Saturday, January 16, 2016

Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village Accessible 2-Bedroom Lock Off Villa

Date of Visit: January 2-9, 2016

Since we usually aren't into planning our WDW trips that far in advance, we've only stayed at our home resort one other time, which was when we did Club Level for the WDW Marathon. Even 11 months out, I couldn't get Club Level this time, but definitely not bad to have Animal Kingdom as our home resort and being able to easily get a Savannah View, which everyone loved and more than makes up for the drawbacks of this resort.

The 2-Bedroom Lock Off is a Studio and 1-Bedroom Villa combined. Both the Studio and the Master Bathroom of the 1-Bedroom part have accessible bathrooms.

The Studio bathroom had a tub. There was no shower chair, but usually you can request one if needed for this type of room.

The Master bathroom had a roll in shower as well as a whirlpool tub. It was also very spacious, so Mik enjoyed just claiming this as his room to hang out in. Best of all, this roll in shower was properly designed and did not flood the bathroom, which was our one complaint when we stayed at the Jambo House.

The 1-Bedroom also has a bathroom when you first enter that has a roll under sink, but no grab bars or extra space, so not exactly what we would consider accessible. However, it is definitely convenient to have that extra bathroom.

The kitchen area is decent accessibility wise, although it really is limited on the counter space. We didn't end up caring to cook at all this trip, though, so that wasn't a real issue.

The living room area was a good area for us all to hang out in (and for Mom to take over and work while we were in the parks). While for Mik the door entry style to the balcony is easier to use, the sliding door style with the lip does make more sense with the living room furniture setup.

The Studio made a good bedroom for the 3 adults and 1-year-old that used it, although it is the same too crowded style that is why we have never done a studio with Mik again (It's the space that ends up in the accessible bathroom that makes an accessible studio too crowded to comfortably stay in for us). It also would've been crowded for them if it wasn't part of a 2-Bedroom Lock Off because the only reason it really worked was that they put the crib in front of the door to the room and we all just used the 1-Bedroom entrance.

The Master Bedroom has a king sized bed and plenty of space to be comfortable accessibility wise.

Of course, the best part of the Villa is the balcony and being able to see various animals throughout the day. It really is what makes staying at the Animal Kingdom Villas so enjoyable. Otherwise, it's kind of an undesirable resort in that other resorts are closer to the parks (our favorite being the Boardwalk and other ones on the lake with Hollywood Studios and Epcot). Also, now that we've stayed at both Kidani and Jambo, we'd definitely prefer to be at Jambo (and not just because we had Club Level there that time).

Main thing I didn't like about this stay was that we were at Kidani Village and the quick service restaurant is over at Jambo House, which really isn't that far away but just enough to be mostly inconvenient. It wasn't that big a deal this trip because we did end up spending a lot of time in the parks and at least for breakfast they had some hot sandwiches and oatmeal in the little store at Kidani. However, definitely makes me not consider this as a place to stay in planning future trips when it's just us because we've often relied on the quick service places at the resorts for meals, especially dinner.

Destination Info:
Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village
3701 Osceola Parkway
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-8410

Friday, January 15, 2016

Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios - Meet Sorcerer Mickey

 Date of Visit: January 8, 2016

When heading to Toy Story Mania for our Fastpass+ time on our last day, we found that there was a Meet Sorcerer Mickey next door and there was pretty much no line (and we still ended up having to wait a few minutes for our Fastpass time afterwards). Definitely, never seen a Mickey character experience where you didn't have to wait in line. Plus, we've never managed to do a Sorcerer Mickey photo before and it's the one time Mik extremely willingly posed this trip because he knows it's my favorite character.

Destination Info:
Disney's Hollywood Studios - Meet Sorcerer Mickey on Mickey Avenue
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom - Meet Cinderella and Rapunzel at Princess Fairytale Hall

 Date of Visit: January 5, 2016

Mik may have once been into meeting characters when he was little, but I don't think he ever liked the princesses. Thus, this was not exactly his thing to do, but he was a good sport and went along since we had a Fastpass+ to do the Meet Cinderella and Rapunzel at Princess Fairytale Hall.

The setting for this character meet was the least interesting to Mik overall, but just because he isn't really into the Disney castle stuff. He did appreciate that we discovered a storybook page featuring Snow White in the room where the princesses were. However, it would've been better if it was in English; and it is kind of odd with it not being Snow White's castle or even a meet and greet featuring Snow White.

While overall I really dislike the whole Fastpass+ thing and having to really plan out what you want a month in advance versus the old day of Fastpass system, but we definitely wouldn't have done the characters if we hadn't ended up not wanting our Epcot choices and deciding the day before to switch to Magic Kingdom with only the character meets and 'it's a small world' being our options.

Destination Info:
Magic Kingdom -Meet Cinderella and Rapunzel at Princess Fairytale Hall
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom - Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater

Date of Visit: January 5, 2015

Meet Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom was one of the Fastpass+ selections I made since it seemed a requirement that Nora meet Mickey on her first Disney trip and if she ended up not being into characters at least we didn't spend too long in line to find that out. Turns out that this Mickey talks and it was the rest of us that were more freaked out by the experience than Nora.

