Saturday, January 28, 2012
Universal Studios & Arriving at Walt Disney World
The night before, we noticed we had a message on the phone and Andrew had tried to retrieve it without success. After breakfast, I called the operator and asked what the message was. They said they had tried to deliver a package to us but couldn’t because we had the Do Not Disturb sign on the door the entire day before. They asked if I wanted it delivered, and I said yes they could deliver it now.
We waited about 15 minutes, then decided to go grab some food. The continental breakfast at the 7th floor concierge had butter bagels, donuts, chocolate croissants and other small items to satisfy our tummies at the start of the day. It wasn’t much of a spread, but it was enough to get us going.
We came back to the room and we still had no package. I called the operator again, and tried to ask them who had sent the package. She told me that someone had sent us a gift and that it was going to be delivered. After some coaxing, she finally told me it was champagne and strawberries, but refused to say who it was from. We waited around a while longer and still nobody showed up with the delivery. I sent a text to my sister who declined sending the package. We had to check out by 11:00am and it was quickly approaching time for us to leave the room. I called the operator back and told them we were checking out, and that whomever sent this mystery package would just have to lose out. She finally told me it was the hotel staff who sent it to us as an anniversary gift. She then told me that it couldn’t be delivered until after 11:00am due to the hotel regulations about alcohol. I told her to forget it, and we checked out of our room, angry at the hotel for wasting our time.
Our luggage was checked with the bell desk and we were finally on our way to Universal Studios. We quickly discovered that this Saturday morning was much busier than we anticipated due to a children’s marathon that was going on nearby. We made it to the park and rode Shrek 4D, which is a motion ride with extra sensations of things like water sprays and odors.
Rip Ride Rockit
From there, we rode Revenge of the Mummy which I loved! It’s an indoor roller coaster that stops, turns, launches and is a blast to ride. We had used our Express Pass and walked right onto it. Afterwards, Andrew braved Rip Ride Rockit where he got to choose his own music to listen to during the ride. He chose Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster Stronger to jam to. The ride has a crazy vertical lift and straight drop down. He felt the lap belt was too constricting across his stomach and the handles were difficult to hold onto.
We went back to ride Revenge of the Mummy a second time and walked right onto it again. Then we got in line for Disaster and waited for about 15 minutes to see it. They have added a lot of humor to the experience and it was enjoyable. We used our Express Pass again to ride Men in Black, and ended up waiting over 30 minutes although the queue said it was a 15-minute wait. What we discovered was very disheartening – when the park is slow with low crowd levels, Universal only brings in half the staff to run it and they shut down half the ride. This means that no matter how many people are in the queue, you still wait the same amount of time because only half the cars are being released with guests. To say the least, this really upset me. We watched as car after car left completely empty from the ride on the left side, as they half-filled cars on the right side very inefficiently.
Empty Universal Studios
At the food court, I picked up some chicken parmesan with a breadstick while Andrew decided upon the sweet and sour chicken dish. It was cheap food, but we got what we paid for. It was definitely not the tasty food we experienced at WWoHP the day before. We went from lunch to ride ET which I enjoyed. It was a different concept to have the ride vehicle going over top of the scenery. Then we got in line for the Simpsons using our Express Pass and still waited 20 minutes. The group behind us was very loud and obnoxious. The show was funny and impressive overall; Andrew liked it better than Back to the Future.
By this time, our adventures were already wearing on me and I was still feeling ill from all the motion I had experienced. We stopped to watch Terminator 2 3D and I actually fell asleep during it, which Andrew couldn’t believe. I was tired already, and this was only day 3.
We decided to leave Universal Studios and walk back to Islands of Adventure to visit WWoHP a third time. It was around 2pm on a Saturday, and the crowds were evident even though it was the slowest weekend of the year. I waited in a line of 25 people to get two more Butterbeers from the Hog’s Head bar while Andrew rode in the single rider line for The Forbidden Journey. The standard line wait was about 75 minutes, but he only waited 20 minutes in the single rider line, which is a shortcut that leads directly to the Gryffindor common room.
After he finished the ride, he came to join me at the Hog’s Head where I had a Butterbeer waiting for him at the bar. We then made another stop at Honeydukes for another Lightening Bolt Shaped Rice Crispy Treat, and Andrew picked up some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans for his teammates at work. We left Hogsmeade and tried to take a shortcut out of the park but ended up back tracking through Jurassic Park instead of going through Marvel. We didn’t have enough time to wait to ride Spiderman again because our limo was coming for us.
Limo Ride to Disney
We left Islands of Adventure and walked back to the Royal Pacific Resort for the final time. Andrew picked up our luggage from the Bell Desk while I called the limo service to discover our limo driver was already waiting for us outside. Although we were 30 minutes early, he picked us up and we were on our way to Walt Disney World.
