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Walt Disney World Heffalumps and Woozles

Citricos-VinceImportant Note: Every Cast Member pictured in this post provided excellent service!

By and large, the vast majority of Cast Members at Walt Disney World have embraced the Disney magic, understand their opportunity to make a huge difference in guests’ experiences, and act in a professional, yet warm and caring manner.  They take Disney’s training to heart and in turn, pour their hearts into delivering the Disney magic.  We LOVE those Cast Members and never EVER take them for granted.

If you go (or have been) to Walt Disney World, you may have unfortunately encountered a different sort of Cast Member.  A thankfully rare sort I like to refer to as either a Heffalump or a Woozle.  These sly characters have infiltrated the Disney company undetected.  When given the opportunity, they will do everything in their power to make your day at a Disney park or resort anything but magical.  Our job is to recognize them for what they are and deny them what they want most in the whole World – to ruin our vacation.RM-Sanaa Server

“They’re far, they’re near
They’re gone, they’re here
They’re quick and slick
They’re insincere” – Heffalumps and WoozlesRM-Sanaa Hostess

People are human (like that logic?) and Disney’s Cast Members are people too – meaning that everyone gets up on the wrong side of the bed occasionally.  Everyone has a bad day.  Yes, we know that a bad attitude is supposed to be checked at the door when we go to work, but we can never know exactly what’s going on in someone’s personal life.  The “leave it at the door” practice is great – in theory.  Easier said than done sometimes.RM-Contemporary Resort Greeter

I’m not, in any way, shape, or form excusing bad service or rude behavior by Disney Cast Members – After I invest my time and money in taking a Disney vacation, I want to feel I’m getting my money’s worth.  What I’m trying to say is that it would be a tragedy to allow a Cast Member to have the power to “ruin my vacation!”.  I have a choice about whether or not I allow someone to steal my happiness.RM-Contemporary Resort Front Desk

“They’re extraordinary, so better be wary
Because they come in every shape and size, size, size, size
If honey’s what you covet you’ll find that they love it
Because they’ll guzzle up the thing you prize” – Heffalumps and Woozles

On our most recent visit to Walt Disney World we met some of the kindest, most fun, delightful Cast Members we’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.  We tried to engage each Disney employee we encountered in at least a little conversation.  We said please and thank you.  We smiled and made eye contact and in return, we were treated like the king and queen we imagine ourselves to be!  The Disney “way” is alive and well!RM-Be Our Guest Sue

There was ONE Cast Member that gave us less than stellar service.  A tall young lady at the Frontier Trading Post (Magic Kingdom) – she was condescending, less than helpful, and quick to lecture me on how unrealistic it was for me to expect to find the Halloween Annual Passholder pin in stock during the second week of October.  Silly me!  Those were sold out WEEKS AGO!  Right away I recognized her for exactly what she was and on my way out of the store, quietly under my breath, I whispered….”Woozle!”  And refused to let my day be one speck of Pixie Dust less magical.

If you receive bad service, provide feedback to Walt Disney World (find a great tutorial here) – the Disney company values what their guests have to say.  If you let a bad Cast Member interaction spoil your vacation, that’s your decision, but PLEASE don’t let the Heffalumps and Woozles ruin your day!

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DVC – Bay Lake Tower Studio Tour and Review

RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Contemporary-ViewWe have always loved Disney’s Contemporary Resort.  More than the design and theme, which we like well enough (especially the Mary Blair mural in the Grand Canyon Concourse).  We are crazy in love with the location – to us, the ability to walk to the Magic Kingdom just can’t be beat.  And the restaurants – we love those too.  And the monorail whooshing right on into the building.  Well, you get the idea.  We always knew if a DVC resort became available by the Contemporary, we’d be all in.  That’s why Bay Lake Tower is our home away from home.

One of the most important aspects of the Disney Vacation Club for our family, is the ability to use your points how, when and where you like (based on availability).  When we needed a place to sleep six, Bay Lake Tower’s two bedroom lock-off option was perfect for us – master bedroom (king bed) and bath, full kitchen with living room (pull-out queen sofa and chair-and-a-half) and a connecting studio (two double beds).  When Raymond and I travel alone, we just need a studio.  Able to book at our home resort 11 months in advance, we were, for our most recent visit, able to book a lake view studio (339 square feet) which was perfect in every way!RM-BLT-Studio-Sleeping-Area

