Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Walt Disney World Resort - A tour of the resorts


I had the opportunity to stay at Walt Disney World recently while TravelGirl was there on business.  My goal was to visit as many Disney resorts as possible during the three days, and I managed to hit 10 of them.  We also spent one day at three of the parks, with the sole purpose of going on as many rides as possible (which will be part of a separate blog post).  As always, it’s still a blast to experience Disney parks. 

Disney’s Deluxe Resorts
We arrived around 11am on Wednesday at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.  Check-in was a breeze and the front desk was very friendly.  We had the option of valet parking or self-parking, and we chose the latter.  The self-parking lot wasn’t that far away, but it could be a bit of a trek if you’re carrying a lot of stuff.  If you’ve got a big family, you may want to opt for the valet option.

The room was spacious and mostly clean, except the refrigerator had a leftover dried liquid of some sort (click HERE to view the room tour).  Wi-Fi is available in the lobby, and wired internet was available in the room, both for a fee of $9.95 per 24 hour period.  They were not interchangeable, however, so if you purchased Wi-Fi in the lobby, you needed to purchase it again in your room.  Deluxe resorts come with a refrigerator, dual sinks in the bathroom, and microwaves are available on request.

I then toured a standard room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom resort, The Jamba House.  Recently upgraded, the room’s layout was very similar to that of the Yacht Club (click HERE to view the room tour), and came with all of the same amenities.  The staff was extremely friendly and helpful.

Finally, I was able to see three rooms at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (opened in 1988 as The Grand Floridian Beach Resort).  Of all the resorts I toured, this Victorian themed resort was closest to the Magic Kingdom, with some views of Cinderella’s Castle, Space Mountain, and even Epcot in the distance.  While not within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom, it’s a very short monorail ride from the main entrance.  I found the cast members extremely friendly, the rooms very clean and the grounds very well kept. The only possible negative I encountered was how far away the self-parking lot was from the resort’s entrance.  This resort also has the oldest and most cheerful bellhops I have seen at any accommodation I’ve ever visited anywhere! (Click HERE to view the room tours)

Disney’s Value Resorts
The first Value resort I visited was Disney’s All-Star Sports resort, but unfortunately they were unable to give me a room tour.  I did not enjoy my time at this resort, as I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes while I counted 10+ cast members chatting behind the counters. Of the 10 resorts I visited, this was the single worst lobby experience.  I will not be recommending this resort to my clients.

The second Value resort I visited was Disney’s All-Star Music resort.  The staff there was friendlier than the previous resort, but I didn’t really get that great “Disney customer service experience” that I’ve come to expect.  The room felt older, and while I’m not 100% certain, I’m pretty sure it hadn’t been refurbished anytime recently.

I visited the All-Star Movies resort next, and it was definitely the best of the All-Star resorts. The people were friendly, the manager took a minute to introduce himself to me, and the room had been refurbished recently, so it looked great! 

Disney’s Pop Century resort was the fourth and final Value resort that I visited, and was my favorite of the Value resorts.  As with the previous one, this resort was clean, the people were very friendly and accommodating, and it’s also the newest of the Value resorts.  The over-sized artwork from the various decades were captivating.  Pieces like the huge foosball table, a giant Big Wheel, and mammoth 8-track cassette tapes really brought me back to memory lane even if for just an hour.

Other notes regarding the value resorts:
  • None of the rooms include a refrigerator, but one can be rented for $10/night
  • The rooms will have either one king bed or two double beds
  • The maximum occupancy in any one standard room is 4
  • The layout of the lobbies are nearly identical for the Sports, Music and Movies resorts
  • Click HERE to view tours of the All-Star resorts
  • Click HERE to view a tour of the Pop Century resort

Disney’s Moderate Resorts
The first Moderate resort I toured was Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort.  The lobby was open and inviting, and again, the cast members were very friendly and accommodating.  The good news/bad news about this resort involved the beaches.  The good news was that each area of the resort, known as “islands” (Aruba, Jamaica, etc), featured a sandy beach area with chaise lounges.  The bad news was that the water is unswimmable since it is swampland.  The good news is that just above each of the beach areas is a pool, so you’re not that far from the water. 