The limo left a lot to be desired. The driver, although friendly, didn’t speak English very well. There were sodas and water for us to drink. The fancy inside track lights didn’t show up because it was too bright outside for us to see the colors. The seat was ripped in the back, the door handle had missing pieces and somebody had left a random empty spool of ribbon on the floor. About ¾ of the way to Walt Disney World, the air conditioning not only stopped working, but the heat came on full blast for some reason and we were quickly miserable.
I scooted up to ask the driver if he had turned on the heat. We had a language barrier, but I’m pretty sure he said he didn’t turn it on and that the controls were in the back. We fiddled with the A/C and tried to get the cooling to work again. Without asking, the driver pulled off the side of the freeway and ran back to hop in with us and try to get it working. We asked him to just drive because we wanted to get there, but he proceeded to continue to try and fix the A/C. Eventually I shooed him out of the back of the limo and he got us back on the freeway. A few minutes later, suddenly the A/C started working again. A few minutes after that, we were pulling into the Wilderness Lodge. It was a limo ride I would rather forget. In fact, we haven’t had a good limo ride in Florida yet – our limo during our wedding rehearsal actually broke down on Disney property. No more limos for us in Florida!
When we arrived at the Wilderness Lodge, a cast member was waiting for us and took us straight through the lobby, up the elevator and directly to the 7th floor concierge. The concierge staff apologized for not having the room available that I had requested, which was room 7084, the Honeymoon Suite we had stayed in when we got married. I had made the reservation one full year before this day and had called back repeatedly to ensure our request for room 7084 was on the reservation. Andrew could see the red start to fill up my ears when he told us he didn’t have our room available.
The concierge once again apologized for not being able to accommodate the request. He said the concierge manager hoped it would be okay with us if we were upgraded to the Yellowstone Suite.
Did I hear him right? THE YELLOWSTONE SUITE?
Master Bedroom in the Yellowstone Suite
For our wedding trip ten years prior, I had researched the room types at the Wilderness Lodge to a degree which almost sickened myself. I knew the square footage, all of the furniture styles, locations throughout the lodge, and every single thing about every room type they had, except the Yellowstone Suite. You see, most people didn’t have a chance to stay in the Yellowstone Suite, so there wasn’t much information online about the room. You could occasionally find information and pictures when someone was fortunate enough to be upgraded to the Yosemite Suite, which is considered their Vice Presidential level suite. Finding pictures or information about the Yellowstone Suite was so difficult, I didn’t even consider booking it for our wedding. The rate on the Honeymoon Suite we booked was $495 per night, while the Yellowstone Suite was $1000 per night. It wasn’t even on our radar.
I had no idea what to expect in the Yellowstone Suite. Even the concierge seemed surprised at what he himself was telling us, and he later expressed that it was such a rare event that the management upgraded anyone to the Yellowstone that it was quite a treat for him indeed.
The concierge staff had our keys ready for room 7123, aka The Yellowstone Suite, aka the Presidential Suite, for the Wilderness Lodge. They escorted us to the farthest end of the property on the 7th floor and allowed me to do the honors to open up the double entrance doors into the rich wood-lined foyer. Past the formal entrance, there was a small receiving area with a half bath. This led out into the formal living room. To the left was a formal den and the first balcony which had impressive views of the property facing the pool and Bay Lake, and a glimpse of the Sunrise Terrace on the 4th floor where we were married 10 years prior. The entire suite was covered from floor to ceiling with deep wood paneling and unique pieces of art, such as wood carvings and original oil paintings from the northwest.
The main living featured a second balcony, leading into a beautiful formal dining room with a custom wood dining table and seating for eight people, along with a third balcony. A kitchenette had a decent sized refrigerator, a small sink, coffee accessories, a microwave and some plates and cups for use.
View from the Yellowstone Suite
The master bedroom had a very impressive four poster hand carved king bed with beautiful furnishings including a large bureau, a beautiful wardrobe, two side tables and comfortable chairs and benches throughout. The bathroom was massive and featured two separate vanity areas, a separate makeup area, a separate room with a toilet and bidet, a huge double walk-in shower and the biggest Jacuzzi tub I have ever seen in my life.
It is difficult to explain just how large and beautiful the Yellowstone Suite is. While I don’t know for sure, my guess is that the entire suite is around 1300 square feet. It had four full balconies, two flat screen televisions, two separate bathrooms, his and hers vanities, a full dining room, the biggest Jacuzzi tub on the planet, a double shower, two separate entrances and for crying out loud, it even had a bidet. The place was huge.
The concierge came to the room and asked to come in and see it. Even some of the staff at the resort had never been invited inside the room before. We were shown how to use the very sophisticated remote control systems for the electronics, as well as all of the touchpad lights throughout the suite. Many of the light controls had 2-6 items on the same touch panel, and they were often variable so you could dim or brighten the lights if you held the panel for a moment. The concierge provided us with Happy Anniversary pins and a welcome basket with several different chocolates and nuts inside.
