Trip report - Our May 2016 adventures in The World


#1

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.
  • Speedway
  • Peoplemover
  • 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.


#2

If I could double ‘Like’ your first day of your report, I would. very well stated, especially about the problems you ran into through the day. I love your perspective on them being small issues, while still acknowledging that hey, it’s kinda a problem when you choose to spend the dollars that you do for a deluxe resort and end up 1 washcloth short and fresh out of bell service.


#3

More. I need more. Very well written and I understand all of your complaints.


#4

Enjoyed your report!

We had a tapstile issue on our last trip, and I wasn’t very impressed with how they dealt with the situation. You’d think there’d be some sort of DEFCON 5 response team to get you through those things. :wink:

We also were underwhelmed by the response when you call for help at resorts - I can’t think of a single time something the desk services person told me actually happened. Missing towels, unmade beds, missing luggage: we waited huge amounts of time and then had to fend for ourselves each time. My kids and I started making undercover Rambo missions to raid the mousekeeping towel carts.

That all being said, I bet that IPA with fireworks was awesome.

Looking forward to your follow up!


#5

At POP guests can use the luggage carts but its forbidden at Poly. Hmmm…


#6

EEK! Rejection at the tapstile! Always a gnawing first day fear!


#7

Thanks for all the kind words. It seems like my intent came across, which is always good. On balance, our trip was fantastic. I am hoping that message didn’t get lost in the side tracks of my pointing out some flaws here and there.

With that said, on to day 2!

Sunday – May 1st

A new day. The initial plan called for us to have a full day at the Magic Kingdom with a pool break at the resort in the middle. The reality was a little different, but shows that being flexible is often rewarded. Thanks to my awesome foresight (or was it the communal wisdom of this site?) we had 8:05 AM reservations for Be Our Guest breakfast and we had pre-ordered our meals. So it was a no-nonsense morning for us: up at around 6:45 or so in order to get ready and be on the monorail at 7:15 and at the MK through bag check and in the line for early entry by 7:45 AM. All of that worked out really well and we were, in fact, let into the park along with all the other early dining folks right around 7:45. What a treat, and there couldn’t be a more opposite experience for entering the park than comparing this to the prior day’s entry. A nearly empty Main Street. Lots of smiling faces. Photopass photographers on top of their game!

I should note about Photopass/Memory Maker – We didn’t buy it this time. We had purchased it once on a prior trip and just didn’t see the value. But this also goes to show you why those photographers are a prime example of how CMs should be. The photographer that we encountered in the hub area was so cheerful and willing to really take her time despite us telling her we hadn’t purchased a photo package. Once she finished with the family ahead of us she was totally happy to snap a ton of pictures of us. And when I say a ton, I mean she used her camera for a few but then was happy to take my SLR and snap a bunch, then take my wife’s phone and snap a bunch more. She took the time to put us in poses that we wouldn’t have thought of on our own and just overall brought out the best of us that morning. Yeah, yeah… it was only 7:50 so she hadn’t had to deal with that many people yet but you could just tell she was really good at what she did.

Side note - I love photography. I love Disney. But if that was my job my career would be over before I’d drained my first battery pack! The kids, the parents, the heat, the crowds… I just couldn’t deal. So with that in mind I have a special place in my heart for someone that can not only stomach that job for more than 5 minutes but actually appear to be enjoying themselves.

Back to the main story!

After taking a leisurely stroll down Main Street, getting some outstanding pictures in front of the castle, then wandering through it and actually being able to appreciate the mosaic work on the inside it was time to get back to BOG for breakfast.

You know how you can order your breakfast ahead of time? DO IT. Seriously, even if you’re not sure what you want now will be what you want then. Do it. Everything about the experience goes SO MUCH faster and smoother if you’ve pre-ordered. You check in at the window on the park side of the entry bridge and tell them you’ve pre-ordered. They make it clear to go across the bridge and hang to the left and this is totally where you want to go. We got there a little after 8:05 and the line to place your order on the right side looked…. Unmagical? Big line, lots of unhappy faces. Contrast that with the line for those that pre-ordered. There was 1 other group ahead of us in the VIP, er… pre-order, line and after a quick tap of the old Magic Band we were in and on our way to find a table. We checked the side room with the rose (name escapes me now. West Wing?) but it was full so we sat down at a table on the perimeter of the main dining room.

