extending over the ceilings. It works out great. Then we briefly visited the Sea Lion area and watched for a few minutes. We could tell the kids were starting to get tired and DS was getting very cranky. So we headed towards the exit and stopped at the dolphin nursery for a few minutes, then out the exit. All in all, a fun day at SeaWorld.

    We checked in to Buena Vista Suites for one night. We figured since we were spending the whole day off site, might as well save us some money and avoid an extra weekend rate that still fell under the peak period. The room was nice. Had a bed room and a small living room area with a pull out sofa bed. The kids were hungry and so were the grown-ups. While everyone was settling in, I went to Chevy’s near DTD and picked up some carry-out. Much better than what we had in SeaWorld. Everyone was in bed by 8:30pm.

    Next Up: Checking in at Poly and DHS!
     
  16. 204charity

    204charity DIS Veteran

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    Glad you all had a nice afternoon at Sea World Dave.
     
  17. DaveinFallsChurch

    DaveinFallsChurch DIS Veteran

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    Welcome!!

    Thanks Charity! I was sort of surprised how much fewer pics I took at SeaWorld. I've got a lot more pictures on the way for my late night tour of MK and Epcot day coming up so stay tuned!
     
  18. Janny

    Janny Earning My Ears

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    Great Job!! So glad to be joining in on your trip report.
    A prep for ours in a few weeks!!
    Although ours will be much more slow paced with our little one
    in a wheelchair. Doesn't matter though, as our other two are so excited we're staying at the Polynesian!!! So glad I booked the cabanas a month ago. Something we learned on these wonderful DIS boards!!!

    Thanks again for all the pictures and letting us tag along on your beautiful vacation!!!

    Janice:cheer2:
     
  19. auprincess

    auprincess DIS Veteran

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    Looks like a fun day!! Sorry you had to spend part of the day looking like you peed in your pants, lol!! But I'm sure you weren't the only one:lmao:
     
  20. emma212010

    emma212010 DIS Veteran

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    Oh wow! I'm sure your DS's wake-up is one he'll never forget!! Too cute! Fun day!! :thumbsup2
     
  21. DaveinFallsChurch

    DaveinFallsChurch DIS Veteran

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    Sunday April 15th Part I – Checking into Poly and Hollywood Studios

    This is where the fun really begins! After getting some much needed sleep, I woke up at 6am to start getting ready. Since we needed to check-in at Poly before heading to the DHS so that we could have our KTTW cards, I decided that it would be best if I made a solo drive to Poly from Buena Vista Suites while the rest of the gang could get ready and eat some free breakfast in the hotel. So I headed out the door around 6:30am and drove down World Center Dr and passed those beautiful arches welcoming me into Disney! When I arrived at the Poly gate, the security attendant greeted with me with an “Aloha!” and all was right with the world. I had checked in online the week before, so when I got to the lobby, I headed straight to the online check in counter at 7am. A CM was actually in the middle of putting together our folder when I approached her. Then she told me that our room was ready for us in the Tahiti Longhouse! I wasn’t expecting that. I was fully prepared to check our luggage in with the bellmen. So instead, they called over a bellman to help me get our luggage into the room on one of their golf carts. When he came over, I immediately recognized him from this VIDEO! I said “I’ve seen you before” and he replied with a smile “Uh-oh, that can’t be good”. I explained to him about the youtube video and he knew exactly what I was talking about and said he thought it was well done. I joked to him about how he must now be a mini-celebrity among us Disney fans.

    Once I had all the bags in our room, I had a little time to look around the surrounding area of our longhouse. Here are the pics I took before I headed back to the minivan.

    Our home for the next 7 days
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    Views from our room patio
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    The First of Many Encounters
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    I returned to Buena Vista Suites to pick up my family around 7:30am. They had finished breakfast and checked out. We drove back through the arches (I heard a small cheer from the kids and Grandpa) and it was only 7:35am. DW wanted to see our room and she wasn’t too excited about getting to DHS too early – despite my attempts of trying to explain to her the importance of being at the front of the line when the turnstile opens. We toured the room, got back in the car and arrived at DHS gates around 8:30am. Picked a line which had about 20 people in front. By the time the turnstiles opened at 8:48am they were approximately 60-70 people behind us. Once we were in, we headed towards TSM.

    Up Next: Vader meets Phineas meets Kermit. And our first Mania experience!
     

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