Arriving from the airport via Disney’s Magical Express, check-in is in the Contemporary lobby (we opted not to check-in online to see how the in-person version works).  Greeted immediately upon stepping down from the bus by a very friendly and efficient Cast Member, we were promptly escorted into the lobby and handed off to the helpful young man at the check-in counter.  The process was quick and easy and we were told our room was ready. We got our room number and informational materials and headed off for the short walk to Bay Lake Tower.  There is now a new check-in counter in the Bay Lake Tower lobby, but it is not for guests arriving via Magical Express.RM-BLT-Studio-Main-Room

We were a tiny bit disappointed to find out our room was on the 3rd floor.  The 5th floor is super convenient to the walkway between Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary.  The higher floors seem to have the best views.  We were surprisingly happy exactly where we were!  Our balcony overlooked Bay Lake and the grounds of the Contemporary and – as a bonus – was a perfect viewing area for the Electrical Walter Pageant on the evenings we found ourselves back in our room in time to enjoy it.RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Sunrise

Our room had a queen bed, sofa, table and chairs, television, dresser, kitchenette, and bathroom.  The tiny kitchenette makes amazing use of a small space!  In the far left corner of the kitchen area is a little extra vanity with shelves, mirror and outlets.RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Kitchen-Vanity  I was able to shower first then move into the kitchenette to apply makeup, style my hair, etc.  The kitchen also boasts an incredible amount of storage – including a very cool pull-out shelving unit.  We utilized the coffee maker for brewing the delicious Joffrey’s Coffee we picked up in the Animal Kingdom Lodge gift shop on our first day of vacation.RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Balcony

Location, view, comfort, amenities – our Bay Lake Tower studio did not disappoint.

Are you a DVC member?  What’s your home resort and what do you love most about it?  If you have questions about our experiences with the Disney Vacation Club, ask away!RM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Kitchen-RightRM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Kitchen-FridgeRM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Kitchen-StorageRM-Bay-Lake-Tower-Balcony-View-Sunrise

 

 

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Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival – Tasty Treats and Splurges

RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-LandscapeOur first Epcot International Food & Wine festival was a rousing success!  Maybe we should feel a little bit defeated because we didn’t taste all of the dishes on our must-try list, but NO!  We’re not sorry about that one bit.  We had a wonderful time and are formulating plans to return to Walt Disney World again in the fall of 2016 (right after Joseph turns 21!).

I could wax poetic for days about the delicious food, interesting wines and beers, festive party atmosphere, and fun fellow foodies, but instead I think this calls for a list!  Dear, sweet readers, I give to you our…

Top 10 Things We Loved at Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival (imagine “da-da-da-da” horns blowing here)

10.  The Rose & Crown Pub – Enjoyable anytime, this place is HOPPING during Food & Wine.  You’d think the kiosks & food booths would get all the attention, but no!  Those rediculously tiny beer samples that go along with the special food offerings seem to make people gravitate towards the places where you can still buy a full serving of adult refreshment.  We didn’t stop at the Rose & Crown for beer on our initial trip around World Showcase…we’d heard about the very reasonably priced single malt scotch flight (Thank you, Mr. Dutch Lombrowski!) and dropped in specifically for that experience.  Excellent!!!RM-Rose-and-Crown

9. Boeuf Bourguignon and French Men Who Shout – Very delicious dish in France, that Boeuf Bourguignon, made even more fun by the tall, strapping young French lad working the food booth – He yelled out each order as they came in (each guest hands their receipt to the Cast Member working the booth) and when I yelled at him in French to say, “That’s right! Very good, thanks!” – He yelled right back in French to say, “You’re Welcome!!!”  Both of us grinning from ear to ear.  Good times.RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Menu-Boeuf-Bourguignon

8. Two Hour Lunches With Lots of Wine – These were our splurges.  Would we have enjoyed the festival without them?  Absolutely, but I’m so glad we decided to book two very special experiences – The Italian Food & Wine Pairing (Via Napoli) and the French Regional Lunch (Monsieur Paul).  While I will write individual reviews on each, let me just say that these events are so much fun, one of our table mates (Hi Patti!) in Via Napoli admitting to being a repeat attendee – and she doesn’t drink wine!  If you’re anti-social or take your wine very seriously, these lunches are probably not for you.RM-French-Regional-Lunch-Table

7.  Passport Stamping - Guests get a souvenir passport with each country’s foods/beverages in it and can have a Cast Member in each country stamp the booklet as the booth is visited.  Simple, but fun!RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Passport

6. Pepper Bacon Hash – At the Farm Fresh booth.  Seriously – this was good stuff!  Hash, Hollandaise, jalapenos on top.  Had it not been so crowded (with lots of potential witnesses), we would have licked the empty container.RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Pepper-Bacon-Hash

RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Pepper-Bacon-Hash-Container5. Sharing – This is the key to Food & Wine Festival happiness.  Knowing that sharing means you can taste more food and sample more beers and wines.  Also knowing when NOT to share is key.  More on that in a sec.

