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Thread: Patrick O'Connor - AKV, BLT and VWL - December 12-18, 2020

  1. #1

    Patrick O'Connor - AKV, BLT and VWL - December 12-18, 2020

    Patrick O'Connor - Animal Kingdom Villas (Jambo House), Bay Lake Tower, Boulder Ridge Villas

    Travel Dates: December 12-18, 2020
    Travel Method: Plane, Rental Car
    Resort: Disneys Animal Kingdom Villas (Jambo House) (1 night), Bay Lake Tower (2 nights), Boulder Ridge Villas (3 nights)
    Accommodations: Studios at each resort
    Ages Represented: Male Adults 28 & 49
    WDW Experience: Somewhere around 20 visits since 1996
    Comments: First COVID trip; the last trip having been completed in January 2020
    Cast of Characters:

    Patrick, 49 (trip reporter) 20-ish WDW Trips since 1996 and countless Disneyland visits as a local
    Ramon, 28 (partner) Second trip to Florida

    OMG, upon checking, it would appear that the last trip report I posted was in 2013! Boy, have I gotten lazy! There have been several trips since then, but I guess I gave up on note taking and I don't even bring my laptop on the trip anymore. Then, by the time I get home, I'm too busy with real life to recount my trip. Well, this time I'm going to make a noble effort - but it's going to be summary style. I simply can't do the play-by-play anymore, although I enjoy reading YOURS, so please don't stop them!

    This trip came about in the wake of COVID-19, because I'd purchased a WDW Gold AP back in January of 2020. When I saw that my refund for cancelling it would be almost nothing, I decided to leave it open and continue to USE it. Disney extended my expiration to April 2021, so between my January and current trip I will get about 11 park days out of it. That's decent, but I'm thinking a solo trip before the end of April next year might be in order as well. Ramon did not purchase a pass for his first trip, because we travelled with a Club 33 member who very graciously gave him complimentary admissions each day. On that first-ever trip, Ramon experienced a studio at the Poly, a Saratoga Springs treehouse, and an OKW Grand Villa. SMH! What a life for someone who has never been there. This time around, I already warned him that I was only going to spend my DVC points on studios for the two of us and that he'd have to purchase his own admission media. In the absence of any type of discount, not to mention no park hopping, he used and got a few bucks off, but basically paid rack rate, which makes me cringe. He's not into thrill rides and really only cares about pin trading and food, so for the few attractions that we did ride together, if I think about admission as a cost to ride rides, he was probably paying over $20 per ride some days. I try not to dwell on that, because I can't stand it!

    Airfares were cheap early in the year, but I waited too long to book, and ended up paying just about the same as I would have any other year. I purposely paid a little bit more to fly Delta, the only airline that was still blocking middle seats, and I'm glad I did. It truly is a luxury in this age of no-frills flying to have an entire row of 3 seats for just the two of us. I'll miss that when it goes back to normal.

    I also rented a car - something I hadn't done for the past several trips. I just felt it best to avoid as much enclosed contact with strangers on buses, plus I hate the buses in general, so this way I'd have a personal vehicle available any time I wanted or needed it. The other reason for the car was that I wanted to check out Downtown Orlando a little bit. I'd been there once in 1998, but not since, and since I always toss around the idea of moving to the area in the back of my mind, I wanted to see what was available in the core of the City. I really like using Magical Express - not only to make the approach and the return stress-free, but also to avoid the damn tolls - but this time, I made an exception. I'd stopped at the credit union before leaving home and picked up $30 worth of quarters for the toll booths, since I refuse to pay extra for the transponder. Yes, I'm frugal, and I reap the rewards of it

    Reserved airport parking at a nearby hotel was cheaper than in past years - obviously because of decreased demand - so that was nice. It was super easy getting to LAX in time for an 8am departure, and everything went off without a hitch despite that disaster of an airport that apparently will never be finished. In place of the beverage cart are bagged handouts of Cheese-Its, bottled water, sanitizer and some sort of dessert biscuit. This entire package was offered twice during the 4.5 hour flight, as well as free headphones to watch the complimentary TV shows, movies, and more.

