Oh man! I am delayed, and I learned so much on this last trip so need to get it out there before it’s obsolete information! Things have been a bit busy (actually had to go to work, ya’ll), hence my delay.
This will probably be a pretty non-frilly trip report, but hopefully it will provide something helpful!
Staying at the Dolphin
Overall, we had a really positive experience at the Dolphin. I don’t know that I would seek out staying here again, but if the price is right, I will definitely go back. First, the location is absolutely fabulous. Boat transportation was easy, and I loved being able to both walk and boat to and from DHS and EP. You have very easy access to the BW area too, which was really nice. A couple negatives that got solved:
We intentionally booked a prepaid, non-refundable room. We like to do this because it makes it easier to manage the vacation budget. Marriott screwed up and never charged our card, which we realized about a week before we left. I was extremely frustrated with them. After two phone calls of back and forth, and some customer service tips from me, the upgraded us from a standard king to a Deluxe Alcove (which is basically a studio style room) and also knocked our rate down $30 p/n. My suggestion was to waive resort fees, which apparently is impossible. So that was the alternative.
The pool was crazy crowded. As two adults we mostly wanted to relax by the pool - definitely hard to do at a super busy time. The Swan and Dolphin pools are all clustered together. So our solution was to walk over to the Swan lap pool, which was consistently not as busy. There it was easy to find chairs and was a bit of a calmer atmosphere. I liked that you could have both options. So the negative ended up being a positive once we figure out how to work it.
It is a convention hotel. For the first half of our trip, there was a dance competition there, and they were a pretty obnoxious bunch. There were lots of groups of unaccompanied minors. I’m a teacher so I totally get middle schoolers being a bit unaware. However, I did take issue with some of the groups of older kids cursing, running around the lobby, etc as if they owned the place. There was one particularly unpleasant evening on a bus where the whole bus was filled with a group. They had clearly been under-age drinking and were just very loudly foul mouthed and inappropriate. (I actually have a bit of a mouth myself, but in public in Disney is just not appropriate). All this to say that you might want to check in to what convention is scheduled if that would be a trip-ruiner for you. The beauty pageant that came in after the dance comp, was lovely. Also, as a side note, between the two, the Swan is smaller so seemed to have smaller conventions/groups of people.
We ate at Trader Sam’s and it was lots of delicious fun! If you haven’t done it yet, I completely recommend. We had a blast with our server, and had a lovely time talking to people that we shared a table with. Things we ate: sushi roll, pork tacos, sliders. Things we drank: mojito and dark & stormy. I would recommend all of it, but man the sliders and tacos were awesome.
I had debated on whether to watch HEA from the Poly Beach or TTC. The beach had some signs up noting resort guests only (it was very busy with the holiday week). So we headed over to the TTC. The view at the TTC is absolutely beautiful, but music is not piped in efficiently. I did see a family with their phone pulled out playing the music along - smart idea! So all in all, TTC better view but location isn’t as lovely and music isn’t reliable. Poly, can’t see the castle as well but nicer location, better music - but there may be limited access.
Magic Kingdom Day - July 3, Predicted CL 8 Actual CL 5
I did open (8AM) to close (2AM) at Magic Kingdom. My DH did not… He played golf at the Palm, which he really enjoyed
As one person with that much time, I had a tentative plan, but I really just ran with what the FPPs could give me.
I arrived right at opening (gasp! - so against my instinct), but a fun little trick to make up some time, ended up being the Main Street Vehicles. I hopped on, and despite only walking in the taps at 9:00 was still walking onto my first ride by 9:08. By my count, I did 32 rides from open to close and use 9 fastpasses.
I did do Pirates Adventure and loved it. Did two maps to get the FPPs for POTC. The maps are an awesome souvenir! Also, DH was not in the park yet, but for FPPs, they asked how many were in my total party. So think they pretty routinely will give you how many you need.
I was evacuated from WTP, which was pretty cool. Selfies with animatronics!