Mik again wasn't into "meeting" the character, but he particularly enjoyed the props in the room Mickey was in as it is set up as if you are backstage meeting Magician Mickey and they had his trunk open with his suit and other things for his performance.

Destination Info:
Magic Kingdom - Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom - Meet Tinker Bell at Town Square Theater

Date of Visit: January 5, 2015

Mik has not been into characters for a long time, so we've haven't done any character meets at Disney World since our first trip in 2001. This trip we ended up doing several including some using our Fastpass+ selections since it was Nora's first Disney trip and she ended up loving the characters. Tinker Bell was the first character we did because the wait time was under 20 minutes and she's one of Kirsten's favorites.

While waiting in line for Tinker Bell, it was amusing to watch the different dialogue on one of the Mickey posters.

Also, before you go into the room with Tinker Bell you go into a room that lights up like it's getting sprinkled with pixie dust.

Mik still doesn't like doing character meets, but he did enjoy the experience. He liked the different decoration elements in the rooms you meet the characters. Thus, it worked out well that we could check them out and skip the character by just waiting behind the photographer while they met Tinker Bell.

By the way, having PhotoPass included with our Annual Passes and being able to also download the photos others on our reservation add using their MagicBands is the best thing about how they changed up Annual Passes this year.

Destination Info:
Magic Kingdom - Meet Tinker Bell at Town Square Theater
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Monday, January 11, 2016

Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios - Fantasmic!

Date of Visit: January 4, 2016

I'm pretty sure the last (and only) time Mik say Fantasmic was back in 2011 when we did the dessert package at Disneyland. We've always skipped it at Disney World because it didn't seem worth waiting to get in and it never popped up as a Fastpass+ option for the days we choose for our Hollywood Studios selections. We still would've skipped Fantasmic this trip except we decided to try to get another Fastpass after using our three for the day at Animal Kingdom and the only option at Hollywood Studios was for Fantasmic.

For the wheelchair seating, they escorted our group to a spot at the top of one of the sections. Here they have benches for one person to sit next to the wheelchair and two rows of benches in front that they keep clear for the rest of the people in the groups with wheelchair guests.

I know we're Disneyland snobs, so yes we think Fantasmic is just better on the Rivers of America. However, it really is a nice experience to be able to sit in the stadium style seating at Hollywood Studios with just a Fastpass rather than having to do the dessert package to be able to have a seat at Disneyland.

I'm still not impressed that you end up with poles blocking the view, especially when it's in an area built for a show rather than how it's sort of improvised usage of Rivers of America in Disneyland. Overall though it was still enjoyable and we were particularly glad that we ended up at the top with Mik because it was cold and we only got a little mist from the show's water's effects.

Destination Info:
Disney's Hollywood Studios - Fantasmic!
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios - Star Tours The Adventure Continues

Date of Visit: January 4, 2016

This trip was the first time we weren't sent straight through the Fastpass line when we went to go on Star Tours. Instead they gave us a card with a return time. This is a good system since the regular line is not accessible. It was also still a shorter wait time than posted as the wait time was 30 to 40 minutes and they gave us a return time for in 15 minutes.

Mik really enjoyed doing Star Tours at Hollywood Studios as it is the one ride in both California and Florida that is actually better in Florida since you get to still see some of the props in the queue when you go through the accessible entrance.

See more detailed review here.

Destination Info:
Disney's Hollywood Studios - Star Tours
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Friday, January 8, 2016

Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom - 'it's a small world'

Date of Visit: January 5, 2015

Mik usually won't go on 'it's a small world' at the Magic Kingdom because of a bad experience with the style of accessible boat here the first time. This trip he was willing to give it another try because we were with a larger group, had a Fastpass+, and mostly because it seems to be Nora's favorite ride.

Whether you have a Fastpass or not, you are sent through the wheelchair entrance, which is at the ride exit to the right of the entrance. With a Fastpass, we were able to go to the wheelchair entrance immediately and I assume they give you a return time like we got at Star Tours if you don't have a Fastpass. The one major problem with the wheelchair entrance is that it is on a ramp and you have to wait there for the boat to come around (or even longer if there's other groups there). When we got off they had many groups waiting on the ramp, which just doesn't make sense except they don't have enough room to have them wait up top and only send down groups one or so at a time like I remember them doing at Disneyland. Mik particularly disliked the set up of a rope at the end of the ramp where you had to wait because I rolled him partly under the rope in order to leave him on the flat area.

The style of boat with you rolling in back and then down the aisle in the middle is much more efficient than the lift style at Disneyland. However, it means that the rest of the group has to sit in single seats on either side of the aisle. It does mean Mik gets to be more with the rest of the group than by himself in the back, but we'd prefer that others in the group could still sit together.

The reason Mik hated the ride and wouldn't go on it again until now is because the chair tilted and the casters came up a few inches at the start and end the last time we did this ride (the similar boat ride in Mexico was even worse). This time they ended up putting him between the second row instead of all the way forward and he did not have that problem, so not sure if it is the location of the chair in the boat or it really is smoother now.

