Every trip has its crisis. (I mean, right? Or is it just mine?) This one started just after midnight, when I discovered my camera battery charger was missing. I tore apart my luggage looking for it, but in a flash I knew I’d left it plugged into the wall by the coffeemaker in my room at the Dolphin. I called the hotel and talked to someone in security, which doubles as the lost and found, and they assured me they’d look for it when the day shift started. I was seriously freaking out because the whole point of my trip was research, which for me is 80% taking photos and videos. Once my camera battery died the next day, I’d be up a creek.
Before I went to bed, I used my free Internet connection (thanks DVC!) to go online and find a comparable battery charger to have sent overnight for the following day. When I woke up, I called the Dolphin back to see if they’d found my charger, but they hadn’t been able to get ahold of the room’s new occupants to go check for it. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself that day while I waited—it was supposed to be devoted to taking pictures around WDW of stuff I needed for various PassPorter books. Finally I decided I had to do something to keep from going nuts, so I set out for my intended first stop, Wild World of Sports, and vowed to be extremely judicious in my choice of shots.
I’d never been to Wide World of Sports and probably would never have gone if I hadn’t needed pictures for PassPorter’s Festivals & Celebrations guide. I’m not sure what parts of the complex require admission, but I was able to use my Premiere AP at the gate. Although it has a bit of a modern suburban shopping mall feel, the complex is surprisingly photogenic!
I was standing on the knoll beyond the outfield getting this shot when the camera battery place called to let me know my new battery would be arriving by 5pm the next day. Good, but not soon enough to get me through my morning appointment to shoot wedding locations at Hollywood Studios.
I kept calling the Dolphin’s security desk and kept getting the runaround. Finally I decided to just go over there and make my plea in person. At the concierge desk they had me phone security, and when I kept telling them, “If I could just get in the room, I know exactly where it is!” they finally sent out a house detective (how exciting!) to talk to me. And possibly to escort this raving lunatic off the property…
He explained to me how grim my situation was. For one thing, all lost items discovered by the housekeeping staff are logged into the computer each night, and there was no record of a battery charger having been found in my room. For another thing, when two security guys finally got into the room while the new guests were out, they hadn’t found anything. I kept up with my insistence that *I* could find it if he’d only take me up there. Finally, just like in the movies, the gruff detective with a heart of gold agreed to escort me to the room for one last look.
First of all, let me tell you how incredibly surreal it is to go back into a room that was yours and find it full of someone else’s stuff. I know it’s just a hotel room, but it was my home for 3 days! I felt really skeezy pulling open what turned out to be the new occupant’s underwear drawer—whoops! Neither of us could find the charger. We went back out into the hall and happened on the housekeeping manager coming out of one of the rooms. When I told her my plight, she said she’d speak to the housekeeper across the hall, who might’ve been the one cleaning my room the previous day. Meanwhile, the detective is going on again about how all lost objects are logged into the computer.
As I started down the hall, my eye fell on the housekeeping cart, and there atop a roll of toilet paper was MY CHARGER! The housekeeper said it had been on the cart when she wheeled it out that morning and she had no idea where it came from. It was a Halloween MIRACLE! (And nuts to the Swolphin’s computerized lost-and-found system—it doesn’t work if nobody turns stuff in!) I was so relieved I almost started crying. I thanked everybody profusely, the house detective shook his head incredulously, and the housekeeper wondered how anyone could ever get so worked up over a piece of plastic.
Back on track, I decided to treat myself to lunch at The Wave and hopped in the car. It was such a relief to have unlimited access to my camera again, that I took this bland picture just because I could!
Heck, I could take an even blander one if I wanted!
When I got to the Contemporary, I made a detour through the convention center to shoot some of the ballrooms where you can have a wedding reception. The first stop was the Nutcracker Ballroom, which had been divided into three sections.
Nutcracker Ballroom 1
The far section, Nutcracker Ballroom 3, has a wall of windows that opens onto a courtyard, which might be nice for a wedding reception.
Nutcracker Ballroom 3
You can see the courtyard from the East Rotunda part of the lobby—it gets my vote for nicest event space in the newer section (or, as I like to call it, the “Miami Vice” section) of the Contemporary Convention Center.
The ginormous Fantasia Ballroom (think 4,700 guests) can be divided into three sections. Two of them were in use together for some kind of convention that day.
Fantasia Ballroom G
Fantasia Ballroom H
Here’s what they call a “breakout room” in the convention center business—pretty thrilling trip report so far, eh?
