A May 2007 trip
to Orlando by C.Kowalczik
Quote: We found ourselves with three nights and four days without our children at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and SPA in Orlando Florida.
Although the IgoUgo community is a great place to read first hand accounts of other vacations, it is not your only option when planning a a great trip; there are also some great books available to assist you while planning your Walt Disney World vacation. My top three suggestions are:
Since we are staying at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and SPA we have the convenience of direct monorail service to the Magic Kingdom Theme Park or connecting service to EPCOT. Something that a lot of guests overlook when picking a Disney resort is the convenience of utilizing EPCOT as a transportation hub. (Of course this only works if you took advantage of the Magic Your Way ticket with the park hopper option.)
Did you know that from EPCOT (or the EPCOT resorts area) guests with the park hopper option have the availability to access transportation to Disney’s MGM Studios and the Magic Kingdom? I’m not talking about taking the bus either. From the EPCOT area you can cross through the "International Gateway" and cut through Future World in order to catch the monorail which offers a connection to the Magic Kingdom. Or if you are heading to Disney’s MGM Studios for the day you can hop on a water taxi at either Disney’s Boardwalk Inn or at the lighthouse in front of Disney Yacht and Beach Clubs. The water taxi is a nice and relaxing way to travel to MGM, however with the time it takes to make the additional stop along the way; you could almost walk the distance along the paved walkway in the same time.
There is nothing like it on Walt Disney World property. With the Victorian charm of a turn of the century hotel, Disney’s flagship resort was the perfect choice to remind us what vacations are supposed to be about; fun, elegance, and relaxation.
The resort was built in 1988 along the Seven Seas Lagoon in the Magic Kingdom area; it is also one of the three resorts on the monorail line. But that isn’t what makes "the Grand" so special. The Grand Floridian is a modern, full service Disney Deluxe Resort with all the activities, views, and amenities to match. The resort offers guests and visitors access to unparalleled signature dining at restaurants like Victoria and Albert’s, Citricos and Narcoossee’s. There is also The Grand Floridian Café; a table service restaurant, 1900 Park Fare, one of Disney’s Character Dining Experience, and Gasparilla Grill and Games, a 24-hour quick service location.
Two clay tennis courts, a jogging trail and a top notch Spa & Health Club are some of the Grand’s recreational activities; however our favorite activity had to be renting the Sea Racers at the Captain’s Shipyard Marina. The marina also offers a variety of watercrafts: everything from sailboats and speedboats, to a yacht that is completed by a captain and first mate.
Although we didn’t make the opportunity to go swimming, the Grand Floridian has two heated pools and a children’s pool, as well as two whirlpools for resort guests to use. The themed pool is called the Beach Pool and it is not the closest pool to the mail building. Set off to the right of the property, behind the Summerhouse, this pool has a zero depth entry, beautiful waterfalls, and a 17-foot slide. The secondary pool is the Courtyard Pool, and even though it is just outside the main building and easily accessible from buildings six, eight and nine; it is often the quieter of the two pools.
Since the rooms at the Grand are the largest offered within the WDW Resort, we were not disappointed by our 440 square foot room. We had two queen size beds, a ceiling fan, a mini-bar (at an additional charge), a table and chairs and a balcony that overlooked the Seven Seas Lagoon. From the balcony we had a terrific view of Cinderella Castle as well as panoramic views of Disney’s Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts.
In conclusion, the Grand Floridian is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 13, 2007
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
4401 Floridian Way
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830
Restaurant | "Flame Tree Barbecue"
This was our first time successfully visiting the Flame Tree Barbecue. We had attempted to eat lunch here last year on our 2006 Disney vacation with the whole family, but at the last minute opted to pass on to a different counter service meal because the lines at the Flame Tree were outrageous. It was simply too crowded and too hot in the Florida sun to wait with two small children, and we left. This time, however, we visited the Flame Tree Barbecue for a later lunch (around 2:30pm), and found that the lines were much easier to manage this time, and the crowds were more sparse. The lines moved very quickly and we brought our food to the table seating area. The tables are located primarily in the shade, and set back from the hustle and bustle of park-goers, allowing you to enjoy your meal with a little serenity in this nature setting, complete with friendly birds and ducks looking for a falling crumb to eat. However, Disney warns you, "Please don’t feed the animals!"
The menu was small, with limited choices. My husband chose the half chicken with a side of beans and a corn muffin for $7.99, I had a smoked turkey breast sandwich with a side of coleslaw for $7.29, and we shared an order of onion rings for $3.79. The portions were decent, and we left with our stomachs full. The onion rings were quite possibly the best we have ever had, and we definitely recommend them for a side dish to your meal, or for a quick snack.
