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WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

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  • Trip Report WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

    Hi all!! Hope everyone's Thanksgiving went well, and now the rush to Christmas!
    Have to apologize, little late on getting this posted - but wanted to get this in, so here goes!

    Our routine is to go down for the Halloween Party.. but this time we worked out our schedule so we could do the very last Halloween Party, and then the very first Christmas Party the next Friday! Here is the rundown:

    Resort:
    This is our 9th time over the last 13 years that we have been to WDW. And all, except one year, we have stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort. We just like it - we know where everything is, all the bus stops, and the food court is very good. We took advantage of the Dining Package (more on that later), and due to booking and times, we ended up in Trinidad South, in one of Disney's "Priate Room". It was OK and all, for what it was - we have the outlook we are there to spend as much time in the parks and doing things, so the room is just a room. These rooms were made several years ago, and you can start to see them showing their age a little bit -- in place of a normal dresser to place your clothes, there were four box "crates", that had deep drawers each - the two on the left, the drawers almost fell out when you opened them more than half way... The refrigerator was in a large "oak barrel", and the door only shut fully if you held and closed it just one way. One other thing was in the bath area - they have changed the faucet and shower head to a bronze unit - pretty, but the shower head does not change settings -- in the other rooms, you can change it from a fine spray to the massage settings. Not in these rooms. I'm sure it is more steps in saving water, and I'm OK with that.... but after 12+ hours in the park, it was nice to come back to the room and take a nice hot shower with the massage hitting the back of your neck.... But other than those minor things, the room was nice - is it worth the extra money, not in my opinion, but that's just me. And as always, Housekeeping was very good. So next time (yep, already thinking about it) we will be back to Caribbean Beach!

    ROOM UPDATES!! While on the bus's, we would see areas, mainly in the Martinique building areas, that had construction fencing..... hmmmm.... so when we had time, went for a walk, and it looks like a good portion of the rooms in the Martinique area (maybe more) were empty, with construction fencing, and paperwork taped up in the windows. So you know I could not ignore this, so went up for a look..... NICE! Rooms are being redone: New: Color palate, beds and dressers have a woven bamboo look, curtain separating the bed area from the sink/bath area have been replaced with a two piece solid sliding door (think barn door), again with the woven bamboo look, new lighting... could not tell if any updates to the sink/bath area, but the rooms are getting the update they deserve!! As large as the resort is, it will take several years to make changes to all the rooms, but it's a good start! Thank you WDW for updating our home away from home!!

    Parks:
    Downtown Disney:

