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Old 06-04-2014, 03:09 PM   #1
Ravenne
A queen is never late. Everyone else is simply early.
 
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 1,232

Oaken's Sauna - DCL & WDW "Big (pre) Summer Blowout!" - AOA, Dream, & POR RR

Hi all!

We just go back from our 10 day DCL & WDW "big (pre) summer blowout." It truly was the best vacation ever. We had the time of our lives, and we can't stop talking and dreaming about everything, but we're also utterly exhausted! So, I'll do the trip report in bits and pieces here and there as I have energy to and go through our photos. I'm going to be brutally honest, but I'm also going to try to focus as much on the positives as possible, largely because nothing is perfect, and I really do not want imperfections to cloud others' judgement when planning their trips. I truly appreciated the reviews and advice of other DISers while planning our trip and things couldn't have gone as smooth as they did without DISers' help (so a huge shout out and thank you to you guys! Woowoo! ) but it was very easy to stress over the bad stuff and worry about it so my hope is to not do that.

We started planning the trip 15 months ago, in March of 2013 when we booked a 4 night Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream. We started out booked in an 11A room but soon realized we wanted a tad more space, and upgraded to a 10A. I actually wanted to go with at least a real port hole but was out voted by DH and kids as they wanted the magical port hole, which they ended up loving. The lack of real light wasn't an issue at all since it was a short cruise and we were hardly in our room.

Our embarkation date on the Dream was May 25, 2014 so we flew into MCO the day before and stayed at AOA in a Little Mermaid room. We just needed a place to crash for the night so we're not rushing around the morning of embarkation but we wanted to check out AOA so the LM rooms seemed perfect for us. I evaluated my options when booking the room, first calling WDW reservations to get a quote, and was told I should also check with DCL as they can sometimes get cheaper rates. The rates through DCL wasn't any different but since I already had them on the phone, I went ahead and booked it with them. Big mistake. It turned out to be a pain in my patooty. While DCL is capable of booking land/sea vacations, what they don't tell you is, they act as a travel agent for the land part so once you book that with them, you can only go through DCL to access the land portion of the reservation. The problem with that is, DCL doesn't have access to WDW's computer systems so they can't actually do anything regarding the land part. So any requests you may want, you can't make them with either WDW or DCL because WDW sees it as being booked through a TA and they won't talk to you about it and DCL doesn't have access. We wanted a bed rail. Couldn't ever get the request through as neither could help us. I tried for months prior to our trip to get a request through to no avail. We ended up just doing without figuring it's just one night. I had to make several calls to both DCL and WDW just to figure out how to link the one night stay to MDE so I can do online check-in and pick MB colors. I eventually was successful at linking the reservation and was able to make some very basic and minor requests during online check-in such as being close to transportation, and 2nd floor. Both requests were honored so I was thankful for that.

When we checked in to AOA the whole process went very smoothly. Our room was ready, and our welcome packet was also ready. The resort isn't as big as I thought. The walk to building 9 in the Little Mermaid wing wasn't nearly as long as I'd read on here (much to my relief) but long enough that I'm not sure I'd want to do it for a week after exhausting days at the parks. Even just for one night, we made that trek from the LM rooms to the Animation Hall many times and it wasn't too bad. I'd say about 5 minutes or so, with kids in tow walking on their own, and even with our luggage. I do think it gives the illusion that it's a long walk as you have to walk by the Lion King suites to get to LM. It kind of makes you feel like, "omg there are rooms right here, are we at ours yet? Ugh!" but it's really not too bad. We actually walked around the whole resort several times to sight see and it wasn't bad...and I'd just thrown my back out a few days before our trip so I was hobbling around.

We stopped by the food court at AOA for dinner to find that 1/3 of it is walled off for construction, as well as part of the gift shop. That made things a bit more challenging to navigate through. I thought that having the food court behind the gift shop was a silly idea. I get that Disney wants you to buy buy buy, but that design wasn't very conducive to the flow of traffic. I know you can access the food court directly from the outside, but on the inside, it was congested especially with construction walls all over. I enjoyed the food court food better than All Star Movies where we last stayed. It's crowded and busy, and a bit pricey, as is to be expected with Disney Resort food courts. We ordered 2 adult burgers and 2 kids' burgers with 2 paper cup drinks and the bill came to about $58. We went back for dessert a couple of hours later and it was still packed...another $15 in desserts then. I couldn't help but notice that someone had kicked a hole in the wall of the burger section of the food court, and several street lights were burned out...just basic maintenance stuff that they just haven't gotten around to. No biggie, but I felt bad if not a bit sad that a brand new resort like that and people have already knocked holes in walls and Disney already have construction walls up. Aside from that, the resort is beautiful, very fun, and mostly clean. Our room was very clean so I was impressed with that. I would love to stay at AOA for a longer trip but like I said, without a car, I'm not sure I'd want to do the LM Room after long days at the parks and the suites are hard to justify when they're the price of a deluxe. It would make sense for larger families but not for my family of 4...not just yet anyway as my kids are still elementary school age and small.