I spent a bit of time photographing the suite and did a video walk-through of the entire place. I was so excited and amazed at the Suite that I pretty much forgot everything else around us. Andrew took the camera and went around capturing more pictures as I started unpacking. I called his mom to tell her about the surprise of a lifetime we had just been given, and he completed the unpacking process.
We went back out to concierge to express our gratitude of the upgrade. They all seemed to be a little jealous that we were staying in it for the next 9 days. The concierge assisted us to make dinner reservations The Flying Fish at the Boardwalk Resort. Originally they couldn’t get us in before 8pm but while we snacked on cheese, meats and crackers at the snack area, they were able to call and arrange to squeeze us in for a 7pm reservation.
The water taxi provided our first bit of transportation to the Magic Kingdom where we transferred to a bus to the Boardwalk. We looked around in the shops where I picked up my first two pins from Disney celebrating St Patty’s Day with a Luck of the Irish motif. One of my favorite things to do at Disney is pin trading with the Cast Members. Many of them wear lanyards or fabric swatches at their waist to trade pins with guests. I love trading with them. Before this trip, I had purchased a lot of 40 pins from eBay to trade during our stay.
We walked over to the Flying Fish and picked up a pager. After about 10 minutes, they called our names and noticed we weren’t wearing our Anniversary pins. They gave us a second set and insisted that we wear them. It wasn’t long before we realized that guests wearing their celebration pins get a lot more interaction and perks than guests who aren’t wearing pins. The Cast Members are required to acknowledge your pins by saying “Happy Anniversary” every time they see you, so we heard it dozens of times each day. It felt a little weird going around without the pins after a while, because nobody said anything to us without them.
Dinner at The Flying Fish
The Flying Fish had incredible food. The waiter attempted to give us champagne as a gift for us to toast to our anniversary, but we politely declined stating we don’t drink alcohol. He came back a few minutes later with some kind of mango sparkling cider for our toast, which was very cute. The steak I had was very, very good. It was one of the best steaks of the trip, in fact. The total amount our amazing dinner at The Flying Fish would have cost was $143 but it was included on our dining plan, so we simply paid $25 for the tip.
We were on the Platinum Plan during our stay at Disney, which is the highest plan money can buy. The Platinum Plan means that everything is included. That means everything. There is almost nothing you can do at Disney on that plan that is not included, apart from tips and alcohol. Every single day on this plan, we received three full meals and two snacks – for each person – and no matter what we ate, it was always one single point. For each full meal we were allowed to choose an appetizer, entrée and dessert and one non-alcoholic beverage.
So let me run this down for you. On the Platinum Plan, each person receives a breakfast appetizer, entrée, dessert and drink, two snacks such as a soda and a rice crispy treat, then a lunch appetizer, entrée, dessert and drink, two more snacks such as an iced tea and an ice cream cone, then a dinner appetizer, entrée, dessert and drink, every single day.
Can you eat that much food? Neither could we. Halfway through our trip we were ordering stuff just to use up the points, trying a small bite and moving on. It’s simply an enormous amount of food.
After dinner, we walked along the Boardwalk and I had the chance to trade a few more pins. We then boarded the bus back to the Magic Kingdom and went into the park during the Magic Hours. It was open until midnight. I bought a few more pins and we walked down Main Street against the mass exodus of people leaving the park following the evening Wishes Fireworks show. There was a giant crane to the right of the castle which was being used to remove the Christmas light displays. One of our boat captains later told us the crane was there to lift up the castle at Cinderella’s request so the housekeeping could dust underneath it. We walked into the castle and found the place we had to come for the Royal Table breakfast the following morning.
Exhausted from a long and exciting day, we walked back down Main Street and I traded a few more pins with some Cast Members. We left Magic Kingdom on a large boat around 10:00pm and went back to the Wilderness Lodge. Andrew wrote up the recap notes on the Xoom and I restocked my trading pin lanyard with more options for the following day. I expressed my love for Andrew’s note taking ability for the recaps, and we both crashed hard.
We definitely agreed on our Favorite Things of the Day:
At Universal, it was riding Revenge of the Mummy. At Disney, it was our Yellowstone Suite Upgrade!
Did you know? There’s a lot more to this story!
Flight to Florida & Universal’s Royal Pacific Hotel
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter & Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios & Arriving at Walt Disney World
Visiting the Magic Kingdom & The Richard Petty Experience
Water Sports & The California Grille
Hollywood Studios, Star Tours & Toy Story Midway Mania
Epcot & Around the World Segway Tour at the World Showcase
Our 10th Wedding Anniversary
Animal Kingdom, Mini Golf & The Yachtsman Steakhouse
Our Final Day at Disney & our Private Illuminations Cruise
The Missing Towncar & Our Flight to Phoenix
Flickr Photo Collection of Our 10th Anniversary Trip to Florida
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See the Wilderness Lodge Yellowstone Suite Video Walk Through
See my Richard Petty Ride Along Experience Video