Monday, June 1, 2015

SUPER ENTHUSED BLOG: Walt Disney World, Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, Disney's Electrical Parade (May 2015)


Lodging: Disney's Coronado Springs & Disney's Dolphin Resort

The staff of CSR was wondeful. Everyone was friendly and kind and went out of their way to make our stay special. I have to give a special thanks to the incredible concierge staff, who helped us to secure dinner reservations at Biergarten for a part of 5.
We felt relaxed and comfortable during our entire stay at CSR, and that alone is priceless! One major benefit of staying on property is Disney bus transportation to the parks. Unlike other area hotels, Disney buses arrive and depart every 15-20 minutes, are more spacious, and drop guests off directly at the park of their choosing, rather than at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC). Avoiding the TTC means saving a whole lot of time and hassle, although there is something special about the ferry ride from TTC to MK; if you're a frequent guest, you can make the decision to skip this step and head directly to your destination.


On our first visit with the party of five, we cozied up around a small table under a "window." 
On our second visit, we sat right at the bar. I recommend sitting at the bar if you can, because it's a very different experience. Anywhere you sit is great, but sitting at the bar gives you the chance to talk to the bartenders, and apparently to shrink down to the size of a small child (you'll get it once you've visited). The bartenders... er... skippers... are AMAZING.  Picture a Jungle Cruise skipper serving you a tiki cocktail out of a nautilus or shrunken zombie head, or ceremoniously pulling a pearl from it's shell before filling it with a sugary concoction delightfully placed before you, all the while gags and chuckles fill the air.
On our second visit, a new cast member was asked to serenade the audience with a Disney song, which somehow turned into a full blown sing-along of the first verse of Belle (Little Town), with the audience taking over! I wished so much that the song would have continued, but alas, it petered off. Anyhow, with so much going on, it was forgotten in a few moments. When the room, er, sky darkens, you know a volcano is about to erupt. I won't spoil the rest, it's just... it's great. Just go.

For lunch, we had tacos at the Mexico Pavilion, then delicious avocado margaritas at La Cava del Tequila. Later, we had dinner at Biergarten, which was both delicious and fun. While I've dined at and enjoyed the quick service location next door, this was my first sit down dinner at Biergarten. The musicians are wonderful, the restaurant is lovely, and everything we tasted (and we tasted just about everything) from the buffet was scrumptious. Such a treat, I highly recommend!


Transportation: Drive from Miami, Disney Resort buses and boats on property

Destinations visited: Magic Kingdom, Epcot (including dinner & show at Biergarten), Polynesian Resort (including food & drinks at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto & Kona Cafe), Wilderness Lodge, the Grand Floridian, Disney's Boardwalk and Boardwalk resort, and the Swan (including food & karaoke at Kimono's).

Back in March of 2015, I wrote a post focusing on Disney's Port Orleans - Riverside Resort. Today, I will be writing about a follow-up WDW trip including stays at Disney's Coronado Springs and Disney's Dolphin Resort, as well as visits to several other Walt Disney World destinations.


CORONADO SPRINGS

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was completely enamored with Port Orleans - Riverside (POR). A whole lot of pros with only one con - difficult to get a king size bed room, which seems to be the case with many Disney resorts. As far as moderately priced Disney resorts go, I was not disappointed by Disney's Coronado Springs Resort (CSR). Similar to POR, walking the grounds of CSR felt like a quiet haven away from the hullabaloo of the parks. The grounds of CSR are immaculate, and though they feel a bit less lush and a bit less themed than POR, everything is clean and lovely. We were lucky enough to secure a preferred king bed room and it was so worth it. As an adult couple with no kids, a room with a king bed affords us a better night sleep and a more comfortable stay in general. The room was plain and clean, which was fine. Much less impressive than POR, yet more comfortable and spacious. The king bed was comfortable and we slept well.


DOWNTOWN DISNEY







We spent a fun evening at Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs apparently- exciting!) having dinner at T-Rex Cafe and later drinks at Raglan Road. I say fun, however I have a few gripes about DTD in its current state- particularly DTD West Side. First of all, CROWDED... I know, I know, it's Disney, it's crowded, but this area felt exceedingly dense and uncomfortable. There is construction everywhere (as of May 2015). Hopefully the narrow corridors crammed with jostling crowds will be alleviated once the construction is complete; however, as it stands, it feels like a teeming construction site... not the way you want to feel when you're on vacation. Once we squeezed through the crowds and made our way over to T-Rex cafe, a bit of space opened up and alleviated the squeeze a bit, though not much. Again, I understand that crowds are part and parcel of the Disney experience, however this area does not swallow crowds well in its current state. The walkways are so narrow, and the opportunities for the crowd to disperse into establishments or attractions so few, that it feels claustrophobic. Again, I hope this is alleviated by the construction currently taking place.

