Waikiki Stay - Day visit to Aulani with free ride from DVC

Discussion in 'Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa' started by Kelsanna, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. Kelsanna

    Kelsanna Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Messages:
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    Just got back from a week vacation in Waikiki with my family and am definitely feeling the post vacation blues! Before I forget, I wanted to do a quick post about our experience with booking a DVC presentation and visiting Aulani.

    My parents and I booked a quick West Jet package from Vancouver to Waikiki to escape the grey days at home. Nothing fancy, just a cheapish hotel/flight/transfer package. We stayed at the Park Shore which was a meh hotel with a great location near the beach and the Honolulu Zoo. Since it was a short trip we didn't plan on renting a car or pre-select many activities; it was sort of fly by the seat of our pants, relax on the beach kinda vacation. We ended up at the Zoo which was across from our Hotel which was great, and a circle island tour which was sufficient. I repeatedly hinted that I wanted, at some point, to make it out to Aulani. A few times in the past I've looked at Aulani and decided that its a bit out of price range. However, my best friend and I are booked on the Honolulu to Vancouver cruise in May of 2020 and are contemplating staying at Aulani pre-trip for a night or two and I really wanted to see it in person to help us make our decision. Plus I'm just a huge Disney fan and really wanted to see Aulani :)

    From my research I knew my options to get to Aulani from the Waikiki area were: rent a car, take a series of city buses followed by a walk, Uber or taxi. None of these options were great. Renting a car for a whole day seemed like a lot of trouble/expense for just going specifically to Aulani, the bus seemed frustrating and taxi/Uber didn't sound cost effective either. However I had read somewhere that DVC might offer tours. On Friday we went to Ala Mona the shopping centre (yeah Black Friday on Vacation .. what were we thinking?). When I went to the Disney Store to get my much anticipated Hawaii Disney pin (devastatingly they were out of stock!), I noticed the DVC kiosk across from the store so I stopped in with them. The associate explained that there are two options: 30 minute group presentations for the curious, and 60-90 minute one on one sessions for those wanting personalized information, and yes they would pick us up and drive us from Waikiki to Aulani!

    The associate was a bit vague about the group presentation schedule but I believe it was daily around 9 am with once or twice weekly at 12:30 pm. For the more detailed tours I was given a schedule which said they were daily at 9am, 11am, and 1pm. There were three pickup locations: the Illikai hotel, the Sheraton Waikiki, and Ala Moana centre. Depending on your location the pickup would be 1hr 15, 1 hr or 45 mins before your tour and your transport would leave Aulani about 3 hours after your presentation started, giving you time to look around. We decided that we just wanted the group shorter presentation on Sunday. We were told the morning session was booked but that we could be at the 12:30 Sunday session so we confirmed our pickup at the Sheraton Waikiki and filled out the reservation where we gave our names, contact info and hotel etc. We were told we would get picked up at 10 and, do the 12:30 tour, and leave Aulani at 2:00 (free time on either end for exploring). The rep was helpful and showed us pictures of the pickup area and what the van would look like, gave me a map of Aulani and wrote areas of interest and the location of the tour on, and a Stitch tote bag with Aulani buttons. I believe that there is another one or two DVC kiosks around Honolulu, I definitely saw one right in Waikiki near the Cheesecake factory.

    Fast Forward to Sunday: we've got our reservation card and we head out from our hotel and onto a city bus early so that we can scope out the pickup area at the Sheraton before breakfast. We find the weird parking garage shuttle loading bay and head for something to eat returning about 25 mins early just in case! And then we waited. and waited. and waited. at 10:15, we think maybe there was a mixup and the associate was confused but that it should have been 10:30. at 10:30 my anxiety is at an all time high and I'm FRUSTRATED. We get a paltry bit of WiFi signal from the nearby Sheraton and check they didn't leave a voicemail or email. Nothing. I went onto the DVC website to see if there was an email but all i could find was physical address and phone number. We had decided against paying the 7$ daily fee to use the calling and data features on our cell phones so I almost gave up hope... until I noticed that annoying "chat" pop up that comes up on many websites which I ALWAYS ignore. Luckily the very nice person on the other end of the chat called the Aulani DVC people on my behalf and they offered to send us a Charley's taxi. I confirmed it would be a free round trip taxi and a pick up time of 11 am. Well, 11 am rolls around and guess what... no taxi. I logged back in, got transferred to the previous associate I spoke to (luckily i remembered her name) and was politely told maybe I should call Aulani directly. When I explained I didn't have phone capability the associate call back for me and discovered Aulani had sent our taxi to the hotel we were staying at which was about a 20 minute walk away. Not sure why they thought we would've ran back to our hotel, but I'll chalk that up to the weird 4 way communication between myself, the DVC website associate, the Aulani DVC people, and the taxi company. We finally were told the taxi was rerouted and would pick us up at the Sheraton front entrance (close to the shuttle station we were presently waiting at). The taxi driver did indeed arrive fairly promptly, although we suffered his complaints about having been waiting at our hotel (not our fault!) and us not having the voucher (we explained Aulani would be providing the voucher upon arrival, we hoped!).

