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Lauren Halverson -- January 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CR) / Disney Cruise Trip


1/18/99-1/25/99

Land Portion (1/18-1/22)

Here is the review of the land portion of our vacation 1/18-1/22.

Accomodations: Contemporary Tower rooms (4330 and 4332), cabin 6022 on the Magic (That's category 8).

We pretty much stuck to the basic plan I had laid out, except for Friday. Thursday night I gave the kids a chance to choose the park for friday morning, and to my surprise they picked Epcot. I think part of it was the chance to ride Test Track again (didn't happen), but they also wanted to see the living seas and we hadn't done that on Thursday.

Here's what I had listed as Things we really want to do this trip:

  • ride up front in a monorail (maybe we'll get to meet Chris): We did get to ride up front one morning (well 4 of us did, they limited us to 4), but didn't get to meet Chris. Actually, the only other RADP'er that I met was Reed in City Hall at MK. I did however gets lots of questions about our pins. Thanks Leslie.
  • ride Buzz Lightyear: multiple times. Lines were short/non-existent and the kids loved this. Mostly they controlled the spinning, neither was much good at shooting the targets.
  • see Ellen's Energy Adventure: we did, and the kids (who are big Bill Nye fans) really enjoyed it.
  • mini-golf: we did, the course was awfully difficult for the kids, but they seemed to enjoy it anyway. This was the only place we encountered mosquitos, bring your bug spray if you play in the evening.

Anyway here are some other thoughts about the trip:

  • E-ticket night: We bought the tickets, but never got to use them. Dad was going to stay with the kids, but he was too worn out that evening to do it. We didn't really mind, since the crowds were so small all week we had no trouble riding whatever we wanted to during the day. One really nice thing, they automatically credited the cost of the unused tickets back to us.
  • The hotel: This was our first stay at the Contemporary. We liked the easy access to the MK but we were glad we had the car for some other trips. We monorailed to Epcot once, but took the cars the 2nd time, because we found the extra walking when switching trains to be tedious. If it had been just Peter and I it wouldn't have been a problem, but with 2 small kids, and my dad, every step counted. We used the bus to MGM and drove to AK. We loved the MK view from our tower rooms. I wasn't thrilled with the hotel decor. I found the lobby to be cold and unwelcoming. Next time, I'd like to spend a few days at the WL.
  • Crowds: What crowds? This was a great time to be at the parks. Yes, things close early, but the kids don't last well after 8pm anyway and we found plenty to do in the evenings. The longest line we waited on was probably for the Tomorrowland Raceway and it was about 15 minutes. Many things were walk on's and most had waits under 5 minutes. The restaurants were empty. We had priority seatings for most meals, but really didn't need any of them. Actually, I think they use the priority seatings to funnel people into off times. One night we went to Whispering Canyon at the WL. We had a 6:40 PS, which is a bit late for us. I tried to move it earlier and was told I could only get 5:40 (too early). We arrived at the WL around 6:15 and the restaurant was practically empty. After a quick look around the ground floor, we went over at 6:25 and had no problem getting a table. The family near us said they had been told there were no PS's available until 7pm, but they showed up at 6:15 and got a table right away.
  • The parks:
    • AK - this was our first visit to AK. I can see where the limited walkways can make this park feel crowded. We didn't have any problems getting on rides or into shows, the kids had the boneyard playground practically to themselves. We spoke to a women who had been there the same day (Tuesday) and she complained about the crowds??? Perhaps it was just the timing. We arrived after lunch and the only crowd we encountered was for the 3pm March of the Artimals. There seemed to be no walking lanes available to get past safari village?(The area after the oasis), so we just stopped and watched the show. The park is beautiful and the safari was a lot of fun. Peter and I enjoyed CTX.
    • MK - I think we hit MK 3 times. Once at the 9am opening, once for an afternoon so we could see the parade and once for surprise morning. Both the kids and the adults got to ride pretty much whatever the wanted, whenever they wanted. (I didn't get to see the new tiki birds, but that was more of a logistical problem with the kids than anything else). We hadn't seen the daytime parade on our last visit, so we made it a point to catch it this time. We didn't arrive early enough for the kids to get picked to be in the parade, and Jon was a little disappointed, but it seems that lots of extra kids join in anyway when the thing gets started. I wasn't so impressed with this parade, but the kids seemed to enjoy it. The kids dragged us on TTA and I'm glad they did, we got a chance to see Space Mountain with the lights on (it is being refurbished). What a different view of the ride that is. We talked both kids into riding BTMR and even Chris (5 1/2) seemed to enjoy it. Jon (3 1/2) is a real ride monster. He rode everything he was tall enough for (barely 40 inches), including Test Track, Tower of Terror and Splash Mountain.
    • MGM - The kids favorite part of this park was the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground. We rode TOT for the first time. I didn't think it was nearly as scary as other drop rides I have been on. At Adventure World (now a six flags park), they have a drop ride where you sit in what feels like a ski lift chair and are dropped along an internal pole. So your feet are dangling in space and you can't see the ground under you. That was a rush. This is a park I think the kids will appreciate more as they get older. We had a quick thunderstorm Monday evening, but it was perfectly timed for our PS at Mama Melrose's.
    • EPCOT - What can I say except WE GOT TO RIDE TT!!! Actually, Jon, my father and I got to go around twice. When we reached the unloading platform the 1st time they told us to stay in. Something about there being no one to load in the end car. The folks in front of us on the 2nd trip were going to have the same thing done for them when OOPS, power down...sorry folks, probably an hour wait or so. Yikes. Peter was waiting to do the child swap. Was he ever mad.. They gave him a go to the head of the line pass good for that day only. Luckily, an hour or so later when we came out of Wonders of life, TT was back up and he got to go ride. This ride is awesome, way cool, groovy man :-). It took about 10 minutes to walk through the line (I think we came upon it soon after they had it up for the day or after a shutdown, because the line was not packed in, it was gathering steam as we joined it). There was a short delay, about 5 minutes , before we could enter the briefing room, it made us very nervous because the guy at the head of the line was on the phone the whole time and we kept thinking they were going to shut down, but finally we got on. Would I wait 2 hours to ride, never. Will I try to go again next trip, you bet! We had lunch at Askerhaus in Norway, this is basically a don't miss meal for us. The kids love smoked salmon and the rest of us love most everything.
  • Food: We ate well, but not great. tried lots of new places for us, Cape May Buffet, Whispering Canyon, Chef Mickey's, Tusker House, Mama Melrose's, 50's Prime Time Cafe...
    • Food is certainly plentiful. Peter and I decided we could probably always get away with splitting a main dish and having a salad along with. Mostly however the food was not as good as what we get when we eat out at home and it is certainly much more expensive. The best food (other than our Norwegian lunch) was probably Mama Melrose's rock shrimp risotto. Next trip we will try California Grill. And my younger son did love the napkin waving at Chef Mickey's.
    • We used the Dining Disney Style plan. This is the second time we've done this. The reason it works for us is because we always have extra people on a 2nd reservation. You are required to buy the deal for everyone on your reservation/package. So we buy it for the four of us, but spend it on the whole party. Here is yet another example of Disney going overboard on customer service:
  When I signed up for this the deal was:   Now it is:
  You Pay You Receive   You Pay You Receive
adult $50 $55   $55 $60
child $22 $25   $16 $18

