Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Disney's Nighttime Spectaculars in Context


 

Way back when, almost seven months ago now, I wrote a post about Disney's new nighttime spectaculars that debuted for the 50th Anniversary Celebration.  Most of that post is spent waxing poetic about Magic Kingdom's most recent nighttime show, Happily Ever After, and whether then new nighttime shows (Enchantment in Magic Kingdom and Harmonious in Epcot) could live up to that legacy.


I realized I didn't talk a whole lot about those actual shows.  Partly this was because I wanted an excuse to talk about HEA, a spectacular in every sense of the word.  And partly this was also because I hadn't seen the new shows for myself in person.  Watching (and immediately reacting to) videos on YouTube is what the internet is about but it's certainly not the same as seeing them in person.  So I asked myself - did I do these new shows an injustice with an unfair comparison?  That's what I wanted to address here today.


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Grand Floridian Resort Review

 


On a recent trip to WDW, we were fortunate enough to stay at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  This post will take a look at what it's like to stay there, including rooms, dining options and amenities.  We're also going to make a comparison to another resort in the area and discuss whether the experience is worth the cost.


For clarity's sake, I should note that we stayed at the Villas at the Grand Floridian, which is Disney's Vacation Club property on the same site as the hotel itself.  This is how many DVC properties are at this point, making them in many ways interchangeable from the hotel side.  From the outside, the buildings look the same, and you share all hotel amenities.  But in order to make the financial situation work, we rented DVC points through David's DVC Rental so that we could stay at this luxury resort without having to pay the (higher) price directly to Disney to stay at the hotel side.


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Genie+ Pre-Purchase Ticket Add-On No Longer Offered

 


Just as soon as I finished my biggest (and best?) Genie+ post with our recommendation for purchasing it, Disney goes and changes things.  That post ultimately concludes that it is worthwhile (mentally, if not financially) to purchase Genie+ as a length of stay ticket add-on when initially purchasing park tickets (much like a park hopper).  The short version is that having Genie+, particularly during busier times, is better than NOT having it and is probably worth your money.


Well, Disney announced today that starting on June 8, the Genie+ add-on will no longer be available to pre-purchase when you buy your park tickets.  If you have already purchased tickets with Genie+ included, they will be honored. But going forward, the only way to purchase Genie+ will be on a day by day basis the day of your park visit.  Here we'll talk about why this is happening and whether our recommendation changes because of it.


Should You Purchase Genie+?


 

I've written a bunch about Genie+ already on this blog, with an overview post as well as some things about Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL).  Most of my recent recaps, guides, strategies, etc. involve Genie+ in some way or another (either how to use it effectively or what to do if you don't have it).  So why another Genie+ post?


I wanted to look at how Genie+ works, especially as it compares to the old FastPass+ (FP+) system that was in place for years.  Most of you are probably more familiar with how that system worked if you haven't been to Disney recently.  So I thought it was worth examining what these two systems have in common and more notably, where they differ.  Then I'm going to attempt to answer the most important question - should you purchase Genie+?  Once you understand the basics, if there is one post on this blog that you're going to read about Genie+, this is it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Should You Purchase Individual Lightning Lane Attractions?

 


Last October, Walt Disney World released their new planning system, Genie, along with the “paid FastPass+” replacement in Genie+.  You can read all about that here – our post today will focus exclusively on the Individual Lightning Lane attractions. (Updated May 17, 2022).

 

As a quick refresher, Genie+ is a service that can be purchased for $15 per person per day (plus tax), and allows you to use the separate Lightning Lane entrances to many rides throughout WDW.  There are some ways to leverage this service in order to end up with quite a few selections towards the end of your day.  Currently our recommendation would be to purchase Genie+ for the length of your trip upfront - we made a post about that specific thing.  If purchasing individual days, Magic Kingdom (due to its high ride count) and Hollywood Studios (due to its top heavy attraction lineup) are your best bets.  

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista Review

 

Photo via https://www.wyndhamlakebuenavista.com/

On our recent trip to WDW, we had the opportunity to stay, however briefly, at the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista hotel.  This hotel is located in the Disney Springs area, which is its own category of hotel on the Walt Disney World booking page.  Think of them as somewhat between your "normal" Walt Disney World resort and the good neighbor hotels in the area.



We weren't originally scheduled to stay here, but we shifted our plans up a day to accommodate the incredibly high price of airfare, and our regular resort wouldn't be ready until the next day.  We ended up getting a better deal to fly in a day early AND pay for an extra night at this hotel for what it would have cost to leave on our original departure day.  But that's a complaint for another day.