However, as far as our meals are concerned, we both agree that we could either take it or leave it. For a quick/counter service meal, the Flame Tree Barbecue was average in both price and taste, but the portions were fairly generous. One recommendation for this establishment would be to make moist towelettes available to its patrons; this is especially helpful since this restaurant serves a half slab of St. Louis ribs that could potentially be very messy!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 13, 2007
Flame Tree BBQ
Restaurant | "Gasparilla Grill and Games"
Gasparilla's is set up in five different sections. There is a grill where you can order items such as cheeseburgers and chicken fingers, then there is a separate line where you can order sandwiches and salads, a separate check-out area to pay, a small seating area, and a video game arcade. The menu at Gasparilla's is small, with a total of about ten or twelve meals to order from, and it is reasonably priced in comparison to other Disney Counter Service meals. There is also a selection of candy bars, chips, and other small snacks, as well as a cooler with beverages, including beer by the can and bottles of mixed alcoholic drinks, such as Mudslides and Margaritas. Gasparilla's also offers fountain sodas to choose from, and you can purchase a collector's cup with free refills of coffee and soda for $11.99.
We visited Gasparilla's a couple different times during our stay and only tried two of the meals. The first night we had the chicken fingers meal, which was very tasty and big enough for the two of us to share for a snack or a very light meal (which is what we chose to do one late night after visiting Mizner's Lounge). The second time we found ourselves in the Grill, we tried the Italian sandwich, which was average in taste. The sandwich was nothing special, but it was large enough in size for two people to share it for lunch.
Overall, Gasparilla's Grill is very convenient due to its location and hours of operation; however its menu choices are limited. I would still recommend stopping by for a quick bite to eat, and if you have a moment to spare and a quarter or two, try your hand at some video games while you're there!
Please review our other Walt Disney World journals:
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 28, 2007
Gasparilla Grill & Games
Grand Floridian Resort
Attraction | "The ABC Commissary"
The ABC Commissary is located in the center of MGM Studios on the "Streets of America", and is one of the better counter service locations within MGM Studios. The ordering lines are typically on the longer side, but do move quickly. At the ABC Commissary, the food is quite tasty and the menu offers park guests combo selections such as a cheeseburger and fries, fish and chips, vegetable stir fry, and various wraps and sandwiches . They also serve delicious desserts such as chocolate mousse and Strawberry Parfaits. Beverages such as sodas and beer are also available.
After you order and pay for your food, you can then take your tray into the dining area where the decor highlights some of ABC's current hit television shows, such as the life-size replicas of a couple Grey's Anatomy's doctors. While you are eating you can also watch one of the several televisions that are mounted high up on the walls showing clips and commercials from more hit ABC shows such as Ugly Betty and American's Funniest Home Videos.
The ABC Commissary really isn't anything more than your typical counter service restaurant, but the food is pretty good and we return here every time we visit the MGM Studios theme park. I also find this to be one of the cleaner counter service restaurants with the staff always being attentive to the cleanliness of the dining area, which is a big plus as well. The interior decoration and television entertainment also makes this an enjoyable place to stop and eat, rest your feet, and cool off for a bit, out of the reach of the hot Florida sun.
Please review our other Walt Disney World journals: Walt Disney World Vacation - 2006 Disney Dining Plan 2007 How To Save Money at Disney World Orlando Vacation 2005 at the Sheraton Vistana.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 28, 2007
Universal Studios Hollywood
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, California 91608
(818) 864 837-725
The music coming into the lounge, combined with the dim lighting, is what sets the sophisticated atmosphere of Mizner’s Lounge. We were mostly visiting Mizner’s to have a cocktail, but were also interested in the possibility of ordering an appetizer. We went to the lounge around 9pm, we found a small table for two in the rear of the room, near a window, and took a seat. After seating ourselves, we were almost immediately greeted by our server, Lynnette, who provided us with a drink menu and a small list of appetizers. We found the appetizer menu to be extremely brief and overpriced (approximately $12 for cheese and crackers). So needless to say we opted for just a drink instead.
Having never been to Mizner’s before, my husband and I both asked for drink recommendations after being told that a Leisure Suit (a Disney specialty drink from Ohana’s) was unavailable here. Lynnette suggested a Pomegranate Margarita ($9) for my husband and a Passion Fruit Mai Tai ($8) for myself. Both were a delicious recommendation, and one that we would order again. We were also served a bowl of mixed nuts, which was a nice touch to go along with our drinks.
Although we enjoyed the quite atmosphere at Mizner’s, along with the drinks and conversation with our friendly server Lynnette, we decided to end our experience at Mizner’s after just one beverage, so that we could visit Gasparilla’s, a 24-hour Counter Service restaurant at the Resort, for something a little more substantial to eat.
We enjoyed our brief experience at Mizner’s, and wished to return again during our stay, but with the Lounge closing at 11pm, and most of our dinner reservations not beginning until around 9pm, we unfortunately found it difficult to coordinate our schedules for another visit to Mizner’s. We will, however, be sure to fit in some time to visit again in the future.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 13, 2007
4401 Grand Floridian Way
To start, this is going to be our first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort area without our children in more than five years, and for someone who has been visiting Disney for the past 30 years it’s a big deal to be able to return and relive parts or the parks you simply can not take advantage of when you are traveling with you children.