On the far side of the convention center is a trio of tiny meeting rooms maybe good for a small function, although I’d recommend the Grand Floridian or BoardWalk convention centers for a wedding over the Contemporary, if only cuz of the décor. I think the Contemporary is better for those big-budget events (like Couture weddings) where you can afford to drape and light the H-E-double-hockey-sticks outta the place.
Pastoral Room 1
Heading up the escalators to the older, more recently renovated portion of the convention center, we find the Pacific Room, a.k.a. The Claustrophobe’s Nightmare:
Continuing on, we find… hallo, what’s this? Free food?!!!
As you can guess, it was not free food but instead a paltry reward for the poor stiffs who had to sit through something called a “Client Council Meeting”… I said a prayer for them as I continued on my merry way.
The Bland…er, GRAND Republic Ballroom
What ho, more free food?! That must be SOME Client Council Meeting!
At long last I made it to The Wave, starving, crawling on my belly, gasping “Pellegrino! I need San Pellegrino!”
As usual, The Wave was next-to-impossible to photograph. But I soldiered on!
I was eager to get some shots of the private room at the back of the restaurant because it’s one of the cheapest options for having a private meal at Disney. Lots of Escape and Memories brides have started asking about it, so I was sure to exhaustively document the space.
I guess being the dame in the giant hat taking tons of pictures of an empty room makes me easy to spot in the wild, cuz when I got back to my table I was approached by DISer Sarah and we had a nice chat. She was on a fun-sounding girls’ trip to WDW that got me thinking I should try one of those sometime. At the moment, though, I was intent on trying the Wave Appetizer for Two as my main course.
I *guess* this was for two people…. Two people with tiny appetites who each planned on getting their own lunch entrees. It was not the most filling lunch for one. However, I was already hatching a plan to swing by the Garden View Tea Room for a snack later so I could knock another Disney restaurant off the list.
First, though, I grabbed a monorail to the Polynesian resort, where I was politely requested to waste something—anything!
My destination was the new Memories wedding location on the beach between the Poly and the Wedding Pavilion, but I stopped to snoop around the deserted Luau Cove on the way.
The exact spot for ceremonies on the beach seems to be in flux. At first I was told it’s up where the boats are beached, but now it seems like they do it on a narrower strip of sand closer to the Polynesian—probably cuz you can see the castle from there.
Old Luau Beach Spot
New Luau Beach Spot
Continuing on toward the Wedding Pavilion…
There was a big brouhaha on the DIS wedding boards at the time because Disney had suddenly stopped letting people have ceremonies on the beach between the Wedding Pavilion and the Grand Floridian. They gave me some line about how the noise from the GF pool disturbed guests… Now, of course, we know that Disney is actually planning to build a DVC wing of the Grand Floridian there, which will remain unacknowledged and unannounced until the first guest sets foot in the lobby.
And, as a sneak peek at my Social Media Moms Conference trip report, I give you… Franck himself!
I think I was working my way toward the Summerhouse, because it has been my lifelong dream to get a picture of it with the shutters open…
On to Garden View Tea Room! There can be an air of stuffiness about this place that rubs me the wrong way—or maybe it’s just that I know all the snooty rules they impose if you have a party there, like no games or opening of gifts (some party!).
Now, you may well ask what a non-tea-drinking fruit-phobe like me was doing at a tea room. But I’ve had a fascination with the ritual of tea since my days as a Jane Austen-reading tweenaged Anglophile, and if I have to pick the currants out of my scones, so be it. Plus, I knew Garden View Tea Room offered something called the Mrs. Potts Tea for children, which features hot chocolate instead of tea and kid-friendly finger sandwiches instead of the usual cucumber nonsense.
However, when I attempted to order it, I was denied a children’s meal for the first time EVER at Disney. Harrumph! I think the waitress thought I was just being cheap, but I seriously refuse eat anything on the “grown-up” tea menus—and if that ain’t childish, I dunno what is! Her solution was to charge me $9 more for the Buckingham Palace Tea and just bring me what was on the Mrs. Potts tea.
For dessert I skipped the strawberries and cream in favor of two waxy pastries from the tray. It was a trick to find one without fruit—it was pretty much the éclair or nuthin’…
My verdict on Garden View Tea Room? Go for the stuffy experience, not the food. Granted I was eating the slop they feed kids, but Kraft singles with clammy ham on Wonder bread? Scalding watery hot chocolate? Tough eclairs with flavorless brown coating? No way is that worth even $10.50! I did like the part of the scone around the currants, and the clotted cream was nice (though I can’t vouch for either’s authenticity—British readers…?). Maybe next time I can just get a plate of those.
