Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The good. The bad. The ugly. (Part I)

The Resort

As I've mentioned a few times, we stayed at the Port Orleans, Riverside resort, which is Disney property. Now, Disney does a great job with these resort. All of the buildings, the landscaping, everything follows along with the theme. I had wanted to take pictures but never got around to it. Anytime we happened to be walking around the resort, we were in a bit of a hurry and I had to assist with the girls. No time to be photographer.

Overall, I would rate it a B. Rich says B/B-. The rooms were not filthy but they were not the cleanest I've seen. I had to go crawling around for some small toy pieces and I came across quite a few crumbs that weren't from us. In my opinion, the rooms seemed a bit drab.

The bathroom area had a separate room for the shower and toilet while the sinks could be sectioned off with this privacy curtain. My kids didn't respect the privacy curtain. They don't respect bathroom doors either. But anyway, they kept calling that part of the bathroom their castle. They would run back and forth and swing the curtain and say, "This is my castle."


As we were unlocking the door to our room after our second day at the parks, we realized that our television was on. We hadn't had the television on that morning so we were a bit perplexed. And then we found Anna's doll, Elmo, Mookie (aka Allie's Pillow Pet) and a new friend sitting on one of the beds watching television. The doll was holding the remote for the television. Now, we hadn't left them like that. The girls thought that it was hysterical and loved it.



When we returned to our rooms the next night, we found three new friends. Not only did the girls love it but we did too because it gave them something different to play with.

I should back track a little bit and explain why we chose this resort to begin with. Basically Disney has three levels of resorts: value, moderate and deluxe. We did look at one of their time share condos (not to buy!) as guests can stay there as well. Those looked amazing but Rich and I really didn't want to spend the money. For what it was going to cost, we could have gone to Hawaii.

For the time frame of our trip, Disney was running a deal where if you stayed at a moderate resort or above, they would add on the meal plan for free. I'll get more into the food later in this post but that free food was a huge savings. Also, the moderate resort rooms are bigger than those of a value resort and have mini refridgerators, which we needed for my cherry diet pepsi (because I cannot live without it) and the girls' chocolate milk.

After visiting this resort and reading reviews/seeing pictures of other resorts, I don't think this one had as much to offer for the kids. As I mentioned, the kiddie pool was this little round circle off by itself in the shade. We were only able to check out the playground once after dark and it looked fairly small.

If I had had more time when looking into all the moderate resorts, I should have picked up on this. We thought it was an easy decision to pick Port Orleans because one room can hold five guests while most of the other resorts only allow four per room. Even though we had two rooms (one for Grammy), we wanted to keep the kids in our room for booking purposes because everything is kept on the room keys. In hindsight, it probably wouldn't have been a big deal to split the kids so that we could have stayed in another resort. We just didn't know what to expect.

Let's talk about internet access. Driving to Orlando, we stayed overnight in one hotel. On the way home, we made two different stops. All three of these hotels offer FREE WI-FI. Not only that but almost every single hotel we saw billboards for along the entire (well, almost) Eastern Seaboard offers FREE WI-FI. Not Disney.

Did I need internet access? No. I was too tired. Rich, on the other hand had homework to complete. It's $10 a day to access the internet. To me, that's nickel and diming.

The Food

Food at Disney is expensive. Keep in mind that there was approximately a $50 a day difference between moderate resort rooms and value resort rooms when we booked.

So the meal plan includes one snack, one counter service and one table service per person per day. At first, it may not seem like enough food but it was for us. You can share meals so for our family, we could pick up two adult and two child counter service meals and that would be enough to feed us for lunch.

Here's an estimate of how much the free meal plan saved us:

Snacks at $3 each x 6 people = $18
Counter service meals at $12 each x 6 people = $72
Table service meals at $25 each x 6 people = $150

That's a total of $240 per day. Including the day we checked in, we were there for 6 days. That's a grand total of $1,440. If we had stayed in a value resort, our savings would have only been $100 a day (we had 2 rooms) for a total of $600.