Monday, May 9, 2022

Remy's Ratatouille Adventure Ride Review

 


Remy's Ratatouille Adventure is a trackless dark ride at Epcot.  This post will talk about the queue, the ride itself, what other ride or rides it resembles and whether you should go out of your way to experience it in your time at Epcot.

Remy opened on October 1, 2021, the start date for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration.  The ride was completed for quite some time before this date, but Disney saved the opening to be a "counter program" of sorts against Magic Kingdom that day, which was surely going to be (and was) the place where most guests wanted to be on the actual anniversary date.  The opening of Harmonious at Epcot was the same concept.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Steakhouse 71 Lunch Review

 


Steakhouse 71 is a new restaurant at Walt Disney World, located in the Contemporary Resort just outside of Magic Kingdom.  We recently had the opportunity to have lunch here, so this post will talk about what we ordered, what the atmosphere is like and whether you should spend your hard earned vacation dollars here.


Steakhouse 71 took the place of The Wave at the Contemporary, opening just in time for Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary Celebration.  The "71" in the name refers to the year WDW opened, and is a tribute to Steakhouse 55, which was a restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel in California at one time (the "55" there being the year Disneyland opened).

New Concept Art Revealed for Epcot Overhaul

 

Artwork courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Disney officially released some new concept art and details regarding the Epcot transformation that is currently ongoing.  We're going to take a quick look at what was revealed here, and talk about what is (and isn't) mentioned in the details.


The Epcot overhaul or transformation or whatever you want to call it, has been in the works for a number of years now, beginning pre-pandemic.  There have been sporadic updates since then, and some of that work has been eliminated or cut back, likely due to cost and trying to recoup some of the pandemic loss.  Some of that will be addressed below.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Early Theme Park Entry Report

 


Guests staying on property at Walt Disney World have access to Early Theme Park Entry (EE for short in this case).  We recently had the opportunity to take advantage of this perk.  This post will discuss what we accomplished, what we could have done better and whether it's worth your time to use this advantage for your trip.


This is essentially a companion piece to our report about Extended Evening Hours that we recently posted.  That post was an unequivocal recommendation.  Early Entry is a slightly different story, and it's worth discussing the differences between the two and why our recommendation isn't as strong.

Disney in 2022 vs Disney in 2021

 


What a difference a year makes!  I don't think I have to tell you this, dear reader.  Most of the real life events in the last two years have had a major impact on everyone's lives, and how we navigated this time is something that we'll always remember.  Disney World is no different from the real world in this case.  They suspended operations around the time that everyone else did, March 2020.  They did begin their long process of reopening in July of that year.


Partially due to coincidence, we took two trips in the last two years, both around the same time of year (mid-April).  One was a "regular" week and one was the week after Easter, but other than that, all external elements were the same, including the weather.  So I thought it would be interesting to look at the differences between these two trips and to talk about the degree that things are now back to a pre-pandemic normal.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Genie+ Use in Real Life

 


Genie+ is a service Disney introduced late last year for use at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  This service effectively took the place of FastPass+ (at WDW) and FastPass/MaxPass (at Disneyland).  Genie+ is a paid service that allows the user to book a return time for many rides and return via the Lightning Lane, which would allow one to bypass the (longer) standby line.  I wrote a general post on Genie+ that looks at this in general terms and discusses how to use it.


Recently, we had the opportunity to test out Genie+ in real life for the first time.  This post will take a look at how and when we used it, the best and worst days we had while using it, and what we could have done differently.  This post will NOT be a recommendation for or against Genie+ - I have a separate post coming that will detail all my feelings in that regard.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

'Ohana Dinner Review

 


 

'Ohana is a table service restaurant at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.  This is a classic and hard to come by destination, and one which has a reputation for being one of the most quintessential Disney experiences you can have, especially outside the parks themselves.  


Most people reading this probably have an opinion on 'Ohana already, but this one has always been sort of a "white whale" for us.  On our 2018 trip, this was the only restaurant that we tried to get a reservation for, and failed.  In 2020, we had a reservation ... but that trip was ultimately canceled due to Covid-19.  In 2021, we made up for that lost trip but 'Ohana had yet to reopen (though it reopened about two months after we had visited).  Finally, in 2022, we had an opportunity to check it out and see if it lived up to the hype.

Which Park is Best For Adults?