« October 2011 | Main | December 2011 »

November 2011 Archives

November 7, 2011

Ghirardelli -- Downtown Disney

Last week, I posted an article entitled "How I Write a Blog." This week's entry should be titled, "How I DON'T Write a Blog." You see, life hit me with a few unexpected curve balls that ate up most of my week. Don't worry. Everything is fine. However, these events put me a little behind in my blogging. So I rummaged through my old articles and found one from October, 2008. Hopefully, many of you haven't already read it or if you have, don't remember it. Unless some other unexpected events change my plans, I hope to be back next week with a blog about the Yacht & Beach Resort.



I used to live in San Francisco. My apartment was within easy walking distance of Ghirardelli Square. Occasionally, I would take the cable car home from work and stop by Ghirardelli for an ice cream cone before heading back to my apartment. Or walk over on a foggy Sunday morning for a steaming cup of hot chocolate. I have very pleasant memories of this place and this is definitely a "must see" location for tourists visiting The City.


Ghirardelli%2011.jpg


When I moved to Orlando I was happy that I wouldn't have to go without these wonderful taste sensations, for located at Downtown Disney Marketplace is a branch store. Although not as extensive as their San Francisco site, you can still delight in their marvelous chocolate.


Ghirardelli%2001.jpg


But before we discuss this shop, we need to talk about pronunciation. It's "Gear-ar-delly" NOT "Jeer-a-delly." It's a hard "G" NOT a soft "G." Don't believe me? Check out the sign on the side of their building. Many people have trouble with this name.


Ghirardelli%2003.jpg


The Ghirardelli building is divided into two sections, each with its own entrance. The smaller section is a shop that's devoted to selling chocolate in all forms.


Ghirardelli%2005.jpg


A host or hostess is usually on hand to pass out samples. I always stop by, even when making a mad dash through the area, for a freebee.


Ghirardelli%2004.jpg


Ghirardelli is one of the few American manufacturers to oversee their chocolate making process from cocoa bean through to the finished product. They reject up to 40% of the beans they're offered in order to assure that only the best are used in their product. They roast their beans in-house and remove the shells first to insure better temperature control. And finally, they grind their chocolate to 19 microns (a human hair is 100 microns in diameter) to ensure there is no grainy feel in their product.

Yum!

The larger half of the store is devoted to ice cream. Luscious ice cream. In my opinion, some of the best ice cream you'll find anywhere.

This section was recently remodeled (2008) and I feel that the new arrangement facilitates better crowd control. Yes, there are still lines on a hot afternoon, but they seem move more quickly.


Ghirardelli%2006.jpg

Ghirardelli%2007.jpg


Once you've ordered your Hot Fudge Sundae, Banana Split, or other tempting decadence, you are given a number to be placed on your table so your server can find you later.

When the weather is hot, the indoor seating area fills up quickly.


Ghirardelli%2008.jpg


Outdoors, you'll find a covered seating area along the side of the building. When the weather is nice, this is an especially pleasant spot to sit and enjoy your dessert.


Ghirardelli%2009.jpg


The tables have also been redesigned to look like Ghirardelli chocolate wrappers.


Ghirardelli%2010.jpg


Additional seating is available across the promenade under Ghirardelli umbrellas.

Please remember to tip the host or hostess who brings you your ice cream. The way this entire operation is arranged, it's easy to forget that these folks are serving you to some degree.

For more information about Ghirardelli, check out their web-site. You can order many of their products online.



November 11, 2011

Festival of the Masters 2011 (This is NOT about Golf)

Festival of the Masters 2011


Festival of the Masters Logo


Each autumn, Disney hosts Festival of the Masters at Downtown Disney. This event showcases the works of over 150 artists and stretches from the Marketplace to the Westside. Festival of the Masters is considered one of the top open-air art shows in the country and features original and limited edition paintings, photographs, sculptures, pottery, jewelry, and more. And within each category, a number of styles and techniques are employed to bring you a dizzying array of art. To ensure the quality of the pieces to be showcased, all participants must have won first, second or third place, or received "best in show" in a recognized, juried art showing.

This year marks the 36th Festival of the Masters and is sponsored by Michaels, the arts and crafts store. The hours are as follows:

Friday, November 11, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 13, 2011 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Each participant displays their art within a tent -- and row after row of these tents are on hand to dazzle your senses and tempt your pocket book. I snapped a few pictures of the artwork just to give you a sampling of the variety that's available.


Tent - Booths

Artwork


A close observer might notice that the artwork surrounding House of Blues takes on a funky tone. Here, over thirty noted folk artists showcase their work in an appropriate venue. Be sure to check out the Front Porch Bar performances while in the area.

And speaking of performances, Disney has made sure that there are plenty of musicians on hand to keep you entertained as you drift from one exhibit to the next.


Musicians


One of the highlights of the event is chalk painting. Located in the Marketplace section of Downtown Disney, talented artists spend hours transforming concrete into fine works of art - only to know that it will eventually be washed away by janitorial when the event is over. This year, more than 100 artists will use more than 3,000 square feet of sidewalk as their canvas. Since I was at this event early Friday morning, I don't have any finished works to show you here, but take my word for it, these talented artists create breathtaking drawings.


Chalk Painting

Chalk Painting


Every year, Disney tries to add new elements to Festival of the Masters and this year they are showcasing artists that specialize in Disney themes. Since my house is decorated in "Disney," this shop was very dangerous for me to visit.


Disney Art Village

Disney Art


Many of these Disney artists are on site and are happy to speak with you and discuss their art. In addition, they will gladly sign any piece you purchase. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Rood at the Art of Disney shop and browse some of his work.


Brian Rood and his Art

Brian Rood and his Art


A number of booths feature activities for the younger set. One of these is presented by this year's festival sponsor, Michaels. Here, kids can decorate their own picture frame with doodads and thingamajigs and top them off with a set of mouse ears. And the best thing about this activity, the frames are free.