    The flight home is another story. Taking advantage of the rental car, we stopped at Premium Outlets to visit the Character Warehouse on our last day - with about an hour wait to enter. I never would have bothered with this dump had Ramon not wanted to see the store. The great masking and social distancing enforced at WDW was nowhere to be found here, and we saw more than one group of patrons behaving like complete *****. I won't go into details. I really hate outlet malls in the first place - in most cases, they're a sham filled with second rate merchandise created just for the outlets that were never offered in the full line stores, and people fall for it year after year. After this, we raced to the Publix closest to the airport to pick up 2 subs we'd preordered on the app. There is so much buzz about how Publix has the best subs out there that I had to see for myself, plus, it made sense with there being no food offered on the flight home, plus the fact that traveling west takes about an hour longer. The sandwiches were good, but by no means spectacular - I can name a handful of other places with better subs at home, though all would be more expensive.

    Anyway, after all this, we arrived 2 hours before departure and STILL MISSED THE PLANE. The check in counter where you drop off your bags for Delta was backed up with only a few employees working, and each one was on the phone, apparently dealing with a unique issue. No passenger simply walked up and dropped off - everyone had some sort of exception. I was getting furious. We finally got our bag checked and then raced to security, which, of course, was backed up fairly badly. HUGE families of 10 or more were all going through, with multiple triplewide strollers and enough crap to house an entire tract of homes for a week. We passed through as fast as we could, raced to the monorail, and power walked to the gate, only to find the door already closed and loading ramp retracted. This was 6 minutes before take off time, and the gate agent said they always do this and there is no way to reverse it. I was livid, but didn't give the agent a hard time. We were not the only ones to miss, either - several of us showed up out of breath, only to meet with this horrible news. The agent rebooked us on the next morning's first flight and that was that. We noticed the next morning several passengers throughout the Delta area asleep in chairs - I have a feeling our flight wasn't the only one with missed passengers the night before. I got on Expedia and booked a reasonably priced airport hotel. It advertised 24 hour free shuttle, so again, I was pissed to learn from the driver that this was not true at present due to reduced occupancy. Fine, but at least update your website. Grr. So, that meant an Uber fare the next morning to get back to MCO in time for the 8:15am flight home. Good thing this was over the weekend and didn't affect my work. Our shuttle driver was actually the hotel's engineer doubling up as driver, since there were so few guests in house and most of the staff was still on furlough. So sad. Thankfully, we had our Publix subs to eat for dinner, which was good thing, since there really wasn't anywhere to walk to otherwise and the hotel restaurant would've been expensive.

    Once we finally made it back the next morning, the flight home was good. I had time to watch Mean Girls, Like a Boss, and part of an HBO show called, "Divorce". All were entertaining, and it passed the flight time quickly. Since I'd prepaid for a specific amount of time at the LAX parking hotel, of course, I was charged quite a bit more for exceeding the time, but what can you do. Not worth getting upset over it. When Delta emailed me their survey, I made sure to tell them that they need more gate agents, OR, they could do like Southwest where there are separate windows for those who need full service problem solving and hand holding vs. those who just want to drop off a bag.

    Next up - the Parks, one by one!

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  3. #2

    Sorry to hear of your MCO trials (especially the missing the flight!).

    I don't know that you would have done better on on any other airline. I know LA is considered bad, but I think MCO is in a stiff competition trying to be in the ranking for "number one" (or the worst) some times (though I realize there are far worse airports in the country). In normal times, the huge Mouse volume doesn't help at MCO, not sure with COVID if that was the driving factor (or maybe it continues to be on a lesser scale, but with staff reductions too, it's proportional, and therefore the same dynamics?).

    One of my last trips before COVID started last year, I got on the security line nearly half way down the mall! I also had a very similar experience at the baggage drop on American. It's almost like when they designed the check in and bag check area, they totally discounted the log jam that automatically results when you have 12 or more self serve kiosk terminals converging down to only one or two lines/people to accept bags.

