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ADP Live From Disney World

#41 User is offline   QuickGold 

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Posted 12 August 2009 - 11:13 AM

Great report Aaron!
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#42 User is offline   ADP 

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Posted 14 August 2009 - 02:42 PM

Final Thoughts

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to just recap a few things along our 2 week adventure in Orlando. Reflecting back on things is always important; especially if you plan on reading this trip report in the future. It could provide information for future visits on what worked and what didn't work.

This was the first time We've ever been in Orlando for 2 weeks straight. I loved being there so long. We were able to relax and still enjoy the parks at the same time. The only problem is coming back home. Getting back into the swing of things has been tough, but we think we are finally there.

Theme Parks -
All of the 6 theme parks we visited were in great shape. We didn't see any signs of wear or problems with up-keep. I only recall getting stuck on Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls once at the top of a hill; otherwise rides were running very well.

The crowds in the parks were down slightly for early August in my opinion. It was noticeable, but not very much. Wait times ranged from 5 minutes up to 120 minutes on Test Track in the afternoon. Lines moved rather quickly and efficiently. We used fastpasses and seemed to get on everything we wanted after about a 5 minute or less wait. Fastpasses for some attractions were gone in the early afternoon; specifically Toy Story Midway Mania, which is not a surprise.

Front of the line access at Universal is the best theme park invention ever. We didn't wait more than 5 minutes for one Universal attraction. It's a great perk. The crowds at Universal were what I would expect for late July. Because we had front of the line access the crowds at Universal were insignificant to us.

Just a quick plug about Disney and Universal merchandise. TrenD was a big hit with us. We loved the merchandise in that store. It's a good example of Disney doing something right. As for the other merchandise we did see changes in it; however, nothing I'd call an improvment.

It's obvious Universal has swung heavily to the "Thing" line of clothing. We saw it in about every shop we visited, even in Jurrasic Park. I sort of feel Universal has adopted some of Disney's standards when it comes to quality and innovative merchandise. There really wasn't much we wanted to buy. Most of what we saw we had to talk ourselves into buying.

Also, I can't say enough about the Spiderman attraction. What a great ride. Even after 10 years of existence. I'm amazed at what they were able to do with the technology in the ride. If you''ve never experienced it before you will be amazed the first time you ride it.

Food -
Well, it's time to talk about some disappointments. Unfortunately, for the prices Disney is charging for food it's not living up to standard. I'm still amazed at the price of counter service meals. For a cheeserburger, fries, and a soft drink it costs around $11. Considering how they serve it to you (in a paper, rectangle dish) it shouldn't cost that much. We really liked Chef's De France and Boma. Every other restaurant was somewhat disappointing. We really noticed the removal of many dishes in the buffet restaurants. Nothing specific, but there were less choices; especially at Chef Mickey's. Even toppings were taken away like at 1900 Park Fare where there were not toppings for our scrambled eggs. Service in most of the restaurants was pretty good. The service at 1900 Park Fare was a bit disappointing. I'm afraid we are losing one of the reasons many of us visit Disney World....The Food! Disney is squeezing profits out of food service so much it's really becoming noticeable in the quality of food they serve and choices.

We found Universal's food to be superior to Disney's. We really liked Sal's Deli at Portifino Bay. It was a great lunch stop for Anna and I. The pizza was very good and you could tell the other offerings looked delicious. The food at the Wantian Luau was very good as well. I just wish there were a few more choices on the buffet. The entertainment at the luau was ok, but I don't think there's a need to do it again. We also found Mythos in Islands of Adventure to be good as well. We've dined there twice and both times the experience was solid. Also, the Croissant Moon Bakery at IOA is the best theme park bakery I've ever seen. The selections and pastries are awesome. Plus the prices are very, very reasonable. It just needs a little more seating inside; otherwise it's perfect. Universal's food is 2 steps above Disney's food right now. It's pretty obvious.

I also need to mention Universal's generosity in it's AP discounts. Everywhere you visit on Universal property it seems like they accept AP discounts. It really makes you feel like spending your money on food and merchandise when there is some sort of discount for your AP. It really makes you feel like a valued, loyal customer.

