Who: Sue (53), DVC member
Dates: June 8 - 11, 2012
Travel Method: Personal car
Resort: Disneys Bay Lake Tower Resort
Experience: Very experienced (7th stay at BLT)
This is a short little weekend trip and not very typical by most peoples standards. My park pass is blocked for the summer the day after I arrive, but thats ok because its too hot & humid for me to want to be in the parks. My Tables in Wonderland card expired at the end of May and I dont plan to renew it until September or October, so I have no table service restaurant plans. Basically, this is a weekend at a resort, away from Gainesville where were living now. Its also a solo trip my husband will be spending the weekend watching assorted sporting events and traveling from Ft Myers back to Gainesville.
Every time we stay at Bay Lake Tower I absolutely love it, but for me the location sucks for most trips. However, for a short stay when Im not planning any time in the parks this location is no better or worse than any other. A big plus is the white sand beach behind the Contemporary Resort next door. Its very pretty out there, and much quieter than the pool, so thats where I plan to spend the mornings. I also love the Contempo Caf food and the big balconies at Bay Lake Tower, so it made sense (to me) to book this little weekend. Ill have to find the fitness center since theres really no place to run in this location, and Im not willing to take a boat over to Ft Wilderness in order to run!
Im sure Ill watch the Electrical Water Pageant more than once, and might to up to the Top of the World Lounge observation deck to watch Wishes some night. Other than that itll probably be a pretty boring trip report since there wont be time in the parks or fabulous restaurant meals this time. I figure this is like a weekend at home except Im not in Gainesville where theres no beach or pool!
The plans so far are:
Friday 6/8: Work, Drive to WDW, Outlets, Resort
Saturday 6/9: Contemporary Beach, Resort
Sunday 6/10: Contemporary Beach, Resort
Monday 6/11: Drive to Gainesville
DAY 1 Friday 6/8/12
Who: Sue (53), DVC member
Plan: Work, Drive to WDW, Outlets, Resort
Actual: Id planned to leave work at noon and was just 5 minutes or so late. After making a quick stop at the house I was on the road to WDW and had an uneventful drive. Despite very gloomy weather forecasts I encountered very little rain most of the drive was in dry or even partly sunny conditions!
I made my planned stop at Premium Outlets (near WDW) to check out Character Premiere and they had nothing of interest there. In fact, it was the same merchandise as last month, but a smaller quantity. There was nothing from Flower & Garden Festival and its not likely everything sold out, so I guess that stuff just hasnt made its way over yet. I was in and out of there within 15 minutes, and drove over to Bay Lake Tower. Check-in is at the Contemporary, but I parked in front of BLT and walked over entering from the back door (by the pool area).
They were pretty busy but I didnt really have to wait. A cast member took my name and secured a front desk cast member to help me. My room was ready and since Ive stayed here before I didnt need the spiel they give to newcomers. Im on the 14th floor facing the Contemporary marina/pool area just as requested! I went back to the car to get my stuff, then went up to check out the studio.
I love the view beyond the marina & pool I see the roof of Wilderness Lodge and also Spaceship Earth. Sitting on my balcony Ill be able to watch the monorails entering and exiting the Contemporary, and Ill see Illuminations and the Electrical Water Pageant each night. For Wishes I have the Top of the World observation deck or the sky bridge down on the 5th floor. The studio looks like the studio should no complaints or issues. I unpacked and then set up the laptop, remember that last time (February 2012) I had issues getting online because this computer has Windows Vista. Sure enough, I couldnt get a browser to launch, so after I caught up with SB (my husband) and talked to Nancy (friend) to make plans for tomorrow, I sat down to call the tech support people.
I got a lady who sounded like she is my age or older, and she confirmed that the problem with vista still exists but they put a patch on it and Id have to change my IP address. Omigod this is worse than legal mumbo jumbo, lol! She also said the network was down right now but they were working feverishly on it. Once I realized I was screwed unless I changed my IP address I let her talk me through that process. I took copious notes so I wouldnt have to call back before leaving to reset it so I could get online at home! When we finished I restarted the machine and to my surprise the internet was working again and I was able to open a browser without any trouble! I verbally went through the steps Id need to take Monday morning, then thanked her for her help. They tell guests to call them back to change their IP address back, but I should be able to do it on my own now (with my written notes).
