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Trip Reports & Member Reviews Discuss Cohen Family Trip Report, July 2009 in the Vacation Planning forums; Walt Disney World Trip Report, July 2009 My family and I (myself, my wife, and my two daughters ages 8 &10) just returned from a week in Walt Disney World ...
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    DisneyHomeVideo is offline B-Ticket Holder
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    Cohen Family Trip Report, July 2009

    Walt Disney World Trip Report, July 2009

    My family and I (myself, my wife, and my two daughters ages 8 &10) just returned from a week in Walt Disney World (Wednesday July 8th to Wednesday July 13th) and we had a wonderful time. Instead of doing a step-by-step trip report everything my family and I did in Walt Disney World, which would create an immensely long article, I decided to break the experience down into manageable chunks. I hope it gives you a sense of how much we enjoyed our trip.

    Highlights: Let’s start with the best things first. We had three wonderful experiences while there that stood out. The first happened the first full day of our vacation. Because I was following the touring plan recommendations outlined in the Unofficial Guide, we showed up 70 minutes early to the Magic Kingdom (6:50 am) on our first day and were the first and only patrons waiting to be allowed through the entrance to the park. After taking photos and having some pleasant conversations with some cast members, we were chosen to open the park that day! We were ushered in early and got some wonderful photos of the empty park, a sight I doubt I will ever see again. After visiting with cast members and characters, we went onto the train platform and with the characters, threw pixie dust and waved to the crowd to welcome them all inside. It was truly a magical and unique experience. See the video HERE. The second experience was dinner for my wife’s birthday at the California Grill, where we were lucky enough to land a table by the window and watched the Wishes fireworks in the Magic Kingdom. Doing this gave us an unparalleled and beautiful view of the Magic Kingdom and all of Seven Seas Lagoon. My last favorite experience was attending the drawing class at the Animation pavilion in Hollywood Studios. This is an opportunity (free with park admission, most people walk right by it) to receive instruction from a Disney animator on drawing a Disney character. My family and I were lucky enough to draw Mickey Mouse, and our four drawings will soon be framed and hung on our wall. These three experiences are my favorites of the trip.

    Attractions: The Unofficial Guide is correct, show up early and follow the plan for maximum efficiency! By doing this in addition to using Fastpasses, we were able to do a great deal in the parks despite the crowds. We rode all the major attractions we wanted to at least once (which was most of them), and rode Soarin’ twice, Spaceship Earth twice, Splash Mountain twice, Big Thunder Mountain twice, Toy Story Mania twice, and Kilimanjaro Safaris twice.

    Weather: The weather was hot! But even being northerners trapped in the southern heat, we found it manageable. Between the misters and air conditioned buildings, we didn’t actually spend a great deal of time overheated. But, we made it a point to stay hydrated and refilled our water bottles frequently. Had we not been diligent about this we easily could have been. It rained almost daily, but usually only for a short period of time. We never even needed to buy ponchos!

    Crowd Levels: While un-crowded at times, for the most part all the parks were nearly impassable before 11:00 am and were twice as insanely mobbed after lunch. We got to do what we wanted, but it is clear that the key is to show up early and to plan your first two hours. With two young children we chose to do a few late afternoon and evening forays, but very few. My working assumption, which turned out to be correct, was that you could choose to get up early or to stay late, but not both without completely exhausting yourself and ruining the overall experience. I think the choice to attend immediately following a major holiday was a good one. There appeared to be smaller crowd levels the first few days of our trip, I’m guessing because July 4th vacationers had returned home and there was a lull before the hotels and parks filled up again.

    Disney Dining Plan: We were on the regular plan, with one table service meal, one counter-service meal, and one snack a day. Despite the fact that we used some of our table service meals to purchase lunches (which is contrary to most advice) we still saved money, though less than what we would have of we had done table service dinners exclusively. Most vendors seem to know how to process the dining plan now so it’s more user friendly than it was two years ago, but it also isn’t as good a plan. There were many times I didn’t want the dessert and would have preferred an appetizer, which is no longer included. I learned late in the game that some counter service vendors will allow you a fruit instead of a dessert if you request it, which I would have taken advantage of. I simply skipped dessert many times and lost the opportunity to take advantage of this. My oldest daughter was considered an adult for plan purposes (age 10 and up) and could order anything she wanted but my youngest daughter was on forced to use child menus and very quickly became bored with chicken nuggets and hamburgers A third to half of the restaurants, understanding this, seemed to be offering at least one interesting choice that is unique to the restaurant for younger children (for example macaroni and cheese was occasionally offered on kids menus, and my daughter was able to order a small steak or salmon at the California Grill). We took aluminum water bottles and refilled them frequently, rather than choosing to buy soda or bottled water at exorbitant prices.