So Disney sends us a refund, applies the following formula for us: you buy you receive adult $50 $60 child ?? ?? I can't remember off hand what they did here, but it resulted in a large refund to us.

  • Other Service: For the cruise vacation, when you check in at your resort, you also are checking in for the cruise. The same key to the world works on your hotel room and stateroom door and you charge to it all week long. This was terrificly convenient. Of course, we didn't know it right off, (probably because we didn't use Disney land transfers so we didn't see the videos) but they told us at the pier.
  • After dinner at the Cape May Buffet, we asked someone how to get over to the mini-golf. I can't remember his name, but he got permission to drive us over himself and then said to just call back over when we wanted to leave and if someone was free they would come back for us. We ended up walking over to the Boardwalk and taking a boat to Epcot instead. We've now got a visit to the boardwalk on our things to do list for next year :-).
  • Rental Car: We rented from Avis at the airport. This worked out perfectly. No pressure to upgrade, no problems at all.

Disney Cruise review 1/22-1/25

Here is my review of the 3 day cruise portion of our trip (1/22-1/25).

This is my 3rd cruise, my husband's 2nd and the kids' first. It was our first trip on the Disney Magic. Overall, the cruise was great. My biggest disappointment was with the table service in the dining rooms and with the food. While the food wasn't bad, it was no better than what we get eating out at moderately priced restaurants at home. The only exception was a terrific lamb shank I had at Lumiere's. The table service on the other hand was awful. I don't know if our waiters (Ferdinand and Nick), were exceptions, but they clearly were not up to their jobs.