At 4 (after General Hospital) I walked over to the Contemporary and found the fitness center on the 3rd floor. Its only accessible by elevator, and after all these year Ive never seen it before! The only things on this floor are the fitness center, hair salon, and convention/catering offices. The escalators from the 2nd floor go straight to the 4th floor so its easy to miss this! The fitness center is available 24 hours a day, and is decent enough I neither impressed nor disappointed.
Upstairs at Contempo Caf I bought a red velvet cupcake and got a plastic wine glass (free at the cash register), then browsed through the main shop and returned to the studio. They sky is completely overcast and its very humid outside, but the big question is whether or not it will rain if I walk over to the Magic Kingdom. A quick check on weather.com showed rain chances starting at 5pm but not getting more certain until 6pm. So, since it was only 4:30 I decided to take a chance and walk over to Magic Kingdom for a little while. If its too crowded or starts raining I can just leave!
The weather never became a problem, but the crowds were much worse than I care to deal with. Upon entering the park there were huge lines at the ridiculous bag check areas, thanks to only 1 pretend cop working on each side. Eventually a 2nd one joined each side so then the lines moved twice as quickly. Then at the turnstiles most were set to be exits so once again people had to stand in line to go through one of the small percentage of turnstiles being used to enter the park.
Main Street was busy but not horrible, so I wandered down the street and checked the tip board for some wait times. Big Thunder was 120 minutes, Space Mountain 60 minutes, etc. I decided to walk over towards Big Thunder and perhaps ride the train from there around to the new Fantasyland station (or completely around the park). Every food stand I passed had horrible lines, including the wagons/carts out on the street. Adventureland was very congested, and in Frontierland they had some live entertainment blaring loudly and people gathered around. I used the wooden path along the water and made my way to Big Thunder. The wait time was real, so I headed towards the train and stopped short when I saw the station was totally filled in with people waiting and the queue extending all the way down the stairs and into the courtyard! So much for an easy train ride, lol!
I walked back along the path and noticed even the riverboat had lots of people on board! Haunted Mansion had a 30-minute wait and I wasnt sure if I would be able to bypass that by skipping the interactive part of the queue so I didnt stop. The line at Small World was mostly contained under the roof. Peter Pan had a 65-minute wait. In Tomorrowland the wait for Space Mountain was down to only 50 minutes, but thats too long for me. The fastpass return was over 2 hours away so I didnt bother with that either.
People Mover is always a good bet, so I walked over there and saw the line of people snaked back and forth next to the bottom of the escalator, lol! I joined in, and at the top it was snaked around again. At least it moved quickly, and I ended up with the front car (my favorite)! This was my only ride/attraction, but I still enjoyed the sights and sounds of the park while I was there. Im just glad Im here often enough to not have to stand in these lines!!!
After the People Mover I wandered around a bit more, then headed back down Main Street to exit the park. My son Chris called me just as that noisy afternoon dancing parade was heading down the street, so I ducked into a shop and discovered beautiful glass work and a big oven where they make glass (made me think of Lisa Cubbon and her hot glass shows on Celebrity cruise ships). Id forgotten this was even back here!
Back at Bay Lake Tower I hung out in the parking lot to take a picture of the next monorail train entering the Contemporary and then headed inside. I walked out to the BLT pool area (not impressive at all) and cut through Community Hall (no appeal for an adult without kids) and then headed up to the studio. On the local news they were waiting for a bear to fall out of a tree in Orlando somewhere. I knew they were looking for it (from the news at home) and assume they must have shot it with a tranquilizer dart. After that the breaking news was the bear finally fell, lol! They had people holding a big blanket or something to catch him when he fell so he wouldnt get hurt.
From this room (and others on this side) the noise from the Contemporarys afternoon LOUD pool party can be heard in the room and I was surprised to find it still going on after 6pm! I checked the recreation schedule but only had one for the BLT pool and even there the activities start at 1pm and the last one is at 6:30 so I assume its the same at the other one. At 6:30 I went to find the ice machine and then came back to fix some crackers, cheese & wine to enjoy on what I hoped would be a quiet balcony.
As it turned out, the pool games ended around 6:30 so by the time I got out onto the balcony it was peacefully quiet. The only noise were the various ships blowing horns as they approached the dock, and in the distance the train whistles at the Magic Kingdom. I tried bringing the laptop out onto the balcony and noticed I was running on battery power despite it being plugged in. I spent frustrating time trying to fix that and finally gave up and shut off the computer thinking I might only have 1.5 hours of computer time this weekend.
