Monday, June 20, 2011

Orlando trip - February 17, 2011 - Magic Kingdom and thoughts on Beach Club

Yeah, I know, it ended up taking a while to finish up the last day of this trip report. Other things needed my attention more. But, let's continue on.

For our last day at WDW, we went to Magic Kingdom, which had extra magic hours this morning, from 8am to 9am. (As a side note, I don't usually care about morning EMH because it's only an extra hour. I *love* evening EMH because it's an extra THREE hours. And we're usually up pretty late when we're at WDW anyway, and we then usually get up for park opening - whatever park we're going to - the next day, so getting up even earlier for just one extra hour isn't worth it to us.)

A cast member had a friend with her on Main Street to greet arriving guests.

As we walked past Dumbo, we noticed there was already a line. Seriously, Dumbo just has this pull on people. Must.ride.Dumbo.

We didn't go to the Magic Kingdom for morning EMH to go on rides. It so happened that we had gotten breakfast reservations for Cinderella's Royal Table for that morning. And it wasn't like we'd gotten up at some unreasonable hour of the morning right when reservations became available to get them. We made the reservation about 3 months beforehand, while we were making all of our other ADRs. I know that it's really hard to get a reservation for Cinderella's Royal Table for breakfast. I think we were able to get a reservation so easily because it was during morning EMH. Maybe it's because EMH can be announced later than the 180 days when ADRs can begin to be made, or maybe people don't think about making ADRs during morning or evening EMH and just usually use the regular operating hours to make their dining plans. Of course, dining during EMH only works if you're staying at one of the resort hotels, so that also eliminates those staying off property. Getting ADRs during evening EMH also worked for us on this trip, so we'll definitely keep that in mind when planning in the future.

We made a slight detour to Space Mountain to pick up Fastpasses in case we felt like using them later. Then we headed over for our 8:30 reservation.

We checked in and were invited inside the castle. Cinderella was in the lobby, and there was a line to have a meet-and-greet and picture session with her. Once we got to her, we said hello, exchanged a few more pleasantries, had our picture taken with her, and then we went upstairs to the dining room, where we were then taken to a table.

Our server came by and started pouring orange juice for us. The husband didn't partake of orange juice for health reasons so declined when the server was about to pour his. The husband asked for water instead. For whatever reason, that seemed to not sit well with the server. He really looked visibly perturbed ("offended" might be an exaggeration, but if so, only by a little) at my husband declining the orange juice. The husband had to ask a second time a little later for water, and it was some time after that before the server actually brought him water. It was also problematic to get the server's attention when the husband wanted to have his water glass refilled. I don't remember if any other beverages were available, but I know we weren't offered anything. It would be nice if they offered tomato juice, for those who might not be able to have orange juice, but I understand that with the limited space inside the castle, even that extra choice might be too much for them to do. But I would certainly expect that they'd have water readily available for anyone who asked for it and for it not to be an ordeal just to get a glass of water.

For breakfast, there was a choice of three different entrees, which the server told us about. I wish they had some kind of written menu as I tend to do better with reading it myself rather than trying to catch everything the server is saying. There was a regular breakfast platter, some kind of French toast platter, and a third choice which I honestly cannot remember now, but might have been yogurt and granola or fruit or something like that. All I remember is that the breakfast platter was the only option that contained any kind of significant protein. As much as I love carbs, I have learned that I do need protein in the morning to get me going, and that having just carbs for breakfast leads to a crash a bit later. The husband and I both chose the breakfast platter.

They also brought out a little plate of danishes and croissants and a small fruit cup, which were good, and which I had some of, but again, heavy on the carbs. The husband's dietary restriction meant that he could have very little of the starters brought to us. They might have been better able to accommodate him if we'd told them about the dietary restriction ahead of time, but we hadn't known what to expect, and he generally doesn't have a problem with breakfast items. But, it was our mistake to not make sure by telling them ahead of time, so for anyone with dietary concerns/restrictions, I would definitely recommend letting them know about it before your arrival.

The breakfast platter was standard fare and was fine.

This is a horrible picture because my phone doesn't do well taking pictures in low light (they were doing refurb on the outside of the castle, so the windows were actually covered), but I'm using it anyway because you can at least get an idea of what the breakfast platter looks like.

During this time, various princesses were making their way around the room to visit with the guests. As you can imagine, many of the guests included children, especially little girls dressed in princess costumes, who seemed to have a really good time getting such close, dedicated interaction with the princesses. They were fun to watch.

