Saturday, March 31, 2012

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary: Here We Come!

I can't imagine that it will come as a surprise to any readers of this blog, but we have booked our next Disneyland Paris vacation! Announcing that we bought annual passes was probably not the best way to build suspense for future posts I guess.... But surprised or not come April 18 we will be on our way to take part in the 20th Anniversary celebrations at Disneyland Paris!

We learned a lot from our first trip last month, and we have already been putting our new DLP knowledge to work with a few changes this time around.

You might remember my review of the Sequoia Lodge from a couple weeks ago, where I wasn't that impressed with the resort. Despite our disappointment in the resort, we were willing to give another Disneyland resort a try, and planned on booking at the Newport Bay club. Well, that didn't happen....

This is another example of how different the Disneyland Paris resort from the Walt Disney World resort. When we were annual pass holders at Disney World we frequently were able to get great discounts (even at Christmas) on room only reservations. This was also true of our first time booking a room only reservation for Disneyland Paris, but not this time! The room only rate (no AP discounts available) was actually more expensive than the complete package, including tickets! This seemed really backwards to me, but I had heard that room only reservations were a huge hassle at Disneyland Paris. Since all of us are Dream annual pass holders, there was no reason to pay for a package that included tickets, so we did something that we would never even fathom at Disney World.... We booked a room off property!

Like Disneyland in California, Disneyland Paris has a group of hotels that are preferred off site resorts (you can even book them from the official DLP website), and we will be staying at one of them, The Dream Castle Hotel. We passed by this hotel on the way to our resort on the last trip, and we all thought it looked really cool! From the pictures it looks like the level of theming (not Disney) that we have grown accustomed to from our stays at Disney World. Rest assured that you will get a full review of the resort when we get back, and for now we all have high hopes for it!

Also since this will be a longer trip we will be venturing into the "City of Lights" to take the kids to see the Eiffel Tower, and other important cultural thing-a-majiggers!

All in all it should be a great spring getaway! More to come soon!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stacey vs. Sophie: Disney Resort TV Showdown!

One of the things that we really enjoy whenever we return to Walt Disney World is watching Stacey and the Must Do Disney show. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Must Do Disney runs on a continuous loop all day and all night on Walt Disney World Resort TV. The show has had many editions, and hosts, but the current version runs for 15 minute, and uses a lot of green screen intros. Our family preferred the version before the current one, the Top 7 Must Sees, that featured a lot more park footage and ran around 30 minutes. The show takes you to all four parks, plus the two water parks, Downtown Disney and Disney Quest. About the only things missing are the two miniature golf courses! Must Do Disney uses a lot of the same footage from Top 7, but is missing a lot of our favorite Stacey-isms like "yummy, yummy, yummy" when describing the food options in Epcot's World Showcase. Regardless of which edition it is, we always make sure that we watch Stacey at least one time, start to finish, each time we visit. For those who haven't seen the latest edition of Must Do Disney, here it is!

As we were on our way to Disneyland Paris we wondered if they would have their own Stacey, and as it turns out they do, Sophie! Sophie is British and her show, 10 Things to
Know Before You Go, more closely resembles the longer Top 7 Must Sees from Disney World. Even the animated intro is very similar. From what I have read, this version is a few years old, so that could be why. Sophie takes you around the entire resort as well, but since there are only two parks, she has to throw in some resort stuff to fill out the 10 things. In Paris this show actually does not run continuously, in between they throw in a couple of Disney related commercials before Sophie comes back on. So in a 24 hour time frame, you get less of Sophie than you do Stacey. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? I'll let you decide that! Here is Sophie's 10 Things to Know Before You Go, courtesy of our friends at Dedicated to DLP, who by the way have a really great Disneyland Paris Podcast!

So there is the info, but this is a shhowdown! Who should hold the crown as the ultimate Disney Resort TV Spokesperson? Let's find out...

Round 1: Energy Level
Both Stacey and Sophie bring it in this category. I'm betting there is no decaf lattes being handed out at their shoots. Straight double shots of espresso baby! Both of them are running around, riding attractions, sharing (and shouting) their excitement for their respective resorts for all to enjoy. In previous editions of her show, Stacey had energy and excitement to spare, but in the new edition they have really toned her down. There are still clips of her prancing and high fiving characters, but it is broken up with green screen shots of her introducing the Must Dos in an almost local news format. Sophie has not been toned down yet, and she is still all over the place at DLP. If this were three years ago, I would give the edge to Stacey, but for today. Sophie takes Round 1.