Since DH was joining me halfway through the day, I had FPPs booked for him separately, banking on my being able to snag SDFPs to match. I did it successfully for all of them (obviously using the refresh trick). PPF was actually not hard for me to get. Hardest by far was HM.
We did a the Plaza Garden Dessert Party. We decided this primarily because my husband is not a huge crowd person, and I didn’t want to put him in a position to sit and wait in a giant crowd for fireworks. For that reason it was a great decision, but I would not do it on a normal HEA day. The food was okay, but the price is too high for value.
I loved being in MK at night. For the holiday, they had lots of DJs with music, and the energy was lots of fun. Overall, and awesome day!
Fourth of July - Pool and California Grill
There really isn’t much to say about this day other than my rave review of California Grill. It 100% lived up to the hype. Things we ate: Goat Cheese Ravioli (app), Filet (DH), Sea Bass (me), the chocolate cake (both of us, but mostly me). I am a self-professed food snob and have eaten in some very good restaurants in some very amazing locations here in the states and in other countries. That Sea Bass is easily in the top 10 if not top 5 main dishes I have ever eaten.
Then there are the fireworks. They view is just so much more incredible than anyone can describe. I cannot recommend enough for people to set aside the money and the evening to have that experience.
Finally, talk to people. Especially since it is just me and DH, we often find ourselves saying hello to neighboring tables. We had the loveliest conversation with a couple next to us who are local but celebrate their anniversary at CG every year. They have been coming to Disney since 1973 and just had the nicest things to say.
Epcot - July 5, Predicted CL 4, Actual CL 3
We had a great day in Epcot and rode every ride, including Figment. I know the RD strategy is oft discussed so here is what we did from the IG entrance:
- RD Frozen (walked onto a boat immediately - not many people heading to Frozen at all)
- Cut through by Mexico to ride TT, waited SB for 30 minutes. The data nerd in me wanted to try it to see what happened, and we had time to spare at this point.
- We did FPP for Soarin’
The RD crowd seemed to all go to FW. So with that in mind, I would probably RD either TT or Soarin’ instead (likely Soarin’ due to TT being unreliable) knowing that I’m a front of crowd Rope Dropper. I actually didn’t have any trouble getting SDFP for FEA multiple times on this trip. So I would probably FPP TT.
We did Behind the Seeds on this day and had a really wonderful time. It is a very affordable tour, and I loved going behind the scenes on one of my favorite rides. There were a few little ones (5-7 yo) on our tour, and they had a great time. The guide was great about keeping them engaged. I think this would be an awesome first backstage tour for a family - super affordable way to try it out to see if you like doing the tours.
Dinner was at SRT, a favorite of ours for the view. Food was good, but I do feel like the menu has been tamed a bit since our last visit. The highlight for me was the pistachio saffron dessert. Very delicious. This is still a great option for dinner with a view of the lagoon, and it seems a little easier to get than some of the others. We like having a 7:40 ADR, which allows us first pick of the tables without there being enough time to turn the table again before fireworks. (Of course this could change with the new show)
We did have an unfortunate issue at a neighboring table where a kid would not stop wailing and proceeded to work himself into such a fit that he actually threw up at the table (99% sure he was not sick because the family fed him an ice cream sundae shortly after). The staff did a great job cleaning up quickly, but it just serves as a reminder that Disney magic is not magic if it is being forced on you. The kid also did NOT like the fireworks and sort of screamed and wailed throughout those as well.
DHS Evening… sort of - July 6
So the original plan was to head to DHS and ride a couple rides then eat at the HBD lounge and watch fireworks. Instead there was a complete downpour with lightning. We were in the park when it started, so rode TSM since it was indoor with a FPP. Then we threw in the towel. It was the bonus day on our ticket. So I didn’t feel too bad. We ended up getting a reservation at Il Mulino at the Swan and man does it live up to the Dis’s Pete rave reviews. It is absolutely delicious with impeccable service. So all’s well, ends well. I guess I’m just not meant to ever see the Star Wars fireworks.