    Our routine when we fly in is to get into our room, then we spend the rest of the day at Downtown Disney. With all the construction ongoing, you can tell DD is going through some growing pains. As long as we have been going, we remember when all the clubs at Paradise Island were up and running until all times of the night...... but those days have changed. The work they are doing in that area looks great, and am looking forward to when that area is done. The Marketplace end is not changed much - the Christmas Shop seemed a little understocked as in years past, and the far east room that used to have other items is now full on with everything "Frozen" - there was an article recently about "Frozen Overload".... yep, I can see it - I know Disney has a HUGE hit with this, and they want to cash in on it as much as possible.... but it is everywhere!! The Westside has changed some - the old Virgin record store (that went through several transformations) is now the bowling alley... OK, hope it works... not sure how many people on vacation will want to go bowling, but this could pull in more locals. Some of the shops there have some beautiful items, but I'm not sure who they are marketing to... They have high end glass wares, jewelry. a running-marathon shop, then the Harley Davidson store... weird. And down in the open area towards Bongos, they are building a Food-Truck area. OK, have to trust that they have done their homework on all this. Also appears they are building a bridge from the Rainforest Cafe area to the middle of the old Paradise Island area - not a bad idea, so you can get there without fighting the crowds through the Marketplace.... Changes, changes, changes........
    Magic Kingdom:
    And now to the big one! We were at this park three different times, and saw the transformation from Fall/Halloween to Winter/Christmas. As always, the WDW team does an incredible job. One thing we did notice in every park was the crowds - it is always busy at WDW, but for some reason there seemed to be a lot more people there this time. We usually go early/mid October, so going late may have made a difference. The FastPass+ is in full effect, but I'll go more into that below. The new Mine Ride is so very well done - it is a short ride, but in the area they had to work with, I think they crammed about as much ride as they could into that area, so well done there!! We did do the 3pm "Fantasy Parade", and did get a FassPass for that, and glad I did - the lineup for the parades seem to happen earlier and earlier every year, and then there is the complaining from the people that show up at 10minutes before the parade is to start, and cannot find a good spot.... plan ahead people, plan ahead. Everything else in the MK was about the same - construction around the castle circle continues.
    EPCOT:
    My favorite park! And with everything else going on, there was the Food and Wine Expo - this is a great thing, problem is the lines for any of the booths are incredible! What's next, are they going to start offering FastPass lines for the food vendors? We were at EPCOT two days, and could not get near any of the food booths. Tried Test Track since the make over a while back - not bad! Between TestTrack and Soarin', you have to pick one for your FastPass+, and we always pick Soarin'! Soarin' is great, but it is starting to show it's age, on the film - you can see debris on there from time to time... Have heard they are working on a new video for this.... but just rumor, you know how Disney works. And of course the day could not end without a viewing of Illuminations! Wow, what a great show, love it every time! Dare you to watch that show and not have a feeling that there is hope for humanities future. A great way to end a great day.
    Hollywood Studios:
    OK, I'm not the only one - I heard several "old timers" like myself calling it MGM Studios... some things never change. HS is OK, we mainly go there for three things: Rockin' Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Midway Mania. The rest are OK, but all in all, there are not a lot of things to do in this park. Indy Jones is good, but once you've seen it, you've seen it. Tower of Terror is fairly easy to get on in the standby line, the other two, you better have a FassPass, or be ready to wait...and wait...and wait. We did the Roller Coaster in the Standby line once, and it was just under one hour wait time - that was the shortest line we saw. And rumor in this park is Mickey's big blue hat is going away... not sure how I feel about that - it will open up that area, and actually be able to see the Movie Ride front.... but that has been such an iconic part of this part, it will be strange to walk in the gates, and not see it.
    Animal Kingdom:
    Beautiful park, no argument there. Huge, but again not a lot to do in this park. Not surprisingly we are big Everest fans! Construction on the west side of the park is ongoing --- of course done by magic, you do not see those cranes and that concrete pumping arm over there in the sky!! Lots of construction view blocking boards up all over this park. I think Animal Kingdom is going through the same growing pains as Downtown Disney.. they do have to evolve with the current vacationshopper.

    FASTPASS+
    OK, let's get into this mess.... First, the bracelet scans to get you into your resort room door - love it. The bracelet scanners - Sometimes run very slow, you have to put the "Mickey" right up to the "sweet spot" on the scanner, or it will not work. I understand the idea for the FassPass+ - In years past, I would see groups of people in lines for the big attractions, one person would have all the cards, get like 10 FassPass, then pass the ten cards off to the next person in their group, who was in line, and they would do this over and over... so by the time you or I would make it to that ride, the FassPass tickets were gone! One year, at opening time at Hollywood Studios, they have queue lines set up to get to the FassPass tickets for Midway Mania!! So a change was needed.. but not sure this system is the answer. On attractions were you could get off, and get right back on, now there are wait times. Example is one of our favorites: The Haunted Mansion. There are two lines now - line one is the standby line, which takes you through the interactive "graveyard", the second line is the FassPass, is takes you right to the entry door. Standby times for the Haunted Mansion varied from 15minutes up to 1hour. 1 hour, for the Haunted Mansion? And there were times where there were more people standing in line in the FassPass line than in the Standby line. Agreed, something needed to change, and this system will evolve. For now, have the understanding that you may not get to ride all the attractions as many times as you did in the past. Also, if you have the Dining Package, the restaurants scan the bracelet to see what dining package you have...... problem is their scanners work on WiFi, and these buildings are all steel stud construction, so the poor servers have problems getting those bracelets to scan. And that is who is taking the brunt of the criticism over the FastPass+, the workers... they do not like it anymore than we do, but they have to like it..... if you know what I mean.