Picture Frame


Another event sponsored by Michaels allows kids to color in panels. Individually, these panels are meaningless, but when added to the mural, a giant picture comes to life. When one mural is completed, another is started.


Coloring a Panel

Mural from Panels


Lego is sponsoring a similar event. Kids are given a small, flat Lego which has been color coded. The kids then add additional Legos to this starting piece as indicated by the colors. When done, their Lego is added to a giant board to help create a plastic work of art. Michaels and Lego are tricky. These uncompleted murals force you to return later to see what part you played in the creation of art.


Lego Piece

Lego Pieces

Lego Art Work


Another activity is sponsored by Sammy Duvall, the group that offers waterskiing and parasailing on Bay Lake. At this booth, guests can purchase and decorate a pair of TOMS shoes with a number of decorations. And for every pair of shoes you purchase, Sammy Duvall will donate a pair of shoes to a child in need.


TOMS Shoes

TOMS Shoes Decorations


Over at Cirque du Solei, face painters are happy to give you a makeover. And outside Disney Quest, artists help you draw some of your favorite Disney characters.


Face Painting

Drawing a Disney Character


Raglan Road used this year's Festival of the Masters to unveil a new, commissioned work by famed Irish artist Graham Knuttel. Mr. Knuttel has created works for Sylvester Stallone, Whoopie Goldberg, Colin Farrell, and Robert DeNiro. His latest piece will hang above the stage at Raglan Road. I was on hand for the unveiling. Mr. Knuttel can be seen on the right. If you like this piece, portions of the painting have been recreated on plates and mugs and can be purchase in the Raglan Road gift shop.


Commissioned art by Graham Knuttel

Plate with Graham Knuttel Art Work


I have only mentioned a few of the activities on hand to entertain everyone in the family. There are far too many to talk about in this article. In addition to activities, food and drink booths have been positioned along the walkways, including a station for beer, wine, and champagne.

Festival of the Masters is very popular. I suggest arriving at opening if you want a hassle-free experience. As parking at Downtown Disney can be a nightmare, I usually park in the lot behind Cirque du Solei as spaces are easier to obtain in this area. Then I meander my way across Downtown Disney, enjoying the exhibits. When I reach the far end of the Marketplace, I take the boat back across Village Lake and I'm at my car.

I have to be honest, I've been attending Festival of the Masters for twelve years and I've never purchased a piece of art from one of these vendors, yet I wouldn't miss this event. I look at this weekend as a chance to experience some stunning artwork in a festive atmosphere - free of charge. And while I'm there I have lunch at one of the many restaurants, visit some of my favorite Downtown Disney shops, and listen to the live music. Not to mention, enjoy the chalk art which always blows me away.

I know that many of you plan your Disney World vacations around Epcot's Flower & Garden Show or the Food & Wine Festival. Maybe next year you might want to consider a trip that encompasses the Festival of the Masters. This event is definitely worth your time and you can easily spend the better part of the day enjoying the art, participating in the activities, and eating. Since I live locally, this event is a "must do" on my calendar.



November 21, 2011

Yacht Club Resort - Part One

The Yacht & Beach Club are two separate resorts with distinctively different motifs. Yet, it's difficult to speak of one without mentioning the other. Much of this has to do with the fact that both hotels are housed within one large building and many of the facilities are shared between the two.

The Yacht & Beach Club resort was designed by Robert A.M. Stern of New York and was built during Michael Eisner's tenure as CEO. The Yacht Club opened on November 5, 1990 and the Beach Club opened a couple of weeks later on November 19th. The Yacht & Beach Club are considered deluxe resorts.

A casual visitor might not notice the theming differences between the two resorts, but they are clearly evident if you take the time to look. The Yacht Club (painted gray with white trim) has a formal ambiance and was inspired by resorts that might have been found on Martha's Vineyard during the early 20th century. The Beach Club (painted blue with white trim) is far more playful in style and was inspired by cottages found in Newport Beach. I'm embarrassed to admit, it took me several years before I noticed that the Beach Club sits on a sandy beach while the Yacht Club has a marina. Duh.

I'm going to start this article discussing the Yacht Club.


Yacht Club Logo

Yacht Club Entrance

Yacht Club Exterior


If you arrive during the morning or afternoon hours, you will be greeted by a cast member decked out in nautical attire. He looks like he just might skipper a yacht of his own. This gentleman is extremely knowledgeable about Walt Disney World and can answer many of your questions regarding restaurants and services. He can also help you find your way around the resort. Research has shown that greeters can positively influence a person's perception of a business and Disney now uses these amiable cast members at a number of their resorts.


Yacht Club Greeter


The globe found in the center of the lobby was created by Walt Disney Imagineering and is reminiscent of those of the 19th century. If you look closely, you'll discover fictitious names and a hidden Mickey. For more information about this globe, just ask the skipper.


Globe


The two story lobby of the Yacht Club is formal without being stuffy. As you would expect, a nautical theme is used to help tell the story. Comfortable sofas and chairs have been arranged to create a number of intimate conversation areas and fresh flowers accent many of the tables. Be sure to check out the two model ships. The detailing is exquisite. And kids should be encouraged to find the chest-of-drawers which features name plates for Mickey, Minnie, and other characters.


Yacht Lobby

Yacht Lobby

Yacht Lobby

Yacht Lobby

Model Ship

Character Chest


When entering the resort, the check-in desk is located to the right and the concierge desk is located to the left. There is also a seating area with a TV playing Disney cartoons to keep the little ones entertained while checking in.


Check-in Desk

Concierge Desk

Children's Waiting Area


The Yacht Club has 630 rooms with an average room size of 380 square feet. Most rooms feature two queen beds and a sofa/daybed that can accommodate an additional person (the room can sleep five). Some rooms have one king bed.