Round 2: Fun Level
Whether you are talking Walt Disney World, or Disneyland Paris, you are there to have fun! The resort's spokesperson should really sell how much fun you can have at the resort. Stacey looks like she is having a blast on every attraction from Teamboat Springs ("you could throw your whole family in that puppy!"), to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where she sees a gorilla that reminds her of her Uncle Phil. Sophie brings the energy, but I just don't get the feeling that she is having as much fun. In Sophie's defense, Walt Disney World has a lot more fun things to do compared to Disneyland Paris, but the result here is pretty obvious. Round 2 goes to Stacy!

Round 3: Re-Watchability
Yeah I'm pretty sure I just made that word up, but lets be honest. There isn't a lot else on Disney Resort TV worth watching except for Sophie and Stacey (although I have read reports of a big upgrade coming to the channels at Disney World). Which of these women would you rather watch over and over (and over) through out your vacation. For us, we got a little tired of of Sophie early on, and didn't venture back to that channel as much as our stay went on. With Stacey, we frequently will watch her every day, and while we prefer her earlier shows, we don't ever really tire of her. In fact we quote her very often when talking about Disney thing we enjoy. Round 3, Stacey.

Round 4: Information Delivery
For many of us watching Stacey and Sophie is for entertainment at this point. We might see them as just another perk of staying on Disney Property, or as one of those things that make us feel at home. For families visiting for the first time these shows can be a great way to introduce you to your vacation. This was true for us years ago at Disney World, and weeks ago at Disneyland Paris. While there is no shortage of information online about Disney World and Disneyland Paris, sometimes you just have to have it shown to you (repeatedly). In my opinion both Stacey and Sophie accomplish the goal here. They do a great job of presenting their respective resort to the vacationer, in their own style. Round 4 is a push.

So who is the ultimate Disney Resort TV spokesperson? In my opinion the winner is...


Honestly, this wasn't really that close. My family loves Stacey. It was nice to see that Disneyland Paris had a similar show, but it can't compare to the Disney Must Dos. Stacey does a great job getting everyone excited about the adventure they are about to embark on at Walt Disney World, and even if Disney edited her down, and cut the time of the show in half, we still love watching it, and always will! So thanks Stacey for helping make so many of our trips to Disney World more magical!

If you get the chance stop by Stacey's website and see what Stacey does outside of Disney Resort TV land!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Orlando Stroller Rentals

For our last trip to Walt Disney World back in December we had to do something that we have never had to do on any previous trip.... We had to fly 5,000 miles to get there! We were staying longer than we ever had before, 8 glorious nights! In addition to the 8 nights we would spend at WDW, we had another two weeks of flying across the United States after we left Orlando. Now I don't know about you, but when my family of 5 travels anywhere, we travel much like Washington's Army preparing to live through the winter at Valley Forge! You can imagine the amount of luggage we had to bring for a nearly month long trip to America. And since we weren't going to be renting a U-Haul truck to get around, we had to be somewhat strategic about the amount of baggage we would be bringing.

So with that in mind you can understand why we decided not to bring our double stroller along on the journey. Now we love our double stroller, a Combi Twin Sport 2 side by side.
It has been to WDW more times than I can count, and it has served us well. We knew that we would need a double stroller, so we decided to try a service that I had heard about on many Disney Podcasts, Orlando Stroller Rentals. After some deliberation we chose to rent the City Mini Double Stroller, which was $105 dollars for the 8 nights we would need it. We also paid an extra $10 for the rain cover, which was the best money we spent, because it didn't rain a drop while we were there! Online ordering was without hassle, and as promised, our stroller was at the Port Orleans Riverside bell services when we checked in.

One of the things I had heard about Orlando Stroller Rentals was that their strollers were in great condition. Some people had even said they were in brand new condition. When we received ours I took a look at it and thought, this is not a new stroller. It was well used, and not dirty, but it was showing a lot of wear and tear. It still looked to be in good shape, so I wasn't overly concerned, just a little surprised.

The stroller looked very comfortable, and the little ones jumped right in an were ready to explore! Initially, I felt like the stroller didn't handle very well, but I chalked it up to it being different to what I was used to. As time went on I got used to it, although I never felt like it did as well as our stroller. This isn't really a criticism, in general it handled pretty well, it just wasn't as easy to push or turn as our Combi Twin Sport. Pushing our Combi with one hand is pretty easy, with the City Double, not so much. I think this is mostly because of the placement of the front wheels. On the Combi, the front wheels are situated all the way to the width of the stroller,
making it very easy to keep in a straight line. On the City Double, the front wheels are not placed as wide in the front because the stroller actually tapers from front to back, which makes for a tight turning radius, but makes going straight a bit more difficult. Wow this is really technical! One of the great things was how easy it was to fold up, and how it nearly went completely flat to store in the trunk of our rental. That was the reason we chose the City Double instead of the City Elite Double, which has larger wheels.

