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Old 06-29-2009, 08:48 PM   #16
sayhello
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Ah, kristilew, what can I say? I haven't been on the Peru trip, so perhaps that's why SWS didn't pale in comparison to me. I have to wonder how much of this had to do with your guides being exhausted, because the guides really DO make a huge difference in the trip to me. Cheryl & Chris were up & energetic & constantly around. I'm sorry the trip wasn't everything you'd hoped it would be. But I'm glad you *did* enjoy it. The American Southwest is just amazingly spectacular!

I'm really pretty surprised at what your guide said about the Thunderbird in comparison to the Grand Hotel in Tusayan. While it wasn't fancy, it was a perfectly nice hotel, and didn't have any of the kinds of issues you described for the Thunderbird. Looking at your picture vs. what I remember of the Grand... well, the Thunderbird has prettier tile in the bathroom, but that's about all!

Hey! You had Tom! Isn't he marvelous? I ate with him at several of the meals, and had a wonderful time talking to him. I really loved Tom, he was like having a 3rd guide...

Your daughter's Condor encounters sound amazing, but OMG they are the ugliest things on the planet! I'm impressed your daughter got that close to one and still liked them!

You know, hearing you talk about the kids on your trip makes me realize a) how lucky I was that my SWS trip inadvertantly ended up Adults Only and b) how glad I am that this year's trip is Adults Only, too. I like kids, I like them a lot, but only in small doses. I like to give them back when I'm done with them. And I don't think I could take being around kids that I had no authority over, but would be expected to tolerate.

Anyways, enough randomness. Thanks for your Trip Report. Some day I will experience staying at the Rim at the Canyon, but I think I'll hold out for El Tovar!

Thanks for the Report & pictures!

Sayhello

ETA: Oh, I almost forgot to mention how odd it was about your reception after the rafting! We were met at the beach with nice, warm towels, herded to our waiting bus, and taken back to the Lodge since it was so close to the rafting. But were given water & snacks on the way back. Your reception just sounds sad...
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:51 PM   #17
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KJD, you know I'm mostly posting this for your benefit One of these days, you'll have to go on a trip first and give me advice!
Thank you
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:18 PM   #18
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Oh dear! Now I'm a bit nervous about our upcoming trip! Kristlew, thankyou for your very honest and detailed review. Now I don't know what to think!
So many DISers have given such wonderful reviews...(Sayhellos fabulous trip report among others) and now I'm worried that everything has slipped a notch since last summer.
This is the most expensive trip our family of six has ever taken ( about $15000 including airfare) and for that price, my expectations are very high .
I'm just very worried and feeling a little sick.......
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:25 PM   #19
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Oh dear! Now I'm a bit nervous about our upcoming trip! Kristlew, thankyou for your very honest and detailed review. Now I don't know what to think!
So many DISers have given such wonderful reviews...(Sayhellos fabulous trip report among others) and now I'm worried that everything has slipped a notch since last summer.
This is the most expensive trip our family of six has ever taken ( about $15000 including airfare) and for that price, my expectations are very high .
I'm just very worried and feeling a little sick.......
whiteside, my family is starting our Southwest Splendors trip on Sat. July 4...I'll give my review upon our return...I'm thinking that not much will be different, but one can always hope!
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Old 06-30-2009, 06:42 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by whiteside61 View Post
Oh dear! Now I'm a bit nervous about our upcoming trip! Kristlew, thankyou for your very honest and detailed review. Now I don't know what to think!
So many DISers have given such wonderful reviews...(Sayhellos fabulous trip report among others) and now I'm worried that everything has slipped a notch since last summer.
This is the most expensive trip our family of six has ever taken ( about $15000 including airfare) and for that price, my expectations are very high .
I'm just very worried and feeling a little sick.......
whiteside - relax! You are going to have a fabulous time! This trip, for us, was just an A- as compared to one that had been an A+++.

As for the money, there is no way you could do everything on your own on this trip for less than you are paying. They really pack a lot in and they do a good job of it too. It's totally worth the cost.

Secondly, with a family of six, you are sure to be way more laid back than DH or I ever will be. Unless your kids are all away at military schools, your daily level of chaos tolerance is higher than mine will ever be. The larger famlies on our trip were thrilled with the extra space of two rooms, with the way there was something for every child at every age to enjoy, and with how smoothly everything ran.

