Where To Stay At Disney World: Family 2018 Disney World Vacation (Part 3)

You have now successfully reached Orlando, so you’re going to need someplace to stay.

When my parents were footing the bill back in the summer of 2017, we stayed at the Grand Floridian.  This is an onsite resort, which means you are considered to be staying on Walt Disney World grounds.  You get certain advantages by staying onsite, such as Magic Hours and incredibly convenient transportation.  For example, the Grand Floridan has a monorail you can reach on the top floor at the back of the main building.  It connects to Magic Kingdom, the Polynesian Resort, and the Contemporary Resort.  It also connects to the Transportation Center, where you can then catch a ride to Epcot.  Furthermore, it has a bus system that will take you to any of the parks.  The buses run all day and keep running up to an hour after the parks close.  They also have a ferry that will take you across the lake towards Magic Kingdom.  If you time it right at night, you can get an amazing fireworks show.

Our stay at the Grand Floridian was magnificent.  The resort was absolutely amazing.  The employees were not only kind, but bent over backwards to help us and foresaw any possible complications on our behalf.  Everything was sparkling clean, incredibly classy, and beautiful to behold.  We did not have one single issue during our six-day stay.

Honestly, when we return to Disney from now on, we will only stay at the Grand Floridan.  Yes, the rates our exorbitant, but you actually see where all of that money is going — you are treated like gold.  Look into special rates and packages.  The Disney cast members are extremely helpful in helping you find the best deal.  I’ve mentioned Cal before.  Cal spent an hour with us on the phone trying to help us find the best rate for the experience we wanted to have.  If you want to get in touch with Cal, here’s his contact info …

Cal
Walt Disney World® Vacation Advisor
(407) W-DISNEY / (407) 934-7639 Ext. 5243362
Days Off: Wednesday and Thursday
Hours: 10:15 AM to 7:00 PM ET

For this second visit during the summer of 2018, we stayed at the Beach Club Resort.  Cal told us it was a close second to the Grand Floridian.  The rates were generally about $175 less a night than the Grand Floridan, but still very, very expensive.  The Beach Club resort also has the bus system for getting from park to park, and it’s handy in that the back of Epcot is literally a five-minute walk away.  In fact, we walked over to Epcot to view the fireworks several nights because it was so convenient.  They have a ferry system to reach Hollywood Studios, but it was out of service for the time being.  The Beach Club connects to the Yacht Club Resort — literally.  It’s also across the lake from Disney’s Boardwalk, which you could reach by ferry or foot.  The Beach Club shares a very cool pool with the Yacht Club.  This pool actually has a sandbar through the middle of it and a very shallow area for the children to make sandcastles and little lagoons.  They also share a lazy river that runs in a small circle.  Be aware — it’s very deep!  We only managed to get in the pool one day.  We like to hit the parks early and then swim in the evening before heading back out.  The only problem is that it tends to rain during the late afternoons and evenings in Florida.  This normally wouldn’t be an issue, but if there is a lightning strike within six miles, they won’t let you get in the water.  We would get ready, head down, and then have to delay our pool fun due to distant lightning.  In most cases, we were never able to get in at all.  We understood this was for our own safety, but it was still a bummer.

I wish I could tell you that our time at the Beach Club Resort matched our stay at the Grand Floridian … but it didn’t even come close.

Let me first say that the Beach Club bent over backwards to try to make up for the issues we experienced, but I wish these issues never came up at all.

First of all, I knew I was in for trouble when nobody could tell me if Alamo would shuttle me back to the resort when I needed to drop off my rental car at the Disney Car Care Center.  Two different Beach Club Resort cast members suggested I do a taxi, Lyft, or Uber.  When I got to Alamo, they immediately offered to shuttle me back and told me they would take me anywhere on Walt Disney property.  Upon my return, I found the two cast members and alerted them to the news.

Okay, I thought maybe this was an aberration, so I let it go.

We immediately noticed that, while some of the furniture was the same as the Grand Floridan, our room just wasn’t generally as clean.  At over $400 a night, we expected a little more, but whatever.  We rolled with it.

