Showing posts with label Resorts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Resorts. Show all posts

Thursday, August 9, 2012

All Star Sports resort - a review

My girls and I stayed at the All Star Sports resort for our Spring Break - the week before Easter.  Since our trip was a few weeks before my youngest's birthday, I let her pick which All Star resort we'd stay at - and she picked Sports.  Actually, I am not really sure why she picked it.  She does play tennis - but sports are really not her thing. 


We arrived on Monday afternoon knowing that the parks and the resorts would be really full because of the upcoming holiday.  But I was not prepared for the number of sports teams that were at the resort.  I know that this is the resort that lots of teams use when they come to compete at Disney.  But I really thought that this week would be more about families.  Ah - live and learn!

We had booked a preferred room which is in the "Surf's Up" section.  What does a preferred room mean?  It just means a location that is convenient to the food court, main pool, and the bus stops.  Preferred rooms are wonderful after a long day at the park and your feet don't think they can go another step.  Your preferred room is close by - while your standard room may require a hike.  However, preferred rooms are often far away from the parking lot - which we discovered as we schlepped all our luggage from the van to our preferred room!

Our room was typical of the value - two double beds, dresser, tv, small table with two chairs, bathroom area.  (I must apologize for my pictures.  I took them with my underwater camera and not my good one.  Oops!)

So, let's check out the resort.  If you are looking for a resort that is high energy, larger than life, and full of wonder, then the value resorts are the place for you.  All Star Sports carries that theme throughout all the sport icons and sections.

We've got Basketball

And Football

 (Do you know what those footballs are??  That is the stairwell!)

And baseball

 (The second themed pool is by the baseball section)


 (another stairwell inside of the can of tennis balls!)

and the preferred section - with Surfing

 (the main themed pool is by the surfing section - and you can see how close it is to the lobby and food court)

1.  Themeing is great - especially if you or your kids are sports fans
2.  Very nice food court with a great selection
3. When you share buses with the other All Star resorts, Sports if the first to pick up and the first to drop off.
4.  Cast members are great - courteous and friendly

1.  With all the sport groups that stay here, you end up with lots of teens and very little adult supervision.  And that lack supervision/adults leads to things like my own children being bullied on the bus by a group of teen girls.
2.  Again, with lots of sports teams, they travel in packs - and that could make for long waits in the food court, at check-in, at the buses.
3.  Pools are pretty crowded - and crowded and noisy pretty late at night.  I'd advise against a room facing the pool
4.  Another issue is that All Star Sports is unlike all the other resorts (all the other values - including the other all star values, and all the other moderates) - there is NO privacy curtain separating the sink area from the rest of the room.  So, if you want to get ready in the morning without waking everyone up with the lights, you are out of luck.

Overall, it's not a resort that I would stay at again.  It's not a resort that I'd recommend to my clients unless the sporting theme was just a must-have.  For our experience, the lack of supervision of the sports teams really clouded our experience and made the resort not as friendly to families.  Instead, I'd suggest the other All Stars and Pop Century as great alternatives!

So...what about you?  Have you had a good experience at All Star Sports?  Do you have a favorite value resort? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Animal Kingdom Lodge - a Review

As a travel agent, I am often asked if I have a favorite resort.  It's like asking me to pick a favorite child.  I love them all - in their own way - for various reasons.  But.  If you ask my children which is their favorite resort - Animal Kingdom Lodge wins hands down every time.

Why is it their favorite?  Because whenever they want, they can go out on the balcony and see this:

I'll tell you that it was a great motivator to get out of bed in the morning to see what they could see!

And now I am going to tell you a secret.  There are a number of views you can reserve at AKL.  There is standard (which gives you a rooftop or parking lot view), pool view, savanna view, or the very best - Arusha savanna view.  And now the secret - our view that you see above - it's a standard view!  Let me try and explain this lucky circumstance.

Here is a map of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Our room was on the Zebra trail - facing the Uzima savanna.  And our room - well, it was 27 miles from the lobby to our room.  Down, down the zebra trail.  All the way to that fourth pod of rooms - and we were in the corner.  And that corner is how we got the standard room view - because the savanna is partially obstructed by the building.

Now, these savanna view standard rooms - there are very few of them - but if you book standard view - it's worth asking about when you check in!

Let's talk money for a moment.  Another well kept secret - Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the least expensive deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World (Wilderness Lodge is the other).  And if you want a deluxe, but a savanna view is not in your budget - there are still LOTS of places to view the animals from around the resort.  There are huge windows as you walk down the halls that overlook the Arusha savanna.  There are even "porches" on several floors where you can go out and look - some even have night vision goggles!

And there is the overlook - a place where even visitors to the lodge can go and see the animals.  And not only can you walk out - but there are guides from different parts of Africa there to answer your questions.

Another big draw to AKL is the pool.  It's a zero entry pool with a slide - hot tub - pool bar -and lots of shady spots to park yourself to read your book.  And not only do you have this fabulous pool, but you can go next door to the Kidani Village and use their pool, too.