SayHello's report is right on the money. That is why I didn't do a day-by-day. If you want to know what the trip is like, read her report. My negatives were just in comparison to last year and mostly for the benefit of those I knew had done the same trip.

Your family will love it, really
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Old 06-30-2009, 06:43 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by kjd469 View Post
whiteside, my family is starting our Southwest Splendors trip on Sat. July 4...I'll give my review upon our return...I'm thinking that not much will be different, but one can always hope!
KJD - I forgot to tell you, your guides will also be Maura and Geraldine. They are so cute, I know you will love them!
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Old 06-30-2009, 06:52 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by sayhello View Post
just amazingly spectacular!

I'm really pretty surprised at what your guide said about the Thunderbird in comparison to the Grand Hotel in Tusayan. While it wasn't fancy, it was a perfectly nice hotel, and didn't have any of the kinds of issues you described for the Thunderbird. Looking at your picture vs. what I remember of the Grand... well, the Thunderbird has prettier tile in the bathroom, but that's about all!


Your daughter's Condor encounters sound amazing, but OMG they are the ugliest things on the planet! I'm impressed your daughter got that close to one and still liked them!

...
SayHello,

I was wondering about their description of the Grand. The whole way leading up to the Grand Canyon, they were "spinning" on the the Thunderbird. Everyone was worried about it and they were giving a party line about how "each hotel is fitting for its location." I wondered at the time if Maura was just trying to make me feel better.

The Condors are pretty ugly! I couldn't believe that was what she fell in love with! Especially as we've lived with a year of llama obsession since Peru (and the year before that was red pandas, also cute and cuddly). I think it helped that the one she was close to was so young. He hadn't gotten his ugly red head yet and was at about the same stage of gawkish adolesence that DD herself has reached:

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Old 06-30-2009, 07:02 AM   #23
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one more picture

I can't believe I forgot to post this picture yesterday. This just sums up what we loved about the views out there. It's from the porch at Red Cliffs Lodge:

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Old 06-30-2009, 10:33 AM   #24
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Thanks for your refreshingly honest report! Whenever I read a report that is only all positives, I'm a little suspect. What you did was put expectations where they should be - when you overhype a trip, people can be disappointed. I wouldn't NOT go on a particular trip because of someone else's opinions, but I would certainly know what to look for, what to expect, and how to maybe prevent things from going wrong. The trip sounds fabulous and it seems like you had a great time! Thanks!
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Old 06-30-2009, 02:21 PM   #25
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Thanks, SLK1. We did have a great time, and it was a fabulous trip. A great way to see a beautiful part of our country.
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Old 06-30-2009, 03:06 PM   #26
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OMG, kristilew, what a magnificent rainbow over the Red Cliffs & the river! Beautiful!

You might be right about Maura trying to make you feel better about the Thunderbird. I know a lot of people were pretty leery based on the reviews of the Thunderbird... But then, a lot of people were leery of the Grand, also. It definitely wasn't the Amara or the Red Cliffs Lodge, but it was perfectly acceptable. Sounds like the Thunderbird mostly wasn't (except for the location, location, location!)

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Old 06-30-2009, 08:47 PM   #27
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Kristilew, thanks for your reassurance. You really wrote a wonderful trip report and I do appreciate the effort you put into it. I know we will have a wonderful time and knowing in advance about some of the "less than great" aspects of the trip will insure that.
a couple of questions for you....what time of day did everything start? For example, was breakfast from 8 to 9?
Did your guides give you recommendations on where and when to make dinner reservations, or did you need to make them before you left home? ( I'm thinking about the El Tovar and Bright Angels)
Also, what was the approximate cost of the ATV excursion? It would probably be too costly for all of us but maybe for the boys.....

Finally, you are correct that my large family of six is probably more used to "family chaos" than that of a smaller family of three. Although my children are older, one in college, a high school senior, and twins in middle school...our children have always been taught to be respective and polite in public so it will be interesting to see the dynamics on our trip.

