Thursday, September 22, 2011

Last Resort I Stayed At: Bay Lake Tower

Let me start off by saying this was my 15th visit to Walt Disney World! I was 2 ½ on my first trip with my parents back in 1976 and while each trip after that was memorable, I knew this particular trip was going to be the most magical. Why? Well, because it was my 2 ½ year old daughter’s first visit to Walt Disney World! I wanted her first trip to be special, not just in the parks, but at the resort as well.
The question was…which resort? My parents were joining us on this visit and I knew a villa resort would be perfect for us. We chose Bay Lake Tower (BLT) at Disney’s Contemporary Resort because of its close proximity to Magic Kingdom (approximately 8 – 10 minute walk) and for the infamous Monorail – “Disney’s Highway in the Sky”.

Check-in was at the front desk of the Contemporary Resort and I must say it was quick and painless. We were assigned to room number 7935 – a one bedroom villa with a Bay Lake view, located on the 9th floor. The cast member checking us in made sure to tell us to bring our room key wherever we go because that key is the ONLY way to access the building, room and pool area.
I was quite impressed when we entered BLT. The first thing I noticed was the “new” smell it had even after opening on August 4th. The lobby was so clean and I loved the classy, modern décor.

We finally made it up to our room – and what a room it was! The size, layout and amenities were perfect for 4 adults and 1 child. I think having two separate bathrooms really made a difference in our stay. It was so convenient! Even the washer and dryer were helpful (yes we did do a load or two)! We stocked the full sized kitchen with breakfast cereals, snacks and beverages. My parents raved about
how comfortable the queen-sized sleeper sofa was in the living room. It had a memory foam mattress and they felt like they were sleeping on a standard bed!
The king sized bed in the Master bedroom was like sleeping on a cloud. Words cannot describe how much I looked forward to crawling into it after a long day at the parks. It was so comfortable I didn’t want to get up when the alarm went off in the morning!! While my daughter loved taking baths in the jacuzzi tub (who wouldn’t), I enjoyed taking a “rain” shower in the Master bathroom. My husband
enjoyed his daily morning cup of coffee out on the balcony, which had a beautiful view of Bay Lake and the pool area.
Here is a photo from the balcony at night!

When we weren’t visiting one of the four theme parks or sleeping, we enjoyed our time at the pool. BLT’s pool was zero entry, heated and had two water slides - corkscrew type for adults and a short, gradual slope slide for the kids. There was also a Mickey-shaped kiddie water play area, which my daughter loved! They even had some great interactive poolside games to pass the time!
Transportation to and from BLT are shared with the Contemporary’s monorail, bus and boat services…all were convenient and timely.
Views of the fireworks at night were spectacular from the connecting bridge to the Contemporary or even the North and South elevator lobbies. You could even catch a glimpse of the nightly Electric Water Pageant on Bay Lake from your balcony or the stairwells located at each end of the hallway on every floor. While there are no restaurants in BLT itself, we enjoyed the Contempo Café for quick service meals, Chef Mickey’s for character dining and The Wave for a sit down restaurant - all
delicious and all located at the Contemporary Resort.
So yes, this trip WAS magical! Magical not only because I was at my favorite place on Earth or that it was my daughter’s first visit or the fun times we shared in the parks, but because of our fabulous stay at BLT!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Having a Ball at 1900 Park Fare

On our last Disney trip, we decided to do a character meal that we had never experienced before. Since my mother’s favorite character is Cinderella, I chose dinner at 1900 Park Fare. 1900 Park Fare is a buffet dinner with Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine (aka Cinderella’s evil step-mother), and Anastasia and Drizella (aka Cinderella’s evil step-sisters).

Located at the Grand Floridian Resort, this restaurant is just a short boat ride or Monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom. The cost is currently around $43 for adults and $21 for children ages 3-9 (depending on the time of year). 1900 Park Fare is on the dining plan and takes 1 sit-down credit. The price includes the buffet, non-alcoholic drink, and, of course, lots of character interactions.

While it is not the only Cinderella meal at Disney World (there is another one inside the Castle at the Magic Kingdom), 1900 Park Fare consistently gets very high reviews from guests. I decided to test those reviews – both on character interaction, as well as quality of food.

Character Interaction
As soon as we entered the restaurant, we were escorted by our server to our table. He assured us that the characters would be along shortly and that each one would be announced when they entered the dining room. About ten minutes after we sat down, Prince Charming entered the dining room. He stopped for a while at our table and gave us the chance to take plenty of pictures.

Shortly thereafter, Cinderella entered the dining room. Prince Charming stopped where he was and went over to greet her. Cinderella then greeted each table and posed for a long time with pictures. Since she was the “star” character for my family, we made sure to get LOTS of pictures with everyone. Cinderella was gracious with her time and waited until we were happy with the pictures. The character interaction was definitely living up to the hype.

Approximately 15 minutes later, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella entered the ballroom. They also spent plenty of time at the tables, interacting with guests. When teasingly questioned by several members of my family, these outstanding actors never broke character once. This led to an even more humorous and enjoyable experience for my family.

The culmination of the evening came when Prince Charming invited Cinderella to dance with him in the middle of the dining room. He bowed to her, she curtseyed, and they began to waltz. The moment
was spectacular, but it got even better when they invited young guests to join them on the dance floor. Prince Charming’s smile could be seen across the room as his much shorter dance partners’
eyes illuminated while they danced. When it comes to character interaction, this restaurant surely gets a 10 out of 10!

Food Quality
The other aspect that I wanted to examine while visiting 1900 Park Fare was the food quality. I had chosen this restaurant over Cinderella’s Royal Table inside Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic
Kingdom because it reportedly had much better food variety and quality. After a glancing overview of the buffet table, it was clear that there was an excellent variety to choose from. After tasting it, the food was also very delicious. There was a nice selection of entrees, including chicken, prime rib, turkey, and salmon. Also, there were plenty of sides and vegetables to compliment the main course.
For the little “princes” and “princesses” – or even the older ones – there was also a kids’ corner with chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, pasta, and pizza. One of my favorite parts was the chilled
strawberry soup. I had heard wonderful things about the soup and it is absolutely not to be missed!

Just like the character interaction, the food also exceeded my expectations. My one criticism was the lack of variety in the desserts offered. While they did include typical desserts, such as ice cream,
cookies and brownies, they also had a few small fruit tarts and bread pudding. However, there was such a small quantity of those that those plates were frequently empty. Yet, the staff continued to
overflow the cookies and brownies plates repeatedly. Aside from that, the food at 1900 Park Fare gets a 9 out of 10.

Overall, this restaurant may be a little pricey if you are not on the dining plan (which is one of the reasons the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal!). However, the food and experience that you get far outweighs the cost. Disney World is about making memories with your family and if you have fans of Cinderella in your family, this restaurant is NOT TO BE MISSED!