    Anyway! on to the good stuff. It was about a 36 minute drive to Aulani and when we arrived within a minute or two a DVC associate came out with the voucher for the driver. Glad that was the case because the meter was over 100 dollars by the time we got there! The awkward part was that the voucher was for a pre-negotiated rate between Disney and the taxi company, and the driver was still asking for a tip, but Disney was saying that a tip was part of the negotiated rate. We felt bad so we tipped him ourselves anyway. The staff member when asked what happened, told us that the van driver scheduled to pick us up was sick and they didn't discover it in time. Seemed fishy but oh well, we made it! The associate showed us where the presentation would be and let us wander on our own for half an hour before the presentation, which was downstairs in a lounge. It was quick, painless and I won a pin :) The current promotion is one 50$ Disney gift card for sitting through the sales pitch. They handed these out at the end (with a recommendation to use it for the "exclusive" dvc tour menu at the nearby restaurant) and told us to stay at our seats if we wanted more information. Since we were all from one household we only qualified for one 50$ card but they offered us a second for the trouble (as well as our taxi voucher home). The bonus with all the chaos was that we could stay as long as we want because we weren't booked on a specific van home. They said we could just let the valet/concierge know that we needed a taxi when we were ready to go. Unfortunately, we hadn't brought our bathing suits, so we couldn't take advantage of the beach. We knew we couldn't go in the pool or take pictures with the characters because those experiences require wristbands, but we otherwise could wander around. We spent a couple hours exploring the resort, viewing the dvc display suite, taking pictures, shopping in the gift shop, releasing in the lobby and eating Mickey shaped shaved ice. Eventually my family got bored and we called for a taxi back to Waikiki.

    Side note: When we eventually got back to our hotel we did end up having a voice message in our room from Aulani DVC letting us know that the bus wouldn't be coming, but it was about 15 minutes before pickup, way after we'd left for the rendezvous point. Not sure why the called the hotel and not our personal phone, or our email which they had.

    All in all, I'm happy I went. Definitely gave me some perspective on what the resort is like and whether I want to stay there or not in the future. I got to buy some Aulani ears and pins I'd been hoping for so that was great (made up for no Hawaii pins at the Disney Store). The experience was frustrating for sure, but I appreciated that Disney spent money on the taxi to fix it, and gave us the extra gift card. 100$ is nothing to sneeze at (and I know I will use it). Me being too cheap to use my Canadian cell phone in the US (boo international charges) also contributed to the difficulties. If I had a US phone or had walked to a nearby hotel that let me use their phone, I could have contacted Aulani sooner to co-ordinate the taxi.

    Would I recommend signing up for the tour? Yes.... if you are looking for a ride out of the Waikiki area to Aulani and don't want to rent a car/drive yourself (no parking fees either). The presentation itself was low pressure, had prizes, and ended with a 50$ gift card. Just know that you will have limited time on either end of the tour to visit Aulani and you can not use the pool or greet characters. It is enough time to walk through the display suite, see the beach and the public areas or grab a quick bite to eat though (ie. get a feel for if the resort is something you'd want to come back to). Just know that your day MIGHT not go as expected... but hey that's island life right?

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  2. keaster

    keaster DIS Veteran

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    Nov 27, 2008
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    It's good to see your perspective from someone who attended the sales presentation! Now that you have seen Aulani do you think you will book a vacation there?

    We are Canadian also...when it comes to using our phones in the US I'm on Rogers and just use the Roam like Home feature which is just $7/day.
     
  3. Kelsanna

    Kelsanna Earning My Ears

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2015
    Messages:
    39
    I do want to stay there, I think as part of another vacation for a few nights, not to stay more than a few days. The resort and the beach wasn't as big as I'd imagined and I think I would get bored after a few days. I'm hoping to add it to my cruise in 2020 and book by renting someone's DVC points as that seems to be the cheaper route.
     
    keaster likes this.
  4. bcwife76

    bcwife76 DisneyMomma

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2014
    Messages:
    4,181
    So, we are from Vancouver too and booked a last minute trip (also with Westjet Vacations) for this past February. While we had toyed with the idea of a dvc tour it never really crossed our mind to it on this latest trip. On our third night in Waikiki we were waiting for our table at the Cheesecake Factory outside and spotted the aforementioned DVC booth and somehow convinced my dh into taking a look and speaking with the nice people because we had so much time to kill before our table was ready. Well the chat turned into an invitation to visit Aulani in a private van the next morning so we took them up on it. It picked us up at the Sheraton and we were whisked away. Long story short - we received a $100 gift card and bought our first DVC contract! We had thought (mistakenly) that we were allowed to use the pool etc after our tour so we spoke VERY sweetly to our guide who managed to wrangle us 4 DVC wristbands and we got to stay on property for the rest of the afternoon. Have we gone back as members yet? No, but we have just stayed at AKV on our points, we are staying at GCV with our points in March and going on the member cruise in October :rotfl2: Our plan is to return to Aulani in March and finally do our first 'home resort' stay :jumping2:
     
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