Walt Disney World & World Travels

Archive for July 2010

Just ran across this classic cartoon from 1937 and thought it was a great way to get in the mood for planning a Hawaiian vacation.  Disney’s new Aulani Resort & Spa in Hawaii will start taking reservations the first week of August 2010 for stays starting Fall of 2011.  It’s going to be an amazing resort and as we get closer I’ll write more about it.  In the mean time, enjoy the cartoon.

Disney Hawaiian Holiday

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While I haven’t been out to Disneyland yet to see this, the video is beautiful!  Really makes me want to get out there as soon as possible.

World of Color Disney California Adventure

If you’d like to see it in person, call or email Second Star Travels for a no-obligation quote.  There are some great deals for Disneyland vacations available right now and World of Color is a great reason to go!

http://www.secondstartravels.com

On our way to the Magic Kingdom on our recent trip,we made a detour and stopped by Disney’s Polynesian Resort for a snack and some good coffee.  It’s such a beautiful resort, I thought I’d share some pictures.

There are a lot of ride time applications available  for free or for a small fee.  I was curious how some of them worked and if they were worth the money.   Today you get a guest posting from my 13 year old son.  While on our recent Disney trip, I gave him a job; download the Verizon-Disney Mobile Magic application and test it for the week.    Here is his report on it:

Mobile Magic

Mobile Magic is an  application for Verizon phones created by Disney and Verizon to show accurate wait times in the park that you are currently in.  Mobile Magic is a very simple application to use.  We found  that the app was always right compared to other applications out like Ride HopperRide Hopper (a free, social reporting application) was very random, it could have wait times with-in 5 minutes or it would be 2 hours off.  Mobile Magic was always right in all four parks on wait times but that’s not all the application can do!  The app can help you find your favorite Disney characters  or locate a restroom or dining or whatever you will need.  Overall, Mobile Magic was a great application to have while we were on our trip.

One of my problems with it was that it was very slow, it could take a while to load when you are at a resort with good cell service, and it took forever to load in the parks with not as good cell phone service.  Is it worth the money?  I say it is, besides the loading problem I found that the application was great.  I think it is worth the money.  It was great you could wait in line for one ride and right after say let’s go get fast passes for Space Mountain.  It would give you fast pass return times and the wait time.  It would also show you a map of the park which is useful when finding food. Again, I think that the application Mobile Magic is worth the money every little bit.

Thank you Jason for your review!   A few extra things to know;  the cost is $9.99 for 180 days of access.   You do need to have a cell phone that can access the internet and data charges are separate.    Data usage does add up, especially when playing games or trivia while waiting in line for your favorite rides or on the bus ride to/from the parks.  Tip: add a monthly data package instead of paying per MB, then drop the plan when you get home from vacation.

As a former Disney Cast Member, I’ve always refused to go to that “other park”, they were the enemy, opening Universal Studios the summer I was on the College Program at Disney.   Now that I’m more “mature”, and with the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; it was time to give in and spend some time at Universal.

Our vacation happened to line up for the week of the grand opening of Harry Potter.  I knew the park was going to be packed beyond packed so I did what any good travel agent would do and researched my options.  The three Universal Resort Hotels offer what looked to be the answer: a Universal Express pass that allows you to skip all of the lines on participating rides AND gains you early entry in to the park.  I also knew that you could buy a head of the line pass, but at $60-$87 per person per day, it made more sense to look at staying on site and getting all of the resort benefits.  I also learned that the pass you can buy, is not exactly the same as the one included for resort guest.  The “bought pass” is only good for 1 day, and can only be used once per ride/attraction.  The resort guest Express Pass is good from check in through check out and can be used multiple times on the rides/attractions.   The three resorts are all owned/run by Loews Hotels, a company known for very nice, deluxe hotels.  Loews Royal Pacific, Loews Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Portofino Bay Resort.

I ended up splurging a little and booked a night at the Portofino Bay Resort.   This is a beautiful resort, that is built to be reminiscent of a sleepy seaside village, Portofino, Italy.  The rack rates are a little bit pricey, but there are some good deals to be had and the benefits of staying on property are well worth it!  A quick overview of resort benefits:  Universal Express Pass (good from check-in through day of check out), good for multiple uses, 1 hour Early Entry into the parks (makes all the difference in the world if you want to get into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter), complimentary transportation to the parks by boat or bus, room charging privileges, and priority seating at certain restaurants.  That can be very useful!