Snow White was the first one to make it to our table. We chatted with her for a moment, and then she said "Shall we take a picture together?" to me. Well, we don't generally do pictures with characters, so I was caught off-guard a bit so just agreed. The husband and I took turns taking each other's picture with Snow White, and then she thanked us and moved on to the next table. Also in attendance at breakfast were Aurora, Belle and Ariel. We don't often go to character meals at Disneyland, but we have on occasion with friends, and it's usually without any children in attendance. The characters haven't seemed to have a problem with it, and oftentimes, they actually seemed to enjoy the change of pace of interacting with adults rather than with little children, as the "conversation" (even with non-speaking characters) can differ a bit. Most of the princesses seemed not to know what to do with two adults in attendance at the breakfast. When the other princesses came by, they would stop to say hi, we'd chat for a second, and then they'd ask if we wanted a picture. We'd say no, thank you, we really just wanted to come by and say hi, and they would then thank us for coming and would make their way to the next table.

The best conversation we had ended up being with Ariel. When she came to our table, we talked for a bit, and I mentioned that Snow White and Belle and Aurora all lived nearby, so it was easier for them to get to Cinderella's home to greet everyone for breakfast, but Ariel lived so much farther away, seeing as how they were in the middle of building her a home in Anaheim. She said that yes, she did live far away, but that they'd all had a sleep-over the night before and had a wonderful time and were then all ready to see everyone for breakfast this morning. I managed from voicing what popped in my head, which was to ask if they'd had a pillow fight last night. Those who know me will either be proud or astonished at my ability to stifle the question. We did tell her that we were looking forward to seeing her new home, and she said she was definitely swimming home to be there for that.

At some point during the breakfast, a cast member came over to ask us if a particular princess (I can't remember which) had stopped by our table yet. We said yes, and he said, good, he just wanted to make sure. That's when we noticed that he was actually keeping track on a clipboard, noting when each princess visited a particular table, to make sure that each table was actually visited by each princess.

During the course of breakfast, various CMs were going to different tables with their pictures from the session downstairs. Included with the meal was a picture package which included one 6x8 and four 4x6 pictures with Cinderella and an 6x8 of Cinderella Castle. More pictures could be purchased for an additional charge. It all came in a really pretty folder. I was a little disappointed that there was no additional sleeve or envelope to protect the pretty folder, so after we left, I stopped at a nearby store to try to get a bag. They seemed very used to this request and made a little protector out of a flat box. I think it would be really nice if the folder did come with its own sleeve, even a plain white one, to protect the outside.

Front of picture folder.

Inside left of picture folder, with a picture of Cinderella Castle.

Inside right of picture folder, where your 6x8 picture with Cinderella goes.

Back of picture folder.

Our server was rarely available during our meal. After we were done, he finally came by to check on us. I had remembered reading that the breakfast was all-you-care-to-eat, but I wasn't sure how that was going to work given that it was pre-plated. He asked us if we "would like another breakfast". Well, no, not exactly. We might have liked a little more bacon and sausage, but at this point, we were pretty much done with the whole experience, and it would have been nice if he'd come by in the middle of our meal to ask if we needed anything. Also, we didn't want "another breakfast" - can you tell I didn't like him wording it that way? - but we weren't sure if we could have just asked for more of one item or another. But with how he'd been during the entire meal, we just really didn't want to deal with him anymore, so we told him no thanks, we were done.

By the time we were getting ready to leave, they had already started the next seating of breakfast guests, and the princesses were back out to greet the new guests.

We had wanted to have breakfast there just to see what the experience was like, and overall, despite the problems, we had a good time. I think the only thing that really marred the experience was the server. We haven't had that sort of treatment in a Disney restaurant in quite some time, so it was disappointing, especially in a place like Cinderella Castle. We won't likely be returning there for breakfast unless we're with others who want to go, but if that happens, I hope we get someone who more readily embodies the Disney spirit.

After breakfast, we decided to wander around a bit, to let our meal settle. We walked past Splash Mountain and noticed that it wasn't running, and there wasn't even any water coming down the final drop.

We eventually made our way back to Tomorrowland. We are not fans of Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom (we love the Disneyland version) so generally just skip it. When we had gotten the Fastpass earlier in the morning, it was really just as a "just in case" as opposed to having any actual intent. But, we were in the area, we'd had time to digest our breakfast, and we were even still in our return window for the Fastpass, so we decided to go on it.

And a funny thing happened. I've mentioned previously that in our last two trips, 3 of the 4 times we've ridden the PeopleMover, Space Mountain has been down. Well, after we were in the ride vehicle but before we were on our way, the husband turned and said he saw a PeopleMover car stopped on the track inside Space Mountain. I didn't see it myself, and by the time we were done with the ride and made it back outside (that long exit ramp is something I hate), the PeopleMover was running fine. So, I can't positively say that our going on Space Mountain ended up breaking down the PeopleMover, but the husband is adamant that it happened and that he saw the PeopleMover car just sitting there.

