I still have quite a bit more to say about the cruise, but since I haven’t had much time to write anything over the last couple days, I thought I’d switch gears a bit and write up a few notes from our first few days at Walt Disney World.
For this part of the trip, we have returned to the Wilderness Lodge, which is our favorite resort. This is my 4th time staying there and my wife’s 3rd stay. On my first visit and the first visit with my wife, I stayed in a regular room. While I loved the decor and location of the resort, my one complaint was that the rooms are a bit small.
For the last two visits (including this one), though, we have been members of Disney’s Vacation Club and have stayed in one-bedroom villas. These rooms are very spacious, with a large living room (including a pull-out sofa that our son sleeps on), a full kitchen with oven, dishwasher, and full sized refrigerator, and a large master bedroom with a king-sized bed. The bathroom is absolutely enormous (we have joked that it is larger than the entire stateroom was on the cruise…) and includes separate rooms for the toilet, the shower, and the large Jacuzzi bathtub.
As DVC members, we were able to purchase into the Disney Dining Plan, which is generally a great deal, although it also isn’t without its frustrations. For a flat, per-person/per-day rate, the plan gives each member of our party each day one table service meal (appetizer, entree, non-alcoholic beverage, dessert, and gratuity), one counter service meal (entree, side dish, beverage, and dessert), and one snack (lots of different choices, ranging from bottled or fountain drinks to ice cream, popcorn, etc.) The price per day is often less than what the table service meal along would cost, although that depends on the restaurant and what you order.
While this is a very worthwhile deal, it does get a bit hard to use at times. One real problem is that the meals include so much that it sometimes kind of encourages eating more than you really want, just to get the best value. There have been a couple occasions where we have ordered desserts because they were included, even though we probably would have rather skipped it. This also means we aren’t really too hungry before between meal snacks. In fact, we are on day 4 of our WDW visit and have only used one snack credit so far. We probably will end up getting lots of bottles of soda an water over the next couple days.
Another, more irritating problem that we had with the snack credits occurred at the Magic Kingdom on Friday. After having had a pretty big lunch, we decided to do a pretty late dinner after seeing the parade and fireworks. We did decide that we wanted some popcorn or a pretzel or something similar to hold us for a bit and, obviously, we wanted to use snack credits for that. After waiting in line for a while at a popcorn cart, I got to the front and the person working there immediately told me his card reader wasn’t working and he was only taking cash. That was irritating, but I just shifted over to a pretzel cart instead. After waiting in line there, that time the cashier told me that it was actually the entire system that was down and that they weren’t taking the snack credits anywhere in the park. I wasn’t quite clear if this was limited to carts or applied to all dining locations, but I really didn’t have time to deal with the longer lines at a counter service restaurant before the parade.
I certainly do understand that computer systems go down some times, but they absolutely should have had a manual backup system ready to go for a system like that. All they really needed to do was to have the cashiers write down the card numbers and purchased items and then have the data manually entered later. Less desirable, but probably still acceptable might have been to require a cash purchase, but provide a receipt that could be presented at Guest Relations or the hotel concierge desk for a refund and credit to the dining plan. Simply refusing to honor an expensive pre-pay plan at all certainly isn’t an acceptable approach, though.
Generally speaking, we are having fun at the parks. We actually haven’t been doing too many attractions and have had fairly late starts and a number of trips back to the hotel for rest breaks. After the cruise, we are treating the WDW visit as kind of "frosting on the cake" instead of as a primary attraction. In addition, our son has gotten pretty skittish on rides, which has limited somewhat what we can do.
I have been on a few attractions, though. I’ve been on the Mexico boat ride and Nemo rides at Epcot, the teacups, Tomorrowland Transit Authority (peoplemover), and Carousel of Progress at Magic Kingdom, and Expedition Everest (using the single-rider line for a really short wait) and the train to Rafiki’s Conservation Station at Animal Kingdom. We also saw "Wishes" and "Spectromagic" (fireworks and parade, respectively) at Magic Kingdom on Friday as well as the parade and fireworks at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party last night. Nice meals have been at Whispering Canyon Cafe, Le Cellier, Coral Reef, and Liberty Tree Tavern. I’ll probably write more about the dining experiences later.
Today is our last full day here. We are heading off to Disney/MGM Studios in a few minutes and will be back at Epcot tonight. Lunch today is at 50s Prime Time Cafe and we are having dinner at the new Tutti Italia restaurant at Epcot.