1.  animals, animals, animals
2.  Two beautifully themed pools
3.  Gorgeous lobby and resort grounds
4.  Restaurants - counter service near the pool - the Mara, a table service location - Boma (and Sanaa next door at Kidani Village), and a signature dining experience - Jiko.
5.  large balconies
6.  If you stay club level, you have access to a special tour - the Sunrise safari at the Animal Kingdom park.
7.  Beautiful rooms - gorgeous carvings on the headboards and dresser.  Granite in the bathrooms.  African art on the walls. 
8.  Really unique offerings - like the night vision goggles or African story tellers by the fire pit.  Or even in the gift shop, there are African items - and even a large selection of African wines.
9.  Offers the option to have a room with a bunk bed.
10.  childcare onsite (Simba's Clubhouse)

1.  Location - as a resort near Animal Kingdom, it's really far from all the other parks
2.  Another resort that offers those thick, heavy, stiff comforters
3.  Potentially a really long walk from the bus/lobby to your room
4.  The rooms are the smallest of the deluxe resorts. 

So...what about you?  Is a stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in your future?  If you've stayed there - what was your favorite thing?


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Port Orleans Riverside - Royal Rooms - a review

Have you ever seen pictures of the suite that is located inside of Cinderella's castle?  It would be a dream come true to stay there - and actually the only way to stay there is to win the opportunity.  But.  The same design imagineer who created the Cinderella castle suite also designed the brand new Royal Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside. 

With imagineering, there is so much more to designing a room than picking out the carpet and furnishings.  There has to be a story.  And this room is full of story telling details.

Our story begins with Tiana from Princess and the Frog. She is being visited by all her Princess Friends.  They laugh.  Have fun.  Take funny pictures.  And when her friends leave, they all leave gifts to remember them by.

There are over 500 Royal Guest rooms and they are located in the Oak Manor and Parterre Place buildings of the mansions section at Port Orleans Riverside.

We had two connecting rooms - 9925 and 9926 - which were in Parterre Place - third floor - in one of the furthest rooms you could possibly have!

But even with our location, we didn't have to walk far for anything - maybe 5 minutes at the most to get to the main pool.  We used the bridge to go the foodcourt, pool and bus stop - and sometimes we used the bus stop by the mansions. 

When we arrived at our room, I had all our luggage in one room so that I could take pictures of the room before it was destroyed.

First - we have the beds - queen sized - with these incredible LED headboards.

If you push a button on the side, they light up with fireworks!  It runs through about a 30 second cycle and then turn off automatically.  My girls had fun timing it correctly and setting off both headboards at the same time.

Across from the beds is the TV and dresser.

The larger section of the dresser is your hidden mini-fridge.  And to the left of that is your table and 2 chairs.  Part of the table is a letter from Tiana encouraging you to find the special mementos left by her friends.

So...what are those special momentos?

How about the magic carpet:

And the genie lamp faucet:

Or the shower curtain complete with dinglehoppers:

Or the foot stool:

The room just exudes luxury.  I mean, look at the air conditioning unit!

There is plenty of storage in the bathroom area (even though there are only three drawers in the dresser, we used the top of the closet area as a drawer - and hung up all my tshirts).

And Cinderella kindly left a beautiful place to hang your jacket/towel/purse/whatever.

What I love about Port Orleans, riverside:
1.  two queen sized beds
2.  you can take a boat to downtown Disney
3.  you can pool hop over to Port Orleans French Quarter - it's like having 2 themed pools
4.  There are also quite a few "quiet" pools
5.  Entertainment!  Yee-Haw Bob performs Wednesday - Saturday in the bar area by the check-in
6.  A great food court - lots of selections (my favorite is the create your own pasta bar - fresh and made to order!)
7.  Bus stops are not too far away from park entrances
8.  All the different areas at POR - we were in the Royal rooms, and then there are the mansions and even Alligator Bayou - each with their own theming - and a gorgeously landscaped resort!
9.  If you are a family of 5, Port Orleans is your least expensive option - they have pull down beds in the Alligator Bayou section.
10.  Deluxe amenities at a moderate price (from horse drawn carriages to a marina to boat service to a table service restaurant on site and more!)

Things I didn't love:
1.  If you don't go to the main bus stop, the buses could fill and not come to the other depots - so waits could be long.
2.  No ceiling fans in the royal rooms
3.  We had been leaving a tip for mousekeeping each day.  Towards the end of our trip - two days in a row - the tip was gone, but the room wasn't cleaned.  The room was cleaned immediately after we called - but we stopped leaving the tip.
4.  The bedding.  The comforters are gorgeous to look at - but very stiff and uncomfortable.  I wish they'd go to quilts rather than this type of bedding.

I would absolutely recommend this resort - and would encourage you to stay in the luxurious Royal Rooms!

So...what about you?  Have you ever stayed in a room that made you feel as if you were in a castle?  Have you ever stayed at Port Orleans?