The nautical theme is continued in the rooms but does not overpower. The walls are covered with white wallpaper featuring a small blue design. The headboard, nightstand, and credenza are painted cream. The carpet is blue and brown and the drapes continue this color scheme.

The rooms at the Yacht Club are using a "spa" type treatment when making the beds. Instead of a bedspread, a second top sheet encases the blankets and a decorative blue throw is draped across the foot of the bed.

Please note, the room I stayed in was a corner room. This allowed for two extra windows (and a much brighter room). These extra windows are located to each side of the credenza. Most rooms only have one window/door at the far end of the sleeping area. Keep this in mind when viewing my pictures.


Standard Yacht Room

Standard Yacht Room


The credenza holds a refrigerator, four drawers, and a number of shelves. In the Club Level rooms, a DVD player can also be found on the credenza. Because this was a corner room with extra windows, the flat screen TV sits on the credenza. In most rooms, the TV is mounted on the wall.

The daybed has so many overstuffed pillows that it's necessary to remove a few before using this piece of furniture as a sofa.


Credenza

Daybed


One feature I really like is the small shelf attached to the wall next to one of the beds. In essence, it's an extra nightstand. This is a nice touch.


Nightstand Shelf


A desk with a pull-out computer table is ample in size and provides easy access to electrical outlets and high-speed internet connections.

Note, Disney is currently testing Wi-Fi in a number of their resorts. The Yacht & Beach are on this list. I used this Wi-Fi service and was very pleased with the ease of connection and the speed. At the moment, this connection is free. However, I have no idea what the future may hold and if charges are on the horizon.


Desk


On the desk is a very cute Mickey Mouse lamp. At one time, this lamp could be purchased at the Fittings & Fairing shop found off of the lobby. However, it is no longer for sale. (I'm glad I purchased mine when I did.)


Mickey Mouse Lamp


The balcony is decent sized - not huge, but typical for a Disney resort. Two chairs and a table provide a nice place to have a cup of coffee in the morning before you start your day.


Yacht Balcony

Yacht Balcony


In the entry/hallway are a closet and another chest of drawers. A coffee maker and cups are located atop the chest and an iron, ironing board, luggage rack, and small wall safe can be found in the closet. All in all, the Yacht Club rooms offer plenty of storage space.


Chest of Drawers

Closet


I burst out laughing when I went to throw away a bit of trash. At the bottom of all the trash receptacles is a small paper insert advertising the Yacht & Beach Club. Talk about an elegant detail.


Trash Can Insert


The bathroom is designed for efficiency. Two basins are nice for parties of four and an extra marble shelf provides plenty of counter space for toiletries. A make-up mirror is attached to the wall (Club Level only) and a hairdryer can be found either on the wall or in a cloth bag on the shelving beneath the sinks. The shower and toilet are located in a separate room. The shower/tub is plenty large enough and the control is easy to use. (Sometime shower fixtures baffle me in their complexity.) There is also a telephone next to the toilet. The room is stocked with five fluffy towels and the toilet paper is of good quality.


Sink and Vanity

Sink and Vanity

Sink and Vanity

Toilet and Shower


Here is a two minute video of a standard Yacht Club room.



The fifth floor of the resort is designated as Club Level and features 20 suites and 71 standard rooms. Access to this level requires a special room key.

If you have booked a Club Level room and are arriving by car, the cast member at the resort's entrance will notify the appropriate personnel when you check in at the guard shack. Once your reach the porte cochere, a Club Level cast member will greet you by name and escort you to a special check-in desk located on the fifth floor. As is so often the case with Disney, it's the small details that make things special. Even a dish of salt water taffy, an Atlantic City favorite of the 19th century, is on hand while checking in.


Yacht Club Main Entrance

Club Level Cast Member

Club Level Concierge Desks


Guests staying on the Club Level are given a yellow room/charge key/card rather than the blue card designated for the rest of the resort. To access the fifth floor, one of these room keys must be inserted into a special slot found above the elevator buttons.


Club Level Room Key


The fifth floor check-in desks offer full concierge services (7am to 10pm). If you need restaurant or show reservations, these cast members will do their utmost to see that you get what you want. If you need directions, transportation, or anything else, just stop by with your request. Chances are good these folks will be able to help you.

Also available to Club Level guests is a lounge, the Regatta Club. This comfortable area features cozy sofas, chairs, and tables, a spacious balcony, newspapers, and a television.


Club Level Lounge

Club Level Lounge

Club Level Lounge Balcony


Offered in the Regatta Club are a wide array of complimentary food and drink. A continental breakfast is offered each morning. This includes cereals, assorted breads and pastries, fruit, juices, coffee, and teas. In the afternoon, cookies and other tempting snacks are available. And in the evening, different hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, antipasto, cheese plates, and desserts are rotated throughout the week. A selection of sodas is available all day and wine, beer, and cordials are offered in the evening - all included in your room price. Service is as follows:

Coffee: 6:30am to 7am
Continental Breakfast: 7am to 10:30am
Snacks & Soft Drinks: 11:30am to 3pm
Tea Time: 3pm to 4pm
Hors d'oeuvres & Wine: 5pm to 7pm
Desserts & Cordials: 8pm to 10pm

Children under 10 should be accompanied by an adult when in the Regatta Club.


Club Level Food Counter

Free Sodas

Appitizers

Appitizers

Cordials


For the most part, the Regatta Club is a good place to "escape" and enjoy some leisurely down time. However, mornings can be quite hectic and tables difficult to secure. Many folk use the lounge to grab a quick breakfast before heading to the parks.

Club Level rooms also receive nightly turndown service with chocolates on the pillow, bathrobes, and a morning copy of USA Today.

Here is a 1½ minute video showcasing the Yacht Club fifth floor Club Level check-in desks and lounge.



That's it for Part One of the Yacht Club. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



November 22, 2011

Yacht Club Resort - Part Two

Yesterday I introduced you to the Yacht Club and talked about the standard rooms and Club Level. Today I'll discuss some of the facilities found at the Yacht Club.