T-Rex Cafe was fun as always. I dined with a party of four adults and one toddler who shares my love of dinosaurs, adding to the fun. We had no reservations so our wait was about 45 minutes, we spent time in the gift shop and let the toddler loose in the dig area for a bit during the wait. I have never been able to sit in the glacier, so one day I hope to, but not this visit either. I love the animatronic dinosaurs, the storms and the sugary drinks! The food is typical theme park fare, not bad but nothing to write home (or blog) about. I had the fish and chips, it wasn't bad at all. My candy apple cottin-tini was delicious (though may or may not be undrinkable to an adult who is not into drinks so sugary you bounce off the walls, but not from intoxication).


The rest of our party departed so we decided to check out Raglan Road. It was crowded and there were no bar seats available on the front patio or at either of the inside bars, so we had to sit out back where there was no live music and no atmosphere. I had a flight of beers that tasted slightly of ashtray. Needless to say, I couldn't finish the ashy flight. We caught a bit of the performance on the inside stage as we were walking out, two young men who were previously performing on the outside stage, doing Johnny Cash covers and the like. We stood around and sang along for a bit. Disappointed, but will return to see if we can score better seats and try more menu items.






















 TRADER SAM'S GROG GROTTO

We were fortunate enough to be able to visit the Grotto twice during our May 2015 stay and loved every moment of it. Not knowing what the wait times would be like, we arrived at 3:20 to a closed door and no clue where to go. After standing around outside the door with a few other equally confused yet friendly guests for a bit, a cast member appeared and instructed us to line up outside by the docks, so we dutifully queued up. Along with a handful of folks ahead of us, we withstood the heat to be first in to the Grotto! There was another newly married couple in line with us on both visits and lots of other nice folks. At first it seemed like it would just be us and the few other diehards and that there was no need to be lining up in the blazing sun this early, but sure enough, by 3:35/3:40pm, the line started to lengthen, and by the time a cast member came out to count the crowd and give us our stamps, there were a few folks too many so the wait list began (on our second visit, I think there were just enough people to squeeze in and no one had to wait immediately, however the wait list began shortly after the first group was seated). Stamps were issued at around 3:45 on both of our visits to the first 50 or so guests, guaranteeing us entrance, not to mention making us all feel pretty cool. I was with a group of 4 adults and 1 toddler on our first visit, and two adults on our second visit, and we were all excited and hungry by the time we were let in at 4pm. There are plenty of blogs out there detailing the drink menu and which drinks trigger which reactions, so I'll try to keep it succinct. First reactions upon entering: WOOOOWEEEEE!!! Smaller than it looked in photos I had seen online, flawless design, great atmosphere. 

We grabbed some seats and poured over the menu, obviously wanting to order drinks that triggered the volcano, the east coast zombie family, angered the tiki gods, and elicited jokes from cast members. We were not let down by the experience!





EPCOT

Aaaah, Epcot. For so many of us, this park is a land of nostalgia and sunshine. It may not have the density of attractions or high theming of Magic Kingdom, but that is more than made up for by wonderful dining options, special events, and of course... did I mention nostalgia? Events such as the International Flower and Garden Festival and the immensely popular Food and Wine festival have become

Some of my particular favorite Epcot attractions include: Spaceship Earth (always!), Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo and Friends (or as I like to call it, The Living Seas), and of course strolling the World Showcase. We were able to score a fastpass+ for Soarin' on this visit and it's a nice, pleasant ride, though worth the wait? Debatable. We always spend a good deal of time strolling the aquariums and watching the manatees eating giant hunks of lettuce. We skipped the "Cool Club" soda tasting on this trip since we pretty much had our fill on our March 2015 visit, although we normally pay a visit to this area on every trip. Something about the sensory experience- the bubbles, the mix of unfamiliar flavors, that one "yucky" soda (Beverly), is oddly fun.



