We hit Hollywood Studios that afternoon, spent the night, then visited Magic Kingdom bright and early the next day.  We spent the whole day at Magic Kingdom, then returned at 6:00.  We noticed our room hadn’t been cleaned.  I called down and told the concierge that we were going to go swimming, we’d like our room cleaned around 6:45 p.m.  I then went to the front desk and personally requested that our room be cleaned at 6:45 while we were swimming.  In both cases, I was told it would not be a problem.  Lightning struck within 6 miles, and so we were not allowed into the pools.  My family and I hung around until about 7:45 p.m. in order to give the cleaning service plenty of time.  When we returned at 7:45 p.m., our room still had not been cleaned.  This obviously upset me very much. Not only had I just wasted an hour, but this very simple, baseline service had not been accomplished at an incredibly expensive resort.  I called down.  I spoke to a gentleman.  I requested to speak to a manager.  He told me a manager was not available, but one named Stefan would call me back.  I then went back to the front desk.  I spoke to Samantha.  (As I’m dealing with all of this, the rest of my family is making their way to Epcot.  I’m staying behind in order to manage this unnecessary situation.)  Initially, Samantha could only nod and apologize.  At 8:00 p.m., I was not accepting excuses for a room that had not been cleaned.  She asked me if I still wanted the room cleaned.  I said I definitely still wanted this most basic of service provided — yes.  She offered $100 off our total bill as an apology.  I told her that, frankly, that amount of money is a drop in the ocean compared to what I’m spending during our 6 days at Disney.  She asked me what I would like instead.  I told her I’d have to talk to my wife about it and that I’d touch base with her again after we watched the fireworks at Epcot.

While at Epcot, Stefan called and left a message.  The gist of the call sounded like an apology and excuses as to why the room hadn’t been cleaned.

After our return from Epcot, our room had been tidied up.  It appeared that the sheets were not changed — just the beds made — and floor not vacuumed.  It looked like a quick-job to me. My wife noticed several things were missing such as a bathmat (again), ice bag (again), disposable coffee cups, etc.  My wife went down to speak to Samantha because the whole situation had me far too upset.  To Samantha and Beach Club’s credit, she had a package fully prepared for us.  Samantha offered a full night’s stay refunded, as well as three fast-passes per member of our family.  We found this to be more than fair and were very satisfied with the compensation.  However, we felt as though we had to fight tooth and nail to both get the room cleaned and to procure more than an apology and an excuse.  We wanted action from the start.  The whole ordeal lasted 4 hours with us applying constant pressure to achieve satisfaction.

We thought that was the end of our troubles.  We were wrong.

The next morning, while at the bus stop outside Beach Club, we waited to go to Animal Kingdom.  There was a large group of people.  We noticed a cast member standing nearby.  We stood by the benches in the shade joining those already in the semi-formed line.  Several more families arrived, and my wife kindly informed them the Animal Kingdom line was behind us.  When the very packed bus arrived, those families that arrived after us cut in front of us and got on the bus.  When we made it to the door, the driver wouldn’t let us on — too many people.  I explained to him that most of the people who got on had cut in front of us and another family.  Can you guess what he did?  Just stared at me and then shrugged.  I next approached the cast member who had walked away as the bus initially arrived.  I explained to her the situation.  She apologized and made excuses.  I asked her what her job is, exactly.  She said to make sure people get on and off the bus safely — not to enforce any kind of order as people load.  I won’t lie, after the previous night’s debacle, I lost my cool.  Time was wasting away yet again and we were on pace to miss our first fast-pass (which we did).  I asked for her supervisor to join us.  Not surprisingly, they weren’t available and would have to give me a call.  (Which they never did.)  The cast member gave the other family and us a fast-pass for the inconvenience.  Yet again, had I not complained, the Beach Club cast members would have been more than happy to let all of these situations slide by.

As I already said, we encountered not one single issue during our stay at the Grand Floridian.  Within the first thirty hours at Beach Club, my head was about to explode due to poor customer service.