Fittings & Fairings Clothes & Notions is the resort's shop and carries the standard supply of Disney souvenirs. In addition, some higher-end clothing is available here. For example, in the men's section, Polo and Tommy Bahama apparel can be found. A limited selection of food items is also offered.


Fittings & Fairings Clothes & Notions

Fittings & Fairings Clothes & Notions


Sadly, this shop's icon showpiece has been retired. Up until recently, when entering the store, guests were greeted by Mickey piloting a replica of a 1930's style Chris Craft Runabout. This piece added a lot of atmosphere to the store and was a great photo op. When I asked a cast member what happened to Mickey and the boat, I was told it needed $15K in refurbishments and management felt this was too much to spend. Sigh. Here is a picture of me taken with Mickey and the boat in the early '90's.


Mickey and Chris Craft Runabout


At the far end of the Yacht Club is the Admiral Pool (quiet pool) and self-service laundry facility. Even though children are welcome to use this pool, it is intended for a more sedate experience. The resort's tennis court can also be found in this area.


Admiral Pool

Laundry Facility

Tennis Court


Directly off of the lobby is the Ale and Compass Lounge. This is a great spot to grab coffee, pastries, and fruit in the morning if you don't want to hassle with a full service restaurant. In the evening, this establishment offers a comfy atmosphere for cocktails with friends.


Compass Lounge

Compass Lounge


Next to Ale and Compass Lounge is the Captain's Grill (formerly the Yacht Club Galley). I eat here often as I have always been pleased with the food and service and I like the atmosphere. Deep colors and the nautical theming create a comfortable spot to enjoy a meal.


Captain's Grill

Captain's Grill


Something I really like about the Captain's Grill is breakfast. At this meal, guests have the choice of ordering off of the menu or enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet. This is really nice when you're traveling with lite and big eaters. It always bothers me when I have to pay for a full buffet when all I want is a bagel and fruit. At Captain's Grille, everyone can be happy.


Captain's Grill Buffet


Meals at lunch include sandwiches and salads and dinner offers beef, pork, chicken, and pasta. The style of preparation is decidedly American. And be sure to try the New England clam chowder. It's very good.

If you have to use the restrooms while dining at the Captain's Grill, ask your server where they are located. You'll never find them otherwise.

Reservations for breakfast and dinner are suggested. They are rarely needed at lunch.

One of my favorite spots for cocktails and light snacks can be found at the Crew's Cup Lounge. Located next to the Yachtsman Steakhouse, this is the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle of Walt Disney World. Although this lounge can get busy when the Yachtsman Steakhouse is open, during the afternoon it is almost forgotten and a great place for a quiet conversation. I wrote a blog about the Crew's Cup Lounge last year. If you'd like to read it, click here.


Crew's Cup Lounge

Crew's Cup Lounge


Yachtsman Steakhouse has a New England theme. At this upscale restaurant, rustic meets refinement to create a stylish atmosphere. Plank flooring, lightwood chairs, tablecloth covered tables, heavy beams, and white wall paneling combine beautifully to create a welcoming environment.

As the restaurant's name implies, beef is the signature offering. In the butchering room (located near the entrance and open for all to see), chefs hand cut each steak. In the open kitchen, the best quality meats are prepared over an oak grill. A wide array of side dishes is available and the wine list features vintages from around the world. For those of you not enamored with beef, the menu also includes seafood, poultry and pork. Yachtsman Steakhouse is one of Disney's signature restaurants and requires two Dining Plan credits for those of you using this package. Yachtsman Steakhouse is only open for dinner and reservations are highly recommended.


Yachtsman Steakhouse

Yachtsman Steakhouse Open Kitchen

Yachtsman Steakhouse Cutting Room


For those of you who want to work off some of those extra calories you've been enjoying, Ship Shape Health Club offers a wide variety of the latest cardiovascular and weight-training equipment.


Ship Shape Health Club

Ship Shape Health Club


The exterior of the Yacht Club is elegant. Recalling bygone days along the Eastern Seaboard, this structure instills a sense of satisfaction and wellbeing as you stroll the manicured grounds. Painted gray with white trim, the many wings and angles of the building disguise the structure's enormity. It's interesting to note, the clapboard exterior is a man-made concoction of sawdust and glue that is resistant to the humidity of Florida.


Yacht Club Exterior

Yacht Club Exterior


A lovely covered walkway skirts sections of the Yacht Club. At several locations along the way, white rocking chairs line the railing. The setting is worthy of a postcard - and the best part is, you can sit in these rocking chairs and become part of the magical setting.


Porch and Rocking Chairs


Set between two of the resort's wings is a lovely gazebo. If you notice, the weathervane atop the structure features cupid. If you're planning a Disney wedding but the wedding chapel is already booked to capacity, this spot offers a beautiful alternative. This gazebo could also be used for one of the many pre or post wedding activities.


Gazebo

Cupid


At Bayside Marina, a large selection of boats is on hand for the novice and expert yachtsman. You can rent a pontoon boat for a leisurely afternoon on the water or mini-speed boats for zippy trip over the waves. Guests can traverse Crescent Lake and the adjoining waterway that leads to Disney's Hollywood Studios. In addition, two-hour guided fishing trips, complete with driver and gear, can be secured at the marina.


Bayside Marina

Bayside Marina


One of the best features of the Yacht Club is its proximity to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios. If I'm staying at the Yacht, I'm always in a quandary as to whether I should walk or take one of the Friendship boats to Epcot's International Gateway. However, I have no indecision at all when I'm going to the Studio. Even though there is a pathway that leads from the resort to the park, it is a long walk and hot in the summertime. The Friendship boats win out every time.

The Friendship boats depart from the end of the long pier that lines up directly with the Yacht Club entrance. You can't miss it. Just look for the lighthouse. Boats heading for Epcot load on the left side of the pier and make a stop at the Boardwalk Resort before heading for International Gateway. Boats traveling to the Studio board from the right side of the pier and stop at the Swan and Dolphin before heading for Disney's version of Tinseltown.