RESORT HOPPING

I recommend hopping on a resort boat to anyone who wants a little getaway, a little relaxing time off from the pandemonium, perhaps even a little romantic or relaxing retreat. It's not only a great way to check out the grounds, restaurants, shops, etc of the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian and Wilderness Lodge, but it's a fun/relaxing activity in its own right. First, we rode the resort boat to the Grand Flo, always a lovely visit. We admired, we shopped, we took photos, and we were off. Next, we took the resort boat back to MK, and hopped on the adjacent boat to Wilderness Lodge. We strolled a bit of the lovely trail, admired the pool and gorgeous lobby, sat in the rocking chairs in front of the fireplace, and promised we'd be staying there soon. Then, we were off again. Another boat ride back to MK to hop back on the original boat, stop off at the Flo' again, and we were at our beloved Polynesian. First things first, it was lapu lapu time. If you don't know, a lapu lapu is a light rum punch served in a pineapple. It's the ultimate vacation beverage. We tried Tambu lounge but were told they weren't serving food until 5pm, so we headed over to Kona cafe for our lapus and lunch. We ordered charcuterie and cheese, pot stickers and sticky wings. All delicious and satisfying.
















DISNEY'S DOLPHIN RESORT

This was my first time staying at the Dolphin and I have mixed feelings about our stay. The Dolphin seemed very impressive at first, the lobby and grounds are impressive, especially at night with the fountains and statues glowing in multicolored lights. The lobby entrance ceiling mimics a night sky, and the inner lobby ceiling looks like a giant canopy. Parking is confusing, and we had to hunt someone down for help with an explanation as to where we should park while checking in. The check-in line was not long, but moved very slowly. We waited for quite a while before being helped, and by that time, there were two lines with no order and we had to let them know we were waiting before another party who was confused and in a different line. The attendant was friendly and professional once we reached the counter. Our room was incredibly spacious, which at first seemed very impressive.... until we tried to shower. I should have paid attention to the yelp reviews, because it seems that more than one person mentioned the showers inability to drain. You end up standing ankle deep in water.... but by the time we realized this, of course, it was time to go. No time to switch rooms or wait for maintenance. 

We took a walk out to the Boardwalk, which was a bit of a disappointment after reading so many reviews about how fun this area is supposed to be. Sure, there were two "street performers," nothing too impressive or interesting. Not many options for entertainment, and absurdly overpriced food and drink, even for Disney. We then walked over to the Swan to have sushi and partake in some karaoke at Kimono's. Despite the mixed reviews about Kimono's sushi, we enjoyed our rolls and had a nice time. I sang a few tunes, though their setup is strange and it's difficult to hear yourself up there. All in all, we had a nice time at the Dolphin, but I doubt we'll be back, and if we do return, I'll be sure to check the shower drainage before settling in.










MAGIC KINGDOM

Magic Kingdom needs no review, it is just wonderful all around as we all know! We stayed past the fireworks, past the Electrical Parade, and past closing for the "Goodnight Kiss" and it was truly the cherry on top of a glorious day. Once the Electrical Parade ended, the crowds started streaming out. It was surprising how quickly the crowds thinned. After about 10/15 minutes, we had the hub practically to ourselves, with a few other small groups clustered about. We made ourselves comfortable right smack in front of the castle along with the rest of the small group, who all also appeared to be waiting for the Goodnight Kiss. Some folks had tripods aimed at the castle, ready to film or photograph the GK. I took a video of it, however I did not look at my camera while doing so, so that I could enjoy it completely with my own senses. About 30 minutes after midnight, the castle began twinkling and we were soon treated to the dreamlike Goodnight Kiss. If you're a devoted Disney fan, you should experience this at least once, it's a really nice touch that may just bring a tiny tear to your eye.



Favorite attractions include: Haunted Mansion, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Peter Pan's Magic Flight, Splash Mountain, People Mover, Hall of Presidents, oh and... I dunno... EVERYTHING. When I am at the Magic Kingdom, I'm usually having a blast from start to finish. I love almost every attraction and can have fun doing just about anything there. It's glorious. Funny enough, I rode both Dumbo and the Barnstormer for the first time on this trip. Both are fun and cute, but ridiculously brief. I'll stick to the mountains and mansions for now. 





















“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, on behalf of everyone here at the Magic Kingdom, we thank you for joining us today for a magic gathering of family, friends, fun, and fantasy. We hope your magical journey with us has created wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. Walt Disney said that the Magic Kingdom is a world of imagination, hopes, and dreams. In this timeless land of enchantment, magic and make believe are reborn, and fairy tales come true. The Magic Kingdom is a place for the young and the young at heart. A special place where when you wish upon a star, your dreams can come true. Until we see you again, have a safe trip home. Thank you, and goodnight.”
















Thanks for reading, and as always, and please feel free to write: superenthused @ gmail . com, and please "like" the Super Enthused facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/superenthused! Thanks and good night!

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