As I mentioned yesterday on Otaku Haiku, last week I was vacationing in Walt Disney World. While this wasn’t my first trip to the House of Mouse, there were still a great many firsts on this vacation for me and my family. Hence I thought that I might diverge from my usual musical path and devote today’s (and next week’s) entry to reviewing my most recent jaunt to WDW, because I know that there are just as many Disney fanatics as myself out there who like an insider’s view of the parks. (I certainly did my fair share of blog reading before I embarked on my most recent adventure!) Besides that, who doesn’t love seeing pictures of Cinderella?
In times past we always stayed off-property nearby, but this time we snagged a room in a Disney resort. Disney’s Beach Club Villas, to be precise, and it was a ten minute walk over to Epcot (which was the biggest selling point for me).
The room was very clean, which was all that I really cared about. Sure, one of the faucets leaked when turned on, and the couch in the living room was not very comfortable at all, but none of that really mattered. We each had a cozy bed and a clean shower, and that’s all I need when I’m at WDW. Who wants to stay in a resort room when there are rides to ride? However, unbeknownst to us when we booked, our resort was one of two that has access to Stormalong Bay, which is a mini water park of sorts. We kept meaning to go swimming, but there was just no time! Finally we checked out the pool on our last day of vacation, and it was lovely. I spent all of my time in the “lazy river,” which has sand on the bottom and allows you to float merrily along in a large circular pattern. It was impressive indeed, but I’m not sorry that I spent more time in the parks than in the water.
Speaking of which, getting to the parks was easier than ever! I already mentioned the short walk to Epcot, and getting to Hollywood Studios was also a breeze thanks to the “Friendship” boat. Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Downtown Disney were all quick bus rides away, and after a stop to pick up guests at the Boardwalk we were shuttled straight to our destination. Not only that, but we were dropped off right at the front of MK, no monorail or ferry required!
As resort guests we got to take advantage of the “extended magic hours” for the first time. Though it was rough rolling out at 7:00 a.m. on vacation, it was worth it to have zero wait for the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom. Not only that, but we saw more animals than we’ve ever seen before in those early morning hours! The late night extended hours weren’t as useful because the major rides still had ten to fifteen minute waits. Yes, I know that’s nothing for a ride that usually boasts lines from forty-five minutes to two hours long, but when you’re expecting to just walk onto a ride it’s a little disappointing.
Speaking of which, the crowds were…okay. I’m sure that in comparison to the booming summer months, what we experienced was nothing.
However, the past two times I’d been to WDW were in January right after the rush of the holiday crowds has dispersed. I’d read that September is a “down” month for Disney, so I was hoping to just walk onto most rides as I’d done previously. It turned out this was not to be the case. True, we walked right on to several of the less crowded rides (we always managed to hop immediately onto Pirates of the Caribbean for some reason) but on others we waited for ten to twenty minutes, and for the longer wait times we used fast passes. I noticed most of the “big ticket” rides were only operating half of the vehicles that could be used. It makes sense, given that we were in off-season, but it was slightly disappointing to know that those forty to fifty minute waits could have been reduced to nothing had the rides been operating at full capacity.
Another first for my family was using the Disney Dining Plan. In times past we simply grabbed quick service meals here and there while running from ride to ride to ride. On this trip we decided to make time to have at least one table service meal per day, and I have to say that was one of my favourite parts of this vacation. We spent most of our meal credits on different restaurants in Epcot’s World Showcase, and thanks to the pre-paid dining plan we weren’t afraid of sitting down and getting sticker shock when we opened the menus. In fact, I’m positive that as a family we saved a great deal of money while still enjoying the fine dining offered at WDW. Each and every meal was delicious, and each of our servers was delightful, especially in the World Showcase where each server was from the country that we were dining in. I enjoyed the table service so much that I would be tempted to upgrade to the dining plan that includes more table service meals on our next trip.
My one gripe is about the fluctuating rules with the quick service meals. I’d read online that we could get an extra drink instead of a dessert with the quick service, or even trade out one quick service meal for four snacks. This turned out to be problematic, with some cast members granting our request, others flat-out refusing, and still others giving us some sort of halfway point (such as giving us chips and a drink for a quick service credit). It all seemed to depend on the cast member and the day, which was annoying. I don’t mind following the rules, but I need to know them first! In the future I wouldn’t count on being able to trade out any quick service credits for anything else just to be safe, but as I mentioned before, next time I’ll probably go for more table service credits a day, which will eliminate the problem altogether.
I must admit that staying at a Disney resort has now spoiled me. I can’t imagine returning to Disney World without all of the perks that we gained on this trip, such as door-to-door bus service, the dining plan, walking to Epcot, extended magic hours, and perhaps best of all, being close enough to return to the room for an afternoon nap! Besides the unrelenting heat that we experienced last week, I would probably choose another January visit over a September trip as far as avoiding crowds goes. The week after most winter vacations end would be ideal, since presumably the park would still be operating at peak capacity but with far fewer visitors. Still, this might have been my best (adult) trip to WDW yet, all things considered. I look forward to taking the knowledge that I’ve gained on this vacation and using it to create an even more magical experience next time. However, no matter where you stay or what you do, the very best advice of all is this: wear comfortable shoes!!!
Tune in next week for another Disney review, this time of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!