Yacht Club Pier

Yacht Club Pier

Yacht Club Pier


Just so you know, International Gateway is open the same hours as Epcot's main entrance. Even on days when Extra Magic Hours are available at Epcot, International Gateway opens early and remains open late to accommodate guests staying here.

Guests traveling to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney or waterparks should catch a bus which stops at a station located a short walk from the resort's main entrance. Note, the Yacht and Beach share buses. After dropping off and picking up guests at the Yacht Club, the bus heads over to the Beach Club before proceeding to its ultimate destination. For those of you with a car, you are granted free parking at the theme parks during your stay.


Bus Transportation


Stormalong Bay, the resort's main swimming pool, is shared by both the Yacht and Beach Club. This pool is hands down the best resort swimming pool at Walt Disney World. It is huge! It is imaginative! It is fantastic! If your kids like to swim, Stormalong Bay is reason enough to stay at the Yacht & Beach Club. Stormalong Bay is Disney magic personified!

Legend has it that some time ago, a fierce nor'easter hit these parts. During the tempest, Captain Stormalong of the Albatross lost control of his ship and it plowed into the beach. The vessel hit the shore with such force that it churned up the sand and carved out the land. In the wake of this disaster, three acres of meandering pools and waterways were created that pass by grottos and waterfalls, under bridges, and beside a moving windmill. One section of the pool even has a sandy bottom where kids can wiggle their toes in the sand and build castles on its banks. The main lagoon area contains a total of 750,000 gallons of water broken down as follows:

Active Lagoon: 13,300 sq. ft. and 500,000 gallons
Snorkel Lagoon: 6,500 sq. ft. and 200,000 gallons
Quiet Lagoon: 2,000 sq. ft. and 50,000 gallons

The sand at the bottom of the lagoons is imported from Arizona and is an essential part of the filtering system.


Stormalong Bay

YaStormalong Bay

Stormalong Bay

Stormalong Bay

Stormalong Bay


The wreck of the Albatross can still be found where the storm deposited her. But her usefulness has not been lost to the calamity. Now-a-days, kids (and adults) can climb her mast and find a waterslide that whisks them to the nearby pool. The water slide is 230 feet long with 110 feet enclosed in tubing.


Albatross

Albatross

Albatross

Water Slide


Surrounding the pool are hundreds of tables, chairs, and lounges. There is even an elevated cabana and seating area in the center of Stormalong Bay that affords great views of the pool and a getaway from the activities below. One lucky group is awarded the "Family of the Day" award and provided with their own personal lounge chairs in a prime location. And when thirst and hunger sets in, Hurricane Hanna's Grill is nearby offering sandwiches, salads, hamburgers, and other treats.


Tables and Chairs

Upper Level

Family of the Day

Hurricane Hanna's Grill


All Disney resort pools are restricted to the guests of that particular hotel. However, after seeing Stormalong Bay, people are often tempted to try and sneak into this water wonderland. But don't even think about it. Disney is well aware of this pool's popularity and has designed the area with limited access which is monitored by cast members. Before entrance is granted, guests must provide a valid room key for either the Yacht or Beach Club. Then they are given a waterproof wristband to wear while in this area.

That's all I have for the Yacht Club. Check back next week when I discuss the Beach Club and the Beach Club Villas.



November 28, 2011

Beach Club Resort - Part One of Two

Last week I discussed the Yacht Club. If you missed it, click here for PART ONE and PART TWO.

Today I'll be examining they Yacht Club's sister resort, the Beach Club.


Beach Club Logo


The Beach Club opened on November 19, 1990. This deluxe resort features 583 guest rooms with an average room size of 380 square feet. The exterior of the hotel is painted blue with white trim and uses stick style architecture. Stick style architecture was popular in America in the late 19th century and was the predecessor to the Queen Anne style.


Beach Club Exterior

Beach Club Exterior


Whereas the Yacht Club has a formal atmosphere, the Beach Club is more casual. The Beach Club is the type of resort that wealthy families of the mid to late 1900's might have visited for playful days at the seashore and clambakes at night. This carefree atmosphere is evident from the moment you enter the lobby. Take a look at some of the furnishings and the chandelier. In addition, a very mild "Little Mermaid" theme has been incorporated into the resort's design. This is most evident in the carpeting.


Beach Club Lobby

Beach Club Lobby

Lobby Chandelier

Beach Club Carpet


Like the Yacht Club, the Beach Club also employs a nautically clad cast member to greet you, answer questions, and direct you to the proper destination. As you enter the resort, the check-in desk is to your right and the concierge desk is to your left. A children's waiting area, complete with TV, can be found near the windows.


Beach Club Greeter

Beach Club Check-in Desk

Beach Club Concierge Desk


Most standard rooms have two queen beds and a sofa/daybed (see the pictures for the Yacht Club in last week's article). However, some rooms feature one king bed. In many cases, these "king" rooms do not conform to the standard room shape and have been "fitted in" to unusual spaces. This was the type of room I occupied during my last visit.

My room featured a longer and wider than normal hallway to reach the sleeping area. Off of this hallway is a standard closet containing a small safe, extra pillows, hangers, iron and board, and a luggage rack.


King Room Hallway

King Room Hallway

King Room Closet

King Room Closet


Also off of the hallway is the bathroom. Since this room only has one king bed, the vanity only has one sink. However, storage space for toiletries is ample with the addition of a marble shelf above the basin. A hairdryer can be found attached to the wall or in a bag on one of the shelves beneath the sink. H20+ body wash, shampoo, and conditioner are supplied. For those of you who find it next to impossible to remove the plastic wrap from the soap, try this trick. Take a set of car keys and puncture the wrap. This works well for me.


Vanity Area

Vanity Area

Vanity Area


The wallpaper in the bathroom features sailboats with a hidden Mickey.


