May 29, 2006

Walt Disney World Day One

Well we spent the past week at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. We had an outstanding time. I must admit personally I was a bit hesitant to go with the ages of our kids (6,5 and 2)but Serona really wanted to and I figured we could make it work. I am glad we went and even though I initially said I only wanted to go once I am sure we will go again sometime since everyone enjoyed themselves so much.

We had planned this whole trip as a surprise to the kids and we were able to keep it a secret the entire time. This included getting summer clothes ready, packing in secret and dropping our dogs off at a dog sitter for a week. It got harder and harder to keep it from them as we got closer but we made it!

We woke them up on Monday morning at 5:30am and told them to get ready because we had to get daddy somewhere really early and we could not be late. Our car was already packed from the night before after they went to bed. Once everyone was dressed and ready we sat them at the kitchen table and told them that daddy did not need to go to work this week and that we were all going to spend the week together in DisneyWorld! At first it did not register and then when it did they were VERY excited, Ciaran was jumping up and down and yelling. Our neighbor said he heard him. We contained the excitement and got in the car and headed to the airport.

Most of Monday involved travel car, airplane, tram and buses, thankfully all air conditioned. Our check in experience did not go so well at our resort in WDW. WE arrived fairly early and had planned to spend the day swimming and head to our character dinner that evening. Our room was not ready for a long time and we went over past check in time and realized they were swapping out all the mattresses in the entire building and this was going to take forever! All our swimming stuff was in our carry-on's which were checked at the front desk at the other side of the resort. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, a moderate WDW resort and it is huge and very spread out, which involves a lot of walking.

We finally got some very nice gentleman to help us and we got moved into a room on the other side of the resort. By that time it was too late to get our clothes and go swimming. Atleast we were in air conditioning again though as we waited for our bags to trickle in. A slight mix up with bags and a fear that the suitcase with the kids clothes did not make it (they did) and everyone was grumpy from having been in jeans in the Florida heat.

A tip for the future. Be sure to bring your suits and shorts in your carry on and change right into them in the airport BEFORE you head to the resort. Then no matter what happens at least you can check your bags and enjoy the pool until they figure the rest out. I think we would have all been less grumpy if this is how we had done things. Alas we did not but we did have something that redeemed the evening for us.

Our friend Jen, who goes to WDW nearly every year, was full of helpful tips and suggestions and wisdom. One of the best tips she gave us was to reserve a character dinner with Mickey and friends at Chef Mickey in the Contemporary Resort. We boarded a bus and headed to Magic Kingdom (no direct resort to resort transportation) - the kids could see the outside but truthfully to them so far this vacation was not very magical and did not feel like they were in WDW at all. Seeing the castle and space mountain from the outside did not help in the way we had hoped it would. But we rode the monorail loop around several resorts and ended inside the Contemporary Resort (the monorail actually goes through and stops inside the building) for a character dinner.

We arrived a bit early and let the kids look around the store. We bought them each a pin trading lanyard designed to hold WDW pins and placed their nametages and a small carabeener with a light on it. Each child got to pick out a pin for their lanyard. We then went inside to dinner at Chef Mickey's. Having never been to a character dinner we did not know what to expect. It was really great!

Our friend Linda recommended buying hats as the kids first souvenirs and having all the character sign the hats instead of an autograph book. We loved this tip and the hats turned out great!!! So we arrived, kids wearing their hats (Sirah - a white Tinker Ball cap that says "Don't even Tink about it!", Ciaran - a tan one with a Mickey mouse on the top, Rhia - a pink princess hat with small pictures of each of the main princesses all around the base of the hat) and when we left they had already had signatures from Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, Chip and Dale. Of course they also got hugs and kisses and some play time with each of the characters.

Our experience at Chef Mickey's was top notch and of all our character experiences (we had one each day) this was my personal favorite. Chef Mickey's is buffet style but since we have a peanut allergy and are vegetarians the chef came to our table to meet with us. Chef Robert was fabulous. He really went the extra mile for us. He walked us through the entire buffet telling me what had nuts or meats and even what might have traces of nuts or what he could not be sure of. He asked if it was enough and offered to make us separate dishes if we needed. We said the kids would be fine but could he make Serona and I something. He asked what we wanted and we decided on an Asian noodle dish. He made one of the best I have had considering we can not have nuts or meat which is in many of the oils and traditional ingredients in many Asian foods. Chef Robert came out several times to check on us and make sure everything was ok. Him and Serona talked wine a bit and he was always respectful to leave if he saw a character coming to our table and he even took our family picture together with Minnie Mouse for us. He really gave new meaning to Customer service.

As for the characters themselves at Chef Mickey's they were very good with the kids. The took their time with each family, posed for several pictures, signed anything you gave them (our hats for us) and took time to play with each child. You never got the sense they were in a rush but rather that they were there to spend time with your family. We were there a long time and each character took a nice amount of time with the kids. They were well spaced out so we did not have a rush of characters all at once or too long without seeing any. There were also parades and songs with the characters and loud napkin waving moments. This dinner made my kids realize they were in Walt Disney World. Excellent food, excellent chef, excellent customer service, excellent character experiences and you get a monorail to boot. I highly recommend this for your first evening at WDW if you choose not to go to the parks.

We headed back to our resort and I took the kids to the pool while Serona went to meet our group leader to pick up our park tickets at a different part of the resort. The Caribbean Beach resort has several pools, one in each village as well as the main pirate themed pool at Old Port Royale. Since it was late at night we opted for one of the local pools in our Aruba village. It was a nice temperature, not too crowded at 10pm and the kids were so excited to finally get in the pool. We played for a bit and then the accident happened.

Ciaran jumped in the water and was under water for a bit too long I thought. I went to pull him up right as he pushed off the floor to jump up and he jumped right into my chin, hard. I bit my lip hard and was bleeding badly and in pain. I had to pull all three kids out of the water to many protests from Ciaran (who did not understand the severity) and asked a woman to look at my lip. She said I needed to go back to our room, put ice and pressure on and offered to help me with the kids back to my room. I had her help me pack up but assured her we could get back to the room where Serona would be. I held a towel to my lip the whole time and the kids thankfully were cooperative about helping each other and we got back to the room where Serona was.

I was ready to head to the emergency room in Orlando. But a phone call to my FIL, with a medical background, and a bit later the bleeding stopped and we decided just to wait it out and see how it healed. What a day! Welcome to Walt Disney World. Still we did have a lot of fun and we headed off to bed for the parks the next day!

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