    One (relatively) recent thing I was expecting you to have a "gotcha" story for was the tolls, depending on the route you take. I used to (like 7-9 years ago) do the 528 to I4 route, before I learned of the southern exit at MCO. Recently (maybe 2-3 years ago?) they changed the tolls along the 528 to I4 route to be cashless. So having coins doesn't help anymore, you then unexpectedly can get the "convenience" fee of using the electronic tolling in addition to the actual tolls, depending on your rental car company.

    I hope to read your actual park days were better than your MCO experience!


  4. #3

    Thanks for your report, looking forward to reading the rest of the installments!

  5. #4

    First up: Animal Kingdom Lodge! Also known as AKL and AKV!

    My original plan was to come in on a red eye and immediately go to a park on the first day. Then I thought back to my past trips where I did this. Well, I was much younger then. Nowadays, I think I value sleep more than rides, sad to say; so I began looking at daytime flights instead – they ended up being cheaper anyway. This would require one extra night of hotel. Since I’d made plans to visit Orlando downtown on the first night anyway, it made sense to spend the first night there. But then I got to thinking: I’m a DVC member with points. Why not check if anything is available that I can get for “free”, having already paid for it in my annual dues? The clear choice was a Value Studio at Jambo House. It’s a great deal, and it was only for one night, so it made more sense to just plan to visit Downtown and then drive over to WDW (In hindsight, I could’ve also used my free Marriott night that I earn once per year for having the Chase Marriott Visa…but I guess that would’ve made too much sense). It’s a pain to switch resorts during vacations, but there was nothing available on that Saturday at the resort I was staying at for following next two nights (BLT), plus the points cost was so low, I couldn’t resist.

    Currently, Kidani Village is open as usual since it’s 100% DVC, but Jambo House is only open on the DVC side. That means that the wonderfully large gift shop, as well as the Mara, Boma and Jiko, are closed. Arriving late that night, it was horribly depressing seeing all of those dark, shuttered spaces. The bright side is that the lobby is decorated for the holidays as always, and looks amazing. With so few people moving about in the public spaces, it was like having my own resort that night. The front desk had one person working, but with everyone checking in online, there was virtually no need. I did pass by at one point to ask the clerk if there happened to be any pin trading boards around, and was met with a grumpy “No”. She’d probably been asked that exactly 595 times before I did. There were also no Bell Services personnel anywhere that I saw.

    Upon entering the studio, it didn’t feel “Value” at all, and when I opened the slider, I was met with…a Savannah view! Sure, it was almost pitch black, but I was definitely looking at trees and dirt rather than a parking lot! I happen to have a friend in Guest Services who knew my reservation numbers, and methinks he may have somehow added a little Disney Magic for my single night stay. I profusely thanked him via text, and we loved the room. I’ve only stayed in a one bedroom unit at Kidani before, so I didn’t really have any frame of reference, but the room felt very fresh and new, and even though they’ve removed the colorful bedspreads and (I believe) painted the walls white, it still felt cozy and themed the way I like my Disney rooms to be. No complaints.
    I took the bus over to Kidani Village (literally a 30-second internal bus ride) and poked around. It was busier here, for obvious reasons, and Sanaa was doing quite a robust business of both dine in and to go orders. I glanced at the menu (when I could get a chance – people were SWARMING all over it) and could see the choices were quite reduced. At least they were offering breakfast, as they pretty much had to if they didn’t want to have starving guests between the two resorts every morning. I’d checked in regarding all of the dining issues here beforehand, so I knew to eat dinner well before arriving and that we’d be best off grabbing breakfast elsewhere after checking out the next morning.