Again, the night’s refund and the three fast-passes per person absolutely compensated us for our troubles with the cleaning service.  Also, when we returned from Animal Kingdom, the Beach Club left a stuffed Mickey and Minnie Mouse toy for each of my daughters which absolutely delighted us.  Furthermore, the day after that, we had an exquisite desert platter sent to our room which we very much enjoyed.  My point is, Beach Club tried to make it up to us — we acknowledge that.

However, I honestly wish none of that had been necessary.  I would have preferred no issues at all and a smooth stay that didn’t demand that I complain and lose my temper in front of my children (something they rarely see … to that degree).

We don’t expect any further compensation.  We are satisfied with the compensation Beach Club provided.  We realize everyone has a difficult job.  We strive to be reasonable, kind people and we’re sure to tip our cleaning service daily.

But I also want to alert you to our circumstances.  It could be this was all a hiccup; maybe that kind of thing never happens at Beach Club.  I’d like to think all of the onsite Walt Disney World resorts provide exquisite service no matter what the rate variations.  It’s not like Beach Club is considered a budget option.  We were told it was a close second to the Grand Floridian!  Just be aware.  If you experience something that dissatisfies you, speak up.  For the amount of money you are paying , you deserve the best service possible.

All right!  The next installment will detail our superb adventures at each of the Walt Disney World parks!  Thanks for reading.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

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Pops by Michael Chabon – A Book Review

If you visit this site regularly, you probably know I’m a bit of a Michael Chabon fan.  (I met him once, you know.)  His latest book recently released, and I could not wait to read it.

Pops is a very slim collection of nonfiction essays.  I particularly enjoy Chabon’s nonfiction because he is unafraid.  He addresses topics that would scare most authors.  Specifically, he has no issues admitting that fatherhood, and manhood for that matter, is a bit of a work in progress for him.  Even though none of us have it figured out, he readily admits that fact.

Remember, Chabon is a world-renowned Pulitzer Prize winner.  He should have an ego the size of a mansion, but he doesn’t.  His humility is both refreshing and inspiring.

At just 127 pages, Pops succinctly delves into Chabon’s adventures in fatherhood.  If I’m not mistaken, each of his children serves as the focus of an essay.  The themes range from discovering the true nature of a child to seizing upon missed opportunities to trying to teach boys not to act like assholes.  There’s much more, of course, but the unifying factor throughout is Chabon admitting to his own mistakes and simply trying to do the best he can.

The book ends, interestingly enough, with Chabon writing an essay about his own father.  If you are a consistent reader of Chabon, you understand that this is well-covered ground.  He is not mean when it comes to his own father, yet he also isn’t sugarcoating anything.  It’s obvious that he loves his own dad, but it’s also apparent that he didn’t always like the man.

If find it fascinating that in a book about his own trials, tribulations, and triumphs as a father, he ends on a note that helps us to understand the events that forged the sort of father he would one day become.  Now, I trust Chabon completely.  I’ve been reading him since 2004, and I’ve never had reason to doubt his honor or sincerity.  However, it is worth noting that in all his recollections regarding his father, we’ve only had his unique perspective.  And now, in writing about himself as a father, we only have his point of view.  What would his own children say about these essays?  Will they find Chabon’s writing compatible with their own personal experiences?

Chabon is incredibly intelligent.  It would not surprise me at all if he were to have his children participate in a podcast or an interview or something to serve as a companion piece to this novel.  It simply struck me as an interesting thought.

As always, Chabon delivers beautiful prose describing his escapades in parenting.  If you love his writing, you’ll love this book.

 

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson – A Book Review

I got this item for free on Amazon Vine.  When I saw it, I thought it would be perfect for my eight-year-old daughter.  She’s developed a real affinity for super heroes, and I particularly want her to realize there are plenty of strong, intelligent, respectable female super heroes as well.

Initially, I assumed this would be a reference book of our most popular female heroes for her to both enjoy and from which to learn.  That was my mistake.  (That sounds overly dramatic.  This is not a negative review at all.  I’ll explain in a bit …)

As is my habit when I get unknown books for my children, I preview them first.  It became very obvious very quickly that this is not intended for an eight-year-old.