My oldest and I went to get drinks, my little guy got silverware and napkins while DW relaxed for a few minutes. A couple minutes later and our food was rolling out. As I mentioned in the intro, we weren’t that impressed with the table service food at WDW in the past. We’ve eaten at BOG for dinner and while “OK”, for us it wasn’t anything to write home about. Perhaps it’s the lower expectations we had going in this time but I’ve got to say that this breakfast was probably our favorite “quick service” meal of the entire trip. Everything came out exactly as requested. The things that were supposed to be hot were hot. The pastries were tasty. Heck, the coffee was even decent! I know that looking at the menu prices makes it seem overpriced but I’m convinced that’s done to justify the “value” of the dining plan. When you factor in the early reservation getting you into a nearly empty park I felt very satisfied with our BOG experience.

Time for another “side note” – About the dining plan. The math may or may not have worked in our favor. I honestly didn’t keep track. The real reason we go for the dining plan is that we are the type that very much likes to have as much of the cost of a trip taken care of in advance. So from that angle it was a winner. Knowing that every meal didn’t mean racking up more room charges was a nice feeling. And even though we supplemented with a few TS meals that we paid out of pocket, I think I’d do the QS plan again.

Where was I? Oh yeah… breakfast! We enjoyed a few drink refills, ate our meals at a pace that was comfortable to us, and headed out to the park. At this point it was around 8:45 AM on a 9:00 AM opening day. We crossed the bridge from BOG and saw a rather large and intimidating line of people at the Fastpass entrance to 7DMT. I was worried that we’d have a large wait but it turns out they just hold people at the FP entrance until they start the ride. About a minute after we got in line they let us in and we were on the 7DMT not even 5 minutes later!

I’ve heard mixed reviews of 7DMT. My family enjoys thrill rides and coasters, but we also really enjoyed the 7DMT. For us I think the key was setting expectations. I tried not to bill it as a roller coaster, but more like a dark ride that had some quick parts. And we all liked it despite the fact that the ride itself seems a bit short.

So the rides for the morning were as follows:

  • Be our guest
  • 7DMT
  • Tried to ride Dumbo but it broke down. Which was frustrating because they also were only running 1 of the spinners while the other sat dormant. #ThanksShanghai? Whatever, we bailed and moved on!
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Big Thunder Mountain x2 with no wait. It was around this time when the kids commented how much we were able to be doing and I just kind of smiled and said this was what morning felt like and to enjoy it while it lasts!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Splash Mountain
  • Tiki Room
  • Jungle Cruise

At this point we were starting to get hungry again so we headed back to the resort for some lunch at Captain Cook’s. We got our food and decided to eat outside since the weather was so nice. I got the pulled pork, DW got the roast beef sandwich, and the boys got some flatbreads. Here’s a top tip for ordering food at Captain Cook’s – unless it’s completely empty when you walk in, get in line as soon as you walk in then decide what you want. There’s not that many choices so you should have enough time to figure it out before the cashier randomly decides which side of the line she wants to take and asks for your order. If you go in and take a few minutes to figure out your order before getting in line things will take longer. Sometimes a lot longer. I’ll just say that while I was pleased with the food from Captain Cook’s the ordering/line system leaves a bit to be desired.

After lunch we went back to the room and changed for the pool. At this point I should note that I’m not much of a pool fanatic. DW and kids love the pool. So this part of my review/recap probably differs from reality a bit.

In my version, we miserably baked and sweated in the sun for what felt like days before I found some much needed shade in a back row and got us some chairs out of the heat under an umbrella. In reality, my wife and kids were happily hanging in the pool and lounge chairs and they would rate things as A+ at the pool. So yeah… the pool is great, if that’s your kind of thing!

