Thursday, January 31, 2008

Planes, Trains and Buses...and RESORTS!

Obviously, from reading yesterday's post, you are aware that we got up at 3:30 a.m. to leave our house by 4:20 to make it to airport by 5:30 a.m for a 7:00 a.m. flight to get to Orlando. I had ANTICIPATED Beth would sleep all the way to the airport- NOPE - not one wink! The Airport at 5:30 a.m. was a breeze and there were no problems with anything. We checked our luggage - not to be seen again until is "magically" showed up in our resort room! We were up and away at 7:00 a.m.! We landed in Orlando just about 9:15 a.m. and headed to the Disney Magical Express Counter...the furthest possible point from our arrival gate! Hehehe! The Disney experience started here and never stopped! We were checked in quickly and sent to a line (the first of MANY) to await our bus to Pop Century. We were then put on a nice motorcoach bus for our 30 minute ride to Pop Century. Beth was bouncing off the walls, but a 25 minute Disney introduction video kept her content until we rolled into Pop Century.

Pop Century in one of the 4 Disney "Value" Resorts. It is comparable to a Best Western or Days Inn. It has 10 4-story buildings, 3 pools, one archade, one Disney store, one Food Court and 2,880 rooms! That is A LOT of people! Pop Century Resort represents 5 different decades in teh 20th century - the 50's, 60's, 70's (where we stayed), '80's and the '90's.
Each building is decorated to fit its decade. For example- our staircases were giant 8-tracks. The 80's building had giant rubix cubes. The '60's building had giant yo-yos.

Our room was small with 2 full sized beds. The maids had left a cute little animal made out of washcloths.
Each day, she decorated our window with Beth's toys and books and balloons.
That was fun to walk up and down the hotel and see all the different decorated windows. BUT...the place is HUGE. There is A LOT of walking involved to go anywhere- to get to the bus stop, the food court, the store......too much walking. But I'm guessing ALL the resorts are that way. What I didn't like was that the place was such a ZOO! We figured at full capacity, they can have over 11,000 people. The food court wasn't even worth entering in the morning. We just took our own b'fast foods, which was a very smart decision on our part. We bought 2 refillable mugs, so I would run down and fill those up in the morning (no line to stand in for that!). Next time I will bring disposable cups to pour my coffee into, so I don't have to lug that big cup around all day. Its only re-fillable at the resort, not the Parks. The Bus stops were all out front and clearly marked, so you knew which bus to get on to go to whatever park you where headed to. My main beef was that at Magic Kingdom (MK) and Epcot, the Pop Century stop was LAST. And the longest. And after a long day at the MK, the last thing you want to see is your bus stop about 4 more blocks away with a LONG LONG LINE! Its probably for that reason alone I won't stay there again. When I'm ready to go home...I'm ready to go right then...not 45 minutes to an hour later!

When you make reservations at a "value" resort for the cheap price, you do know that the rooms are small. But my thinking was that we would only be there to sleep, so who cares what the room was like. I said above, you are getting more than a "small room" for your cheap price. You are getting long lines and far away bus stops. You are getting a hotel that resembles a ZOO and is VERY VERY crowded. You are getting a small room and small beds, that honestly, aren't that comfy. And if you can't sleep with really puffy pillows- bring your own. I like flat pillows and my neck hurt all week from the big pillows! Next time, we will probably go the moderate or even save up and stay in a deluxe. The conveniences that come with the "room" are worth it to me.

Speaking of "deluxe" resorts, we had the opportunity to check out three of them- The Contemporary, The Grand Floridian and The Wilderness Lodge. All three were AWESOME! The Grand Floridian was my favorite, though! These were taken inside the Grand Floridian - you can't really see the resort very well, but you can get a gist of the decorations!

The monorail makes stops at The Contemporary and The Grand Floridian. The Wilderness Lodge can be reached by bus or boat (from MK). The convenience of the monorail might be worth the big bucks to me next time! Honestly, I cannot begin to explain how nice this form of transportation was!! The Wilderness Lodge had a "ski lodge" feel. We talked to the conciege and she told us a little about it and gave us a 2008 rate sheet. Yep - we'll definitely have to save lots of money to stay at a delux - $250 during the "value" season! But again...I say...probably worth every penny! The rates are the same for all the deluxe resorts and I will TRY hard to talk everyone into The Grand Floridian. The monorail also stops at the Polynesian, which looks AWESOME, too, but we didnt' get a chance to check it out. We also made a stop to the "moderate" resort Port Orleans Riverside and took the water taxi from there to Downtown Disney. It was dark so we didn't see a lot, but it looked gorgeous! We did see the food court (just like the Pop one), but they also have at least one (maybe 2) actual restaurants on site. Its VERY spread out...and for this reason...very quiet! NICE! There were 4 bus stops for people staying at Port Orleans - each at a different location on the property. I'm not sure how that works, though....if a bus gets full at stop #1, would it continue on to the other three stops? If we stay there, I'll have to call them to ask.

As you can tell, I am very opinionated about Disney transportation. But it was so nice to just sit back and let someone else drive. Plus, I would have gotten lost in a heartbeat! Beth loved the buses during the day, but at night when they were crowded and hot and she couldn't see where she was going, she got a little motion sick. So we tried our hardest to get on first and get a front seat! Its also really hard to count on someone else to get you where you need to be on for dinner reservations. We finally figured out that we had to be walking out our resort room at least 45 minutes prior to any reservation! It would take that long to get anywhere!

Beth never got the chance to ride with the "pilot" of the monorail. We asked several times, but there was usually a line of other kids who wanted to do the same...and we didn't have time to wait. I think next time we are there we will MAKE time to let the girls to do this!

Disney Magical Express sent us a letter the day before we left letting us know what time we (and our luggage) had to be on the bus to the airport. We had a 5:30 p.m. flight and the buses will typically leave 3 hours before your flight. (so if you don't want to leave before 9 a.m in the moring, don't book a flight before noon!) We left Pop Century at 2:30. We were able to put our luggage at the Bell Services while were enjoyed the parks that morning and we retrieved it when we got back, in order to put it on the bus. We flew Southwest, which is NOT a Disney partner, so we were not able to check our luggage at the baggage check right there at Pop Century, but it really wasn't that bad. Also - if flying Southwest, you CAN check-in to get your boarding passes at the conciege desk - they will print them for you! Off we went on another Disney Magical Express bus for another 30 minute ride, which did include another 20-25 minute video! Beth loved the Orlando airport fountain and Disney store!

It took almost 30 minutes to get through security...enough time to grab dinner and wait at our gate for about 30 minutes! Then we were up and away back HOME!


Leia said...

Too bad the hotel wasn't so great. I'm really loving hearing all the details! We'd like to stay at a Disney resort someday, instead of in the timeshare with the in-laws. Really enjoying all your info!

Amy said...

Visiting from the March bbc board-I love WDW and had to read your trip report & see pics. We had our first Disney trip as a family in December, and i've been depressed ever I have to soak it all up, LOL! I've got our trip report & pics on my blog, linked to my name, if you're interested. I read that you liked the Grand Floridian, and that's where we stayed. We loved it, and would definitely recommend it to anyone. Our view was more than we could have hoped for. There's so much magic at Disney, isn't there? :)