    Food: Overall the food was quite good. The occasional overdone hamburger is to be expected and I didn’t always care for the dessert options, but most of the food was well-prepared and flavorful and was not the bland “we’re trying to cheaply please everybody even though this pleases nobody” food you might expect at theme parks. The food at California Grill, the Ohana breakfast, Les Chefs de France, the Sassagoula food court, Whispering Canyon, the Main Street Bakery, Raglan Road, the 50’s Prime Time Café, and Liberty Tree tavern really stand out as restaurants we enjoyed.

    Lodging: We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort. We love it there, and this was our second time staying in this resort. The resort is quiet and beautiful, and worth wandering through. It‘s full of hidden pools and fountains, and is impeccably themed and landscaped. Jazz music is piped into the background both inside and outside, and the pool is one of the best on WDW property. My kids wanted to swim daily. The food court happens to serve quite good food. The cast members really made it a point to be friendly and welcoming, and I recognized several from our previous visit 2+ years ago Every morning cast member Chris (bellhop) asked us what park we were attending and offered advice. Another highlight was a gift shop cast member who threw Mardi Gras beads around my daughters’ heads like a ring toss, which they loved. I particularly liked having two sinks, a gradually brightening light in the bathroom (so you aren’t blinded in the middle of the night), and a bathroom fan that is hooked up to a motion detector (so the fan doesn’t run all night if the kids need the light on). Most experiences with cast members were nothing short of excellent, and my one of my favorite interactions occurred at 5:00 am the day of our return flight. A cast member who was doing landscaping smiled and made it a point to go out of his way to open a door for us so we could easily get our bags into the lobby.

    Transportation: We used the monorail and boats occasionally, but mostly buses to and from Port Orleans. Bus service between our resort and the parks seemed to be especially efficient this trip and our wait times were short. This was an especially pleasant surprise for us. In addition, Magical Express (and baggage delivery) was efficient at the beginning of our trip and on-time at the end, making getting to and from the airport very easy.

    Cons: In the parks and resorts, cast members appear to be distributed according to some internal algorithm that determines where they are needed, and this appears to be efficient and successful the majority of the time. But, there are hairline cracks in the normal Disney perfection, I suspect because of the personnel downsizing they have done due to the economy. The individual cleaning our room seemed to forget a different thing every day, and our room was just starting to show signs of wear. Also, despite the ever-present managers with trash-grabbers, there was some trash laying about at the resort and parks. Less so than I see in my daily life, but more so than I have ever seen at Disney. Patrons at Splash Mountain had disgustingly shoved paper and gum into the nooks and crannies of the ride queue and the slow parts of the ride itself, and bottles and paper were especially present in the brush on Tom Sawyer Island. Seeing this kind of unnecessary littering and vandalism being perpetrated by uncaring park patrons saddened me a great deal. Cast members have to contend with a mountain of trash daily and do an excellent job overall and I hate that they have to try to keep up with something patrons should do themselves. Also, some staff members were curt with us at times, I suspect due to stress related to job demands and perhaps less of an emphasis on customer service while trying to get all the necessary tasks done with fewer people. Despite this, our overall experience was just under excellent to the point that it was jarring to return to our daily lives where people aren’t as friendly. Being in the Washington airport on our return flight felt like being a stranger in a third world country compared to being in the WDW parks and resorts the day before. In terms of attractions, I sincerely disliked waiting in line with 8,000 other people for 30 minutes to get into the late show of Fantasmic. I don't like huge crowds and it was enough to convince me that WDW fireworks are best viewed from far, far away, or quite possible skipped altogether.