Our (or should I say “my”) original plan was to go back to the MK after the pool. However, my boys were wanting to ride Rock N’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios. Enter one of the things Disney is very much doing right after the recent update to the MDE app! At some point after our first 3 FPP selections were done I was able to book a 4th rolling FPP for RNR at DHS (forgive me if I get an acronym wrong, hopefully you can play along) that evening without being in the park. No muss, no fuss, just a happy family.

So after getting our pool time in we went back to the room, cleaned up, and headed to the bus stop to catch a ride to Hollywood Studios. We got there before our FPP time so we rode a few other rides in the meantime:

  • Great Movie Ride
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • Grabbed a couple of pretzels, some cheese-like sauce, and a churro with “chocolate” dipping sauce from a food cart
  • Star Tours
  • Rock N’ Roller Coaster via FPP

It was kind of late at this point, but seeing as how we’d never seen Fantasmic(!) we decided to check it out. I think it was around 8:50 and the show started at 9:00 but we were right by the entrance so we figured we’d give it a go. After walking to what seemed like the Georgia line we got to the theater and whoah. That’s a lot of people! Found some seats in the very last row on the far side and settled in. We sat through probably 10-15 minutes of the show but our seats weren’t all that and when we combined that with the fact that none of us likes crowds all that much the idea of leaving with the masses had us bailing out about halfway through the show. We wandered out of DHS, caught a bus, and were on our way to the resort when the DHS fireworks started. We made it back in time to watch the MK fireworks on the beach at the Poly.

Thinking back on this day, I feel like this day set the tone for the rest of the trip. Have a plan, but treat it as an outline rather than a rigid commitment. Be open to what the group wants to do and just go with it. I think the lack of dining reservations certainly helped in this regard – if we’d have made a TS reservation in the MK for Sunday evening we’d feel forced to use it lest we get charged a fee. (Or reschedule it to another time/location but again that takes away from the vacation.)

Another learning was that Park Hopper was “worth it” for us. The boys are getting older and are able to hang in there for longer, meaning we can do more in a given day. Thinking back to our first trip, the boys were 4 and 6. (sniff) I pushed them around in a double stroller all week and we only went to MK and Epcot (and Downtown Disney) the whole week. No park hopper because we couldn’t stay up that late. Our 2nd trip the boys were 9 and 7, and we tried all 4 parks. I think we even had park hopper but if we did we for sure didn’t use it to its fullest potential. This trip we hit all 4 parks, both water parks, plus Disney Springs. And we loved having the park hopper option. More to come on how we used it.

To be continued.


#8

What a FANTASTIC day. As you say, in stark contrast to the day prior. I’m relaxed just reading it, and yet you did a TON!

Love your writing style, the way you cover everything you did, and the applicable “side notes”. Keep it coming!


#9

I’m really enjoying your report! Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to read more.


#10

Great report! Really enjoying it and can’t wait for the next installment! Well done!! :smile: Thanks for taking the time to share your holiday with us!


#11

I forgot to address this. I had read and enjoyed your narrative on your entrance fiasco before our trip! I kind of forgot about this, but on our 2nd morning there was an older couple ahead of us in the “early ADR” line. They were having issues with their bands and we were right behind them. And there were 2 lines. And the other line just kept moving right along. It’s weird, but at that point things almost go into some form of Matrix movie bullet time scene in your head. Everything seems to slow down and you take note of everyone else that’s getting in, all the people backed up behind you, and how you’re “missing out” on things. In reality, it probably delayed our morning by 1 minute at most but it sure felt like longer while we were in it!

We had a recurring theme of blue tapstiles on our trip. Nothing consistent but over the course of the week all 4 of us had issues at one point or another. 2 of us had our pictures taken so somehow supposedly speed the process in the future but that seemed to be a placebo.

