Resorts

Disney’s Aulani Resort: Small Tips to Make a Big Difference

by on September 18, 2014

Aulani back view

Photos by Sarah Graffam

One of the benefits of being a frequent Walt Disney World visitor is starting off a vacation at the World with virtually no learning curve. Knowing ahead of time exactly what plans need to be made before visiting and being able to navigate the entire resort and every park make it easy to become immediately immersed in the magic. So, although my family felt that familiar Disney welcome when we arrived at Aulani this summer, we knew ahead of time that it would take some time to get familiar with the ins and outs of the resort.

This article shares a few of these ins and outs in the hope of helping future visitors to Aulani ease into their vacation a bit faster. Because, believe me, everyone who stays at this gorgeous resort will want to enjoy every moment and relax at every opportunity.

Shopping for groceries, sundries, and souvenirs. Before settling into their room on the first day, many Aulani guests want to pick up at least a few basic grocery and sundry items. Aulani’s Kālepa Store has lots of Aulani/Disney souvenirs as well as a limited selection of groceries. Some of the grocery prices at the Kālepa Store aren’t too bad by Hawaii standards, but if you are looking for more selection or better prices, there are a couple of off-site options. These include a shopping area in Kapolei with stores such as Target and Costco about 10 minutes from Aulani. If coming from Honolulu, take H-1 West to Exit 1, or if coming from Aulani, take HI-93 East to Exit 1A.

Another option is Island Country Markets (an ABC Store) within walking distance of the resort. This small grocery store also offers souvenirs, beach items, beer and wine, and more. The prices for some items seemed good while others seemed a bit high, but (after an initial stop at Target) we made a couple of visits here during our stay and found everything we needed. Hawaii-themed baseball caps were a bargain at only $12-15, and goggles for the pool started at $3.99. In addition, the store had good-quality waterproof smartphone pouches for around $20, which allowed us to use our phones to take many fun photos as we floated along Aulani’s lazy river or cruised down the two water slides.

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Universal Orlando Sapphire Falls Resort Opening in 2016

by on September 10, 2014

Only a few months after opening the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Universal Orlando has announced that its fifth on-site hotel will be called the Sapphire Falls Resort and will open in summer 2016.

Universal’s latest Loews-branded hotel will sport a Caribbean theme and contain 1000 rooms, 77 of which will be suites. Landscaping will feature a tropical lagoon and large waterfall. The new resort is located between the Royal Pacific Resort and Cabana Bay Beach Resort, on the south side of Hollywood Way just east of Adventure Way.

Sapphire Falls concept are wide shot

Concept art of Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. Cabana Bay Beach Resort can be seen at the top center, with IoA’s Ripsaw Falls ride at the top right. (Images courtesy Universal Orlando/Loews)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons to Check Out Disney’s Pop Century Resort

by on September 6, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons to Check Out Disney’s Pop Century Resort. One of Disney’s Value Resorts, Pop Century has a level of theming that makes it stand out compared to the other lower priced hotel offerings at the All Star resorts as well as dedicated bus transportation to the parks and Downtown Disney. The entire resort is themed around pop culture icons from the latter half of the twentieth century, with the wings of the hotel dedicated to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Each wing has elements from their particular decade throughout the area. If it sounds cheesy, that’s because it is cheesy, but it’s a good kind of cheesy way and one that can bring back a lot of memories for every family. At the very least Pop Century is great for an afternoon of “resort hopping” to see some of the things they offer that you can’t find at any other Disney resort, starting with…

 

# 6 – The Lobby is a Wonderful Trip Back Through Time

SS_PopCentury_Lobby2

Disney’s Pop Century Resort

 

While the check-in desks inside Classic Hall are the same that you will see in many theme park hotels, the walls opposite check in are filled with shadow boxes containing items from the 1950s through the 1990s. This is a wall that will have various generations of every family seeing an item and instantly remembering where they were in life when that was popular.  Elvis, the Moon landing, Dobie Gillis (with Maynard G Krebs), the Beach Boys, Star Wars, Mork & Mindy, Jane Fonda’s workout book, Trivial Pursuit, He-Man, Go-Bots, Smurfs, and so much more are in this area.

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Cabanas, Casabellas, and More at Disney’s Aulani: When a Lazy River Is Not Lazy Enough

by on September 5, 2014

Interior of an Aulani cabana (photo by Sarah Graffam)

Interior of an Aulani cabana (photos by Sarah Graffam)

When guests of Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii are looking to experience even more luxury beyond the resort’s beautiful rooms and grounds, they can consider booking one of the premium seating options found in several locations among the various pools, whirlpools, winding lazy river, and play areas of Aulani’s Waikolohe Valley.

Whether renting one of these upgraded seating options is worth the price is a highly individual decision based on factors such as budget, how much time you are likely to spend enjoying the premium seating, the ages and interests of people in your party, and what other activities are planned during your stay. If you are considering splurging, read on for details about prices, what is included, locations, and views for each option.

Aulani casabellas (photo by Sarah Graffam)

Aulani casabellas

One benefit to note before looking at each option individually . . . all of them guarantee your party a home base for a day at Aulani’s extremely popular pool and beach area. The resort’s pool complex has proven to be so popular that it was expanded only two years after the resort opened, and many guests claim poolside lounge chairs early in the day. Knowing that you have a guaranteed seat will give you one more reason to savor that cup of Kona coffee on your balcony before heading to the pool.

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Hidden Details of the Disney World Resorts

by on September 4, 2014

There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, let’s take a look at the hidden details of the Disney World Resorts!