So how did it do in the parks? It did pretty well. I was surprised by how many people use stroller rental services! I guess I had never paid attention before, but there were a lot a City Doubles in the parks! Our stroller was well marked with our name on a sign, so distinguishing it from the rest was not difficult, but we still attached a couple of leis that we got from our breakfast at Ohana, to make ours stand out. Moving among the crowd was good, but I did take out my wife's heels a couple of times because I wasn't used to the dimensions of the City Double, and even later in the week I still had this problem. (Sorry honey....) It also maneuvered well in the tight confines of the shops. Weaving in between racks of merchandise, and quick escapes from grabby hands were handled with relative ease. one problem that we did have was pushing the stroller over the tracks that run down the center of Main Street and the Hub. For whatever reason, this has never been a problem with our Combi, but on the City Double the wheels kept getting stuck in the tracks, which would lead to a problem soon.

As we were leaving the Magic Kingdom on our 2nd night our stroller threw a wheel. The outside wheel on the front left literally fell off. Thank goodness it was on our way out of the park! We I was able to get the stroller back to the room by popping a wheelie the whole way back. The kids loved it, but I was not very happy that we has lost a wheel. I was worried about getting a replacement for the next day because at this point it was past 11:00 at night, and I knew I wouldn't be able to talk to a person to get this resolved before the morning.

Attached to the stroller when we received it was a card with contact numbers. As soon as we returned to the room I called it expecting a message telling me, "we're closed, call back tomorrow, chump!" I was wrong. There was a way to leave a message, and I got a call back within 15 minutes of leaving the message. I can't remember the name of the man that I spoke to, but he was very helpful, and told me that this happens all the time, and to throw away the entire wheel mechanism, and they would deliver a new one to me by 7:00 the next morning. I was impressed, but also wondered, if this happens all the time, why would you not use a different stroller manufacturer? After replacing the wheel (which was very easy), we didn't have any more problems for the rest of the trip.

On our last morning we dropped the stroller off at bell services, and Orlando Stroller Rentals picked it up. Easy as 1-2-3!

So after our experience with Orlando Stroller Rentals I feel very confident in highly recommending them. The entire process was very easy from start to finish, and when we did have a problem, they quickly and without hassle, handled it to my satisfaction. While I did not like the City Double as much as our Combi Twin Sport, it is a pretty good stroller, and will serve most peoples needs just fine. You might want to look into the City Elite with it's larger wheels however. I don't think that will ever have to use a stroller rental service again, but if we do I will return to Orlando Stroller Rentals.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Resort Review: Sequoia Lodge

It's hard to believe that it is almost two weeks since we left for our trip... But, here is the first post reviewing Disneyland Paris! This is our review of the Sequoia Lodge. This is also what I posted on Trip Advisor. As you will read, we weren't too impressed with the resort. I'm still trying to recover the photos off of a corrupted memory card, so sorry for the lack of pictures...

Where's the Magic?

We chose this hotel because we really like Wilderness lodge in Walt Disney World and heard this was themed like it - maybe 20 years ago! Our room, which overlooked the water (beautiful) was adequate - but not what I have come to expect from Disney. The room was VERY worn, the blankets actually had holes in them, there was more than a little mold in the bathroom, and the wallpaper was pealing. We were in room 4275 - the view was great, so we

just stuck our heads out the window a lot to avoid the room.
The Staff: no magic here either. Housekeeping was terrible, we never got clean glasses, they never vacuumed (evident in the crumbs left on the floor by my 3 year old) and the tissue was never refilled after we ran out the 1st night. Regarding the front desk staff, I rang to request a late check out (we had a late flight), I was told that it was "not possible." I called the day before check-out so I knew this couldn't be right. So I walked to the front desk and inquired again - request granted. Why couldn't my phone call have been sufficient?

The hotel itself looked like a place that with a little love could be great - but there was no love. The lobby on our floor consisted of one, lone sad table discarded in the corner, giving the space an abandoned feel. The front desk/reception area is nicely themed, and had areas that took me back to Wilderness Lodge and the view of the hotel from the water is beautiful, but never made me feel as though I had stepped into the mountains of North West America. If you've been to Wilderness Lodge, you know that it is possible, it is just that Sequoia Lodge doesn't accomplish that.

The breakfast, again, was just adequate - the croissants were amazing, but this is France, surely our room - hard to put a price on that - but Sequoia Lodge put a high price on it. The proximity the the parks and the village was great. With two little ones, it was easy to return to the room for an afternoon nap or get a quick bite to eat in Disney Village. Also, the character interaction at the hotel was great - nothing like turning around to see Mickey Mouse giving a hug to your they can get that right, oui? I'm glad to hear that breakfast won't be included in the rate anymore as we wouldn't have eaten there if given the choice.What was magical? The view from

So, why rate the hotel poor - because I wouldn't return. My husband and I checked out the Newport Bay hotel, and believe we will book that hotel when we return.