I’ve read quite a few trip reports and gotten some useful tidbits from them so I figured this would be my attempt at helping others. Besides, I’m stuck back in Cleveland so writing this helps take my mind back to our trip!
First, some background: We’re a family of 4 – me, wife, and two sons ages 11 and 9. This was our 3rd family trip to WDW (my 6th overall trip). Previously we’d stayed at CBR and POFQ, this time we opted for the Polynesian due to a good PIN code offer and a well times year-end bonus from work. We also chose to do the Quick Service Dining plan this trip instead of the regular plan like trips past. We aren’t what you might call foodies but we’re also no stranger to decent restaurants. We were never blown away by the table service meals we’ve had in the past at WDW so we decided on QS this time in order to have a less structured trip. We did not enjoy the past experience of booking ADRs and then being beholden to them over the course of the trip. Our hope was the QS would be decent and we’d pick a few TS meals that we wanted to try.
With that said, on to the trip!
Saturday – April 30th
Our flight was from Akron-Canton to Orlando via Atlanta on Southwest. We chose an early bird flight that left CAK at 6:50 AM and arrived in MCO at 11:05 AM. This is the way to go if you’re looking to maximize time “in the World” but it’s also REALLY early. Thankfully we got to bed at a good time the night before and were ready to go with no snoozing when the alarm went off. We left the house around 4:30 AM or so and the drive to the airport was uneventful thanks to no traffic at that time on a Saturday! We were checked in and at the terminal with plenty of time to spare.
While we were boarding the 2nd leg of the flight my wife stealthily let the Southwest flight attendant know that it was my eldest’ s 11th birthday that day and in turn they did something truly great for us somewhere in the skies between ATL and MCO. They asked everyone to close their window shades and turn on their overhead flight attendant call lights and called it an “upside down birthday cake”! They then proceeded to get the entire plane to join in singing my boy happy birthday! He was totally caught by surprise and loved every second of it. Things like this are the reason I try to only fly Southwest.
The flights went off without a hitch and we were in MCO before we knew it. A quick ride on the MCO not-really-a-monorail and we were in line for the Magic Express. The ride on there was short and – bonus – the Polynesian was the first stop! [Note – at this point in the story we set foot on the resort so I feel like it’s fair to switch and call it the “Poly”. Before that my wife and I would kid each other that you can’t call it that until you’ve stayed there.] We were off the MDE bus and into the lobby. I hadn’t gotten a room ready text yet so I went to the desk to check on it. I wasn’t expecting it since it was only around 12:30 PM and check in isn’t until 3:00 but I figured it couldn’t hurt. Turns out it was a good thing I checked…
We had used the TP fax service to request room 3610 in Samoa since it faced the main pool and had a balcony. I kind of figured it was a long shot because it seemed to be a popular area. The CM at the desk said something to the effect of our room being ready, but then she had a puzzled look on her face. Turns out they gave us a random king bed room instead of one with 2 queens. I like my kids, but not enough to go 3 across in a bed for the whole week so I asked her to change it to a 2 queen room. I also asked if we could possibly have a 3rd floor or a first floor since I knew the 2nd floor had no balcony. She came back with a 2nd floor room facing a parking lot. I told her that we were totally willing to wait and asked could she please see if there was something meeting my request. I stayed pleasant and so did she but this process took a little longer than I had hoped. In the end it was fine and we ended up getting room 3809 in Rarotonga which turned out to be a good one. We faced the building by the quiet pool and it was centrally located to the lobby and the bus stop while still being quiet.
Since the room was ready we went up to drop stuff off and get ready to head to the MK. We packed smartly and had everything we needed with us in the room, which turned out to be a good thing since our bags took their sweet time arriving. More on this later. We checked out the room, walked around the restor a bit, and got our dining plan mugs. Then a quick slathering of sunscreen on our pale NE Ohio bodies and we were off to catch the monorail!