After tea it was time to fetch my car from… wherever I’d left it that morning and head back to Old Key West. When I’d thrown a mini-fit about not getting a renovated room, they’d told me I could come back after 4pm the following day and someone would show me one. I was assigned an earnest and eager young man (oh lord, I sound like my grandmother) who had access to a golf cart for shuttling around demanding old-biddy travel writers who want to see the rooms.
Now you’re not going to believe it from that awful picture, but this kid was like a grown-up version of Russell from Up! Not just physically, but also in the aforementioned combination of earnestness and eagerness with a cheerful determination to get it right despite comically frequent missteps.
Off we whizzed!
When we got to Building 29, “Russell” discovered he’d forgotten the key for the room. Blushing and apologizing profusely, he plunked back in the golf cart and whizzed back to Hospitality House to get it. I sat on a bench. After a while, I decided to take a picture of the bench.
When he got back, we entered an upstairs 1-bedroom unit that looked exactly like mine. It took some convincing (“Would anyone in this day and age mix pastel walls and forest green carpet?!”) but eventually Russell agreed that the unit had not been renovated and phoned the front desk to find another room we could see. They put him on hold. I began to wonder if anyone would notice if I used the bathroom in there. Finally they came back on the line and told us to come back to Hospitality House for another key. At this point, Russell could have driven that route blindfolded (and probably would have if I’d asked him to!).
Off we whizzed! Then back we whizzed, all the way back to the farthest corner of the farthest building at Old Key West. The only definitely renovated unit available was a handicapped-accessible one, but I’d stopped being choosy.
The new color scheme and furnishings were nicer than the old, but the bathroom was nearly indistinguishable, in a bad way. I was hoping I’d fall in love with the place, but don’t think Old Key West is the resort for me.
After we got back to at Hospitality House and I attended Russell’s Shuttling Around Demanding Old-Biddy Travel Writers merit badge ceremony, I poked around the public facilities snapping pictures for PassPorter’s Disney Vacation Club Guide.
I finished up with a few more glamour shots of the resort before I had to get ready for dinner at Citricos. And by “get ready” I mean surf the web and do free laundry.
OK, first of all, I LOVE the free valet parking you get when you show your Tables In Wonderland card! I don’t know why I’d never used it before this trip. Maybe cuz technically it costs money in the form of tips, but when you’re talking about parking at the Grand Floridian, it’s SO worth it!
This was Citricos’ second chance with me. We’d eaten here on our honeymoon, and the food was decent but nothing to write home about. It’s the same menu of one chicken dish, one fish, one beef and one pork you find at every Disney Signature restaurant , just with a Mediterranean twist that is Citricos’ only distinction. I feel kind of sorry for for them, though, because the food is always going to be upstaged by Victoria & Albert’s and the view is always going to be upstaged by Narcoossee’s.
This was good only one way: The pork tenderloin was tender and medium rare as I had requested, but the pork belly was mushy and so bland. The apple-polenta cake was just OK. Once again, another decent but not standout meal.
The big news of the evening was the large table full of bratty kids who were literally running around the restaurant and standing on their chairs as all their parents blithely ignored them to chat with each other.
In fact, everybody in the restaurant BUT their parents was watching them! The servers stood by wringing their hands and occasionally venturing a “Maybe it would be safer to sit down, honey” as the kids crawled under the table, ran rings around it, and narrowly missed smacking into waiters carrying trays piled with plates. Meanwhile, I’m trying to surreptitiously photograph the mayhem for the amusement of my trip report readers…
If I ever have kids and you ever see me letting them act like that, please come over to my table and punch me.
Eventually the parents drifted out of the restaurant, and as this dawned on them, the children altered course mid-lap and sprinted after them. They were replaced at the big table by a bridal party, which lead me to more blurry stealth photography…
Toward the end of my meal, I got to meet DISer Giulia, who’d spotted me on her way out of the restaurant. I love being able to put faces with screen names!
The night was still young, so I decided to drive around and see what the cake options were like at Value and Moderate resorts for the folks on the DIS Cake Chatter thread.
My first stop was Coronado Springs Resort, cuz it was on the way home. What I didn’t know then was that it is the only resort on property with a unique selection of cakes, and they don’t participate in Disney’s standard chocolate/vanilla/marble cake program. So if you’re looking for something a little different, this is the place to go!
I’d never been to the newish Rix Lounge, so that warranted a bunch of dark, blurry photos…
For my Value Resort cake investigation I chose Pop Century because it was familiar, close, and, frankly, I don’t even know where the All-Stars are! The trusty all-chocolate and all-vanilla 6-inch cakes like the ones I shot a couple years ago were still available in the food court cold case—in fact, they might be the very same ones!
At this point Patrick called, so we had a nice chat while I drove back to Old Key West and got ready for a big bubbly Jacuzzi bath—bliss!