This is not so much a reference book as it is a historical overview of female comic book characters going as far back as the 1930s.  The book is divided into chapters by decade and presents anywhere from five to twelve characters per chapter.  The author tries to choose culturally important characters or characters that influenced the industry, and is sure to include an “Icon Of the Decade” at the end of every chapter.  The characters are incredibly diverse and from a wide range of publishers.

These publishers sometimes include those of the “adult” variety, and so some of the illustrations may be a little more suited for an older audience.  Like I said, I assumed this book was meant for children, and that’s my mistake.  There is a long, sordid history of objectification and exploitation of female characters in comic books, and this book does not shy away from that fact.

Nicholson has written a well-researched historical guide of influential female characters throughout the medium’s evolution.  She also provides nice insight and a funny sense of humor.  As my daughter ages, I will be more than happy to let her look through this book in order to understand the journey of the female comic book character as well as the growth of the industry.  In regards to females, comic books have come a long, long way, though there is still room to grow.

I am heartened that the final chapter, the 2010s, showcase some outstanding characters who are self-reliant, intelligent, strong, full of story, and largely free of being sexualized.  As a father of two little girls, I pray this is indicative of a change in societal views as well.

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Hope In the Dark by Rebecca Solnit – A Book Review

It so happened that on the morning of January 13th, I rode in my car and heard Rebecca Solnit on the NPR program entitled On the Media.  She read an excerpt from her 2004 book called Hope In the Dark.  Her reading, as well as her subsequent interview, convinced me that I had to experience the work for myself.

She begins with a quote from Virginia Woolf during WWI that says, “The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think.”  Solnit goes on to clarify that, in this case, darkness does not equate disaster, it merely reminds us that the future is ultimately unknown.

These are troubling times, and it is by no accident that this book, which is well over ten years old, is experiencing a resurgence.  Hope In the Dark illustrates some horrific calamities of the late 20th Century, but it also goes on to discuss how those disasters served as a catalyst to change, real change—positive change.  It also spends a great deal of time illustrating that the most potent of such change came through the efforts of people, regular citizens, standing up, taking action, and making their voices heard.

And even though some of these events may seem dated, if you read carefully enough, you’ll realize that the specific things she’s focusing upon absolutely have an effect on today’s local and global political climate, and, well, meteorological climate for that matter!

It is with great satisfaction that I read this book even as the Women’s March in Washington and throughout the world ensued.  It proved that what she said then is undeniably applicable today.  Our peaceful action speaks volumes; our voices can and will be heard.

Many of us feel hopeless today, but this book will instill faith in your fellow citizen … and yourself.  It will inspire you to do something, no matter how small, and to make your voice resonate.  It will, in the end, help you to realize that the future is dark, but, as Solnit points out, many things grow in the dark, things that later offer both beauty and sustenance.

We have the power to make our own story; we have the means to create our own future.

(If you’d like to listen to Solnit’s appearance during On the Media, visit this link: http://www.wnyc.org/story/rebecca-solnit-hope-lies-and-making-change/)

 

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Superman: The Unauthorized Biography by Glen Weldon – A Book Review

Glen Weldon is my kind of person – a total nerd who writes magnificently.  His blend of intricate knowledge and hilarious humor made The Caped Crusade a fun read, one which prompted me to check out Superman: The Unauthorized Biography.

Though I’m not a die-hard fan of Superman, I’ve always been interested in his character, and, more specifically, his psychology.  There is obviously something that sets Superman apart from the rest of super heroes and even other pop-culture icons.  When you consider that Superman has appeared on a monthly basis since 1938, well, that’s staying power.

Weldon provides insight into both the character’s multifaceted history as well as what maintains his longevity.  From the comic books to the radio shows to the serials to the TV programs o the movies, Weldon offers a crash course in the Man of Steel, one that will both educate and entertain.