Our resort had both a counter service food court and a table service restaurant. I knew that we were supposed to make reservations for table service restaurants like months in advance. The problem with that is unfortunately, months in advance we didn't know what we were doing, where we were going or how long it would take us to do what we were going to be doing.

We basically ate counter service meals on the day we arrived and the next day. I have to say that while the food court at the resort wasn't bad, I couldn't have eaten there every day. After those two days, I was sick of the cattle effect and the fast food type of food.

After spending the day at Animal Kingdom, we stopped by the table service restaurant, Boatwright's Dining Hall, at our resort. We were told that the stand-by wait time was 35-45 minutes. Okay, fine. We took it and brought the girls to the gift shop. Amazingly, our table was ready in 10 minutes. Go figure.

This may be anti-Disney of me but I totally feel like they do this to punish people for not having reservations. Okay, so maybe I am just cynical. It is frustrating because from researching on the internet, I am under the impression that people make all these reservations and then decide what they want to do and then cancel said reservations at the latest possible time. This leaves schmucks like us without many options. Everyone is in such a panic to make reservations.

None of us really liked our meal at Boatwright's Dining Hall, the service was so freaking slow that I assumed that they were out back killing the chickens and pigs and then the waitress didn't give us any options with the kids' meals so after she had given them apples for dessert {laughter}, we ended up converting part of our adult desserts to ice cream for the girls. I had a pork chop that was so tough, I didn't have the energy to cut it. I was also not feeling well so that may have contributed to my review but Rich and Grammy agree with me.

The other table service restaurant that we walked into without a reservation was Tony's Town Square Restaurant on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. We were given a wait time of 45 minutes (I believe) but our table was ready in less than half an hour. Okay, so service is slow at all of these restaurants. Really, really slow. But we had an extremely pleasant server who was very flexible with the kids' meals and allowed them to get ice cream for dessert instead of just throwing some apples on their plate. We thought that our food was pretty decent.

So not only did I not make any reservations for table service restaurants but I hadn't made any for character meals {GASP - Oh, the horror!} I thought that the girls would be afraid of the characters and maybe even the princesses. A few weeks before we left, Rich and I did try to make reservations for the princess character meal held at the restaurant in the castle. The online reservation system was undergoing some sort of upgrade at the time so Rich ended up calling. It was a bit of a frustrating process.

Rich actually went to the restaurant in the castle our first day at Magic Kingdom to see if there had been any cancellations. He was told to return in an hour because they would have a better idea at that time. We didn't have much luck. I tried right before we left for Orlando to make reservations for this and I really don't like the online system. I want to be able to put in a certain day and see if there are ANY times available. Their system makes you pick a time with four choices per hour (for example, 5:00, 5:15, 5:30 and 5:45.) Do you know how long this takes?

So long story short, when we returned to the hotel after waiting and eating at Tony's and then not being able to find a princess meal, Rich spent some time on the phone and was able to make reservations for the Cinderella dinner at 1900 Park Fare. He was also able to make reservations for dinner on our last day there at The Wave.

Our reservations for The Wave were at 5:35 and we were there before 5:00, of course. Thankfully, they seated us shortly after 5:00. We really enjoyed our meal there. Actually, the food here was the best we had during our stay.

~To be continued~

This is turning into a novel. I'm tired. And my computer has already shut down on me once tonight as I tried to complete this. More to follow (including sleeping) soon.


Meg said...

Sort of off subject, but I'd love to see a guest post from Grammy sometime... on any subject, Disney or not! :)

$10 for WiFi is a total nickel and dime operation!

And I'm glad to hear they have a Princess Meal other than at the castle. Good news! :)

Megan said...

A question for you. You mention sharing meals among your family. Did Disney require that each guest purchase a meal plan? We are thinking about adding the meal plan option for our upcoming trip in January, but would never need a meal for each of our 4 under 4.

Sarah said...

I'll push Grammy, Meg. LOL

Yes, there are actually a few princess meals.

Megan- We got the meal plan for free as part of a promotion. Children under 3 are allowed to eat off of their parents' plates, etc. You definitely wouldn't need a meal plan for all of them. Unless they are huge eaters, they will definitely be able to share.