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Old 11-08-2013, 06:55 PM   #1
akadada
Doin' It All for My Baby.
 
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Midwest
Posts: 337

Late October Early November 2013 Trip Report for the Time Constrained

Hi all,

I've never done a trip report even though we've been disboard members for a few years, and have been to Disney a number of times. We appreciate all this board offers and want to be able to contribute though.

I'll try to be succinct. I will post by topic rather than daily events so that it's hopefully easier to research. I'll try to get the report done over a couple weeks at the longest.

Here are the topics (I also plan to post some of these same reports into appropriate Disboard Categories as well):

About us

Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort Review

Weather

Crowds

Halloween / Fall Disney Experience

Tips/Comments/Lessons Learned Traveling with our DS 18mo and DD 4yo

FastPass+ and Magic Bands Observations From the Outside Looking In

Orlando Airport, Rental Cars, and Driving Around the World

Onsite Restaurants:
California Grill CG (Spoiler: Not to Expectations)
Brown Derby HBD (Spoiler: Exceeded Expectations, One of the Best Waiters ever)
Citricos (Spoiler: Exceeded Expectations)
Todd English BlueZoo (Spoiler: Very Good Food; Not for Kids though)
Food & Wine Festival (Spoiler: Foul Language should be banned from Disney...After $100, we still left hungry)
Columbia Harbor House (Spoiler: One step above McDonalds)
Tamu Tamu Animal Kingdom (Spoiler: pulled beef, but they forgot to pull the beef. Yikes.)
Gasparilla Island Grill (Spoiler: Totally unexpected good food)
Starbucks MK and Epcot (Spoiler: No more butt-soup coffee at the kingdom - Thank God!)
Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (Spoiler: two scoops for $5?)
Tune-In Lounge (Spoiler: Great malts, but update that beer tap)
Offsite Restaurants
Bahama Breeze (Spoiler: Rice bowls were great)
Fama's Pizza (Spoiler: I love this place so much I don't want to talk about it.)
Celebration Market Place Cafe (Spoiler: Worth the drive, better than many counter and table service onsite)
Rides, Shows, and Characters

New Fantasyland

Fishing at Disney - specifically Fly Fishing Disney

Catch all of things we liked and disliked about the experience this time and other notes.

Budget Planned v. Actual

(I'll add other topics if I think of them or if followers want me to opine)

I hope this helps some of you plan your future trips.
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:25 PM   #2
akadada
Doin' It All for My Baby.
 
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Midwest
Posts: 337

About Us

I'm going to be rather general here for privacy reasons

Family of four.
DD 4yo
DS 18mo

I've been to Disney probably 15 times over the last 25+ years. We try to go every 18 - 24 months.

Disney Opinions (so you can understand our biases and why I might report the way I do - I probably won't reply to any ill-informed judgments on these, I only share them so you know where we're coming from like it or not):

- We like Disney a lot even though I'm often critical of them.

- We're often critical because we benchmark most of Disney decisions to what Walt might do. (Even though I did not know Walt).

- Disney dining used to be great, now it's DDP has created a monopoly that encourages mediocrity and so we find it hard to find consistent quality. Fortunately it's forced us to explore off-site options which are incredible and make Disney look silly in many cases.

-Disney transportation is awful sans monorail resorts. I would drive any day over busses.

-Disney is getting way too adult in many of their new movies and ideas so we don't always let our kids watch them. We're traditionalists that way.

- Prices have gotten to the point we can't justify staying on site any longer, so we don't...even though I wish we could occasionally. Again, fortunately we've found awesome offsite properties that we like more than onsite.

- Most cast members, small details, and ambiance are things that continue to be solid and part of what we love about the experience and why we keep going back. Plus I'm nostalgic and have great memories from the 80's and early 90's as a kid.

-We've stayed at Poly (many times before kids), GF, Dixie (AKA PORS); Marriott Cyrpus; Gaylord Palms; Celebration Hotel (AKA Bohemian); Windsor Hills; Floridays; Dolphin; and most recently Wyndham Bonnet Creek.

Kind of random, I know, but they give you a taste of our Disney attitudes.
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:29 PM   #3
akadada
Doin' It All for My Baby.
 
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Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Midwest
Posts: 337

Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort Review

(I posted this already on the We Love Bonnet Creek Thread - which is an awesome resource!)

------

We just returned. Here's a quick review of the resort given our first time there.

Before I get to that; a big thanks to all who contribute to this forum. It helped us a lot in planning the trip. I hope my review helps those going forward.

Summary...

Positives: Pools; location; unbelievable price for the space.

Negatives: Construction quality horrible; timeshare people were atrocious; bad initial front desk experience.

Would still stay there again, though.

Detail....

Booked Vacation Strategies. 3BR Deluxe for 8 nights at $1300 plus a $140 moving fee (see below). No problems there. VS was super easy to work with. Would work with them again.

Check in around 6:00 PM.

There was no ability to make a room request, though. That was disappointing. We were given a room next to the elevator Tower 5 overlooking the parking lot. They said no other rooms were available anywhere, but to check the next day for check outs of folks leaving to see what pops up and to come early before people start checking in.