Bathroom Wallpaper

Bathroom Wallpaper


The toilet and shower are in a separate room. Marble flooring and marble shower tiles add a bit of elegance to this small space. There is a phone next to the toilet and two toilet paper dispensers inserted into the wall. Even though this "king" room is intended for two, there were five fluffy towels.


Toilet and Tub


Being an "irregular" room, the sleeping area was more square than rectangular in shape. Combine this with only one bed and the room seemed quite large. The walls are covered in a non-intrusive cream paper and the furnishings continue this color scheme. The carpet is made up of brown and beige stripes. The draperies feature stripes of blues and browns.


King Room

King Room


The room had a standalone chest of drawers. It's interesting to note, at the Yacht Club, the coffee maker sat atop a similar chest. But at the Beach Club, the coffee maker can be found on the desk. I think I prefer the coffee maker on the chest of drawers as I want as much space as possible when I'm working with my laptop at the desk.


Chest of Drawers


The desk is decent sized and contains electrical and internet connections built into its back panel. A second, "computer" desk nests underneath the main desk.


Desk


On the desk is a very cute Mickey Mouse lamp. At one time, this lamp was sold at the Beach Club Marketplace, but alas, no more.


Mickey Mouse Lamp


Disney is currently testing Wi-Fi in a number of their resorts. The Yacht & Beach are on this list. I used this Wi-Fi service and was very pleased with the ease of connection and the speed. At the moment, this connection is free. However, I have no idea what the future may hold and if charges are on the horizon.

The credenza contains a refrigerator, several shelves, and four drawers.


Credenza


The bed is comfortable and forgoes a bedspread in favor of a second top sheet to cover the blankets. There is a nightstand on each side of the bed and individual dimmer controls work the two bed lamps. A phone can be found on one nightstand and a clock-radio that can accommodate iPhone type devices is positioned on the other.


Bed and Nightstands

Clock Radio


Because of the unusual shape of my room, I had a double balcony. Please note, not all of the rooms at the Beach Club have balconies. If this is important to you, make sure the reservationist knows this when booking your room.


Double Balcony

Double Balcony


Here is a 2½ minute video of a "King" Beach Club room.



Any of you who have read my column for more than a few months know that I'm pretty easy going when I'm reviewing Disney. Not that they need it, but I usually cut them a lot of slack. However, I did have two issues with my room at the Beach Club - one minor, and one, not so minor. I'll start with the less significant.

I was staying in a Club Level room (more expensive than a standard room). One of the perks of staying in these better appointed rooms is a DVD player. Disney is known for their attention to detail, yet they completely forgot to plan for DVD players when outfitting these rooms with wall-mounted flat-screen TVs. Rather than hiding the DVD cables, they simply plugged them into the side of the TV and let them run down to the player in plain sight. In addition, other cables were protruding from behind the TV. Disney can do better than this. This was tacky.


DVD Wires


I want to discuss my more significant issue with you so you may learn from my disappointment.

I booked my room online - without the aid of a Disney reservationist. I was willing to pay extra for a better view so I booked a Lagoon View (one of the options given to me on their website). The Disney webpage clearly states, "Lagoon Room Views are located on the fifth floor and offer views of Crescent Lake." No other possible views were mentioned with this choice.

When I arrived at my room at 10am, I found my view looked out onto a courtyard. Only if I walked out onto my balcony, leaned over the railing, and looked hard left could I see a portion of Crescent Lake. I returned to the concierge desk and questioned my room location. I was given no explanation, but was offered another room if I was willing to wait until after 3pm and forgo two queen beds for one king. I agreed.

When I arrived at the second room, I had a beautiful view of Stormalong Bay, but once again, the only way to see Crescent Lake was to stand on my balcony and lean over the railing. So I returned to the concierge desk where I was fortunate enough to find a supervisor. After explaining the situation, I was told that the Beach Club offers three views, Standard, Garden, and Water - and a Water View can be of Crescent Lake OR of the swimming pools.

When I showed the supervisor my reservation which clearly stated Lagoon View (not Water View) and that the Disney website clearly states that a Lagoon View equates to a view of Crescent Lake, she was perplexed and had no explanation. As no other room was available, I had no choice but to accept the second room.

While at the Beach Club I ended up speaking with two supervisors and let them know their website is presenting false information and setting up expectations that cannot be met. Both of these supervisors assured me that they would bring this information to the attention of the appropriate people. When I returned home, I wrote Disney a letter informing them of their webpage error. I also did more research and found that the Room View descriptions are not consistent between the Yacht and the Beach.

I later spoke with a reservation supervisor who informed me that I would not have had this problem if I had booked through a cast member over the phone as they are very well versed on this subject matter.

Bottom line" Disney only recognizes the term "water view" and this can be of a lake, pool, or river. They cannot guarantee which view you will get.

Since it's not my desire to be negative, I would also like to share a very positive story about the Beach Club. About a week and a half before my visit, I stayed one night at the Beach Club Villas. After I checked out and returned home, I realized that I had left my charger-cord to my iPhone in the room. Since this wire only costs a few dollars, I just chalked it up as lost.

When I checked into the Beach Club for this visit, I stored my luggage with Bell Services until my room was ready. When my bags were delivered to the room, they also included my charger cord. I NEVER mentioned to anyone that I had left this cord in my room on my previous stay, yet they returned it to me. This was truly Disney magic.

That's it for Part One of the Beach Club. Check back tomorrow for Part Two.



November 29, 2011

Beach Club Resort - Part Two of Two

Yesterday I began my review of the Beach Club with an overview and a description of a standard "king" room. Today I'll talk about Club Level amenities and the various shops and restaurants found around the resort.