    ALSO!! If you have the Disney Dining Plan - when you sign in to your resort, make sure you get your "PIN" for your Magic Band --- Whenever you go to any restaurant/table service/snack, and if you purchase anything using the credit card tied to your Magic Band, you will be asked for your PIN number --- this is a four digit number you select at the time you check into your resort. Reason I am putting this out there is when we checked in, we did not get a PIN, so the first restaurant we went to, when the server asked for us to enter our PIN number on the scanner, we looked at her like a deer in headlights..... then had to leave the restaurant, go to Guest Services, and get the PIN number assigned for our Magic Band. Trust me, you want to do this step up front - when you are in a park or restaurant, that is not the time to have to deal with this!!

    Food:
    The other main reason I go to WDW, beside getting away from the real world for a while, is the food. As long as we have been going, I have to be honest, that we saw a drop in the food quality across the entire organization about 6 years ago. Happy to report food quality has come back up. Last year and this year I opted for the Delux Dining Plan, which gives you more food than you would ever eat in one day: 3 Table or Counter services, and 2 Snacks a day, per person! It does cost more money to upgrade to this package over the basic Dining Plan, but it gives you more options on where you can go. I think it is worth it, but that's a personal opinion. So, here's the rundown of where we went:
    Downtown Disney:
    Raglan Road: Beautiful design building, inside and out, food is very good, service very good - only down side I would have to say is it is very loud in there, and only about half of the dining area you can see the dancers...
    T-Rex: Tried this the first year they opened, and have to be honest, we were not impressed. So we thought we would give it another try. Glad we did - food was very good, service was excellent. Again, can be very loud - if possible, try to get to the area behind the "Ice dome" - seemed much better back there.
    Portobello: Never been here before, tried it on a Tuesday for lunch, no reservation, walked right in. That seems to be a secret for some of the restaurants that are crazy busy - try them for lunch during the week. Food was very good, service good, and sat inside overlooking the lake, so not a bad lunch. And they were not busy at all, so it was pretty quiet!
    Magic Kingdom:
    Crystal Palace: Always a good time - food was good, but again seemed like they did not have as many items out for selection as in years past. Many items in the cold/fruit area were completely empty - not sure what staff was supposed to be taking care of that area - could use some improvement.
    Liberty Tree Tavern: Always look forward to this place - we come here the night of the Halloween Party, every time. Food is good, they do change up the menu some, not a lot. Service good, but like most restaurants in the parks, very loud.
    Tony's Town Square: Sat in the front section, not outside, but in the "porch" area. Second time here, food always good, service top notch. Noise a little better in this section than in the back of the building.
    EPCOT:
    Nine Dragons: Go here for lunch, again can walk right in. Food was good, but sadly made one in our party a little sick to their stomach... so not sure what is going on there. Have eaten here before, and no problems.
    Teppan Edo: Love this place! Dinner and a show!! Food is always good, chefs are excellent, and funny. Very Loud!! Hard to understand the staff when they are asking questions to you.
    Coral Reef: Up in the Living Sea's, have never been here before, but always try to go somewhere new each year. Dining area looks into the water, so the view is amazing - and we were lucky enough to get a table right by the glass, so we could look into the tank and see everything --- even the scuba diver that came by to wave at all the humans in the human tank! (Those of you that have been to see Crush will get that one!). Food was amazing! Great service - person seating us started off with a joke, so put you in a great frame of mind to start from. Highly advise going to this restaurant.
    Hollywood Studios: Have to be honest here - have been to most of the restaurants here, and other than one, not really impressed with them.....
    50's Prime Time Cafe - You have to go here....... it is a blast from the 50's, the food is very good, the wait staff is part of the main draw - they have fun with the customer, ie kid comes back from the restroom, waitress stops them before they sit down - "Did you wash your hands? What color is the soap?", and if they cannot answer them, they make them go back! Much to the delight of the rest of the table. Others will make the kids carry the finished plates to the kitchen... and so on. It's great!Animal Kingdom:
    Tusker House: Tried this for the first time this year - was impressed. And it is character dining, so that is fun too. Food is very good, and it is a buffet, so as much or little of whatever you like. Again, kind of loud, especially when the characters come around, but you get used to it after a while.
    Animal Kingdom Lodge:
    Boma: Have been here before, and really like this place. When twice, once for dinner, once for breakfast. The breakfast was really good, but honestly the dinner service we were not that impressed with - could be that we had dinner here the same day we went to Tusker House for lunch, and they had roughly the same menu items... Decor is amazing, if you have never been to Animal Kingdom Lodge, take the time and go, it is amazing.
    Contemporary Resort:
    California Grill: OK, saved the best for last.. OMG!!! Went here a couple years ago, and it was really good. Then they shut down for the remodel. It is beautiful! And the new menu is amazing - the food is what dreams are made of. If you get to go, highly recommend the Bison steak - amazing!! A true treat to go to this restaurant.