We went to do the parking pass because it was clear at the gate it was helpful to have a pass. (by the end of the week they asked for it about a half dozen times).

The timeshare people were horrible. I refused to fill out anything and told them (Two people side by side) none of this was necessary, I just wanted the pass. One said I was obligated to give the information. I said no I wasn't and that I just want my pass and that none of my personal information is any of their business. As they filled out the pass, the same person said you clearly have no idea what your responsibilities are if you rent from another timeshare owner, implying I was obligated to comply. What a scumbag. I just grabbed the pass before they could finish talking and I left without ever giving information.

Luggage took 50 minutes to get even though they told us 10. Called three times and they just kept telling us it was on the way. It was moderately busy so it didn't make sense it would take so long.

The bellman that finally came was very nice and apologetic though, but that was a horrible way to try to get our kids to bed.

The room we were in in Tower 5 was dated, beat up, could hear the neighbors like they were literally just feet away. The room construction was just cheap all around. Bed sheets were a mess; torn; didn't fit on bed. Lamp shades torn up; fridge door broken, dish washer not screwed in properly. A metal screw was laying on the ground that my DD4yo found. Just a total mess of a room. It was clean though. But, alas, it reminded me a dingy 20 year old large motel.

Next morning at 6:45 AM I go straight to the front desk and ask for a new room. Somehow a room is now available (immediately at 6:45 AM) in Tower 6. Not after checkout time of 10:00 mind you, but a room all along. How can this be?

I said that yesterday when I asked about other rooms, they said none available, she couldn't answer me...never got an explanation either. But for the low $140 cleaning fee we could change rooms. That was frustrating too, but the difference between an unupdated elevator room at Tower 5 and updated Tower 6 at the end of the hallway was worth the change and charge.

The bellman who moved us was incredibly helpful and nice. Every bellman we met was super nice.

Tower 6, I learned, is the most in demand.

The tower 6 room was significantly nicer than Tower 5, but still, the construction quality is horrible. Granite was lipstick on a pig is all I could tell. Found constant cheapness throughout.

For a weeks stay, you’d probably not notice or at least should not care. I only notice these things having spent a few years in Multifamily construction. Dishwasher, again, falling out; fridge wrong size for its space and shelving broken. Shelving through out was not level. Again, bed sheets didn't fit. And the TV reception was constantly static-y. The remote was broken and the DVD player skipped disc's a lot.

Although noise was not a problem in tower 6. We had a parking lot view and even though it wasn't the best view, it was also not horrible either. And honestly, appreciated the quiet (Sans cars) after being out late to swim and hearing how loud it can get pool side. Our family needs its sleep.

The front desk staff in tower 6 was all over the place. Some super nice, some moderately incompetent. For example, we had pool towels taken by housekeeping and when I told the front desk this, they said, don't worry, we'll let the activity desk know so we wouldn't be charged the $25/towel fee. On a whim a day later I decide to double check and of course, no one told activities and had I not double-checked, $100 bill would have showed up.

The once a week housekeeping was okay. Didn't care if they came one way or the other.

Almost everyone we met, though, including groundskeepers,was hospitable if not outright friendly. The activities staff was also super friendly.

They had great activities for the kids. Including a fun trick or treat event and party. My DD loved it.

The grounds themselves are very nice. I was impressed and enjoyed walking the lake every morning with my kids who get up at 6:00 daily.

The playground was great.

The grills were cleaned everyday so being the germaphobe I am, I'd still cook on them.

Most everyone we met staying there was also nice. Lots of families with kids in the typical ranges of 0 - 16.

The pools are great. Although #6 pool is definitely NOT heated. Or at least was not being heated while we were there. I checked the discharge and no heat and it was not warm enough on some days to justify not heating. Many people commiserated about this.

Also, in late Oct/early November, the sun and tall buildings are such that the pool stays majority shaded until late morning, early afternoon, so coupled with some cooler nights, the pools stay chili until mid day.

We used the pools a lot, though.

Morning music on the grounds and in the lobby was too loud and annoying. Nirvana Teen Spirit playing at 8:00 AM one morning was a little bit odd and not relaxing. If we're going rock, at least go Framptom.

The location can not be beat relative to any other onsite property that is not monorail/boardwalk. And given all you get for your price, even though my review is not overly positive, I think WBC is very much worth the price and some hassle compared to onsite.

I understand why some folks are loyal to onsite, though, and agree that WBC doesn't match to the onsite experience. But at three times the costs, I personally can't justify it each trip and would only do onsite via DVC...because as we see it, for every three WBC Trips you take, you get one free compared to staying on site. And then even with the savings, I'd still probably stay offsite.

So anyway, I do realize my review seems overly negative, I'd still stay there again if I wanted to be onsite. You can't be the price, location, pools, and many of the staff. For our family (young kids) I'd worry a lot though about getting a crappy room again.

We're going to try Sheraton Vistana next, though. And will be moving over to the Vistana board in the next year.

Hope this helps!

PS - We've also done these offsites: Floridays (great, would definitely do again); Marriott Cypress Harbour (very good, but would do WBC unless you wanted to be at Sea World); Windsor Hills (Boring!); Gaylord Palms (meh); and Dolphin (love it compared to onsite hotels!).
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