Our stay at Portofino Bay Resort was a little unusual; we were only there for 1 night during the middle of our vacation, so we didn’t get to enjoy the resort as much as I would have liked to.  We arrived and checked in at 8am.  Check in was very quick & easy.  We were given our room keys (but not the room number as it wasn’t ready yet).  The room keys work as your Universal Express Pass, with a bar code on there that is scanned at each ride.  Our luggage was given to bell services, the car handed off to the valet and we were given directions out to the boat that would take us to Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure.  We were so excited about getting to the parks, that we might not have seen a whole lot on the way to the boat but what we did see was absolutely beautiful!  It felt like we were in an Italian seaside town.  We made our way to the boat dock and I noticed a few things right away that I was impressed with: there was a canopy area with benches and fans.  On a super hot day, that was really appreciated!

We spent the day at both parks; Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure and took advantage of another resort benefit, early entry into the park.  We went straight back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and when we showed our room keys we were sent a different way and straight in before the park “officially” opened.  I’ll write about Wizarding World and all of the rest of the parks in other posts, but for now I’ll just say WOW!!!! The Universal Express pass allowed us to skip the regular line for most rides in the park (very few don’t have an express line) so we were able to get a lot done in a short amount of time.

After a very full day visiting the parks, we went back to our resort looking forward to having some dinner & pool time.  I had received a call on my cell phone early in the day informing me that we would need to come back to the desk for new room keys, so that’s where we went as soon as we got off the boat.  We recieved our room information and a porter got our luggage and gave us a tour of the resort on the way to our room.  The service was wonderful, but I did feel that the room was 6 miles away from the desk.  The room was actually in a very good location for convenience to the pools.  We had a view of the villa pool from our room, which was very nice.  Standard rooms are 460 square feet (good size!) our deluxe room was 490 square feet with 2 queen beds and a (requested, not guaranteed) sofa sleeper.  The bathroom had separate shower & tub, super soft cotton robes and the 13year olds’ favorite thing a telephone in the bathroom.   The room was beautiful and the beds were the most comfortable beds ever!

We got settled, changed into our bathing suits and headed to the pool to relax and have dinner.  Yes, you read that right we were going to have dinner at the pool.  There is a pizza place, casual restaurant next to the Beach Pool.  However, they were closing as we got there so we went to Sal’s Market & Deli (on the other side of the resort).  Ordered pizza & salad, and brought it back to the pool to eat.  Sat at a table overlooking the pool and the movie by the pool (Harry Potter that night), it was very relaxing and the food was excellent.  The pool area was very nice, lot’s of tables, lot’s of chairs & chaise lounges.  There is a sandy zero entry area, several hot tubs, a kids pool and a Roman Aquaduct Slide.  My family loves slides, and rates all of them.  This one was allright, but not great.  It was slow and the pool was not super warm.  The hot tub was very warm and felt great after a long day in the themeparks!

Next to Sal’s Market, they sold gelato.  As a treat, Jon & Megan went and got gelato for the 4 of us to enjoy while we watched the poolside movie.  Super creamy & very rich, the gelato was excellent!  The poolside movie was a great idea, but not executed all that well.  The blow up screen kept deflating because they couldn’t keep it plugged in close enough to the pool (cord was too short).  It was fun, but almost funnier watching the screen deflate.

After a wonderful nights sleep on those super comfy beds, we checked out and headed back to the parks.  The “boys” went ahead and managed to get in for early entry, my daughter & I were a few minutes late and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter had a 4 hour wait at 9am when it opened.  We used our Universal Express passes (good for both check in & check out day) and rode some other rides while the boys spent more time in Wizard World.  After another full day of parks, we rode the boat back to Portofino Bay, collected our luggage from bell services and the valet pulled the car around.  While we waited on the car, another of the valets offered and brought us bottled water.  A very thoughtful and appreciated gesture!  That was a great way to leave, on a high note.

I can honestly say that I will go back, and next time I might need to check out the Royal Pacific or the Hard Rock…..

Here are some pictures of the Loews Portofino Bay Resort and our room:

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