Neeracha Trabosh -- October 2002 -- Disneyland
This is my first trip report but I've enjoyed reading all the others so much that I felt compelled to finally contribute! We live in Northern CA but have APs to Disneyland - not because it's necessarily financially sound, but because I like the idea of being able to go whenever I want, even if it's for a few hours! And my sister will be moving down there shortly, so I'm sure our trips will become more frequent.
In the past, we've stayed at concierge rooms at both the Disneyland Hotel (DLH) and the Grand Californian (GCH). For this trip, GCH only had $300+ rooms available so we decided to give the Paradise Pier Hotel (PPH) a shot. I got an AP Super Sundays rate of $212 for a theme park view, concierge room. (I paid $189 in June for a GCH standard room with theme park view, but that was not available for this trip.)
Thursday, October 10
We flew American, which is a change from our usual carrier, United. It was a pleasant flight - they really do have more legroom than other airlines at this point. We arrived at Orange County Airport on time and proceeded to quickly pick up our Hertz car (I have the Gold Desk service so it was very speedy - $33/day rate for a Taurus). We arrived at the Paradise Pier Hotel at around 7:30 p.m. (20 min drive from airport).
We went up to the concierge lounge on the 2nd floor to check in. A big note here - the concierge lounge is much nicer at DLH and GCH and the hours are longer. The PPH lounge closes at 8 p.m. They gave the kids cute bug antennae to wear - I imagine they were leftover from the grand opening of A Bug's Land.
The lounge itself is pretty plain - same features as the other concierge lounges i.e. continental breakfast in the morning, chips/cookies/beverages during the day, wine and hors d'oeuvres between 5 and 7 p.m. There are VCRs in all the concierge rooms and you can borrow tapes in the lounge at no charge.
The CM checking us in said she would call Housekeeping to make up the sofa bed in our room (this did not happen) but otherwise was perfectly pleasant. We went up to the room - kind of ordinary in terms of décor but with a stellar view of DCA's Paradise Pier. The bed was already turned down with the Disney chocolate coins and there were 3 Mickey rice krispie treats waiting for us.
We walked over to Hook's Pointe at DLH for dinner - even though we got there at 8:15 p.m., there was still a 20 mins wait (wish I'd made reservations). The kids played with the Jungle Cruise boats so it was no big deal for us. Dinner was fine - the kids' menu is nice with lots of activities and the Peter Pan theming is subtle but fun. Service was a tad slow - the total bill was around $110 (2 kids' meal, 2 entrees, 2 glasses of wine).
We returned to our room to find the sofa bed still unmade. I called Housekeeping and they sent someone up within 5 minutes. Of course, the sofa bed was broken and it took another 30 minutes to get everything set up for the kids. It was almost 10:15 p.m. by this time, so the kids were wound up and bouncing off the walls. And here is the worst part about PPH - there was a Microsoft private party at Paradise Pier that night. We could hear every single word sung by the cover band (YMCA, Little Red Corvette, Disco Inferno - among many, many others) until 11:30 p.m. that night. It was LOUD and we were 14 floors up.
Friday, October 11
Even though they didn't fall asleep until after 11 the night before, the kids were still up at 6:30 a.m.! We had breakfast in the concierge lounge - juice, coffee, hot chocolate plus pastries, bagels, cereal, oatmeal and fruit. It was surprisingly empty, which was nice. I complained to the CM there about the noise last night and the broken sofa bed. She was nice but seemed rather ineffectual, and offered no concrete solutions.
We left PPH at 8:30 a.m. and a nice bellman took us over to Downtown Disney (by DLH) in a golf cart. The first ride of the day! We headed over to take the monorail in, thinking that would be faster - big mistake on our part. The monorail was running in 20 min intervals (I think they were only running one train) and we waited for 40 mins. We didn't even get into DL until 9:40 a.m. This was not the early start that I had anticipated.