    It's funny how memories change. I’d originally thought that I really liked the Kidani pool better, but upon visiting again, Jambo is the winner for me. This may also have more to do with the fact that Jambo’s pool was emptier and quieter this night. After my quick tour, I decided to see how long the walk was between Kidani and Jambo. It was a pleasant night weather-wise, and I think it took me all of 12 minutes or so, in my flip flops to boot. Back at Jambo, I saw that they have 2 separate jacuzzi areas behind the pool, neither of which had any guests in them, so I hopped on my chance to have one all to myself. What a treat! I could hear Flamingos in the background, so I think their area was directly behind the spa, blocked only by a bunch of vegetation. Eventually, another family came down, which was fine except that one of the kids kept inching closer and closer to me, to a point where it was less than 6 feet, and of course in the water, none of us had masks on. I didn’t love that, but I stayed a little longer. In overhearing the families’ conversation, I found that we were basically bathing underneath one of the Grand Villas at Jambo. I looked up and I could see the large, round balcony with lights on. All of the DVC resorts are currently conducting tours of their rooms, and this must have been one of them. I felt it was too late in the evening to ask if I could tour, but remembered based on other trip reports that I needed/wanted to do this wherever I could this trip.
    I tried to visit the Savanna overlook area, but it was dark and there really wasn’t anything to see at that point.

    The next morning, we did get to see a few giraffes having breakfast as well as a couple of other passers by. This really is some of Disney’s best work in terms of hotel accomodations. I like the fact that it doesn’t get as much press, likely from being so far away from the other three theme parks. That is just fine by me! The location of the resort would never prevent me from staying here again and as the rooms currently look, I would highly recommend this resort when shopping the Deluxe category.

    Animal Kingdom was open until 8pm that Sunday (which was AMAZING, given that even The Studios was only staying open until 7pm!) so knowing which attractions we wanted to hit, I felt we didn’t need to get there at the crack of dawn. Plus, I really like DAK in the dark, so skewing our visit more towards the evening made more sense. The bonus was that we didn’t need to hurry up and check out early, so we pretty much hung out at the resort until close to the 11am check out. From there, we popped out to Hwy 192 to grab lunch (since it was so late, breakfast was no longer needed) at Arby’s, followed by a trip to CVS for sunscreen. Funny story on that. I’m half Irish with pasty white skin, and I burn in 10 seconds. I am stocked like a store with sunscreen at home, but did I bring any? Of course not, because I’d looked at the weather forecast for Orlando and it was going to be 40s-70s, so I’d packed mostly long sleeves and figured I wouldn’t need any sunscreen. Sure enough, the damn weather changed to 80’s for the first few days and high humidity, so I traded my long sleeve hoodies for t-shirts and an 8 dollar bottle of sunscreen to add to the collection at home. This was one of those times I was glad to have had the rental car!

  6. #5

    Yayyyyy! Welcome back! I always enjoy your TRs. Keep it coming-great start

  7. #6

    First park day: Animal Kingdom!

    I don’t know why I historically go to DAK so early in a trip, as if I’m “getting it out of the way”. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I absolutely adore this park, and although it’s an awful lot of walking and a little short on attraction count, it’s absolutely beautiful and definitely takes you away from the real world. I consider this Joe Rohde’s last masterpiece, from a creative time in Disney history that, so far, at least in my opinion, has not been repeated.

    Park hours for the Sunday we went were an amazing 8am-8pm. In retrospect, I don’t think any of the other three parks were open for 12 hours that day. Amazing! Anyway, as I’d mentioned before, there’s only 8 or 9 attractions I’d wanted to see here, so I didn’t think there was any reason to leave our lovely Savanna View studio too early. We arrived after having eaten our aforementioned Arby’s and stopped at the Christmas tree in front to get PhotoPass pictures. We did the same with another winter scene that was off to the side. When it’s just two of you, it’s so much easier to just let the cast members take your pictures than try to do awkward selfies or bother other guests. Of course, there were a few times when guests caught us doing that and would come up and offer to take pics for us, which we appreciated. I’m just not one to generally ask, I guess.

    I’d not been to this park when it was decorated for the holidays, at least that I’d remembered. The Discovery Island main area (I forget what it’s called – Tree of Life Plaza? Discovery Plaza? I’m just going to call it “The Hub” for now) had beautiful garlands on the shop buildings as well as figures of animals in the planters. If one thought they weren’t much to look at by day, they really stunned at night. Talk about understated beauty. I loved it all. The nighttime projection show on the Tree of Life did not seem to be holiday-themed, but rather the same production that always shows. It had what I’d call a medium number of guests in attendance that night, but not so many that you couldn’t keep easily distanced from others.