Resorts -
AKV -
AKV is at,or near the top of our favorite Disney resorts. Obviously the draw is the animals on the savanna. Unfortunately, we didn't have the best room in the world on the club level. We had room 6209 which is all the way down the hall furthest from the club lounge. A few nights we did not receive our turn-down service; although Mousekeeping did a good job everytime they addressed our room. The offerings in the club lounge were very good. We enjoyed BBQ ribs, mini quiches, special african selections and more. The morning offerings were basic, but the afternoon offerings were more than what we expected.

The staff at the club lounge were pleasant and good. We had one club lounge specialist not really help us with our kids club reservation. She actually handed us the phone after she dialed WDW dining and told us it would be easier for us to make the reservation since we had to leave a credit card number. Another one went above and beyond by helping us box up our tiki and other souveneirs or shipment back home.

The resorts amenities are good; although I'm not a huge fan of the Mara. I've lost some faith with most of the counter service locations across Disney property. Both AKV pools do not disappoint in my opinion. They are very relaxing and the pool water and temperature were perfect. The staff in the kids club was great. Anna really enjoyed her time there and wants to go back.

Bay Lake Tower -
Well, it was kind of crazy, but we had a 1st floor room. I could of requested a higher floor, but I didn't. I took what they gave me. I figured "someone has got to be on the first floor", right? Our room seemed a little smaller than most studios on property. I'm not sure why, but it just did. The next time we stay at BLT we'll probably go to a 1 bedroom. The best part of the room was the art. The worst part of the room was the size and the bathroom sink being in the kitchenette area.

We also loved the pool area here as well, but we found the actual pool to be a little too small for the size of the resort. We found the pool bar to be a big hit. They serve food and popular drinks. They even serve a BLT sandwich which I found funny since many refer to the resort as BLT. Anna enjoyed the slide quite a bit. I could tell because she felt the need to continue climbing the steps to ride it. Community Hall seemed small; however, very well run by the staff inside.

For us, the best part of the resort is the Top of the World Lounge. It's really nice and a great place to hang out at night; especially as couples. Kids are welcome; however, the atmosphere is very adult in my opinion. The lounge serves light appetizers and drinks. It is very well decorated and themed. The observation decks are great for viewing the fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant. You can even see the other theme parks from the the Magic Kingdom deck. If you stay at BLT you must, MUST go up there. It's worth it just to check out the views.

Royal Pacific Resort -
We love all 3 of Universal's on-site resorts. The Royal Pacific is somewhere in the middle for us. I consider RPR a deluxe resort compared to Disney's resorts. The resort has 2 full service restaurants, a Luau, a counter service location near the lobby, 3 gift shops, and a very nice pool area. For what we paid to stay at this resort it makes Disney's deluxe resorts look shameful. We got a great AP discount at RPR, but the biggest benefit of all was the front of the line access. Having FOTL access makes the price of staying at RPR look like a sale at a Goodwill store. Universal really does a great job of making you feel important. Great resort rates and AP discounts make you feel very special. It's hard not to be a fan of what Universal is doing.

We really didn't eat much at the resort except for continental breakfast and at the Wanitian Luau. I thought the food was good, but nothing over the top. The selections of food seemed limited as well, but not as bad as what Disney has done. I really wish we could have dined at Emeril's Tchoup Tchoup restaurant, but I'll make it a point the next time we stay at Universal. One thing I know for sure....Universal's food and prices are better than Disney's right now...It's very obvious.

The pool at RPR was a highlight for us. It's very tropical, relaxing and enjoyable. Wait staff came around asking us if we needed anything to eat or drink. They even brought around complimentary dessert shots, italian ice and more on occassion. A very nice touch. Although the pool has no slide, Anna really enjoyed the ship water feature. You can also pool hop to all 3 Universal resorts. We could have enjoyed the Hard Rock pool, but we decided to keep it close to our room at RPR. We like Universal and plan on visiting again next year to see and experience their new attractions; especially the new Harry Potter themed land. It's going to be a great addition to IOA.

Other Observations -
It had been a while since we visited the West Side of Downtown Disney. I'm pretty disappointed at what I saw. The whole district just doesn't seem Disney to me at all. The Marketplace is much more festive and more Disney. The West Side and even Pleasure Island needs a huge overhaul. I hope they address it soon.

City Walk at Universal is ok, but even City Walk could use some work. I do like the mix of restaurants and shops much better than the West Side and Pleasure Island. We thought Margaritaville was a big hit. We love the food and the atmosphere.

I wish Disney would fix or attempt to fix Expedition Everest. The Yeti and the experience just doesn't seem right with a strobe light on him.