    Couple other items I just want to touch on:

    Scooters:
    Like stated above, we have been to WDW many times, and have noticed one change over the last few years - a progressive increase in the number of people on motorized scooters. Now don't get me wrong, I work in the medical field, and if a person needs a scooter for a medical reason, I have no problem with that at all. That being said, I think there are a lot of people at the parks that get these scooters for no other reason than they just do no want to walk.... and that's a problem. We overheard a group on a bus going to Animal Kingdom (group had a person on a scooter) tell that you can call this service to rent a scooter, and they will bring the scooter right to your resort room, and pick it up when you are done. So most of these scooters are being brought in from the outside - these are not Disney rentals. And why, please someone explain, do we seen some people buzzing around on their scooter with their dog in the front basket?!?! These are not service animals, how are they allowed to bring them into the parks??? Disney is gearing up for the scooters, they see this too -- Disney has bought several new transportation bus's, some even being "doubles" that flex in the middle. The old bus's have room for one, sometimes two scooters to be put on the bus - the new "double" bus has room for five scooters... 5!! Also, I timed it - for the driver to get the scooter on the bus and secured, 2min 5sec - to get everyone on the bus waiting at the stop, 1min 18sec. So do the math, for every scooter that has to be loaded on the bus, it will triple loading time, and slow down service time. So if you are waiting for a bus to come get you, and waiting, and waiting, remember this.

    Finally, WDW Employees:
    GOD BLESS YOU.......
    Something to remember when we are in the parks - don't take your frustration out on the innocent WDW employee, unless they directly did something wrong. I have seen it time and time again when a group did not plan ahead for dining reservations, or wait until the last second to go to the fireworks and/or parades, and there are not good spots left, and they are complaining to the workers.... like it is their fault?!?!? I have noticed over the years that it seems when people go on vacation, they expect to get whatever they want whenever they want, meaning NOW!! When we were waiting to go upstairs for our reservation at California Grill, there were two people at the check in desk asking for a table - when asked for their reservation, they said they did not have one. The desk employee apologized, and said that they would not be able to seat them that evening (Saturday night, no less). The two became enraged, saying they could not believe they could not get seated. Hey, I got this reservation as fast as I could 6 months before, and was lucky to get a 7:20pm seating time! Anyway, while we are at WDW, we always make sure to thank the employees, no matter who it is --- they put up with a lot of abuse from the customers, for almost minimum wage. Put yourself in their shoes..... a Thank You goes a long way.



    So kids, that's it..... Off now for a long cold winter's sleep, wake me when it's Spring, and I can start planning the next trip!! Happy New Year to all, and see you at the Most Magical Place on Earth!!
    Last edited by proradvlx; 12-01-2014, 05:00 AM. Reason: Additional comment to Magic Bands

  • #2
    Re: WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

    Thanks for posting this report. We leave in less than 2 weeks and can't wait to get there.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

      maddogjoe - Good for you, I'm envious. Added a post to the above trip notes about getting your PIN number for your Magic Band - not sure if you already knew this or not.... we did not when we got there!! Hope our "ooops" helps your vacation go smoother!! Have a great time!