    The Future of Park Technology: I believe I’ve seen some glimpses of the future of the parks in the interactive characters of the Monsters Incorporated Laugh Factory, and in the Living Character Initiative. We made it a point to see the Laugh Factory this visit, and we have seen Turtle Talk in the past. We also made it a point to visit Push the Trash can and Remy at Les Chefs de France this visit. These are very, very interesting attractions and characters, and I sincerely hope Disney continues to build on these technologies. I personally find them to be some of the most unique in Walt Disney World

    My daughter’s favorite activities: Beyond the attractions, my daughters especially enjoyed three aspects of their trip. Collecting character autographs was and is always a big hit. Our Ohana character breakfast at the Polynesian resort was well-run and fun (even for the adults). My kids also loved the pressed coin machines, and immediately ran to any they saw to see what coins were being offered. Even by only getting their favorites, they ended up with well over 10 apiece. As a parent, I appreciated an inexpensive souvenir. Probably their favorite though was the Pin trading, which they started their first day in the parks and obsessed about the entire trip, asking countless cast member to trade pins with them. WDW offers “Hidden Mickey” pins, which are only available in the parks, and my kids loved searching out the ones they especially liked. This was NOT an inexpensive set of souvenirs, but was well-worth it in the end given how much they enjoyed it. My girls and I shared the costs (we had worked out souvenir budgets before our visit). However, next time we’ll be better prepared so we won’t be paying a premium for trading pins

    My must-dos, with or without kids: Your favorite headliner attractions are no-brainers obviously, Toy Story Mania and Soarin’ are as good as their hype in my opinion, but I think it is important to explore more about Walt Disney and his legacy. I think everyone should spend some time in Hollywood Studios visiting Walt Disney, One Man’s Dream and taking the drawing class. Despite my daughters’ young ages, they loved the older attractions, including Small World, Spaceship Earth and Carousel of Progress. They also loved the educational components of Epcot, including the World Showcase Pavilions, Innoventions, and Living with the Land. Lastly, they listened intently to the attraction backstories and to the snippets of Disney history that I told them. It was all time well-invested. As much as I love the theme parks, what makes them more than just theme parks is the their history . Learning more about this legacy only makes the parks more interesting and meaningful.

    Other favorite experiences: The Haunted Mansion, Small World, Searching for paintbrushes on Tom Sawyer Island, the spitting tikis in Adventureland, Pirates of the Caribbean, the mural in Cinderella Castle, the Lights, Motor, Action stunt show and just about all of Hollywood Studios, especially One Man’s Dream, drawing Mickey Mouse with an animator, and the “Hollywood Has-beens”, Test Track, Living with the Land, drinking Chinese watermelon soda at Club Cool, playing with marionettes at the China Pavilion, looking for the 5-legged goat at the Contemporary Resort, and checking out the Polynesian theme and the Tikis at the Polynesian Resort.

    I got lots of video (3 hours worth) that I'm just now sifting through and editing in watchable video, and will be putting more up on the youtube channel soon. I hope to have a new "how-to" or two up shortly after that. Our magical moment of opening the park, kindly filmed by a cast member, is already up.

    What I want to do next time: FIND a paintbrush on Tom Sawyer island !

    Dan

    Disney Home Video
    Last edited by DisneyHomeVideo; 08-03-2009 at 09:47 PM.

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    Re: Cohen Family Trip Report, July 2009

    What a fantastic trip report!! And your video of opening the park is so special. It brought a tear to my eye!! How great that you have that video to help you remember such a magical moment!
    Leslie Henson
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    Re: Cohen Family Trip Report, July 2009

    Great report, thanks for sharing.

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    Re: Cohen Family Trip Report, July 2009

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. What a great experience to be able to open the park, I really liked that video.

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    Re: Cohen Family Trip Report, July 2009

    Fabulous report and very well organized!

    I wonder about the custodial direction there. I understand creative scheduling very well, and I don't disagree that Disney needed to look closely at this.

    Here's what I wonder -- I wonder if park executives think that there is enough of an "ownership" sentiment among hard core fans that some of us would pick up some of the more visible trash. I'm sure that, after a while, I would start picking stuff up, as I'm sure most of us might.
    Have you seen my dad? Would you page him for me?


    Next Family trip = April 16 - April 23, 2011, staying in an All Star Vacation Home!

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    DisneyGuy87's Avatar
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    Re: Cohen Family Trip Report, July 2009

    Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time! Thanks for all the info and the report, these always seem to bring me right into the parks!

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    Re: Cohen Family Trip Report, July 2009

    What a fabulous short and sweet trip report! Thank you for sharing the video with us, that is a dream that I would love to come true for my family!

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