    So, without Fast Passes, this actually DID become an all-day park, contrary to what most people like to say. The queue lines were all shorter than the posted times, but some of them were still incredibly long for being at 35% or whatever it was. I know some people are fervent about wanting their FPs back ASAP – I’m undecided. I REALLY loved not having to adhere to the return times of my FPs and logically tour the park in a circle instead of bouncing all over the place to meet deadlines. On the other hand, with FPs, we could have finished sooner and spent more time relaxing at the resort. Dinosaur was our first ride, and I saw parts of that queue that I never knew existed, lol. I will say this – throughout this trip, not having had any special privileges for either FP or the like, I really enjoyed the theming that takes place in the queues and how it prepares you for the ride. That’s something that has been all but lost in the past 10 years – getting on and off a ride as fast as you can so you can move on to the next one.

    Pocahontas is a favorite, and we managed to catch her and Meeko on her “barge” as she emerged from the area near Everest and then out into the former Rivers of Light performance area and beyond. I think the way they presented the characters this way was great. I have no interest in ever waiting in lines to snap pics with the characters – I worked alongside them for years in the 90’s and it holds little magic – but to see them remotely without any type of wait was just fine by me.

    I never made it on Everest. Ramon doesn’t do roller coasters that have any thrill level greater than Big Thunder, so I’d decided I would make this my very last solo ride of the evening and he could leave beforehand and take the bus to our next resort. Well, thanks to the long lines, we ended up staying almost until 8pm, and I was exhausted from standing for so long, so I just skipped it. Not a big deal – it’s a fun ride, but I really do hate the backwards part and the older I get, the more sickening it feels.
    We had a great ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris, some time around 3:30pm when it was still light, but really getting that sunset glow-beautiful look out, and the animals were plentiful. Both the lion AND lioness were on the rock – I’d never seen that before! We also walked both of the exploration trails, which were fun and uncrowded. I think I’m liking being at this park later in the day after the rope drop crowd has moved on. I kept thinking that if I was a local, I’d probably hang out at this park on the benches in the lush forested areas and just zen out, and quite often.

    We developed a bit of an appetite from the walking and waiting, but I didn’t really want to have a formal dinner here, so we just grabbed pretzels with cheese and found plentiful seating at the Dawa Bar area, facing the closed Lion King Theater. It was VERY weird seeing no activity and no guests at all around this normally-packed zone. There were social distance stickers on the ground in the queue area, which puzzled me. Maybe at one point early in COVID they thought they were going to keep this show alive, but clearly that never happened. Anyway, on the pretzels, lemme tell ya – never again. I’m not one to get Disney snacks in the first place – I know many people worship the churros, turkey legs, Mickey premium bars and even the popcorn. To me, it’s all garbage. None of it is top quality, and the prices are laughable. I live in a predominantly Latino community and I can walk the street and buy a fresh, delicious churro that hasn’t been sitting under a heat lamp or carted a mile out on stage for $2, so that’s my benchmark. Anyway, the pretzels. First of all, I forgot to ask if they even offered them without salt. The amount they put on these could kill a horse. Ramon and I have become accustomed to asking for no salt when we order fast food fries or burgers at home. I’m getting older, and I don’t need the added weight on my blood pressure. So there I was, frantically sweeping off as many of those salt crystals as possible. Task done, I then dipped in the little cheese cup they include. So, this is not cheese. It’s some disgusting chemical combination dyed bright orange that is supposed to resemble melted cheese, but possesses none of the same DNA. OMG, it was the most horrid thing I’d ever eaten. I took a glance at the ingredients and I’ll be damned if Soylent Green wasn’t in there somewhere. Just HORRID! I forget the brand name now – I did snap a photo – but I thought, with all of Disney’s corporate relationships, they couldn’t get a well known national brand to provide real cheese in a cup? Or at least something closer to what you’d find covering nachos at a movie theatre? This was like shelf-stable glop that would last 1,000 years in dry storage. Just writing about it now makes me sick.