I like the Stone Harbor Club Lounge facilities at the Beach Club better than those at the Regatta Club at the Yacht Club. At the Yacht Club, the check-in area and lounge seem like they were added as an afterthought. I had the impression that Disney had knocked a wall out between two guest rooms to create the lounge. But at the Beach Club I didn't get this feeling. Both the check-in area and the Stone Harbor Club felt like they had been part of the initial design.

When exiting the elevators on the fifth floor of the Beach Club, guests are greeted by cast members at two concierge desks. These cast members will get you settled into your room and help you with restaurant and show reservations. Their services are available from 7am to 10pm.


Club Level Concierge Desk


The Stone Harbor Club Lounge is decent sized with a number of tables, chairs, and sofas arranged around the room. There are two televisions - one tuned to cartoons for children and another featuring news and sports for adults. The sets are far enough from one another as to not interfere with each other. The Beach Club lounge does have a balcony, but unfortunately it is so narrow that it cannot accommodate any tables or chairs.


Beach Club Level Lounge

Beach Club Level Lounge

Beach Club Level Lounge

Beach Club Level Lounge


The food serving counter is "U" shaped and is brightly lit. Breakfast offerings feature bagels, pastries, fruit, cold cereals, hardboiled eggs, and other continental selections. Cookies and other snacks are available at lunch. And a rotating menu of cold and hot hors d'oeuvres is served each evening. Canned sodas are available all day long and wine and cordials are served in the evening. All of this is included in the Club Level price. Service is as follows:

Coffee: 6:30am to 7am
Continental Breakfast: 7am to 10:30am
Snacks & Soft Drinks: 11:30am to 3pm
Tea Time: 3pm to 4pm
Hors d'oeuvres & Wine: 5pm to 7pm
Desserts & Cordials: 8pm to 10pm

Children under 10 should be accompanied by an adult when in the Stone Harbor Club Lounge.


Club Level Food Bar

Club Level Free Drinks


Here is a 1½ minute video of the Club Level facilities.



Now let's take a look at some of the facilities of the Beach Club.

The Tidal Pool (quiet pool) can be found at the far end of the resort (closest to Epcot). This is a good spot for sunning and relaxing without all the hubbub of Stormalong Bay. Laundry facilities can be found in a building next to the pool so you can spend some quality time while washing your clothes.


Tidal Pool

Hot Tub

Laundry Facility


Beach Club Marketplace is the resort's shop and carries the typical array of Disney souvenirs. When the Beach Club Villas were built in 2002, this shop was remodeled and a "mini-market" added which carries a reasonable selection of food stuffs intended to be taken back to your Villa room for preparation and consumption. In addition, a quick service food counter was added where you can purchase made-to-order omelets and French toast in the morning and flatbreads, salads, and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. I have tried this spot a couple of times and feel that Disney is trying (and succeeding) at serving above par dishes. This facility is open from 7am to 11pm.


Beach Club Marketplace

Beach Club Marketplace

Beach Club Marketplace


Down the hall from Beach Club Marketplace is the Solarium. This window-lined sunny room is a great place to gather with friends and perhaps enjoy one of those delicious flatbreads you just purchased at the nearby food counter.


Solarium

Solarium


One of the most popular buffets at Walt Disney World is Cape May Café. Located just off of the main lobby, this restaurant has a "fun in the sun" atmosphere. Giant, colorful umbrellas line one side of the restaurant and croquet mallets and beach chairs adorn the walls. The buffet is four-sided, sits in the middle of the restaurant, and is surrounded by tables. Breakfast features Goofy and friends and serves standard American fare. Dinner recreates a clambake atmosphere and offers crab legs, mussels, and freshly steamed clams. For those of you desiring more traditional selections, carved meats, ribs, chicken, seasonal seafood salads, and pastas are also served. You will not leave this buffet hungry. Advanced reservations are extremely important here.


Cape May Café

Cape May Café

Cape May Café

Cape May Café

BeaCape May Café

Cape May Café

Cape May Café


If you're in the mood for an evening cocktail and some tasty appetizers, check out Martha's Vineyard located just around the corner from Cape May Café. Open nightly from 5pm to 11:30pm, this watering hole serves New England clam chowder, peel-and-eat shrimp, teriyaki BBQ ribs, and Buffalo chicken nuggets.


Martha's Vineyard


Next to Martha's Vineyard is Ariel's. When the Yacht and Beach Club first opened, the designers felt a deluxe steakhouse should be built at the Yacht Club (Yachtsman Steakhouse) and an upscale seafood restaurant should be located at the Beach Club (Ariel's). However, it was discovered that the resort did not need two fine-dining establishments and Ariel's was closed. Today this space is used for banquets and other group functions.


Ariel's


On the premises of the Beach Club is possibly one of the most fantastic eateries at Walt Disney World, Beaches & Cream. This restaurant recreates a seaside soda shop complete with a marble counter, wrought iron tables and chairs, and jukebox. Fantastic ice cream concoctions and great hamburgers can be ordered here. The place is small and does not accept reservations. Expect a wait if you decide to eat here - but it's worth it. A walk-up counter is available for ordering ice cream. I wrote a complete blog about this establishment last year. To read it, click here.


Beaches & Cream

Beaches & Cream


Next to Beaches & Cream is Lafferty Place Arcade. As the name implies, this is the spot to challenge your hand-eye coordination with electronic wizardry.


Lafferty Place Arcade


Out on the lawn of the Beach Club is a sand volleyball court. Equipment is complimentary and available at the Ship Shape Health Club located on the Yacht Club side of the resort.


Volleyball Court


The beach at the Beach Club is pristine. This is a great place for kids to run in the sand and adults to bask in the sun. However, Crescent Lake is off limits for swimming. In the evening, a campfire and sing-a-long is held around a fire pit located near the shipwreck Albatross and Disney movies are shown under the stars afterwards.


Beach

Camp Fire


Stormalong Bay, the fantastic swimming pool of the resort, straddles the Yacht Club and Beach Club. For more information about this delightful water wonderland, see Part Two of my Yacht Club blog posted last week.