Overall Mik was glad he gave it another try even if he did end up saying "it's the worst ride after all" because the ride ended up going down and we were stuck almost at the end for about 10 to 15 minutes. Also, 'it's a small world' was down our last Disneyland trip, so we hadn't been on it in awhile at any park. We also found it interesting that the Magic Kingdom one is so different seeming because they haven't added Disney characters like they've done at Disneyland.

Destination Info:
Magic Kingdom - 'it's a small world'
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios - Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Date of Visit: January 4, 2016

The last few years we have enjoyed visited Walt Disney World during the holiday season. This year we only got the chance to visit for a few hours in December to renew our annual passes before our Disney cruise and only went into Epcot. We knew this was the last year of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, so we wanted to make sure we saw them while they were still up during this trip.

Mik really enjoys rolling through the streets and seeing the lights (including the ones on his wheels). They are especially fun to watch when they "dance" with the music. Definitely going to miss seeing them every year, but we are now thinking of having our annual visit as an extended family trip like this trip and probably won't be coming for the holiday season every year anymore.

I enjoyed getting The Spectacle drink with a lightbulb ice cube. Also, the "That's A Wrap" shirts are cool, especially since we hadn't done a matching cousins photo in a long time (and we now get the PhotoPass photos free with our annual passes!).

Destination Info:
Disney's Hollywood Studios -Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdon - Kilimanjaro Safaris

Date of Visit: January 4, 2015

Somehow we haven't done the Kilimanjaro Safaris with Mik since 2007 and he doesn't really remember going on it. Thus, while he didn't want to do any of the other Fastpass+ we had that day, he did end up having Mom bring him over to meet up with us and do the Kilimanjaro Safaris.

About where the Fastpass+ line joins the regular line for boarding, they send you over to the loading area for the wheelchair vehicle. The wheelchair vehicle has a spot in the front with two half rows next to the wheelchair, which worked out just right for our group of 5 (and a half).

Overall Mik enjoyed the ride as the tie downs kept his chair very stable and he enjoyed seeing the animals.  His only problem was that it seemed almost all the wildlife was on the left and the wheelchair spot is on the right, so he had trouble seeing over the people sitting on his left and seeing the animals. Now that we know, we would probably just not have anyone in our group sit in the first row because then he would be able to fully enjoy the safari.

Destination Info:
Disney's Animal Kingdom - Kilimanjaro Safaris
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Monday, January 4, 2016

Walt Disney World: Epcot - Living with the Land

Date of Visit: January 3, 2016

Our plan for the day had been to start with Soarin', but even getting to the park right after it opened still meant an almost 3 hour line. We decided we much prefer to do the little to no line wait for Nemo and Living with the Land before World Showcase opened. Apparently, everyone was already at Soarin' because it was a rainy day and mostly the crowd level was low and for once we actually didn't have to wait in line to use the elevator in the Future World building.

I don't know if it's normal or just because the ride was pretty much walk on at the time, but we were directed to the Fastpass line to go on the ride.

Mik really loves the Living with the Land ride. For one, it is the one nice boat ride at Walt Disney World since the wheelchair part of the boat is level with the loading area rather than you going in to boat and then roll down to the lower area like on the ride in Mexico and 'it's a small world.' Also, the experience is a little bit different every visit because what they're growing and researching changes every so often. This time of year with the holiday decorations up it was even more interesting because there were things like the rosemary decorated like a Christmas tree.

Destination Info:
Epcot - Living with the Land
Lake Buena Vista, FL

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Disney’s Magical Express

Date of Visit: January 2, 2016

In the many visits we’ve made to Disney World over the years, only one other time have we flown to Orlando as it’s never made sense to fly. This trip it did, though, with only Mom coming instead of Dad and finding a good deal on flights (and other family driving so we still had access to a car during trip).

I was a little wary if it was going to be an easy process because I submitted the online form, but never got any confirmation or luggage tags. However, with MagicBands it was very easy to just tap and have our resort reservation pull up and be checked in for transportation. Since we didn’t check bags anyways, it really didn’t end up making a difference that the online form ended up not working.

Once checked in we were directed to the wheelchair line to wait for a bus. The wait for a bus seemed long (30 to 45 minutes), but all buses appear to have a lift so it was just the normal wait for the next bus going to our resort (Animal Kingdom Lodge).

Mik actually likes the buses from the airport to resort as they are the nice motor coaches and they play an entertaining information video and cartoons. Also, every since I got the yellow tie down straps he’s been more comfortable on all shuttles and buses, although the buses between the parks he still doesn’t really like because they only do a hook on one side in the front.

Overall Disney’s Magical Express almost makes flying to visit Disney World not too bad an option. However, between having to get to the airport two hours before a flight to give enough time for security, the flight time, waiting so long for bus, and then another 45 minutes to get to resort once on the bus, it doesn’t really save time over driving along with it very rarely being cheaper to fly. Definitely good if it’s just Mik and I, but anymore than that it just makes more sense to drive.

Destination Info:
Disney's Magical Express
Orlando Airport to Walt Disney World, FL