We just returned from our extraordinary luxury trip to Disney World. We hope you enjoyed our Twitter posts and photos – more in-depth reviews and videos are coming. As we rose early to go to the parks – and stayed up late trying out new restaurants – there wasn’t time for live-blogging. Also, for some reason, the Grand Floridian doesn’t offer WiFi, which made it even more difficult to communicate to the blogosphere.
However, here are our quick notes and reviews (and trailer video):
* The Parks were amazing. Clean, sparkling, and ever so fresh. We always arrive when the Parks open – and leave around 1 pm, when the heat and the crowds become unbearable. The cast members were friendly, interactive, and full of Disney magic. We spent a majority of our time between the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom – our favorite two parks. We adore the splendor of the Magic Kingdom – while the underrated Animal Kingdom is an amazing experience – so wonderfully crafted, and a great park to explore.
* Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the Magic Kingdom was a blast. Even thought my daughter didn’t go for the greasy hairstyle – the only option they offer. Basically, she got her nails done. It was expensive, but worth it.
* We love the new show at Cinderella’s Castle right before the fireworks. ‘Magic, Memories and You’ is a breathtaking castle projections show at the Magic Kingdom. Watch it here.
* You must get a cabana at Grand Floridian’s pool. Even though they messed up our reservation, it’s a great spot to relax and unwind. Also, charter a pontoon boat ride from the Floridian. We watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the Seven Seas Lagoon – a fabulous way to watch the show in private.
* The Grand Floridian Afternoon Tea is offered in the Garden View Lounge from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m – this is a must, and a very classy way to experience the elegance of the resort’s lobby.
* Do you know you can book a private photo session at the resort or the Magic Kingdom? We always do this – it’s a great way to get wonderful photos of the entire family. And you have the most magical backdrop on earth. This time, we took photos at the Floridian, and the Magic Kingdom. Also, we can’t stress how cool the PhotoPass service is.
* Dinner at Narcoossee’s was disappointing. The building, view, and décor are amazing – however our inattentive waiter Steve reeked of cigarettes, and provided terrible service (a trend we noticed throughout our trip). The restaurant had just opened, and wasn’t busy. The food wasn’t much better. My wife’s steak was overcooked, while my meal was borderline blah. Our previous dinner at Narcoossee’s (two years ago) was a much better experience. Perhaps it was an off-night?
* But if you want to know about an on-night – it was dinner at the ever so posh Victoria & Albert’s. We were upgraded to the Queen Victoria’s Room, which Disney describes as:
“An elegant, intimate setting behind closed doors where French gueridon service – tableside finishes for diners’ pleasure and entertainment – is making a comeback. With just four tables and rich décor inspired by Old World dining rooms of London and Paris, the tone is set for a luxurious, leisurely evening.”
Chef Scott Hunnel is an amazing culinary talent. Every bite was a surprise. Service was remarkable. You must make a reservation on your next visit.
* Couldn’t say the same for Tony’s Town Square. Having spaghetti dinner at this Magic Kingdom Italian restaurant has become a tradition for our family. This time, our waitress was the worst – and the dry overcooked food wasn’t much better. They also placed us in a dark corner without lights that was currently being refurbished. Seriously, our waitress was the worst cast member we encountered on our trip – excluding the college student pool staff at the Grand Floridian.
* Our new discovery, however, was the Liberty Tree Tavern. We actually ate there twice, and the food was impressive both times. Good family style, comfort food like pot roast, turkey, and mashed potatoes. The quality and freshness of the food was a surprise – as was the service. Even with the hustle and bustle of the busy restaurant, the cast members were upbeat pros.
* Citrico’s at the Floridian offered wonderful service, outstanding food, and excellent wine. The style of the decor is light colors with a Mediterranean feel. Relaxing and recommended.
* At the Animal Kingdom, we discovered two new (to us) dining options. First, we loved the Tusker House. We’re not big buffet fans – but the Tusker House offered delicious African “inspired” options. With great sauces and spices, there’s something for everyone at Tusker House (and even healthy options!). Yak and Yeti was our second restaurant – we ate a light meal, but the service and food was good, but nothing to write home about. We should’ve returned to Tusker House – as the buffet offers much to be explored.
As mentioned, I noticed a trend on this visit – some cast members are just not the right fit for the hospitality industry. I think Disney is making some hiring misfires.
This was our third stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – and probably the most disappointing. From check-in, to not cleaned rooms, to following up on reservations, there were a lot of misfires. As we checked in, I asked for a room not near an elevator. The cast member at the front desk gruffly said our room was indeed near an elevator – and that’s there’s nothing they could do because the resort was booked to capacity.
That seemed like an excuse. They could get away with that level of service because they had plenty of customers.
The cleaning staff was very friendly and polite, but understaffed. Many times, they couldn’t get around to cleaning our room. They were embarrassed they couldn’t get to it. Not their fault – they just needed more help, so I don’t blame them. The resort was packed.
However, the college students they hired for the boat and pool area were absolutely unprofessional and inattentive. Our level of poor resort customer service wasn’t universal. Pete, the bartender at the Floridian pools was wonderful and gregarious. The same could also be said about our pontoon boat driver. It was 50/50 – half of the people we met were great. We had an amazing contact at Guest Services, but trying to get in contact with Disney PR, or the hotel, to discuss other ideas to explore on our trip – was virtually impossible. They didn’t respond.
Listen, Grand Floridian is the best resort to stay at on the Disney property. Being close to the monorail, to the beautiful grounds, it is a magic place. However, if you’re like us, travelers to the Four Seasons and Ritz—you will be disappointed with the tiny rooms and lack of customer service. As mentioned, our past experiences were much different. We remember being greeted by name before check-in, and the friendly, helpful faces.
More to come.