Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Day 1 and 2 of the Disneyfication

Last week I was in Disney World. Since some of my days were less interesting, at least as far as long recounting, I’ll do some squisheding. The purpose of my visit was the RWA National Conference, which had been originally scheduled for Nashville, in the Opryland Hotel which sadly found it’s conference rooms filled with about ten feet of water this spring, forcing them to cancel. (The Literacy Signing, which we will get to later, still made donations to Nashville area programs.) So we moved to Disney, or technically the Dolphin and Swan Hotels, located near Epcot. They are Starwood hotels which meant we had some different food contracts, but you could still breakfast with characters should you wish too. I also feel that the Disney effect was present in the training of the excellent staff found in the hotel and restaurants.

So, Monday I arrived at the Dulles airport early enough that (especially combined with my pre-check in online - one of the best inventions ever) I was not in danger of not being let on the flight, but late enough that my bag got a pretty yellow tag indicating that it was late. Sadly, this just a bit late thing became a bit of a theme, although happily, no tragedies, travel or otherwise occurred.
I then went to grab a shuttle, telling them I was in the Dolphin and Swan and the very nice lady explained that they were two hotels, albeit next to each other, so it would be helpful if I could tell them which one. Well, my ipod kept freezing on the free airport wifi, so I ended up switching to my phone and finally getting to my info to learn I was in the swan. Our shuttle driver was very chatty and full of tips and information as for where to go for snacks, and the best restaurants to try, and how to handle confirming out return shuttle trip. I imagine when folks are going to Disney it’s easier to expect that they are tourists.
We arrived, I checked in, hung up all my clothes and then decided to check out this fabulous pool. They had one sort of standard lap pool, and then further down (closer to the Dolphin) a “grotto” pool with stone sides and a waterfall and a bridge over the middle. The bridge was helpful, since it provided shade. The pool was deep in enough places to feel cooler than bathwater despite the steamy heat.
Later I headed back and dried off and relaxed before heading to the Disney boardwalk for dinner. I went to Kouzzina by Cat Cora where my food was delicious and my waiter was solicitous, even giving suggestions for better food enjoyment. (Dinner: Spanopakita, wine, and the entree trio - small portions of lasagna, cinnamon chicken and a baby lamb slider. All delicious.)
I also found the general store, where in addition to many Disney trinkets, I found milk (I had brought chai with me.)

Tuesday I set the alarm since I had been assured that the best time to hit Animal Kingdom was morning both because the record setting July heat would be less of a pain and because the animals were more likely to be doing something other than sleeping in the shade (due to the record setting July heat). I took the bus from the hotel to Animal Kingdom and discovered as I made my way in (where seriously, even the guy who searched my bag was super friendly) that I was so early that I was going to get to see the opening. Whoops. The opening was actually cute (Mickey Minnie and Pluto make sure they have everything they need including sunscreen) and short. The safari was popular so I got a Fast Pass and made my way around to the animal preserve before heading back. Fortunately Animal Kingdom - in their attempt to make it look like you may have globe-trotted to Asia or Africa (or Dino-land) had lots of trees. So, in addition to my hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, I had a good amount of shade. I went back to the safari and saw a good amount of animals including my personal favorites rhinos (black and white). The safari had a storyline that was amusing enough and yet did not intrude on your ability to animal watch. (And kudos to the drivers who must go through that script many, many times a day.) I did the Tiger Trail and some other animal watching bits before deciding that I’d rather have lunch back at the hotel and heading back to the buses. After lunch I went back to the room for a little relaxation figuring I’d head to Typhoon Lagoon once the sun was a little lower in the sky.
Well, the first thing I discovered was that the Typhoon Lagoon bus was a multi-stop bus. We started at the Swan and then went to the Dolphin (understandably, although I should mention the Dolphin is a Florida dolphin-fish, not a dolphin dolphin, it’s what many people call mahi mahi). After that we went to the Beach Club (another hotel), and then the Yacht Club (same) and then we went to Downtown Disney (all restaurants and shops as far as I can tell, this is also where a princesses, a fairy, and a prince hopped onto the bus with their parents) and then, finally to Typhoon Lagoon. Now, this really was fine and it was a free bus, but I had been spoiled on my previous trip. And it did mean that the way back my hotel as first.
Now Typhoon Lagoon is a water park. It is an expensive water park. (Yes, I know, but seriously, I thought our Six Flags was bad...and yes this is because I remember when that Six Flags was Wild World and had a twenty dollar entry.) But, Typhoon Lagoon has a Shark Reef and you can snorkel with sharks and stingrays. Now first, I should clarify that this is not like the trip - say - that my uncle took where you scubaed down and they let loose chum to attract whatever sharks chose to come by. These sharks and stingrays and fish live here and at this point one imagines they are used to humans hovering above them. I also figure that, you know, this is Disney and if these sharks or stingrays act up, they make them listen to “It’s a Small World” until they stop. Disney provides mask and snorkel (which helped with my packing) and then they let you in in groups suggesting you swim arms only, which they said was so you didn’t kick the folks behind you (I wondered if it also decreased your chances of annoying the sea life). It was really cool, if short little trip. It looks kind of like a pool with a reef and shipwreck stuck in the middle. They have a bridge if you want to see without danger of touching. After that I went for a turn on the lazy river before heading back to the hotel and out to dinner.
Dinner was at Bluezoo - a Todd English restaurant. It was fabulous, and again I had superior service and ended up getting talked into dessert which was a delicious raspberry concoction but after tuna tartar and yellowtail fish with a soy ginger sauce dessert stuffed me.