Oh, and the IPA was thoroughly enjoyed at the end of the day. Too bad they’re not distributed up north, but I’ve got plenty of good local options to keep me going.


#12

I know you said you are from Cleveland. Jai alai is distributed in your neighboring state of Pennsylvania, fyi :slight_smile:


#13

We’re in the far east 'burbs (Mentor area) but it’s just easier to write Cleveland. That also makes me a little over an hour from Erie, PA. Might be worth the drive to find out! But I checked Cigar City’s distributor map and their only PA distributor was in Philly, so I’m not sure if they make it to the far western edge of PA or not.

The good news is that we’ve got Great Lakes, The Brew Kettle, Platform, and a bunch of other good local breweries to keep my liver occupied!


#14

Enjoying your report. Couldn’t agree with you more that a TP is a “plan”, and you should always be willing to change it on the fly. Looking forward to the next installment…


#15

Not lost at all. I love reading trip reports with obstacles and sharing the obstacles I myself have had in the hopes that I am preparing someone to have a better plan, or at least better expectations than I had. Your perspective on them was just perfect too, because if anyone lets all the little problems you are going to 100% encounter on your WDW vacation get in the way of the fun, then you’re going to have a miserable time. Which is such a shame in such a fantastic place to be!

Looking forward to reports for all the rest of the days to come.


#16

Tapstile question

I have AP (so I’m fine–but the rest of my group—
<I guess they would mind, if I just left them in the dust>

  1. Had you already prechecked in to the Poly online?
  2. Did Poly desk “try” your bands to see if they were working?

-We are offsite first night, but aim to hit EP b4 rd— now I wonder if it will be necessary for me to physically check us in at PORS

Thanks, and enjoying the report!


#17

We booked, paid for, and checked in all online. Everything was squared up weeks in advance as far as payment goes and we did online checkin a few days before. I would think we’d be the poster children for “how things should just work”.

When we arrived we hadn’t gotten a “room ready” text, so we went to the desk and checked in there. [maybe changing rooms from what we were originally assigned played into it?]

I don’t know if they checked our bands at the desk. I do kind of remember tapping it at some point during check-in. I can say that we were able to use them to access the room and to pick up our included resort drink mugs at Captain Cook’s prior to going to the parks. So the magic bands were set up as far as dining and room access went. I was just the park access that was botched.

Oh, and one other detail I might have left out - when we had park access problems that first day we were issued temporary “credit card” style park tickets. Those got us past the tapstiles at the entrance. We proceeded to 7DMT where we had a FP. The cards did NOT work for FPP, but our bands did. From that point on we used bands for everything. We even went so far as to try re-entering after leaving around 7 on Saturday evening. That worked fine. Something in the system must have “caught up” by that time.


#18

Monday – May 2nd

Hello, Monday. Also known as “The day my kids were really looking forward to.” Why is that? It’s water park day! We were looking forward to trying a brand new (to us) park. We’ve been to a few local indoor water parks and my boys are strong swimmers so we figured it was time to give Disney’s water parks a shot. We planned to go to both of them this time around but weren’t sure what order to do them in. Blizzard Beach won in a coin toss.

Since the water parks are only open 10AM – 5PM, we planned to have a more leisurely morning than the day before. We got up around 8 or so, ate breakfast in the room (thank you again, Garden Grocer), and got packed up for the day. On the advice of someone here we made a quick run down to the pool and grabbed some towels for the trip. We packed up the pool bag and headed for the bus stop. We caught a bus around 9:40 or so and were off to the park.

We arrived right around 10 AM, maybe a little before. We headed in and hung a left to find some chairs in the shade. After finding a suitable spot we dropped off our stuff on the chairs and headed to the slides. Maybe we’re overly trusting sorts but we just ended up leaving all of our stuff on the chairs. We covered it with towels and we had no issues. Your mileage may vary but it worked well for us.