I enjoyed the dinner on the balcony accompanied by my kindle. It was so pleasant watching the monorails pass by and watching the people disembarking the boats. It had started raining lightly just after I got out there, but with the overhang I didnt get wet at all. The outdoor campfire and movie were canceled (or moved indoors in the case of the movie) tonight. Around 8 or so I tried turning the computer on and the cord was working again. I guess I wont try to move it! I went back to the balcony until after dark, and then came in to update the report around 8:45. At 9 I went back out to watch Illuminations.
I had a great view of the fireworks, but of course no sound from this distance. They shoot of smaller fireworks all around the lake and from this room it was easy to see those. From Beach Club Villas its not possible because theyre just the low arking fireworks rather than ones shot high in the sky. While I was out there I could hear and see the Electrical Water Pageant behind the Grand Floridian, but Ill go back out to watch it at 10:15 here. In the meantime, I cut a quarter of the red velvet cupcake and ate that for dessert!
Other than the power cord issues and the internet headache today was a terrific first day! The Magic Kingdom was way too crowded for me, but I dont regret going over there. Sometimes its good to see the park in an unpleasant state to help appreciate how really great it is first thing in the morning when I usually go!
Tomorrow looks to be a fairly rainy day, but Im hoping for some decent weather. I picked up a jogging trail map from the front desk, and although its disappointing in that its only .89 miles I guess its an option if I dont want to do the boring treadmill. If the morning weather is nice Ill go out to the beach for a little while, then clean up and meet my friend Nancy when she gets off work at the Contemporary in the afternoon. The evening will probably be spent on the balcony again!
DAY 2 Saturday 6/9/12
Who: Sue (53), DVC member
Plan: Contemporary Beach, Resort
Actual: Last night I had a great view of the Electrical Water Pageant could see it all except the very last few floats (the King Neptune part). I could have gone down to the sky bridge or dock but its too convenient watching from the balcony and then getting right into bed! It was quiet last night, and got up around 6:20 to dress and go out for a run.
The jogging path was easy to find and is very clearly marked now that I knew to look for it, lol! I cant believe I never noticed the big blue signs before! I ran the route twice, then went back inside a dripping mess due to the humidity outside. The only people I saw were cast members coming to work, one older guy out for a walk, and a few groups of unfortunate people dragging their luggage over to the lobby. The trail wasnt all that terrific (too short, for one) but it served its purpose. It would have been prettier if it ran along the edge of the lake, for example!
Back in the room I had a slice of bacon, piece of biscotti and some cappuccino for breakfast around 7:30. Id been checking the latest weather and tossed a few different ideas around in my head but ended up just staying put. The clouds are really thick, so I wont bother with the beach this morning, and I really didnt have a reason to go wander around Downtown Disney.
Around 9 I showered & got dressed, and of course by 9:45 the sun was out, lol! I didnt feel like getting all sweaty and having to shower again so I still skipped the beach. Instead I drove over to the Hess station by the Car Care Center to fill up the gas tank, then parked the car back at Bay Lake Tower and walked over to the Magic Kingdom bus stops.
I got there just after the Art of Animation bus pulled away so I knew it would be a while before the next one arrived. I stood there watching the monorails, train and ferry boats coming and going, which helped pass the time. When a bus finally did arrive it had 2 scooters on board but since there were only 3 of us waiting the driver had us come on and sit down before he unloaded the scooters. That was nice of him!
At Art of Animation I walked around taking pictures and checking it out a bit. I liked their lobby/check in area and store but didnt care for the food court. The furniture in particular was really ugly and cheap looking like something they picked up at a Big Lots or something! It also seemed rather small for a resort with so many rooms, even though most of the rooms are suites.
Outside the main pool area was cute, but here theres no slide. There were plenty of chairs available, since only a quarter of the resort is open now. I imagine once its all open this will be a busy area although it wont be the only pool. The outside dcor was cute, and very Disney. I noticed the room buildings are not motel-style like the other values, and while I expected to like that I ended up hating it. When I went into the building I was horrified by how ugly and cheap/tacky it looked it was not much nicer than walking into a Sams Club or being behind the scenes! The hallways arent very wide either, and you know with all the kids staying here the hall noise may be an issue. I didnt see the inside of any rooms, but after seeing the hallways and entry area I couldnt wait to leave and never return. Ill admit Im spoiled by dvc and of course I dont expect Art of Animation to be at that level, but for the prices theyre charging this was a huge disappointment. In any event, I wont be booking here.