The next time we're at WDW and are contemplating going on either the PeopleMover (very likely to happen, a couple times even) or Space Mountain (less likely to happen), I'll definitely send out a warning ahead of time.

After Space Mountain, we were just walking around Tomorrowland, and we happened upon PUSH, the talking trash can. We watched for a while, and then PUSH ended up coming up to me. He asked if I had any trash, and I said I was sorry that I didn't. He said that he liked my hat (I was wearing a baseball cap style hat with Haunted Mansion on the front.), so I took it off and put it on him to try it. And he said thanks for the hat and rolled away. And kept going. And he was telling people to look at his cool new hat. And he wasn't coming back. The husband and I were laughing, but when I realized he really wasn't coming back, I headed off after him. At one point, he was showing off his hat to someone and saying how cool it was, but he was willing to sell it to the person. Ummm, PUSH, stop trying to sell my hat! I kind of snuck up on him and removed the hat from him. He then spun around and was saying that there was a thief who had stolen his hat. I put it back on him, and he happily started rolling away again. I took it again and said that I was sorry, but that I needed to go because we had to catch a flight, so I needed my hat. I can't remember what he said, but he did soon thereafter continue on his way.

I love PUSH. It was actually one of the best character interactions I had on the whole trip.

We really did need to leave. We had already checked out of our hotel that morning, and we knew what time we needed to leave the Magic Kingdom to drive to the airport for our flight home. We stopped for a minute in Town Square so that I could take a picture of Roy and Minnie.

It was a beautiful day out, and while it was cold and even a little rainy at times during the beginning of our trip, it had steadily gotten warmer over the last few days, so that it was in the low 80s by the time we were leaving. The Main Street Train Station looked beautiful with the puffy clouds behind it, so I took a picture. Except that for some reason, my phone did weird things with the picture, which was taken maybe 2 minutes after I took the Roy and Minnie picture.

My phone's weird rendition of the Main Street Train Station.

We made it to the airport and our flight and arrived home fine. For the most part, this is the end of my trip report. I still have a photo essay of Illuminations that might be forthcoming as well as a trip report for our Wild Africa Trek tour that might or might not be forthcoming, depending on if I ever figure out how to properly talk about it. Suffice it to say that it was an amazing tour, and we had a great time and we highly recommend it, and even though we paid a much lower price for the tour because it was during the introductory period, we would definitely do the tour again at its current price.

I did want to talk about the Beach Club a bit. This was our fourth trip to WDW and our third time staying on property. Our first time was at Caribbean Beach Resort because at that time, we had decided we only wanted to go with a Moderate resort. We loved staying there, and it did kind of get us accustomed to staying on property. For our August 2010 trip, we had stayed at the Boardwalk Resort. We had discovered by then that we loved Epcot, so we really wanted to stay walking distance to Epcot. In trying to decide between the three Epcot resorts, we had sort of randomly picked the Boardwalk, and staying at a Deluxe resort for the first time was made easier because it was during a period when they were giving 40% discounts on room rates for APs. We'd loved the Boardwalk, but for this trip, we decided to try out the Beach Club, since it was a tiny bit closer to the Epcot entrance. (For that reason, we don't figure on ever trying the Yacht Club since it's technically further away from Epcot.)

We did enjoy the Beach Club, and our room was located near an elevator that was near a side entrance, by one of the pools, which meant it was an even shorter walk to and from Epcot. We didn't do any of the pool activities or any of the other perqs offered at the Beach Club - we had thought about doing one of the movie nights, when they show a Disney animated film outside on a big screen, but we never had time in our schedule to do that. I did like that there was almost a regular store in the resort, so we could readily buy supplies, and we really liked that they had a hot food counter, so we could grab a quick breakfast in the morning that actually included decent protein, and I liked the nice bright cheery room we sat in to enjoy our breakfast.

I liked the Beach Club a lot, and it pretty much cemented our feeling that we'd be staying at an Epcot resort for any future visits, barring some other pressing reason to stay elsewhere. But I'm torn on whether to stay at the Boardwalk or the Beach Club again. Beach Club does have the nice store and the hot-food counter, but Boardwalk has my favorite restaurant (Flying Fish Cafe) and a wonderful bar/lounge (Belle Vue Lounge - they make great Bloody Marys there), and it's nice to have the short walk back to the room from either/both if we're staying at Boardwalk. But, our room at Beach Club was closer to Epcot than our room at Boardwalk. Then again, I think I liked the theming of the Boardwalk room better, and there are other things along the boardwalk to enjoy.

I'm really not sure whether I'd pick Beach Club or Boardwalk for our next visit, because I really did enjoy both. I guess I won't have to actually decide that until we're planning another trip.