I didn’t take very good notes of what we rode because my phone was in the bag. So while not in order, I know one or more of us did the following:
• Teamboat Springs – Our favorite ride of the day. It was so neat to be able to go down as a group instead of having to break into groups of 2.
• The Chairlift – What a great idea! We enjoyed this when the lines were relatively short and skipped it as people filled in.
• Toboggan Racers – We all like this.
• Snow Stormers – A little faster than the Toboggan racers, but not bad
• Downhill Double Dipper – One and done. The line was getting a little long by the time we rode this and the ride is over in 6-7 seconds so it’s a matter of wait/ride ratio.
• Runoff Rapids – The only “meh” of the day. This is the one ride in the park that you have to carry your raft up and that for sure contributed to us feeling underwhelmed by it.
• Cross Country Creek – Mostly relaxing interrupted by brief periods of being doused with cold water.
• Wave pool – Good times.
• Slush Gusher – My oldest decided he’d skip Summit Plummet but gave Slush Gusher a try. He liked it well enough. The rest of us were fine watching from the bottom

There were a couple of aspects that we really appreciated about how the park is laid out:
• With the exception of the Runoff Rapids all of the main slides originate from the same general area. Some are higher up than others but for the most part if you’re climbing up you can get to any slide you want. I’ll contrast this layout to Typhoon Lagoon in another post later on…
• All the main slides (again with the exception of Runoff Rapids) have conveyor belt systems that bring your raft to the top for you. This is really a great feature and much appreciated after a few slides. Again, this will be compared to Typhoon Lagoon later on.
• Speaking of laziness, the Chairlift is a fun option for getting to the top of the hill. Early on there was next-to-no line so we took advantage of it. Later on once the park filled it a bit it had a 10 minute wait or so. Not bad, but longer than a 2 minute walk up the stairs.

As far as food, we had some mini donuts (yum!) and some hot dogs (so-so). I wasn’t expecting much from the lunch here and I got exactly that.

In all we really enjoyed the park and were heading out around 2:30 or so to head back to the resort and prepare for the afternoon.

Speaking of the resort, I think it was Saturday night that we realized we forgot a personal item. I remembered that people had talked about getting stuff shipped from Amazon so I figured I’d give it a shot. While we were at the water park I got a notice from Amazon that my package had been delivered (thank you, Prime). Upon arriving back at the hotel from the park we were pleased to see that the package was sitting in our room! In case you’re keeping score at home, bell services is slow with luggage but on point for delivering small Amazon packages.

Programming note: If there were a soundtrack to this day, right around here is where the music would take a mildly ominous tone.

Our afternoon plan was to get showered up and head over to Epcot, trying to arrive around 5 or 5:30. I had read that there was a connecting path between the Poly and the Transportation and Ticket Center. I figured walking to the TTC would be a good option since it eliminated the time of taking the resort monorail from the Poly->Floridian->MK->Contemporary->TTC and then transferring to the Epcot monorail line. And it would have been a good idea, if not for me botching the directions…

You see, I zigged when I should have zagged. I made a wrong turn at Albuquerque. I… screwed up. I ended up taking us towards the Grand Floridian instead of the TTC. By the time I realized it (why is there a Luau spot here? Oops) we were getting kind of hot and tired of walking. So we decided to just get the resort monorail. There was where the night took a turn.

Things started out OK, but after we left the GF stop the monorail began slowing on the approach to the MK. It came to a halt and they made a canned announcement that they were waiting for traffic to clear. Sure enough, we could see a monorail stopped at the MK station. No big deal, I’m sure it happens all the time. We’ll be on our way in no time. A few more pre-recorded announcements came and went and we started to get antsy. We had some FPs at Epcot (Spaceship Earth at 4:15 and Test Track at 5:15) and this was not looking good. We weren’t concerned about the SSE one because it should be fine to ride standby. And I think I was able to go into MDE and change the time of the TT one to a little later… but it’s all kind of foggy now.