I went back to the front of the resort to wait for a bus, figuring Id ride to Epcot and then take the monorails back to the Contemporary. When the Epcot bus finally came a Magic Kingdom bus arrived right behind it so I disembarked and got on the bus to MK. From there I walked back to Bay Lake Tower and uploaded these photos while updating the report.
I sat out on the balcony enjoying the fresh air and to a lesser degree the music from the pool party <g>. I talked to Nancy and we agreed to meet at 2:35, so I walked over to Contempo Caf and brought a Steakhouse Salad back to the room. While over there I asked if they had nutritional information for the menu items and I think they thought I must have lost my mind asking for that. I was curious how many calories were in the thing, and in case anyone else might be the answer to whether they have nutritional information available is NO, lol! That should tell us something right there <g>.
While at the Contempo Caf I noticed the tables and chairs, in comparison to the crap I saw at Art of Animation. I was thinking maybe I had too high of an expectation for a food court, lol! Well, here the chairs have a cushion on the bottom and theres the cute Mickey head cut out near the top of the seat back. It makes them look cute and somewhat comfortable. At Animation theyre unpadded blah wood-look plain beige chairs very utilitarian and not nice or creative in any way. It took just a couple minutes for the salad to be made, and I ate half of it once I got back to the studio. It was delicious as always this is probably my favorite counter service meal. The other half went in the fridge for tomorrows lunch. I finished captioning the photos Id uploaded and then at 2:30 headed down to the lobby to wait for Nancy.
Once Nancy arrived we went up to the studio and sat out on the balcony to chat for the next couple of hours. She brought me some delicious blondies, which Im pretty sure SB will help to eat! It was so pleasant outside catching up with each other and we were able to watch a few storms come in and pass by. At one point they closed the pool and kicked everyone out, while the boat patrol rounded up all the boat rental guests to get them back in. It had started raining at that point but not too badly. One boat drove over a buoy and got caught on the line, so the cast member had to pull him to the dock.
Nancy left for home after 4:30 and shortly after she left the heaviest storm passed. Visibility was reduced to the point I could barely make out the old Contemporary garden wing across the way! It only lasted about 10 minutes, though. I had pulled the balcony furniture into the studio at that point, so when I use it later it wont be wet. I decided to watch the 5pm news and I also had to RE-sign on to the internet. Since internet is free for everyone, why do we have to re-sign on for it every 24 hours????
At 6 I fixed a plate of crackers & cheese, poured a glass of wine and went out to the balcony with the kindle. I just love it out there watching the monorails coming and going, hearing the ships horns, etc. Its so pleasant & beautiful here! I may have to rethink my Memorial Day Weekend plans and book here instead of Jambo House concierge if only I could ensure Id get a room in a similar location to this one!
I ended up spending almost 3 hours on the balcony, prompting SB to call to see if I was ever coming inside (he saw my idle sign online) <g>. I did come in briefly but remembered it was 9pm and went back out to watch Illuminations. By the time that ended the Electric Water Pageant was underway over at the Grand Floridian so I watched that until the King Neptune portion I cant see here was illuminated, and then went inside for almost an hour. I figured Id get the report posted and then go back out at 10:15 to watch the pageant here.
Today was a terrific day all around! The weather was better than expected while I was out, and I enjoyed seeing the new Art of Animation even though the room buildings were a bitter disappointment inside. The outside stuff is cute, but for me thats not enough to make up for the room buildings. It was great seeing Nancy again, and Im thoroughly enjoying just hanging out relaxing here at the resort.
Tomorrow looks to be a better weather day, so after I go for a run Ill spend some time on the beach at the Contemporary. Later in the day Im meeting my friend Robin and her family for the first time, then its back to the balcony for my last evening of the trip!