Deluxe Resorts

Grand Floridian Wedding Pavilion - A Glass Slipper Vacation

Grand Floridian Wedding Chapel

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa: Disney’s flagship resort is also home to Disney’s Wedding Pavilion, a fairy tale location with a view of Cinderella Castle! Even if you’re not getting married, you can still walk over to the pavilion area where the chapel and Franck’s Bridal Studio are located. Be sure to look up to notice a special detail: a heart-shaped weather vane of Mickey posing as Cupid!

Animal Kingdom Lodge: Throughout Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village you will find African quotes and proverbs on the walls and rock work; however, one of them is different from the rest in that it’s a quote from Walt Disney. You can find it around the Samawati Springs pool area!

The Contemporary: For years, guests have been reporting a small, metal Mickey perched on the edge of a rooftop at the Contemporary Resort. When riding the Express Monorail, keep your eyes open when you approach the entrance to the resort.

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La Cava del Tequila to Host Patron Party at Coronado Springs on Friday, September 12

by on September 3, 2014

On Friday, September 12, at 7:00 PM La Cava del Tequila (the tequila bar located Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion) will host a party at Rix Lounge at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Limited to 150 people, each $30 ticket includes a shot of Patrón Single Barrel Reposado, a Patrón margarita, and light appetizers. Guests can RSVP via email to CavadelTequila@me.com 

laCava

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Where to Stay at Port Orleans Riverside!

by on September 2, 2014

Ed. – Today the blog is taking you to Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter. These resorts are connected by a very pleasant walk along the Sassagoula River and are favorites on the Unofficial Guide reader survey.

PortOrleansRiversideDisneyOfficialIf you are staying at the Walt Disney Resort, one of the first decisions you will make is where you will be staying. If you decide that you are going to be staying on Disney property, next you get to decide between Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas.

Many people form strong opinions on which hotel is the best, and I’m not here to argue the point. I mean, there’s not really a point to argue, since the clear winner is Port Orleans Riverside.

Once you have made the best (the only!) decision to stay at Port Orleans Riverside, you can either be assigned a location, or you can request a particular area.

Port Orleans Sign

The first time I stayed at Port Orleans Riverside, I didn’t know much about it, and didn’t know enough to request a certain area of the resort. Now, after staying there multiple times, I know what I like and I always request an area in advance, though specific room or area requests are just that: requests. While Disney does their best to make you happy, sometimes it’s just not possible to accommodate your request.

The entire resort is gorgeous, but there are obviously some areas that are better than others. Even then, what makes it better for some makes it worse for others, so here’s a question-and-answer guide to help you choose the best area for your needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pineapple Lanai Opens at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

by on August 29, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

Do you miss getting Dole Whips at Disney’s Polynesian? Well I bring good news, as the sweet/tart pineapple treat is now back! Guests looking to purchase a Dole Whip must now head to the all new Pineapple Lanai kiosk window, which can be found near the pool area, taking up part of the space occupied by the former Wyland Gallery. This new addition is all part of the current renovation project taking place at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

The Pineapple Lanai menu features only Dole Whips:

  • Dole Whip Soft Serve: vanilla or pineapple – $3.99
  • Dole Whip Soft Serve Swirl: pineapple swirled with vanilla – $3.99
  • Pineapple Float: vanilla or pineapple soft serve in pineapple juice – $4.99

Guests can also choose to purchase these items in fun tiki-themed souvenir containers. The two Soft Serve options can be served in a Tiki Bowl for $8.79. The Pineapple Float can be served in a Tiki Sipper, which can be purchased for $9.99.

One other change: the Lanai is not a self-serve location, so for those of you who liked to see how high you could fill a cup with the treat over at Captain Cook’s, I’m sorry to say that option has gone the way of the dodo.

Who else is excited that Dole Whips are back at The Poly?

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IllumiNations Cruise: A View Worth Every Penny

by on August 26, 2014

Epcot lights up the sky.  Photo by Disney

Epcot lights up the sky. Photo by Disney

If you are one of the unfortunate ones to never have experienced IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth before, you have really been missing out. IllumiNations is the story of our Earth’s history, its present, and the hope for its future, showcasing people, flora, and fauna. This fireworks, laser, and video show will be the culmination of your extraordinary day at Epcot. After visiting Future World and then stuffing yourself with wonderful delectables throughout the many countries around World Showcase, find a seat or standing area around the Lagoon and be prepared to experience pyrotechnic greatness.

The only downside to IllumiNations is that I sometimes find it a waste of good Disney time to be camping out around the World Showcase hours before the nightly showing to get a prime viewing location. If this has ever crossed your mind or if you are just looking for that over the top experience, perhaps to celebrate a wedding, birthday, or anniversary, then you should try an IllumiNations Cruise.

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After the Touring Plan

by on August 19, 2014

2015UGAs many TouringPlans.com subscribers do, we buy the most recent Unofficial Guide, download the Lines app, read the blog posts, plan our days in Walt Disney World, and have our trip in order well before we depart our homes. This advanced planning helps us make the most out of our vacations in the Happiest Place on Earth.

However, there are times on our trip where our advanced planning works too well. For example: you have decided to spend the morning in Magic Kingdom park, utilizing the morning Extra Magic Hours that are in place. When you show up, you are some of the first people at the tunnel, and you go on to conquer your entire morning Touring Plan…in two hours.

I’m being a bit unrealistic in my example, but there can be points in your trip where things work out so well that you are blessed with that glorious object we Disney fans all crave: extra time. 

So what is there to do if this happens? Plenty, my friend. Plenty.

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