As is usual, we hit Dumbo first - about a 20 min wait. Then Peter Pan (15-20 min wait) and Pinocchio (no wait at all). Tried to wait for Storybook Land Canal Boats, but they were experiencing technical difficulties. So sent DH off to get fastpasses for Splash Mountain and I took the kids on It's a Small World. The ride looked fabulous after the rehab and AT enjoyed trying to identify the different countries (she has travelled with me internationally a few times). Then into Toontown where we visited with Minnie. NT was all excited about it but chickened out at the last minute, so I only got a photo of AT with Minnie. Mickey wasn't in the barn as usual, but standing in front of his house - so we passed since the line was long.
We walked over to Hungry Bear for lunch - I love this restaurant and was so glad it was open. It is a peaceful place to eat, watching the ducks and waving to the Explorer Canoes and Mark Twain as they went by. Then went on Splash Mountain - AT got to go twice since we used the baby switch pass - what a great invention. She was kind of scared but was game to go on again with me. The new seating arrangements are definitely less ideal for families with smaller kids, but it worked out O.K. in the end.
Somewhere along the line we obtained FPs for Haunted Mansion, so headed over there. We LOVE the holiday overlay - especially the exit from the attic to the graveyard, where you get the sense of the expanse of space. It only enhances what is already a wonderful ride. After that, we used FPs for Pirates - another family favorite and returned to PPH for a rest (the fastest way was to cut through the GCH lobby and out the front door, then across the street - much faster than the whole scene with the monorail).
While the kids and DH napped, I wandered around the hotel. The hors d'oeuvres in the concierge lounge between 5-7 p.m. were quite good. Very nice California Rolls, cheese and crackers, chicken nuggets and a choice of red or white wine. I took the opportunity to lodge another noise complaint with the lead at the front desk. I found her attitude a little annoying ("well, they never tell us what events are happening over there") so I pressed my case a little more than I would have, had she been nice and sympathetic. In the end, she grudgingly said they would take $25 off my room rate (for the first night only) to compensate for the noise. Note that when I had a super small problem at DLH last year, they comped me the concierge service instantly, leaving me open-mouthed with gratitude. Not the same experience at PPH.
When the family got up, we went to DCA (through the PPH guest entrance, which is very convenient) to the new Bug's Land. It was nice albeit a bit crowded, and the theming was fabulous. We only went on two of the rides - Francis' Spin and Tuck & Roll's bumper cars. The rides themselves were just so-so. We really wanted to try to Chew Chew Train but the line was too long. And it was already dark and too cold for the water area. We also watched It's Tough To Be A Bug - I'd forgotten how intense that movie is. The kids were a little scared. Then it was time for the Electrical Parade, which was as fabulous as ever. We got great seats on the main walkway just outside Bug's Land, and waited for about 15 mins for the parade to start. Then (and I was probably being a little too ambitious here) we rushed over into DL to catch the 9 p.m. Fantasmic show. Now I had originally decided against the balcony buffet, but came to regret that decision completely. We were stuck in a teeming mass of people for the entire show. I saw nothing - NT was on my shoulders and provided me with a running commentary of the characters she could see. AT had squeezed in front of some of the adults in front of me, and had a nice view since she was standing by the railing. DH had given up in disgust and went off to find himself some dinner. So it was a bit of a bust, but the kids enjoyed it nonetheless.
We headed back to PPH with a stop at La Brea for some snacks. Thankfully there was nothing going on at Paradise Pier that night so we slept in peace.
Saturday, October 12
After a late start, we had breakfast at the concierge lounge again and arrived in the park at 9:45 a.m. Our first ride was Jungle Cruise, with a minimum wait - our guide, Joey, was hilarious. The best one I've had in recent memory - he did a lot of singing and impressions, including a great one of Steve Irwin, the crocodile hunter. Then we headed back into Fantasyland and went on Snow White, Mr. Toad and Storybook Land Canal Boats. We used FP and baby switch for Star Tours (the only drawback to baby switch is that you come up the exit and completely miss all the pre-show) then went to Blue Bayou for lunch. It was a 30 min wait for a table by the water, so we decided to pass - we ended up just one row away from the water, so it was fine. The Monte Cristo was bigger and greasier than I remembered but it was still a fun experience for all. We all saw the shooting stars this time.