All of the rooms had been recently refurbished, so you have the iHome radio with a docking station for your iPod or iPhone as well as updated furniture and fixtures.   Rooms in Moderate resorts also include a refrigerator, so if that’s something you’ll definitely want during your stay, I would recommend at least a Moderate resort. 

I toured two different types of rooms: The standard room and the Pirate themed room.  Both rooms will accommodate 4 people, but the biggest difference is the absolute, over-the-top d├ęcor of the Pirate themed rooms.  The beds are shaped like pirate ships, the refrigerator is in a barrel, the dressers are shaped like shipping crates and the curtain that you can draw for privacy in the bathroom area has a giant pirate skull and cross-bones.  If you and/or your kids love pirates, YOU MUST STAY IN THIS ROOM (click HERE to view the room tours). 

Next, I visited Disney’s Coronado Springs resort, a southwest-themed Moderate resort.  Again, nice lobby area, plenty of cast members available, and the wait in line wasn’t bad at all.  Unfortunately, there was some miscommunication among the cast members regarding my tour.  After requesting the tour, I waited nearly an hour for a cast member.  Not really a big deal, but surprising nevertheless.

The rooms had been refurbished recently and were very nice and spacious.  There really isn’t a ton to add about the rooms, as the layout among the two moderate resorts were very similar (click HERE to view the room tour).  The cast members were polite and friendly, just as I would expect from Disney. 

Finally, I had a chance to tour The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort. This was the last resort that I toured and also included a somewhat… different tour guide.  What was so different, you might ask?  He was cranky and chose to give me some of his opinions on Disney as an employer!  I was shocked, but I must admit that I found it rather amusing. 

If you prefer to unwind away from all the action in a cabin that can comfortably sleep a family of six, this is the resort for you.  Each cabin includes one set of bunk beds, one double bed, one pull-down double bed, a full kitchen, a sizable deck and a barbecue.  This is also a great option for families looking to save a few bucks by preparing some meals in the cabin versus dining out every night.  Also at Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort are full campsites with RV hookups as well as standard tent sites -- a neat option if you want get your Disney on during the day and “rough it” at night (click HERE to view the cabin tour).

In summary, I found the vast majority of resorts clean, spacious and the cast members very friendly and helpful.  The difference between the Value, Moderate and Deluxe resorts were noticeable and I walked away with a clear understanding of which level to recommend to my clients when they’re considering a trip to Walt Disney World.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

We love quitters!

By TravelGuy:
Ever been hypnotized?  Many of us are under self-hypnosis every day when we drive somewhere (to work, for example) and don't even remember how we got there.  We were in a state of self-hypnosis.  If you want to read more about this, read on...



Some people don’t like hypnotherapy because they think they will lose control or be forced to cluck like a chicken the rest of their life.  Hypnotherapy is much different than hypnosis for entertainment, but either way, you can’t be hypnotized unless you want to be.  If you sit down and say, “I won’t be hypnotized, I won’t be hypnotized, I won’t be hypnotized…”.  Guess what? You won’t be hypnotized. 



Like everything, hypnotherapy is a tool and its effectiveness will be directly proportional to how you use it.  Hypnotherapy has helped folks in several ways, some of which are:  Weight loss, regaining focus, overcoming phobias, and of course, quitting smoking. 



I had been thinking about creating a unique cruise that would also help people in some way.  With all of the accessible food on a ship, weight loss didn’t seem to be the right fit.  After talking it over with my hypnotherapist, Laura Kohn, we agreed that quitting smoking would be perfect.  A cruise is ideal for hypnotherapy because the subject is already in a relaxed environment while being on vacation, and while there are places to smoke on the ship, new regulations by cruise lines have made smoking more and more difficult for smokers. 



Together with Laura Kohn, I've created a Quit Smoking at Sea cruise sailing on January 8th, 2012 for 7 nights on the Norwegian Pearl from Miami to the Western Caribbean.  Cruise fare includes two group hypnotherapy sessions with Laura Kohn (http://www.laurakohngroup.com) as well as a $50 spa credit per cabin.  Plus, I'll be making a donation to the American Cancer Society for each cabin booked.  Want to start out 2012 the right way?  Kick the habit!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

…and we’re in Paradise!