4. Glorious Weather and Beautiful Landscaping – We were so thankful for both.  Stopping to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful surroundings is important to us!  It helps us maximize our enjoyment of every single second.RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Landscape2

3.  A Seared Sea Scallop, Some Garlic Shrimp and Griddled Cheese – All were absolutely wonderful!  The scallop was from Scotland, the shrimp from Australia, and the cheese from Greece.  Oh, the FOOD!  These were among our absolute favorite flavors.RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-ScallopRM-Epcot-Food&Wine-ShrimpRM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Griddled-Cheese

2.  Meeting Duffy the Disney Bear (and lots of other fun folks!) – Sounds weird, the Duffy thing, I know!  We knew where Duffy would be on the Mexico-side of the World Showcase’s entrance since we saw him posing for pictures there in May.  I can think of no way to soften this – our kids loathe, detest, and despise Duffy.  So, being the loving parents that we are, we decided even before we left home for vacation that we needed to have our picture made with Duffy to send to the kids!  The joke was really on us – Duffy was hilarious and super sweet!  We loved Duffy in his cute little pumpkin outfit.  Sigh.  That Duffy!RM-Duffy

1. Crispy. Pork. Belly.  Just say it out loud once or twice and imagine how delicious it sounds… guess what?  It tastes even better!  This, we did not share.  You want to know how to stay married to the same person for 25 years?  Know when NOT to share.  Each of us had our own serving of this incredibly decadent Brazilian delicacy.  We may have made a couple of yummmm sounds, but we ate in companionable silence.  And were happy.RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Crispy-Pork-Belly

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Walt Disney World – The People You Meet

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Me With Nick in the Studios

When I’m at Walt Disney World, I love meeting new people!  Cast Members, other vacationers, fellow bloggers, people on the monorail, bus, in ride queues – I don’t care where I am, I’m going to try to make new friends.  Most of the time my efforts reap excellent rewards!  This last trip to Disney World was no exception.  In fact, I’d say this was the most successful friend-making vacation we’ve ever had!

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In Epcot with Barbie

First and most importantly, we finally got to meet two people we’ve known for more than a year – but had never met face to face.  Nick and Barbie!  Nick is a fellow writer for Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos and Nick and Barbie have their own excellent blog, Disney Musings.  We had a few minutes with Nick and Barbie in the Studios (at Starring Rolls) before they left on their Disney cruise then met up with them again in Epcot (to enjoy a craft beer together) when they got back.  I only wish the four of us could have had more time to visit!

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With Melda in Monsieur Paul

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Gary in Via Napoli

We met a wonderful couple, Melda and Gary (from Florida) at our Italian Food & Wine pairing then saw them again the next day at our French Regional Lunch (and had a beer at Rose and Crown with them afterwards).What a great time we had! Everyone at our table in Via Napoli was so much fun.  Two ladies from Michigan, Cheryl and Patti, were as friendly as could be.  We loved hearing their travel adventure stories and how they became travel buddies.  I only wish it hadn’t been so loud in there – made it really hard to hear each other.  At our French Regional Lunch we sat next to Marta and Bruce, who, as it turns out, will also be on the same Disney cruise with us next summer!

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Food & Wine Festival Buddies

Hanging out at the Food & Wine Festival, we had the opportunity to meet some great folks as we shared tables near the different food booths.  Near Brazil, we met Lauren, Tom, Anna & Chris and had a lengthy and very interesting conversation about genealogy.  Their group was so cute and fun!  In the Rose and Crown Pub, we bellied up to the bar with some Texans clearly having the time of their lives – not really sure if they’ll remember all the fun they were having, but they sure were talkative!  The sweet young couple on our other side were friendly and adorable – the young lady and I having discovered a mutual love for shopping at Anthropologie.

We met an adorable couple with the cutest little baby boy on the bus one evening and discussed DVC for a while – then ran into them again in Pecos Bill’s and got to visit for a few minutes more.  It’s a small world after all!

We were very popular with the Disney research people and found ourselves approached about taking surveys on multiple occasions,  (We figured we fit a certain “mature couple” demographic.)  One of the survey takers, a Cast Member named Alison, was an absolute JOY!  We were very appreciative of Alison’s time – she took a few minutes to chat with us after we completed the survey questions.  Alison is one of those Cast Members who genuinely enjoys her job – you know the ones I mean!  They make all the difference in your vacation happiness.  There were many of those Cast Members on our trip and it just warmed our hearts to interact with them.

We can’t be the only ones who enjoy meeting people at Walt Disney World – what’s the most fun you’ve had making new friends?