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

        Originally posted by proradvlx View Post
        ALSO!! If you have the Disney Dining Plan - when you sign in to your resort, make sure you get your "PIN" for your Magic Band --- Whenever you go to any restaurant/table service/snack, and if you purchase anything using the credit card tied to your Magic Band, you will be asked for your PIN number --- this is a four digit number you select at the time you check into your resort. Reason I am putting this out there is when we checked in, we did not get a PIN, so the first restaurant we went to, when the server asked for us to enter our PIN number on the scanner, we looked at her like a deer in headlights..... then had to leave the restaurant, go to Guest Services, and get the PIN number assigned for our Magic Band. Trust me, you want to do this step up front - when you are in a park or restaurant, that is not the time to have to deal with this!!
        Incredibly helpful advice! Not much info on WDW's dining plan here on MC, and as a local I never utilize the dining plans.

        Approximately 1.2% of the posts in the Walt Disney World Resort MiceChat forum have been contributed by PlutoHasFleas

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

          We really like the Dining Plans - We pay the extra and get the Deluxe Dining plan - it is more money up front, but we think it is worth it --- We were there for 12 days, and ate at a total of 15 different restaurants -- that is not counting any counter service or snacks in the parks or at the resort. The Deluxe plan added about $600 to the cost of the vacation package -- Aiming on the conservative side (we all know food at WDW is costly), if we average $80 a meal, that is $1200 worth of meals.... and can assume it was probably more around the $1500-1700 adding everything - so getting all that for $600 is not a bad deal in my opinion. Only cost I plan on is paying the wait server cash as a tip - I planed $20 as a tip for each meal, other than the high end restaurants. I know it is more than the "15%" rule, but I figure these kids earn it, due to them probably not making more than minimum wage, and if you have ever been to any of the parks restaurants, you know these kids bust their humps every day, every hour, and I greatly appreciate them. A "Thank You" is always a good thing, but a $20 bill in their pocket directly helps them!!

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          • #6
            Re: WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

            Thanks for that detailed report!

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            • #7
              Re: WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

              I too noticed what seemed like a drastic increase in scooters from 2012 - 2014. We just got back from a Halloween trip and the scooters were killer. Not only do they drastically slow down bus loading, but they take up more space than a single person. Now, don't get me wrong, if you have a handicap, anything all all, EXCEPT for being overweight, I am ok with waiting. Wheelchairs are fine in all cases. But scooters are different. It seems like the scooters are just there to help obese people get around the park, but at a higher priority than others. You can rent these scooters on site. ANYBODY can rent scooters. anybody can make everybody wait to load on a bus. Anybody can get an easy 'front of the bus' pass by renting a scooter. Sounds a little heinky to me and in need of examination.

              Scooter management was on the top of my dislike list.
              also on the list was public drunkenness. Nothing like watching people puke in the bushes to help your dinner settle in.

              ...trip was overall awesome tho. Just vented a tiny bit.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: WDW Trip Report - In the FastPass+ world

                Originally posted by jloucks View Post
                I too noticed what seemed like a drastic increase in scooters from 2012 - 2014. We just got back from a Halloween trip and the scooters were killer. Not only do they drastically slow down bus loading, but they take up more space than a single person. Now, don't get me wrong, if you have a handicap, anything all all, EXCEPT for being overweight, I am ok with waiting. Wheelchairs are fine in all cases. But scooters are different. It seems like the scooters are just there to help obese people get around the park, but at a higher priority than others. You can rent these scooters on site. ANYBODY can rent scooters. anybody can make everybody wait to load on a bus. Anybody can get an easy 'front of the bus' pass by renting a scooter. Sounds a little heinky to me and in need of examination.

                Scooter management was on the top of my dislike list.
                also on the list was public drunkenness. Nothing like watching people puke in the bushes to help your dinner settle in.

                ...trip was overall awesome tho. Just vented a tiny bit.
                ahhhh the old food and wine festival! I won't go on a friday or saturday night during the festival. I'm all for having a good time but dodgin vomit piles isn't my idea of fun.

                During the week it wasn't as bad.

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