I wish someone could explain to me how Sunshine Seasons is so much better than any other counter service location on Disney property. The choices are great, the food quality is very good, and the setup is nice. I can only think the reason it's so good is some of the food comes from the Living with the Land attraction so it's much fresher and of better quality.

We enjoyed our time in Celebration. We liked Celebration Town Tavern and would eat there again when and if the opportunity presents itself again. The town is very quaint and provides a nice retreat if you ever want to get off of Disney property. Just taking a nice stroll through the town to window shop would be nice.

Lastly, I can't express enough how wonderful it was to see so many of our friends during this trip. I never thought during a trip to Orlando we'd be able to say we have a lot of friends to meet during our trip. Having a social element to our vacations has really made them much, much more enjoyable. To those of you who we got to see on this trip thank you so much for taking the time to see us. It was a pleasure and I hope we can get together again during a future visit to Orlando.

Two weeks came and two weeks went. Trips will always come and go, but the memories last a lifetime. Arriving in Orlando is always exciting, but leaving can be tough. Just knowing another trip is around the corner does help; especially when its in December.

Next Trips:
Dec 8th - 14th Vistana Resort & Pop Centure
Dec 27th - Jan 4th - AKV Club Level

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#43 User is offline   Jeanine 

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 05:42 AM

View PostADP, on Aug 14 2009, 12:42 PM, said:

Food -
Well, it's time to talk about some disappointments. Unfortunately, for the prices Disney is charging for food it's not living up to standard. I'm still amazed at the price of counter service meals. For a cheeserburger, fries, and a soft drink it costs around $11. Considering how they serve it to you (in a paper, rectangle dish) it shouldn't cost that much. We really liked Chef's De France and Boma. Every other restaurant was somewhat disappointing. We really noticed the removal of many dishes in the buffet restaurants. Nothing specific, but there were less choices; especially at Chef Mickey's. Even toppings were taken away like at 1900 Park Fare where there were not toppings for our scrambled eggs. Service in most of the restaurants was pretty good. The service at 1900 Park Fare was a bit disappointing. I'm afraid we are losing one of the reasons many of us visit Disney World....The Food! Disney is squeezing profits out of food service so much it's really becoming noticeable in the quality of food they serve and choices.

I would agree that the food is rapidly becoming nothing special at WDW. There was once a time when there were so many unique restaurants offering special dishes, it was frustrating not to be able to visit them all. By now, with the free dining plan, it's something of a struggle to find a full week's worth of restaurants that are above average. I think by and large the 2-credit restaurants are still struggling to hold the line with their menus, although most of their distinctiveness seems to lie with their appetizers--probably because they aren't on the regular DDP. Of the 1-credits, most of the WS restaurants are just overpriced rather than overpriced and boring, but there's really nothing I find particularly tempting at either MK or AK. I like Prime Time and Sci-Fi, but only for the theming--if they were just conventional restaurants, I don't think I'd bother.

While I do like Sunshine Seasons, I find it painful that they used to have a much bigger menu than they have now--the flatbreads used to be fantastic.

The decrement in value isn't just localized to the parks, either--I have photographs of everything I've had at Palo, and it's amusing to see that almost everytime I went, the portion size of one appetizer decreased by one shrimp, with them gradually adding more garnishes to take up the spare room.

On the whole though, the one thing that really bothers me, is Tutto Italia. Not just that it's virtually the most expensive restaurant per credit on property, not just that the menu is fairly limited, not just that it's owned by a company based in California, what bothers me is why is it still here? It was only supposed to be around for less than a year, at which time they were going to gut it and replace it with something really remodeled. The fact that they ended up just forgetting about it, figuring that this was "good enough," since people kept coming to it, I find depressing.

I am interested to see how Kouzzina fares--the menu looks pretty good, and if Cat Cora keeps up some involvement with it maybe she'll have some influence over keeping it that way. Otherwise, I'd say go there sooner rather than later, when they start devolving the menu down to the chicken breast/pork chop/fish fillet/steak/vegetarian dishes that make up the majority of the menus.
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#44 User is offline   QuickGold 

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 11:40 AM

I agree with what you said Jeanine (and Aaron before you). WDW has been generalizing food (and merchandise) around its resort. It's all about how they can do as much as possible, for as cheap as possible and that means less diversity of food.

If Disney wants to encourage me to spend more money, they need to entice me with food that I can't get at the same places all over property.
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