At some point the pre-recorded announcements were replaced by an actual driver’s voice making an announcement – the monorail ahead of us was broken down and we were waiting for it to get moved. Then a little later the story changed to “we’re backing up to the GF and you can get off there”. Um… OK. Not much we could do at that point. When we got back to the GF they made another announcement that buses were coming to take passengers directly to MK and Epcot. That sounds promising! So we got off and headed down to the GF bus stop. After 5 minutes or so, a bus showed up for the MK. And then a few more buses showed up, all showing MK as their stop. Not feeling like we knew what was going on, I went inside to the desk at the GF where a cast member called the bus line and confirmed that one should be coming to take people directly to Epcot. I explained to her that we were likely going to miss FP reservations and she offered to add a few extra to my account. That sounded like a good plan so I headed back to the bus stop.

More buses arrived but none of them said Epcot. Oh, and at some point the monorail started going again, silently mocking us by occasionally passing overhead. So I went off again in search of answers, and here the story turns for the better.

It was then that I had the good fortune to encounter Ms. Tracey Powell, the Vice President of Deluxe Resorts. I know this because she introduced herself as Tracey Powell, the Vice President of Deluxe Resorts. At this point I was rather flustered due to the possibility of missing out on our Epcot plans, and Ms. Powell did a fantastic job of taking charge of the situation and ensuring that we got to our destination. She checked with the CM at the desk who verified my story and then she offered to get us a cab compliments of the resort! Oh, and she also added another round of extra Fastpasses for the following day. I know I was agitated, but she remained calm and professional and managed to diffuse the situation with kindness and a sense of ownership that was very much appreciated. It was refreshing to see someone that was clearly higher up in the management chain willing to step in and take action to make a situation better.

Cab procured, we were off and at the gates of Epcot relatively quickly. I had kind of resigned myself to not seeing much of Epcot at this point, and it turned out I was more right than I even knew at the time. But first, another bit of clarification.

I’ve been to Epcot when I was little. I have many fond memories of the park and particularly of Figment, in its original incarnation. My family only really knows current day Epcot. So it’s understandable that they look at me like I have 3 heads when I suggest stuff like “Let’s go on Figment!” In general, Epcot has been a park that they’ve tolerated because I like it, but they’d honestly rather be at the pool. And on a rational level I kind of get that. With Soarin’ closed and Maelstrom gone it’s not like there’s a ton to do ride-wise at Epcot. But still in my mind it’s EPCOT and somewhere I really like.

So we’re walking in to Epcot and I check the MDE app and wow, look at that. They did in fact give us 3 FP for any attraction in Epcot for that night, and 3 for the next day at Hollywood Studio also. Score! These were in addition to the ones that we had booked already and were good for basically any attraction. So they really did take care of us. Nothing was going to get back the hour or more that we lost with my wrong turns and the monorail breakdown but this was about as good as I could reasonably expect things to be.

We get in and head right to TT since we had a FP we could use for it. Rode TT and then headed towards World Showcase on a somewhat strange mission. You see, when we were there in 2014 my wife had just recently made a work trip to Norway and was very much into all things Norwegian. One of the souvenirs we picked up on that trip was a Norge shot glass from the Norway pavilion that had a moose/elk head on the front and a rear, well, on the rear. And not painted on, but they were 3D pieced that were glued onto the glass to make it look like the moose was coming through the glass. We liked it. Right up until the point someone (coughnot mecough) dropped it and shattered it about 2 weeks before we left on our recent trip. We were hoping to find a replacement in Norway this trip but alas, tastes must have changed and 3D moose butt shot glasses have fallen out of favor with the World Showcase crowd. I guess I’ll have to keep checking eBay.

After striking out at Norway we realized we were getting hungry. Here’s one of the rare times when not having a table service reservation kind of seemed like a drawback. We were at Norway and headed around clockwise. We were being indecisive about food and sort of agreed on trying the QS in France. Here’s another top tip – When something in the World Showcase looks close, it’s not. It’s a LONG walk. And if you’re borderline hangry then it’s even further away.