By TravelGuy:
As most people now know, we’ve lived in Delray Beach, FL for just over a month now.  So far, we love it!  However, like any new region, there is that whole “getting used to the new stuff” time period.  For us, that includes critters and drivers.  

Let’s compare drivers. Please know this is one person’s (my) opinion, and does not represent the opinions of everyone in Seattle, Phoenix, or Delray Beach.  How’s that for a disclaimer?

Seattle:  The drivers are pretty polite.  Not a ton of road rage, not a lot of tailgaters (unless you’re referring to our kick-ass Seahawks Tailgating brethren), but plenty of just plain bad drivers.  It’s tough to give Seattle an accurate grade because of all the days spent driving in dark or wet conditions.  Most drive 5+ above the speed limit, use turn signals, will let a merging car in front of them, and rarely use their horns.  However, I have met my fair share of full blown crappy drivers during my 23 years in Seattle. 

Phoenix:  The drivers are crazy.  Most drive 10+ over the speed limit and they’ll tailgate you like nobody’s business.  That being said, the average skill of driver is well above average.  They’re completely unsafe, but they generally drive with good skills (if that makes any sense).  Let's just say that overall, they are very aggressive drivers, and have the fifth highest rate of DUI in the country!  Just ask TravelGirl how many drunk drivers she reported during our time in Arizona.  They also enjoy rolling into the crosswalk as they anticipate the light turning green.  It’s a good thing very few people walk in Phoenix, because all the crosswalks are occupied with cars!    

Florida:  I only have one month of driving under my belt in the Delray/Boca Raton/Fort Lauderdale area, but the drivers here are overall the worst of anywhere I’ve lived.  You get a complete mish-mash of insane drivers and/or bad drivers who just can’t seem to stay in their own lane while driving or even while parking.  And if there are multiple lanes turning left, look out!  Many drivers here have their own idea of which lane to turn in to.  And the amount of people who aren’t paying attention when the light turns green is unreal.  I guess they’re all re-upholstering their cars at red lights.  This brings me to the one thing I absolutely love about driving here… honking.  If you honk on the west coast, you might as well be flippin’ them the bird.  Here, everybody honks.  I love it.  If you’re screwing up, you should be honked at.  Pay attention! *honk*

Now lets talk about the critters. 

Seattle has raccoons, possums, rats, wasps/hornets, and sugar ants.  Most of those are either easy to control or only come out at night, so you don’t see them all that often.

Phoenix has scorpions, cockroaches/palmetto bugs, snakes, black widows, coyotes, lizards and javelinas.  Our battle with scorpions seemed endless until our cat (Patti) adopted us, as they’re immune to scorpion venom.  Saw one black widow and that was it.  Heard coyotes, but we had a walled in yard, so no worries there.  Only had one cockroach and one palmetto bug the 18 months we were there, so no big deal.  Saw one snake on the highway one time and that was it.   TravelGirl saw a javelina, but it was deceased on the side of the road.  Overall, the scorpions were a pain in the neck the first few months, but we ended up getting it under control with a scorpion slaying stick and Patti. 

Again, Florida has a mish-mash of critters compared to the two cities above.  Raccoons, possums, wasps/hornets, snakes, cockroaches/palmetto bugs, lizards as well as ghost ants, fire ants, bufo toads, and alligators.  So far, except for the alligators, we’ve seen the entire list of these critters, though some were just laying on the side of the road.  We’ve hired a pest control company to keep the critters under control, and so far, so good.  The bufo toads are the most alarming.  They’re nocturnal and can spray venom on you or your pets.  I found a toad floundering in our pool and then saw another one as I patrolled the yard before letting the dogs out.  Not sure if it was the bufo toad or not, but it’s scary knowing that these toads could kill our dogs. TravelGirl has found three lizards in the shower, but Patti is now on their trail.  All is good.

A key reason we left Phoenix is because of the beach… or lack thereof.  We are currently living 3.4 miles from the beach, which is something we’ve never experienced before (in terms of a true swimming beach – Richmond Beach in Seattle doesn’t count!).  We love it!  The culture and speed of Delray Beach is right up our alley as well.  Atlantic Avenue is awesome, and we can easily find Asian food again on just about any corner. 

For now, we’ve found our little slice of paradise – a bit of NW culture, the sun that we so desperately seek, and a friendly and welcoming village.