As Disney’s Magical Express motor coach drove us the twenty-five miles from the Orlando International Airport (MCO), where we arrived via Air Tran Airways to our Disney resort, we began a conversation about whether or we have lost the "Disney Magic" after visiting so many times in the past eight years together. We almost decided that it was slowly slipping away, that is until the motor coach drove us right up to the front of the Grand Floridian resort. Once we exited the bus and walked under the covered entrance we were greeted by Richard (he is that nice old man you see on Disney’s planning DVD) and we knew that you can never completely lose the magic, it will be with you forever.
As we entered the grand five-story lobby of the resort we began the check-in process with Patrick, who was new to the Grand and he told us so while he attempted to check us in. Because he was new we didn’t think anything of it when Patrick told us that he was unable to finish checking us in and had to walk away. This brought us a little concern, especially after our last trip to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, however we weren’t left alone for long before the front desk manager, Adel came over and introduced himself. We were a little taken back that the manager would just come over and say hello like that, but then again this is the Grand Floridian, maybe that is how things are done. After Adel thanked us for choosing the Grand Floridian he also thanked me for my continued dedication to the Disney product and that is when I knew this greeting had something to do with me being a travel consultant. Adel then asked us to have a seat and told us that they would finish the check-in process momentarily.
We had no clue as to what was going on with our check-in. Did we have a room? Did our reservation get lost? Who was this new girl walking towards us from the concierge desk? Sadly enough I didn’t actually catch an idea of what was going on until Michelle introduced herself and invited us to tour the fourth floor; the concierge level floor.
My face lit up like a Christmas tree. It doesn’t get much better than concierge level at the Grand Floridian. The only thing that would make our accommodations would be an upgrade in our room status, maybe a Magic Kingdom view or a suite. Once we got to the forth floor Michelle offered us some complimentary snacks and drinks before she directed us to an empty table by the window overlooking the courtyard pool. As we sat down over a glass of fresh lemonade Michelle explained to us how the concierge level worked. She told us that a concierge cast member would be at our disposal from 7am to 10am for anything from child care and theme park tickets to recreational activities and dining reservations. She also reviewed a professionally prepared packet of information which contained a map of the resort, park times and information guide, resort airline check-in information, the "Around and About" guide to the Grand Floridian and what we thought was the most important information, the times schedule to the complimentary concierge offerings. Michelle also gave us the key to our in-room mini-bar and explained how only our room key and the elevators we just used would give us access to the concierge level.
Unfortunately, our room wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, so we left our cell phone number with Michelle and took off for lunch at the Flame Tree Barbecue in the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. It wasn’t long before I got a call from Adel who told us that our original room was experiencing some mechanical problems and that we were going to be upgraded to the Big Pine Key (building 9) building with a Magic Kingdom view. Who was I to complain?
When we got back to the resort we headed right for our building which is just past the courtyard pool on the right hand side of the property. The buildings lobby gave you an idea of the level of elegance to come. Again there was a big, open five-story lobby area decorated in a Victorian theme. The elevators that would take us to our forth floor room were polished brass and located on the left side of the lobby. We didn’t know it, (or really care at the time) that only one of the two elevators were operating properly. On the forth floor, it was a long walk down the hallway to the end of the building where we found our room, number 9441.
Our 440 square foot corner room offered two queen size poster beds, a ceiling fan hanging from the vaulted ceiling, a cleverly hidden mini-bar (which was an expensive additional charge), a small table and chairs, plus a small balcony that overlooked the Seven Seas Lagoon. From the table and chairs on our balcony we had a terrific view of Cinderella Castle as well as panoramic views of Disney’s Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts. It was a gorgeous room that complimented our Grand Floridian experience to a T.
We felt that it wasn’t the location of the room, nor the room itself that made the concierge experience so grateful, but the complimentary offering throughout the day that set things over the top. For instance coffee was served from 6:30 a.m. – 7am when the Grand Beginnings breakfast began. We particularly enjoyed the breakfast which was served until 10:30am and included cereals, fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, honey dew and pineapple, coffee, select meat and cheeses as well as fresh bake goods. There were refreshments and snacks offered from 11:30am to 2pm, afternoon tea from 2:30pm to 4pm. Our second favorite time of the day came between 5pm and 7pm for the twilight refreshers. This was a pleasant balance of hors d’oeuvres, wine, and champagne. The hors d’oeuvres changed each night and there were usually four or five offerings. Don’t worry about arriving five minute prior to close; the cast members will give you the same high level of service even if that means opening a fresh bottle of champagne and allowing you to bring it back to your room. Completing the evening were cordials and desserts from 8pm to 10pm.
To put this all into perspective, if you can afford it and the concierge level is available at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and SPA, it shouldn’t be missed. Everything from the superior customer service to the complimentary top shelf wines and champagne make the experience of concierge level service a dream come true and a tough experience to surpass. Unless Disney will let me into Cinderella’s Royal Bed Chamber…
East Haven, Connecticut