The book is divided into short segments moving along chronologically that will allow a reader to enjoy the book for either short or long periods of time.   Weldon has a wicked sense of humor, so be prepared to appreciate the elegance of the character, but also be ready to chuckle at some of his more ridiculous aspects.

Superman: The Unauthorized Biography will please students of the medium, crazed fans, and casual readers alike.  It moves at a brisk pace, offers just the right amount of information, and even provides a few fresh perspectives concerning the Last Son of Krypton.

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The Caped Crusade by Glen Weldon – A Book Review

Though previously unfamiliar with Glen Weldon, a friend recognized my love of Batman and recommended I read this historical overview of the famed detective.

Of course, any item pertaining to Batman generally makes me happy, so I immediately checked The Caped Crusade out from my local library and set to work.

Weldon uses a highly entertaining writing style.  He is an articulate and expressive author with a fun, even humorous, voice.  While delving deep into the history of Batman beginning in 1939, he also offers analysis as to why the character survives – even thrives – year after year, decade after decade.  This blend of scholarly prose mixed with awfully funny asides makes for an engaging, informative, and amusing read.

Fans of all eras will devour this piece.  Of course, as it probably stands to reason, I became most interested once he hit the 1980s.  As a forty year old, it was thrilling to remember the comics I enjoyed as a child viewed through a historical prism.

Another aspect of the book riveted me.  The subtitle of The Caped Crusade is actually Batman and the Rise Of Nerd Culture.  Weldon correlates Batman with his most rabid fans from the early days all the way to present.  Of course, anyone with Internet access knows how ugly the comment sections and message boards can be, and Weldon offers insight into why and how “nerds” came to such a state.  Most interesting, though it’s easier than ever to spout off, “nerds” have been raving about The Dark Knight as far back as the 1950s, just through different means.

Weldon also embarks upon a fascinating angle dissecting those “nerds” who love to anonymously threaten others via the Web.  He only touches upon the topic, relatively speaking, but it’s clearly something we, as a society, need to reflect upon.  I think he would agree that this goes beyond just “nerds” venting in animosity.  Yes, there are those who take it way t0o far when they see a “Batman” they don’t like, but such vehemence is not contained to comic book characters alone.  Politics, sports, movies, celebrities … there is a culture taking these things far too seriously to the point of threatening bodily harm, even death, to those in disagreement.  I would love to see him devote an entire book to this culture in a broad sense and not regulate it only to the Batman “nerds” within the faction.

If you’re a Batman fan, I know you’ll enjoy this book. Much of it I knew already, but Weldon did introduce some new information I’d never before encountered.  And even though I already had most of the facts, the lens through which he delivered it made it all feel fresh, new, and, most importantly, fun.

The Revenant by Michael Punke – A Book Review

No doubt you’ve heard quite a bit about the movie entitled The Revenant.  Knowing it was based upon a book, I decided I’d try to read it before seeing the film.  I am very glad I did.

The Revenant is a story of revenge, pure and simple.  It’s also mostly based upon a true story.  Punke is forthcoming that some characters were created for the purpose of narrative, but the tale is largely constructed upon testimony and research.  It’s about Hugh Glass, a man left behind by his fur trading party in 1822 as they traversed the wild frontier.  He’d been attacked by a bear in the wilderness, and no one thought he’d survive, especially the two men tasked with burying him after he finally died.  They didn’t wait for him to die before they left, though, and they took something from him, something he wanted back and would kill them for stealing.

This book is a fast, exciting, action-packed read that flows incredibly well especially considering how much information it seamlessly infuses.  Punke is careful to provide ample backstory for each major character, and he does so both creatively and in a manner that only enhances the overall story.

The book is so much more satisfying than the movie.  Hugh Glass is no hero, certainly not as the movie depicted, and his quest for revenge had little to do with any sense of love, honor, or family.  The film significantly departed from the book in nearly all cases, and I don’t understand why.  Had it stuck word for word to the book, it would have been far less cliched and far more complex.  After all, few of us are heroes, and many of us become obsessed for rather selfish reasons.  Glass is no exception.  His flawed character coupled with his indomitable will to survive makes for a fascinating read.