DAY 3 Sunday 6/10/12
Who: Sue (53), DVC member
Plan: Contemporary Beach, Resort
Actual: I was awake just after 6 and left the studio to run at 6:29. Once again I made the 2 loops of the jogging/walking trail and came back a dripping mess from the humidity. While jogging it was cool to see the big MK ferry boats cruising over past the Contemporary to get to the TTC. One person drives and the other walks around wiping down the railings, etc. Once I got back to the studio I took off my sneakers, peeled off my wet clothes to put them on a chair on the balcony (which given the humidity theyll be damp until 2pm, lol) and took a shower. I then ate a slice of bacon and enjoyed some online time in bed with my cappuccino. The sky is mostly blue and I could see the sun rise earlier, so itll be a hot, humid but sunny day until the afternoon storms roll in!
Around 8:30 I ate my greek yogurt (strawberry, with granola stuff packaged on the side of the container) and then put on a swimsuit and headed over to the beach just after 9. It was already hot, and would only get worse! The beach has several chaise lounges and a few big umbrellas so I grabbed some towels from the pool and set up camp with a beach umbrella so I could have some shade as needed.
It was absolutely beautiful out there! There was a really nice breeze and even though it got pretty warm in the sun once I moved into the shade it was perfectly comfortable. I did some reading and watched the various boats coming and going. Just before noon one of the big ferry boats cruised by heading off duty. Other people came onto the beach briefly but nobody stayed for very long, so it was almost like my own private beach! I stayed out there until 12:30 and then went up to the studio and took the rest of the steakhouse salad out to the balcony for lunch. It was gorgeous on the balcony, too shady and breezy!
I showered and got dressed, then returned to the balcony and finished the book I was reading on the kindle (Syndrome a freebie). The pool party stuff was going on but it wasnt nearly as loud as the first day. Around 3 I noticed an email that Robin was here so I went downstairs to meet her in the lobby. Weve been friends for a long time but had never met in person, so I was really glad our trips overlapped.
We toured the public areas of BLT and then went up so she could see (and photograph) the studio. We hung out on the balcony chatting and just had a great visit. The view & weather were really nice, and the time passed so quickly. At 4:30 she left to meet her family before their San Angel Inn dinner reservation. Hopefully well see each other here again, and she suggested wine so you know shes ok in my book <g>!
I went out to put something in the car and was shocked by how hot it was outside! On the shady balcony its significantly more comfortable, so thats where Ill be headed. I talked to SB on the phone while walking over to the Contemporary, then went inside and rode up to the 4th floor to browse through the shops. There was a huge line for Chef Mickeys, which means a lot of noise soon. I cant see standing in a long line for dinner, especially at Disneys prices. But, I guess thats what people have come to expect and they put up with it.
After looking through the shops I returned to the studio to upload the last few photos and check out the cruise critic message boards. Once that was done I cut up some cheese, added crackers and wine and headed out to the balcony around 6pm. It was gorgeous out there once again! It was a comfortable temperature and I was almost disappointed when the pool games ended because they were a great volume today. I just love sitting out here and seeing the monorails enter and exit the Contemporary! I love the boat horns, too its just such great ambiance, and not like Gainesville at all <g>.
Around 8 or so I could see a big storm forming all around us at least the 3 sides I could see. SB called as I was watching the storm, teasing me about being out on the balcony so long. Eventually the storm turned really violent near constant lightning making the sky look like either a strobe light or like some bratty kid was playing with the light switch. The thunder was unreal very frequent and incredibly loud. I stayed out until after 9 but by then the wind was blowing rain onto the balcony and the thunder was so loud it was making me jump! I noticed there were no Illuminations fireworks, so that must have been canceled or postponed. One of the larger boats pulled into our dock around 8:30-8:45 and was still sitting there at 9:20. By then the storm was letting up, so it wont be long before things started getting back to normal although the lightning was still frequent & fierce.
I decided I was in for the night, so I finished up the trip report and then packed up what I could. The photos from this trip are on shutterfly at
Today was another great day I absolutely loved my beach time, meeting Robin and spending the evening on the balcony. Overall the whole trip has been great, even though the weather has been bad at times. I just wish the trip was longer, as I could easily spend the next week or so just repeating the last couple of days! This ended up being an incredibly inexpensive trip, with total out of pocket expenses (excluding gas) being $12.86 not bad for 3 days at WDW!
My next trip will be a quick 1-night stay at Saratoga Springs with SB in August. The Comedy Warehouse cast are doing a couple shows in downtown Orlando that night, so we bought tickets and booked the room so we didnt have to drive back to Gainesville. After that I have my concierge stay at Jambo House over Labor Day weekend, then we begin Food & Wine Festival trips!