    After that “experience”, I figured we’d better get in line for Flight of Passage before the day escaped us. It was backed up along the pathway from the Harambe Theatre, but moved quickly, and again, I saw parts of queue I didn’t even know existed. Important tip: If you’re in standby, there is one of those filtered water dispensing stations inside the queue. Few and far between to find in all four parks, and you don’t have to wait in line to ask a CM to get you a cup of water, nor do you waste a paper cup if you have your own bottle. The ride was good, and although motion simulators are my least favorite type of ride, I can handle this one, thanks to my handy dandy Relief Band that I’d purchased for my last trip in January. This is worn around your wrist like a bracelet and, when turned on, sends little electric pulses to your wrist which are supposed to program your brain to pay attention to the pulses instead of the motion. I don’t know if it’s the placebo effect or not, but it really helped me. You can adjust the levels and for a ride like this, I have it almost all the way up. It just feels like little prickles on your inner wrist and then it radiates out into your hand. Not painful at all. I also use it during flights, but at a very low level. If there’s turbulence, I just reach over and increase the level. Now, this isn’t to say that it’s so great that I would ride Mission Space ever again. Forget that; as far as I’m concerned that will never happen and I still curse them for removing Horizons.

    When we exited the ride, it was dark. I just love Pandora at night. During Ramon’s first trip in January, we were not in this area after dark, so I’d wanted to be sure he saw it this way. Of course he didn’t remark anything – damn kids – but I was loving it.
    I actually prefer Na’Vi River over FOP, and even though the line was miserably long, I insisted that we do it. I may get to ride this attraction once per year, so it’s pretty important to me that it does not get skipped. I think we waited longer for this one than FOP, but again, it probably wasn’t more than 40 minutes. It felt like 4 hours, simply because I was so tired from standing and waiting in lines. The ride was lovely as usual, though far too short for my weary legs, but at least we got it done. After this, we slowly made our way out, stopping only to check out the shops and pin board one more time and just soak up the holiday lights.

    We’d also stopped to watch the bird show earlier, which I was happy to find open. It’s completely outdoors, and they have more than half the theatre closed with alternating rows blocked, so it felt completely safe. I forget what they call it now – something with UP – but the show is still Flights of Wonder and I still think it’s very worthwhile.

    All in all, we missed Everest, Kali River (by choice) and It’s Tough to be a Bug. The latter, I’d only wanted to visit because it was removed from DCA a while back, so this is now the only place I know of to see it.
    On this trip we had 5 park days: 1 DAK, 2 Epcot, 1 MK and 1 DHS. Those were hard decisions to make with no park hopping. If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t have changed anything, but I definitely would have split one other day up to spend another 1/2 day back at DAK to repeat some favorites.

  8. #7

    Have to agree with you about too much salt on the pretzels. The cheese looks horrible. I always tell the vendor that I dont want any of it because otherwise its just tossed in the trash. Its a shame that Disney raised the price of the pretzels just to include giving out that cheese in name only.

  9. #8

    Contemporary Resort/Bay Lake Tower (BLT)

    After wed checked out of Jambo House for that first single night and spent the next day at DAK, we were moving over to BLT for the next two nights. Id never stayed here before, other than stopping by to visit the Top of the World Lounge and to wander out by the pools. Also, years ago, I remember stopping here (via Monorail) and walking out to the little beach in the back by the existing garden wing. Somewhere, I have a picture I took of my feet in the lake and just how beautifully peaceful that spot was, amidst the chaos of a world class theme park and resort. I repeated that experience during this stay, except at night, and its confirmed I LOVE that spot! Of course, you cant dip your feet in the lake anymore thanks to the barrier that has now been installed, but in the dark, I probably wouldnt have wanted to anyway. There was literally no one else around; all the chaise lounges were empty and no one was even walking around. This will always be my special WDW spot until Disney stupidly bulldozes the garden wing to put up another high rise (you know they will) Personally, I wish the garden wing would turn DVC. I would kill to have one of those rooms facing the lake with the patio or balcony.