To be continued...
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"Have a magical day!"
~R
5/24/2014 - Land & Sea: AOA, Dream, POR trip report

Last edited by Ravenne; 06-04-2014 at 04:32 PM.
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Old 06-04-2014, 05:12 PM   #2
Ravenne
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One thing I noticed about AOA was as soon as we got off of DME, there were a couple of easels set up out front for kids to doodle on, so that was nice. I missed having a CM out front to greet guests and hand out stickers to kids like we experienced at ASMo 3 yrs ago, but the easels were nice. I knew about the sketch artist in the lobby offering lessons and told my DS about it ahead of time (he's really into art) and he was excited to try it. When I went to check in (we arrived around 4:15 pm) DH took DS over to the sketch artist to do the lessons. The artist asked if he wanted to draw, and then disappeared into a backroom some where for a while. We waited until about 4:45 and he never reappeared, so we decided to head off to our room to drop our stuff off. On our way out, I asked a couple of CMs what time the artist is there till and I was told 6pm. Ok, great, that gives us time to drop our stuff off and come back for the art lessons. We got back to the lobby at 5:20 pm and the artist was gone! We waited 10 minutes, and nothing. No one showed up. He was gone gone. Like, gone for the day. We were pretty disappointed and a bit confused as to what was going on, but figured we'll have time to try again in the morning before we head off to port for our cruise so I told DS we'll try again, and went off to dinner. The next morning, DCL came and got our luggage at 8am and we slowly started getting ready as we had plenty of time to meet for our 12:30pm DCL bus to port. We made it back to the Animation Hall around 11:30am and saw an animator sitting at the drawing desk. My DS approached him and asked if he could draw. The artist simply said, "there's some paper outside" in a surly manner. Uh, what? Couldn't you ask if he was interested in the art lessons and give him some info on it? Or maybe just hand him a piece of paper, or even a napkin to doodle on? Or just a smile, and say, "I don't have any supplies, buddy, sorry" nicely? I was pretty annoyed by the way the artist interacted with us. It dawned on me that he was only there to sell sketches, which is fine, but it would've been nice if he could've been a bit friendlier, especially to kids. Confused again, I stopped by the front desk and asked a CM what the deal was with the art lessons and was told it's only done at 11am, 2pm and 5pm. Well that would've been nice to know yesterday when we showed up at 4:15 and waited 30 minutes for the artist to show up. I think they could've put a sign up with those times...perhaps a little easel with the art lesson times would've been cute and nice.

One nice thing about AOA is that there are plenty of CMs roaming around the check in area so when you first arrive they are on hand to guide you to where you need to go.

One thing I did learn from DISers here is if you need assistance from your room, it's best to just walk over to the lobby and speak to someone about it in person because calls get sent to a call center some where and they'll get around to it...eventually. Unfortunately, I experienced this the hard way. Right around midnight, I realized my DD had locked all of our money in the room safe and randomly pressed buttons so she didn't remember the code. Thank God I realized this at midnight and not in the morning right as we were heading out the door to catch the bus to port! We were exhausted so in a feeble attempt to save us the walk to the Animation Hall, I pressed the front desk button on the room phone for assistance. I had a feeling this wasn't their first rodeo with this issue, and was told they'd send someone right over. An hour goes by, no one showed up. We're all passing out and falling asleep. I asked DH if he was willing to head over to the lobby to speak with someone about it so we're not freaking out come morning with our money still locked in the safe. By about 1:25 am, he'd made it back from the front desk and was told a manager will be right over. By 1:33 am, a manager had showed up and opened our safe for us. She asked if we wanted to try the code again to be sure while she was still there, and DH and I both shouted, "NO!" We were leaving in the morning anyway so I just wanted to take our money out of it and pack it away, not dealing with the safe again! lol Lesson learned here: If you need assistance, don't bother with the room phone. Make the trip to the lobby and speak to someone. I hate that Disney has sourced their phone calls to a call center, and I get why they do it, but it's just not efficient...at least not for guests. The next morning at 8:30 am someone knocked on our door asking if our safe still needed opening. So had DH not made the trip to the front desk, I would've been up all night stressing out over the safe issue, getting no rest, and that would NOT have been a fun way to start a cruise.

After dealing with the artist, we went off to the food court for breakfast. They had Nemo and Ariel waffles!! I don't know who was more excited: me or my kids. My kiddos got the waffles, and I had the bounty platter with naan, which was delicious! The naan was reaaaaally good and I was happy to see some variety to the typical breakfast plate.

Just a quick run down of how seamless DCL makes it to get from a WDW resort to Port Canaveral using their buses, here's a timeline of how it went down:

Night before: around 7:30pm ish they delivered a letter to my room at AOA with instructions of when to have luggage ready and when to meet for the bus.
Morning of embarkation: 8:10am bell services came and picked up our luggage to be delivered to the ship
10am Mike from DCL called our room to personally speak to me about the bus process, where exactly to meet, when, and asked if we had questions.
Met up with our group for the DCL bus at 12:30pm outside the gift shop by the DVC booth, and Mike met us there to talk to us and answer any questions, got the kids all pumped up, told the kids what fun options they have on the ship on the first day, etc.
Board the bus at 12:45pm and went straight to port. We were the last stop as there were other people already on the bus.
Got to Port Canaveral around 1:45pm, gave us clear instructions on where to go, check in line was super short, walked right up. It took my DH and kids longer to take pics with Olaf at the port than it did for me to get to a CM to check in for the cruise.

Next, I'll go into the check in and boarding process.
__________________
"Have a magical day!"
~R
5/24/2014 - Land & Sea: AOA, Dream, POR trip report
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