Lastly, where in NC are you? We live in Highlands, a beautiful but tiny mountain summer resort community in western North Carolina.
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Old 07-01-2009, 06:20 AM   #28
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what time of day did everything start? For example, was breakfast from 8 to 9? Breakfast was generally from 7 - 8, but at the Grand Canyon it started at 6:30. We usually had to be ready to go on our first excursion by around 8:30.
Did your guides give you recommendations on where and when to make dinner reservations, or did you need to make them before you left home? ( I'm thinking about the El Tovar and Bright Angels) We didn't need reservations for any of our meals. There was about a 10 minute wait at Bright Angel at 6:30, but would have been none half an hour later. They did advise us to eat early in Sedona, as the town closes up early. However, when we checked at the Cowboy Club, the restuarant they suggested we try, they were serviing until 10 so we didn't rush. A family with us had made reservations for dinner at El Tovar a long time ago. I don't know if they had needed to, but if you're thinking of this for dinner, you might as well go ahead and make them, just in case. Your whole afternoon and evening is free, so any time is fine.
Also, what was the approximate cost of the ATV excursion? It would probably be too costly for all of us but maybe for the boys..... I don't know what it was per person, or for child/adult. For our two adults and one child the base cost was $395. We then tipped $50 on top of that. The horse riding was less expensive at $69 a person, but also far less fun, as it was a nose to bumper trail walk, with constant stopping to let those who couldn't make their horses go catch up. (DD11 still loved it and was under the illusion that she was doing an excellent job of stearing her horse )
Finally, you are correct that my large family of six is probably more used to "family chaos" than that of a smaller family of three. Although my children are older, one in college, a high school senior, and twins in middle school...our children have always been taught to be respective and polite in public so it will be interesting to see the dynamics on our trip. The kids on our trip were probably not being impolite by many standards. We are just used to a lot of quiet. (For example, I rarely carpool as I can't stand to hear the chatter in the car)
Lastly, where in NC are you? We live in Highlands, a beautiful but tiny mountain summer resort community in western North Carolina.[/QUOTE] We are about 7 hours east of you. Love Highlands, though. So beautiful! It will be interesting to see what you think of the red rocks and buttes compared to your blue mountains.

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Old 07-01-2009, 07:35 PM   #29
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Kristilew -

Thank you so much for your report. I was actually afraid to read it, after reading your introduction, since we are going on this trip in August. We have spent so much money on it, I had hoped and expected it would be the over-the-top every little thing is magic experience that we had in Italy with Disney next year. I feel better after reading your report (that is, better than when I just read the intro) because at least I know what to expect and can be prepared. Like you said, your attitude can make or break the trip -- DH is already on my back for even mentioning that the Thunderbird isn't top notch.

I'm sad about the food. I love eating good food on vacations, and really hate sandwiches. Also hate hotel eggs, and hotel bland food in general. I suppose most food compared to Italy would be inferior, but you'd think at least Disney would find good restaurants for us. I couldn't help but notice that the two meals you seemed to like the most (at El Tovar and Bright Angel) were ones you had to pay for.

Please, please, do communicate your feelings to Disney. For travelers used to first class and feeling pampered by ABD, this is really a let down.

Thanks again for writing.
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Old 07-01-2009, 08:42 PM   #30
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Not so Grand at the Canyon

Welcome back! My family did a driving trip which included staying at the hotels Disney picked for Moab and Sedona--excellent properties! In fact, we were at the Moab lodge the same time as your group--I met the guides and the bus driver, who were very nice. Doing a trip on our own (with the worries of traffic, reservations, finding food, selecting activies and kid burn-out) reenforced the value of a guide-driven vacation (I feel much more at ease on a ABD trip than on one of my own device!). That said, we stayed at the El Tovar rather than the Thunderbird--and loved El T. I wondered about why Disney chose the Thunderbird, and one maid told me (as she was tossing us out of the Thunderbird) that the Thunderbird lodge has the most "canyon view" rooms of any in the park--and in fact, the El Tovar only has two rooms that overlook the canyon. With a national parki, it is always a limited choice so I imagine Disney opted for view and location over the amenities in the room. (Our experience for out of US ABD trip is that there is usually a hotel in the middle that isn't in the same league as the rest--you start and end strong, suffer slightly in the middle). But as you say--the location location location was great! Welcome back!
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