    Anyway, check in was a breeze, since Id already done it on my phone. We were assigned a studio on, I believe, the 10th floor, and it had a lake view as Id reserved. Basically, it looked directly at the DVC pool. An odd thing we found upon entering the studio was that Housekeeping had left a HUGE stack of partially folded towels on the table in the room. LOL I asked my friend in Guest Services if hed sent those and he replied no, so all I can think is the housekeeper simply forgot and left them all there. Hysterical. We didnt touch them, so they were there for them to find 2 days later, having not been moved.

    The studios at BLT are small, about which Id already read, so I was prepared. Dcor is, well, spartan. If youre one of those millennial minimalists who likes a clean, white slate and nothing else but function, youll love this place. Me? Not my style. Very cold and boring. To accommodate the kitchenette area, which is normally out within the living space near the front door, they carved into the wall next to the bathroom; and when youre in there, it feels very much like being in that area on an airplane where the flight crew hangs out when theyre not serving people. Its narrow and tight. It does have a nice countertop area, which became our overflow toiletry area, since the actual counter in the bathroom feels like youre on a train, its so small. For food storage, they installed one of those tall, slim rectangular doors which slides out on tracks to expose storage racks. Clever, but at the same time, I didnt know we were in a 20s hotel in New York where space was at such a premium. Its just cramped; put it that way. I would not choose to stay here again, at least in a studio, but the lake view and proximity to the Magic Kingdom cannot be beat.

    I also love being able to walk the bridge over to the regular resort. Although I suspect the rooms here are similarly bland, you cant beat the 70s architecture of the tower itself. Thats something that will never get old, and that I truly do love. The Concourse level, with its shops, dining options and super cushy carpet (GREAT when you spend 8 hours per day traversing parks), really needs nothing in my opinion. Its a little out of date, but its cozy and, especially later at night when the day traffic has subsided, it feels like home.

    I walked outside to get close to the Christmas tree, which was quite nice, and took a few pictures. The first floor lobby didnt have much going on its pretty small and really has nothing to it other than a coffee cart, The Wave restaurant, and the front desk. For a first-time visitor, it probably appears as if these are the only features of the hotel, which is definitely not the case.

    The pool areas at both the hotel and the DVC wing are also plainly decorated; my favorite feature is, once again, the lake view. By the time I got down there to do my walk that one night, all pools were closed except the large, shallow circular pool at the regular hotel closest to the lake. Trouble was, it was cold out that night, and what I really wanted was the jacuzzi, but this pool did not have one. Oh well.

    We awoke to a beautiful view off the balcony, and I enjoyed staying out there for as long as I could before, inevitably, it was time to head off to the MK.

    There were two negatives about BLT that left an impression. First, my magic band did not work at the laundry room, and the door handle was about to fall off. Not a big deal, but when there are only two desk agents and each of them has a guest that has some sort of silly, long winded request that can take a HALF HOUR, youre basically SOL. There were no bell staff nor concierge types, so I was screwed. I ended up doing my pool walk at that time and then coming back, eventually getting a CM at the front desk to help me but I could have had my clothes in the washers an hour earlier if the door had worked. She didnt explain what was wrong, but whatever she did, did the trick. Why would a hotel guest need to have the laundry room manually activated? Yes, that pissed me off and wasted time.

    The other issue was that the elevators are few and far between. Because of COVID, you dont want to share an elevator with another party, and often times I would want to use one, and then feel like crap when Id need a cab all to myself while a family of 10 were behind me waiting. Theres also the unnecessary anxiety of worrying that youll have to tell another party not to ride with you, and then look like a jerk. This never happened to me in fact, there was only one time the entire week where someone else got in my cab and I shrugged it off but still, it would have been nice if there was better signage in the elevator lobbies to say what I couldnt say.



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