When I stay at the Yacht Club, I'm always in a quandary whether I should take a Friendship boat to Epcot or walk. When I stay at the Beach Club, I have no decision to make. I always walk. Close proximity to Epcot is one of the great things about this resort. For transportation to Disney's Hollywood Studios, catch the boat at the Yacht Club pier. For transportation to other locales, catch a bus located a short distance from the hotel's main entrance. Note, the Yacht and Beach share one bus. Since the bus stops first at the Yacht Club, seating can be difficult to secure when loading at the Beach Club during the morning hours.

That's it for The Beach Club. Check back tomorrow when I will discuss the Beach Club Villas.



November 30, 2011

Beach Club Villas - Disney Vacation Club

Today I'm going to discuss Disney's Beach Club Villas. This resort is considered part of the Yacht & Beach Club property and was the fourth Disney Vacation Club (DVC) to open (July 1, 2002) at Walt Disney World. Like the Yacht & Beach Club, this addition was designed by Robert A.M. Stern of New York. There are 282 guest rooms divided into three categories: Studio units which sleep 4, One Bedroom units which sleep 4, and Two Bedroom units which can sleep 8.


Beach Club Villas Logo


Florida law requires that all time share properties set aside a small percentage of their rooms for "non-owners." This means that non-DVC members can rent rooms here. In addition, if the Villas have not been booked to capacity by members, Disney will open up additional rooms for non-members to rent.

There are no regularly manned desks at the Villas. Guests staying here use the check-in and concierge desks located at the Beach Club.

The Villas are just a short walk from the Beach Club. Guests cross a lovely courtyard and are greeted by Ariel near the main entrance.


Courtyard and Main Entrance

Ariel


Just inside the main entrance is a lobby of sorts. Off of this lobby are hallways leading to guest rooms, The Breezeway, and The Drawing Room.


Lobby


The Drawing Room is a quiet getaway and features several sitting areas and a television. Watercolor paintings, a Victorian dollhouse, and comfortable furnishings make this the perfect spot to curl up with a good book and escape. Note, the television is only turned on if someone wants to watch it, so chances are good you can find peace and quiet here.


The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room


The Breezeway connects the lobby with the pool area. This three story room is bright and sunny and has two seating areas for relaxing and conversation. However, since this is a thoroughfare between the lobby and the pool, this area isn't nearly as sedate as The Drawing Room.

The Breezeway features a number of shelves that are chock-full of seashells, oars, compasses, weathervanes, and other seashore paraphernalia. The large oil painting featuring Mickey as a hot-air balloon floating above the Villas is especially intriguing.


The Breezeway

The Breezeway

The Breezeway

The Breezeway


The Dunes Cove Pool could be compared to the Admiral Pool at the Yacht Club and the Tidal Pool at the Beach Club. It provides a refreshing retreat with plenty of lounge chairs and tables, yet its overall ambiance is peaceful. Guests staying at the Villas are entitled to use Stormalong Bay.


Dunes Cove Pool

Dunes Cove Hot Tub


Near the pool is a picnic table and BBQ grill for alfresco meals. The surrounding area has been sown with plants reminiscent of dune grass to help facilitate the seashore atmosphere.


Dunes Walkway

Picnic Table

BBQ

Dunes


On my latest visit to the Villas I stayed in a Studio room. In many ways, a Studio room is laid out similarly to a standard hotel room. When entering the room you pass the bath and closet area to reach the sleeping area. What sets a Studio apart from a standard hotel room is the kitchenette. The kitchenettes here feature a small refrigerator, small sink, coffee maker, toaster, microwave, flatware, glasses and cups, and paper plates.


Kitchenette

Kitchenette

Kitchenette

Kitchenette

Kitchenette


The one and two bedroom units at the Villas feature complete kitchens with a full-sized refrigerator, dishwasher, stove, and oven. Unlike the Studio kitchenettes, these full-sized kitchens provide you with the ability to cook elaborate meals and come complete with pots and pans, utensils, and everything else you might need.

The Studio vanity has one sink and plenty of counter space. A hairdryer can be found attached to the wall. Standard amenities like soap, shampoo, and conditioner are provided.


Vanity and Sink

Vanity and Sink


The toilet and shower are in a separate room and the space is more than adequate.


Toilet and Shower


Off of the vanity area is a closet containing a wall safe big enough for a laptop, collapsible baby crib, iron and board, luggage rack, and vacuum. Housekeeping service is only offered twice a week when staying in a Villa room on membership points. You are expected to reuse your towels and clean up after yourself. Daily housekeeping service can be obtained for an additional fee. If renting the room at the Villas, daily housekeeping service is provided.


Closet


A Studio room features one queen bed and a convertible sofa, allowing for four guests. The two high-back chairs are comfortable and the large table offers plenty of space for a meal or laptop. Electrical outlets and internet connections can be found near the baseboard behind the table. The bureau contains four drawers and three shelves. A flat screen TV and DVD player are also housed here.


Living and Sleeping Area

Living and Sleeping Area

Living and Sleeping Area


The convertible sofa is simple to open. One person can easily carry out this task. However, I wasn't quite sure what to do with the coffee table once I opened the bed.


Convertible Sofa


The decorator used a multitude of hues when designing this room, but the colors seem to blend well and convey a bygone era at the seashore. The bedspread continues the Little Mermaid theme and a number of the characters can be found in the pattern.


Bedspread

Rooms at the Villas offer a balcony or patio. Some balconies are larger than others. I was on a ground floor and my room faced out onto Epcot Resorts Blvd. During the day, I was aware of the traffic noises while sitting in my room as cars and trucks passed by.


Patio


To see a 2½ minute video of a Studio Room, check out the video below.



That's it for my coverage of the Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Beach Club Villas. I have created a 12½ minute video that covers the complete resort. Enjoy.



Return to Blog Central

About November 2011

This page contains all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in November 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

October 2011 is the previous archive.

December 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.