My sister and I are back from our stay at Disney World, also known as the most magical place on earth (in case you didn’t know, Disneyland is the happiest place on earth).
We stayed at one of Disney’s newest hotels, the Gran Destino in Coronado Springs.
This is considered a ‘moderate’ resort, meaning it’s not a budget (ie. cheap) resort and it’s not a deluxe (ie. expensive) resort, it’s somewhere in the middle. Usually we stay at the budget resorts. We consider the room a place to sleep and that’s about it, so why spend extra money on it. But this time we splurged.
When we booked our trip this hotel was still under construction. It opened in July, so we thought it would be fun to stay in a brand new hotel. Just in case you’re interested, I’ll give you what I thought were the pros and cons of staying at the Gran Destino.
First, the pros. The hotel and grounds were gorgeous and everything was fresh and new. The room itself was nice although not really terribly special except for the view. The view from our room was spectacular.
We had chosen a ‘water view’ room and since it faced west we had a beautiful view of the sunset. Of course, we ended up being in our room for the sunset exactly one time. Still, it was lovely. We were not able to see any fireworks in any of the parks from our room though. The only park we could really see was Animal Kingdom. That ‘mountain’ on the horizon at the left of my photo above is Expedition Everest.
Another really great thing about a room in the tower is that when you return from the parks completely exhausted after spending hours on your feet, you just have to walk up a staircase from the bus stop, through the lobby and to the elevator. Then it’s just a short ride up to your floor and down the hall to your room. At many of the other Disney World resorts it can be quite a hike from the bus stop to your room and you tend to start dreading it at the end of each day.
As for the cons to the Gran Destino, I think they are still working out some kinks in the actual operations at the hotel. We were there for 7 nights, and our room was only cleaned 3 times. The first day we were missed we were told that they were short staffed that day, but it continued to happen. We were able to call down to housekeeping to get fresh towels, so it wasn’t too big of a hardship. Still, I was expecting more from an upgraded (to us anyway) hotel.
We also had issues with getting our luggage. We waited more than 3 hours for our luggage to be brought up to our room. We called down twice and were told it was on its way each time. Finally when we called again they suggested it would be faster to just come down and get it from bell services. Gosh! If they’d just said that in the first place we would have been happy to go get it and save ourselves three hours of waiting.
So my q tip for you today is to handle your own luggage if you don’t want to wait hours for it to arrive in your room.
One of the highlights of our trip was enjoying some of EPCOT’s food and wine experiences.
If you aren’t familiar, the Food & Wine Festival takes place from late August through mid-November. There are kiosks throughout the World Showcase that have small plates and beverages from countries around the world. It’s a great way to sample new things.
I was telling one of my co-workers about this before we left on our trip and she thought these were free samples, so just to be clear, that is not the case. It really adds up fairly quickly. For example the charcuterie board was $6.50 and flight of wines shown above cost $9.50. On our first afternoon in EPCOT we spent $69 on food and wine. But we split everything, so really $35/person isn’t terrible and it is really fun to wander around the world showcase trying different food and wines.
Another highlight of our trip was attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
This was the second time we’ve attended this separately ticketed event, and we learned a few great tips this time around.
First of all, by ‘separately ticketed event’ I mean that you pay extra for this party. We paid $115 each for our tickets (prices vary depending on the date you attend). However, you do not have to pay for regular park admission that day as well. We planned this for our first day in Orlando and we did not pay for regular park admission that day. We could show up in the Magic Kingdom starting at 4 pm and stay until the end of the party at midnight. Since our flight arrived at 1:30, and we knew we wouldn’t be checked into our hotel and ready to head to the park until after 4 pm anyway, this made perfect sense for us.
The No So Scary party has a unique parade that is fantastic, and the most awesome fireworks show. There are also treat trails throughout the park that hand out ‘free’ candy, and believe me when I say they are extremely generous with the candy. There are also special characters around the park including that guy up above with my sister.
As you can imagine, they really play it up at the Haunted Mansion with special effects and extra characters.
We were also able to get on tons of rides with really low wait times. I don’t think we waited more than 10 to 15 minutes for anything, even the coveted Peter Pan. Not all of the rides are open, but most are.
So if you’ve ever thought about going to the Not So Scary party, I totally recommend it. Just try to do it on a day when you haven’t already paid for park admission.
There were two ‘lands’ in the parks that were new to us this trip, Toy Story Land …
and Galaxy’s Edge, both in Hollywood Studios.
You may be tempted to think that the photo in Galaxy’s Edge was taken at night, but no. In order to avoid the crowds, we took advantage of the extra magic hours offered to people staying on Disney property and we went to Hollywood studios at 6 a.m. The sun wasn’t up yet. That gave us the opportunity to see it in the ‘dark’ when we first arrived.
As is usual for Disney, the theming in both lands was impeccable.
Neither of us are really Star Wars fans though, so I have to admit we did not even attempt to get on the only ride open so far in this land. My sister wanted to give priority to the rides in Toy Story Land, so after just taking a few photos in Galaxy’s Edge we headed over there. By the time we came back after the sun was up, the line for Smuggler’s Run was a two hour wait and people were continuing to pour in.
We decided to save trying the new ride for our next Disney vacation.
I’m saving the story of the best part of our trip for another post, so be sure to check back next week for that one.
In the meantime, as always, I’m really glad to be home. I’m itching to get my paint brushes out soon. So I’ll have some painted furniture and other fun projects to share with you guys plus I’ll be continuing my house tour posts starting on Wednesday. But first, I may need to sleep for about a week to recover from Disney!