While we were hiking to France we passed by some of the carts in China and my oldest decided to spend some of his gift card money on one of those woven Chinese cone-shaped hats. Yep, he’s quirky like that and I love it. Besides, it wasn’t our money, so what did we care?

We eventually made it to France after what began to feel like a forced march. We got some things I can’t remember and ate at a small table. It was unremarkable, but again that might have been colored by my mood. Oh, and while ordering we told them we would be using the dining plan and asked what was included. She said any of the desserts, so my oldest picked a box of the macarons. The rest of the family went and sat down and I continued on to the checkout. Where I was told those macarons were not included on the dining plan. So I had them grab me another dessert in addition to the macarons since my bot had his eye on them. And later I realized they were $11. So there’s that.

After getting fed we felt a little better and headed out to quickly finish our WS tour and get back to TT to use another one of our freebie FP selections. It was beginning to get dark and I remember them making and announcement that Illuminations was in a half hour or so. The park closed at 9 and I was hoping we could fit in a TT ride and a spin on SSE before we left. We weren’t planning on taking in Illuminations. Somewhere around the intersection of WS and FW it began to sprinkle. We still headed to TT but by the time we got there it was raining a little harder and they shut it down. So we headed over to SSE and got on. Took a tour of that and when we got off we realized the skies had opened up. We poked our heads out of the post-show area and realized the rain was really coming down. We hung out in there for a bit and thought it might pass. It didn’t.

Remember that woven Chinese hat? The one that seems like it would be a bad idea if it got wet? Yeah, we were still carrying that around. So as it’s raining and not looking like it’s going to let up, I figured I needed to find a way to protect the hat. Since it wouldn’t fit in my backpack (seriously, have you seen how big those hats are?) I needed to improvise. I poked my head out of the Project Tomorrow area and spotted The Art of Disney. I made a dash over there and the kind CM gave me one of their largest plastic bags. I darted back to meet the family, we secured the hat, and then decided to make a break for it.

The rain was letting up and as we were walking out it occurred to me that we only used 1 of the 3 bonus FPs we were gifted for that evening. Figuring “it doesn’t hurt to ask” we swung by Guest Relations on our way out. I asked if they could move the 2 remaining bonus FP’s to Wednesday when we’d be over at MK. Presto change-o, with a few clicks the CM was able to switch them over! So we now had 3 extra FPs for Tuesday (at DHS) and 2 extra for Wednesday at MK.

The good news was that we had additional FPs. The bad news was that my little detour to Guest Relations had made us wait just long enough that the rain was now coming down HARD again. We made our way to the monorail station in the rain and waited for the next train. The rain was blowing practically sideways into the platform as we waited and I was worried that they might stop running! That would not be the case, however, and a train pulled into the station. We boarded, waited a while, and were whisked off to the TTC in the pouring rain. From there it was a quick ride on the resort monorail and we were home.

We got back to the room, laid our stuff out to dry, got cleaned up, and headed to bed.

To be continued.


#19

I am really enjoying reading your experience, and I’m looking forward with eager anticipation to Tuesday’s account.

I had the good fortune to encounter Ms. Tracey Powell, the Vice President of Deluxe Resorts.

That is so awesome that she took such great care of you and your family. It makes me wonder, though, if Ms. Jane Doe, the Vice President of Value Resorts would be as accommodating. Maybe those staying at the Value Resorts would have gotten one FPP and an Uber coupon code.:wink:


#20

Oh my gosh, this is SO what happened on our first family trip to WDW. Despite all the research I had done pre-trip, I was not aware that Figment had changed! I was SO excited to ride and couldn’t wait to introduce my family to it. We came out of the ride and I was looking like this :frowning: and they were looking like this :confused: and then I was so, so sad. What they did to our beloved Figment is just atrocious. We know better now, we avoid him :cry: because I can’t face the shell of an experience that ride was turned into. Anyone know why they did this???

I’m glad the VP of Deluxe Resorts was able to take care of you, and even more glad that the CM at EP was able to presto-chango the unused bonuses into usable at MK next day.