  • The Oceaneers club: This was terrific. The kids really had a good time. They give you a pager so that they can contact you whenever the kids want you. They also will tell you how to call the pager yourself, we used it to keep in touch when we split up. The only quibble I had here was with the age groups. They separate the kids into 3-5 and 6-8 (older kids go to the lab). My 5 1/2 yr old kindergartener found the organized activities in the 3-5 group a little boring. But he loved the free play areas and spent quite a bit of time in the club. My 3 1/2 yr old was thrilled with everything. Perhaps if I had pushed a little harder, I could have persuaded them to let the older child join the 6-8's, but I'm not really the pushy type.
  • The spa: I loved my hour spent in the spa. Contrary to other recent reports, I did not have to wait in a long line to book my "treatment" (massage and facial). I got to the spa around 3:45 on Friday. There were however only a few time slots left by then.   There is a design flaw evident in the spa that I hope they fix on the Wonder. Just above the "tropical rain forest" room (an area for relaxing and visiting aromatherapy rooms) is the basketball court. The noise from the players really disturbs the tranquility here. The spa staff acknowledge it is a problem, but didn't mention whether the layout will be different on the Wonder.
  • The pools: There are 3 guest pools on board. The kids pool has a water slide They don't let adults use it :-(. The water is shallow and there is a wide "lip" of very shallow water that makes a great place for parents to stand and keep an eye on the kids. There is also a family pool and an adult only pool. The family pool is not as nice as the other 2 (basically a plain, deeply set rectangle).
  • The service: Other than the table service problem, the service was great. For example, one day we went up to Scoops for ice cream shortly after it opened. There was quite a line for the two windows (2-3 servers at each). Instead of making everyone wait, some extra servers showed up, put together trays of ice cream and carried them out to the folks in the line. I think this was really the only long line we encountered, and I think they handled it very well. We didn't try to book at Paolo's, so I don't know what happened with that.
  • The ship: I think the ship is beautiful. I love the way it is designed to look art decoish, to reflect the "golden age" of cruising. I understand the Wonder is going to have a more modern look. The cabin worked out well. We were in a deluxe outside cabin on deck 6 (category 8). I think next time I might spring the extra for a veranda, I'm not sure. Certainly if the cruise were longer it might be nice to have one. The separating curtain between the parts of the cabin was nice, as it allowed us to put the kids to bed and still leave reading lights on by our beds. (for TV addicts, the TV was in the back of the cabin with the bunk beds). We had no trouble finding our way around the ship, things were well marked. The elevators were a little slow, but that was good..it convinced us to use the stairs, getting in at least a little exercise.
  • The stops: My husband and I had explored Nassau during a stop on our honeymoon cruise, so we spent most of this day on the ship. We did take the kids out for a little walk around, but they mostly wanted to be in the club this day.
  • Castaway Cay: This is a great little island. Too bad the weather wasn't great while we were there. Early in the morning we got in a nice little bike ride, but later in the day the wind was really strong and the sand was being whipped around. They had rental bikes with training wheels for the younger set, but we noticed that the kids had a hard time with the unpaved bike trails..perhaps if you rent these, you should stick to riding on the air strip. There were cast members driving vehicles around the trails, so no one had trouble for long. (for example, one family gave the cast member the bike and let the kid ride on the rear rack). Peter did a little snorkeling, no problems getting or returning the equipment, even without advance reservations. We dug whale bones with the kids and walked the edge of the surf for a while. The kids ate lunch on the island with the club, but we went back on board for a nice buffet at Parrot Cay.  Seems like there is a lot of unused area on the island. I would have loved some hiking through the interior of the island. I wonder what the expansion plans for the island are?
  • The shows: We saw the Hercules and the disney dreams show and skipped the ghost one. The shows were typical of disney productions, entertaining and upbeat. I don't go expecting top stars, so they meet my expectations.  There was also a mid-day show one day..I was in the spa and the kids were swimming with Peter so I don't know what is was like.
  • We don't do much late night stuff, though we did catch one comedy show at offbeat. I think there are 3 nightclubs (comedy, dancing and a piano bar).
  • Disembarkation: This went very smoothly (the only problem being a long delay getting the cooked parts of our breakfast). As a matter of fact, it went so fast it was almost a little rushed. We could have spent a little time walking around the ship before leaving (we had early seating, so breakfast was at 7 and you had to be off the ship no later than 9ish).
  • The cruise director claimed that 90% of the passengers were going directly to Orlando airport. we had arranged our own air travel so that we could spend Monday at Kennedy Space Center. The kids really enjoyed this. (Also, we were able to arrange a very early flight the first day, so we got a long day in at the parks when we first arrived..folks on the disney arranged travel arrived later in the day).
  • They actually have baggage check-in for some of the major airlines right on the pier. We did not use this, as we had a rental car, and just dropped the baggage curbside when we returned the car.
  • Parking at the pier is $7/day paid in advance. It is close and easily accessed. the porters will take your luggage out to the parking lot for you if you want.

We're already talking about going back in a couple of years. Before signing on for the cruise vacation we had been talking about driving down for a 10 day trip (some camping, some at the WL). Seems like a longer trip would be nice...though it sure was relaxing to have 3 days on the ship after the 4 days WDW.

Thanks for all the trip planning help. Let me know if you have any questions.

Lauren Halverson

lblau@my-dejanews.com


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