Next we went to the Enchanted Tiki Room - the park was getting quite crowded by now and we actually had to wait 10+ mins for the next show (and the room as full). NT was almost asleep during the show, so DH and AT went on to Honey I Shrunk the Audience, while I headed back to PPH with NT. Of course, she perked up as soon as we left the attraction, so we ended up stopping at the Silhouette Studio on Main Street since they were not busy.
In case you are not familiar with this, you can get a silhouette done for $7 per person - and you can add a Disney character for another $7. NT got one done with Mickey and with the frame, the total cost was $21 - pretty reasonable for such a nice souvenir. We headed back for our rest - we had dinner plans off-site with some family friends. I went to World of Disney while the family napped, and spent a happy hour shopping - this is the big benefit of staying on-site for me, the freedom to wander around while they napped.
After dinner, we headed to Downtown Disney for a little while, to have dessert and for AT to get a hair wrap. Her last wrap lasted about 6 weeks so the $18 was well spent (you pick your thread colors, pick a pattern and the charge is $1.50 per inch of hair, plus extra charges for the beads. Believe it or not, this is cheaper than any other place we'd seen - it was $2 per inch at Legoland). We picked up some beignets at the Jazz Kitchen and headed back to our room. Again, mercifully, there was no late night music from the park tonight either.
Sunday, October 13
This was check-out day so we were up, packed and ready to leave by about 9:30 a.m. We skipped the concierge lounge and headed right into DL after stowing our things in the rental car. We wandered up Main Street at a leisurely pace, stopping to see Mickey in front of the Mad Hatter shop in Town Square, then went to the Plaza Inn for breakfast with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Our kids really like this one and I think the character interaction is much better than at a greeting area. We had a nice breakfast with custom omelettes and Mickey waffles. NT has been very nervous with the 'head' characters, and Eeyore was especially sensitive to that fact. He waved at her and played peek-a-boo with his tail from 2 tables away and only approached us when she started smiling and laughing at him. Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger and Piglet visited us twice during the course of the meal. By the end of breakfast, we had to tear her away from all the characters. I would highly recommend this for families with younger kids - it is more mellow than Goofy's Kitchen and the characters are very non-threatening, for any little ones who are a little nervous.
After we were done, we waited around the castle for Cinderella to appear, but she was quite late (past her scheduled 11:15 a.m. time) so we abandoned that, and went into the Princess shop for the storytime at 11:30 a.m. A note to all: they don't print the times for the Princess storytelling in the guide anymore, you have to ask a CM since it's printed on their yellow cheat sheets. Anyway, right now, it takes place 10:30, 11:30 and 12:30. We had Belle (and one CM told me that only Belle was doing it nowadays, which is a shame - we like seeing all the different Princesses tell their stories) and her helper, who we've seen before and who was just wonderful (I wish I could remember his name, but I think he is the usual helper at Storytime). He plays all the different characters and is just really funny.
We stopped off to see Ariel in her grotto and headed over to DCA for lunch. We had a tasty meal at the Taste Pilot's Grill - the food seemed much better than most of the fast food outlets at DL. The condiment bar for burgers was extensive (two kinds of onions!) We wandered around Paradise Pier for a little while, then headed out of DCA using the PPH entrance (fyi - you don't need your card key to exit via this route, just to enter) to pick up our car and head to the airport.
Highlights: What can I say - as always, it's being with the kids and experiencing the magic of Disney through their eyes. Princess storytime has always consistently been a winner for us, and so has breakfast at the Plaza Inn. Haunted Mansion Holiday always feels like a special treat because of the limited engagement. The Small World rehab is very nice (AT asked why it wasn't pink anymore - I am surprised she actually noticed!)
Lessons Learned: I would not stay at PPH again. The location is awkward, requiring a little too much walking time to DL. Potential noise issues mar the beautiful DCA theme park view and the service was not on a par with DLH or GCH. And the hotel is just not themed enough for me.
I would not get concierge service again - we like having character breakfasts and also like to get going in the morning right away. I will definitely book the Fantasmic dessert buffet next time.
Despite all our plans, we always end up spending way more time in DL than DCA - I would have liked to go through the Animation building again, and we will spend more time in A Bug's Land next time.
We'll probably be there for a few days early next year, so will happily get to do it all again soon!