Every Ride / Parkeology Challenge
DH, of course, did NOT participate in this activity. He enjoyed another round of golf while I ran around like the crazy lady I am.
In summary, I completed 33 rides. I also learned a TON and can’t wait to do it again!
Tips for those who are considering:
- You can’t really plan it like you plan a regular day, because you have no way of knowing how your FPPs will play out. That being said, I went in with a plan for RD, for the first hour at MK, and for how I would go through the parks (that did changed because of weather).
- The fewer hops the better. Even using lyft and minnie van, it took me about 30 minutes to get from one park to another. I had to hop more than I planned because I didn’t get AK done before the rain hit. This caused me to go to Epcot with AK only half done. So to finish AK, I had to go back.
- I think having your own car is most ideal. The cost of using the lyfts I think is pretty comparable to a one day rental (which you can pick up at Dolphin). Also, the lyfts, particularly MVs, which I used only for to and from MK, are not necessarily there quickly. So the time to walk to and from your own car is likely about the same as well. Also note, MV drivers are particularly cautious (read slow) drivers as they are CMs.
- The big thing I would change is how I did my FPPs. EMH was at DHS on my day. I had planned to do EMH, head to MK to enjoy some 9AM short waits and then move on to Epcot where I had FPP for FEA, SE, and MS. I should have booked my FPPs at DHS so there so that I could do EMH use FPPs to finish out all the rides at DHS before leaving. I think if I had had those lined up I still could have gotten to MK in time to ride the Main Street Vehicles before heading on my way. The huge problem at DHS for me was also trying to get TOT same day. I literally never saw it with the refurb going on (I did see it one time on another day).
It was an absolute blast to do, and like I said, I can’t wait to do it again! I’m crossing fingers that I will find a good priceline deal and be able to convince DH to let me go down next spring. Obviously GE will provide some particular wildcards!
1/2 Day DHS and 1/2 Day Epcot
At DH’s request, we did not RD this morning. I will say, having taken part in RD at DHS the day prior, I think it was a wise choice. It is a particularly nasty RD experience.
We had a FPP for SDD and had already ridden TSM. So we essentially rode SDD and ToT - favorite rides, before boating over to Epcot.
At Epcot, we road Soarin’, DH’s favorite (I made sure to get B1 for the last ride of the trip) and then spent the entire afternoon eating our way through the world.
Mexico - empanadas at cantina
Norway - school bread at Kringla
China - pot stickers
Germany - pretzel with mustard and riesling to drink
Italy - it rained so we sat far too long eating cheese and drinking wine
Japan - shrimp and beef teryaki
Morocco - (we skipped since we had already eaten there and needed the stomach space)
France - croissant and macaroons
We did not do UK or Canada.
We also took the time to watch the movies in Canada, China and France, which I hadn’t seen in a long time. We caught the serveur amusant as well as voices of liberty too.
I’m not really a Guardians of the Galaxy fan, but we stopped into their show, and it was a lot of fun.
Actual last ride of the entire trip was FEA, which I adore. So that was nice. We did get FPPs for Illuminations, and it was a nice viewing location. Illuminations has long been a favorite of mine. So I am super sad to see it go. I’m sure the new show will be fabulous, though. So something to look forward to seeing.
Use the app
This is my final tip because I cannot stress it enough. First, the near instantaneous response on the Liners chat is absolutely invaluable. Second, if you want to TPs to work as best they can, get in the app and refresh so you are using the most recent data. When I was working in the app, I had to occasionally rearrange, but the predicted info using updated data was spot on. It truly is an amazing tool.
So a big thank you to the developers! I’m so glad that the guide I picked up as a 14 year old has morphed into this fabulous app, website and forum. And a huge thank you to the people on this forum and on chat. Not only are the tips and info invaluable, but you guys make it fun - particularly on days when DH is off playing golf
I don’t have a current countdown, but I’m already looking forward to heading down in 2021 for the anniversary. I’m crossing fingers too that a short something will pan out for next year