After a quick monorail ride we were at the gates around 2:30 or so. All set and ready to hit the MK! Except for that dreaded blue light on the tapstiles. And it wasn’t just one of us. One by one all 4 of us got denied entry. So much for our smooth sailing. But hey, it’s Disney, they’ll make it right quickly, right? Wrong. The CM working the tapstiles and whoever it was that responded to their raised finger request for assistance both said we had invalid tickets. Gee, that's funny, we bought them direct from Disney on their site… We got directed over to the Guest Relations windows at the right of the entry area to stand in a long, uncovered line in the sun for 15 minutes or so. There must have been similar issues for a lot of other guests because they had a CM walking the line handing out a free paper Fastpass to make up for it.
When I finally got to the front of the line the CM working the window said that their system was running behind and our park tickets weren’t linked up. She gave us the older style admission cards and said to use those for today. And another extra fastpass for the trouble. At this point let me say that I get that stuff happens, I work in IT and I know no system is infallible. But there’s something about being on the receiving end of a problem like this (after spending as much as we did) that makes that understanding go out the window and you just end up as an unhappy customer. I did a quick reality check and tried to shake my FirstWorldProblems and by the time we were actually though the tapstiles I had mostly calmed down.
It was then that we realized we walked in right as the 3 PM parade was coming down Main Street! Ugh. We headed right and went through the overflow corridor towards Tomorrowland and on to our first Fastpass – The Seven Dwarves Mine Train!
As far as rides go, we had a good time of it that afternoon and evening. In order, we did:
* Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
* Splash Mountain
* Peter Pan
* Dinner @ Columbia Harbor House. We really enjoyed this and it set the tone for a mostly good run of quick service meals for the week.
* Buzz Lightyear
* Space Mountain
After that it was another monorail ride back to the resort around 7:30 PM for some showers and to get our youngest in bed. We had fully expected our luggage to be there by that time since our flight landed at 11 AM. So we were a bit surprised (to put it mildly) when we got back to our room and found 1 of the 4 suitcases was there! “No problem”, I thought. We’re staying in a Deluxe resort, I’ll just call down to bell services and see what the problem is.
And that’s when I encountered what was probably my biggest complaint about the Poly. As I found out later, when you pick up your phone and hit the button for “bell services” or “front desk”, the call actually goes to a call center somewhere. So even if there are staff available at the front desk, you go into a queue. For a long time. When I called bell services I gave up after 5 minutes or so and walked down to the lobby. The guy at the desk said they were back up but the other bags were there. It would be a while before they could get them but I could get them myself. So… back to the room, got my boys to help, and we schlepped the bags to the room ourselves. (Apparently guests can’t use the bell services dollies due to insurance restrictions, or so I was told.)
OK, then. Back in the room, and we’ve got all of our luggage with our supplies. Phew. Time to shower! Only… we discovered there were only 3 washcloths for the 4 of us. Now, I know what you’re probably thinking… if anyone is even still reading this. “Dude – it’s a washcloth. Get over yourself.” Except at the end of a long day, when you want to shower and all the little problems are starting to add up and you start to think “we spent how much on this?” then (in your tired mind) it becomes bigger than 1 little washcloth. So I pick up the phone again and try to call the front desk. More holding, nobody picks up after another 5+ minutes of waiting. So off to the lobby I go again, this time finding 3-4 CMs standing at the front desk ready to help. I ask her why nobody answers when you call and that’s when I find that calls from the rooms go to a call center. I managed to remain calm and asked her to have another washcloth sent to our room. She said it would be 15-20 minutes. It never came. I went to bed and told myself it would be a better day tomorrow.
Actually, let me amend that since I hate to end on a bad note. I have nothing but good things to say about Garden Grocer! We made an order about a week before we left and their service was outstanding. Multiple confirmations along the way including emails, calls, and texts. This is how a service organization should run. While our luggage was taking its sweet time to arrive the groceries were fast tracked to our room without an issue. And among those groceries was an order of Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA, which helped to take the edge off at the end of that first day!
At the end of the day, we got cleaned up, we had our stuff, and my youngest got his wish of sleeping by himself on the fold down couch. He was out in no time! My wife and I enjoyed a cold Jai Alai while watching the top of the wishes fireworks with our oldest from the balcony, and I finally began to settle into vacation mode.
I should also note that the mini-rants above should mostly conclude my gripes for the week and the rest of the time was great!
To be continued.