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February 3, 2011

A Birthday To Remember! (Part 2)

Animal Kingdom Lodge is essentially divided into two sections (one being for DVC) - Jambo House and Kidani Village, both are available to explore by Lodge guests. We stayed at Jambo House. Tony's favorite discovery there was the Uzima Pool, an 1,000 square foot pool with a 67 foot long slide.

But Uzima paled in comparison to the Kidani Village Samawati Springs water play area, featuring a 4,700 square foot pool with a 128 foot long slide! (Note... this one of the "blunders" we experienced. Tony was itching to check out Samawati, so I called to ask how late the pool was open. I was told that the pool was open till midnight, so we opted to head over around 6:30, only to discover that the pool closed at 7:00. Tony did get a little play time, but would've loved more!)

 Kidani Village also featured "Community Hall" - a sort of rec room with video game systems, a pool table, foosball table, movies, board games, crafts/activities and much more!

Another highlight of the Disney experience is the food! For a gal who is proudly clinging to over 100 lbs. of weight loss, this can be a pretty scary temptation! Lucky for me, I have learned how to accommodate a little splurge every now and then. For starters, let me recommend an Animal Kingdom Lodge specialty - zebra domes!! Filled with chocolate mousse and Kahlua, these cool little cakes are absolutely to die for!!!
Then, of course, there's the fun of character dining! Gino's mom joined us for breakfast at Ohana, a character dining experience at The Polynesian Resort featuring your hosts, Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and Pluto! As the name implies, Ohana is all about family. This includes dining "family style". A huge bowl of breakfast goodness is delivered to your table for everyone to serve from... and they keep it coming! Breakfast includes: cinnamon bread, scrambled eggs, sausage links, bacon, potatoes, and Mickey shaped waffles.Each character travels table to table, visiting each family for pictures and autographs. 

Now, for a moment, I have to break the chain of Disney magic here. Things sort of fell apart for my dream birthday during our Ohana experience. Breakfast ended with me storming out of the restaurant, long before I was actually ready to, practically in tears. From start to finish, this dining experience was quite a disappointment. 

When we first arrived, Gino mentioned to our host that it was my birthday. The man responded by saying that we should have mentioned that earlier because they do complimentary birthday parties. Well, we knew about that. In fact, when we originally checked in at the Lodge, Gino had mentioned the occasion, knowing that Disney will do little things to acknowledge your special event (a card in the room, phone call from a character, special treatment at dining, etc.). He was given the number for the Disney Florist and told that all they do now is offer gift baskets and floral arrangements for purchase... no more of the special little cutesy complimentary things. So... nice to find this out after the reservation for breakfast was made. The meal was a bit of a flop as well. The eggs were cold, the bacon undercooked and we didn't get our Mickey waffles (also cold) until we were ready to leave. The worst part of it all, however, came with the characters. Stitch was fantabulous as always. Pluto, though quick to pass through, also did fine. Lilo never even made it to our table. Mickey spent about ten minutes at the table next to ours, with a family of about eight. This family took at least 15-20 pictures, in every possible combination of people that they could think up. He finally made it to our table, long enough for one picture, before an Ohana Cast Member came by and told him to go back to the previous family again... never to return. Umm... hello? Are we invisible? As far as I'm aware, we all paid the same inflated price for this experience, so I had to wonder why this incredibly selfish family had any right to completely dominate the mouse! When our server came around to see if we had met all of the characters, we explained the Mickey issue and the fact that Lilo had not come by. She said she'd have her manager bring Mickey right back. 15 minutes later, I was over waiting. I had watched Mickey (and all other characters) spending a ridiculous amount of time with each table and I was frankly done feeling insulted. Before anyone chuckles over the immature absurdity of my disappointment over character time, let me clarify... it's the principle of the matter. Gino went out of his way to book a character dining experience that he knew I'd truly appreciate and we paid more than I can stomach for a cold breakfast, just to have that character experience. I felt completely ripped off and I wanted what we paid for.

After the breakfast mess, the dishonest concierge (regarding birthday treatment), inaccurate pool info and a general lack of knowledge by Lodge staff when asked simple questions about locations and times of events, I had reached a high level of frustration by the end of our second evening. I went to the front desk and explained all of my little frustrations to a very patient, exceptionally kind Cast Member by the name of Beth. I told her that I hated to complain and probably sounded silly, because each of these incidents were all rather small, but added up... it just didn't equate to the "magic" that Disney promises their guests - especially on a birthday or other such occasion. She wholeheartedly agreed. We had a long talk about my opinions/expectations of the Disney company and she sincerely apologized that they let me down, promising to make it up to me and give me the magic I deserved. I went back to my room and she promised to call me shortly. 

Less than a half hour later, Beth did call, and she followed through with her promise. After another apology, she informed me that they would be providing us with transportation to and from a complimentary character breakfast the next morning at Cape May (at the Beach Club Resort). Shortly after, she also sent up a gift basket full of gourmet goodies, a birthday card and two stuffed Mickeys for the kids.
The next morning, we were much happier with the way our character dining experience unfolded. Not only did we get character time, but the food choices were more varied and all items were fresh. It was a serve-yourself buffet setting, but I had no complaints. Cape May's breakfast buffet had everything you can imagine, including a yogurt bar. (I highly recommend the breakfast pizza and maple french toast!) The real kicker... Minnie and Donald brought me a birthday cupcake and led a singing chorus of "Happy Birthday" to me.

After our breakfast, we spent some time exploring the Beach Club Resort, as well as the beach, which overlooks the Boardwalk. I have to admit, this is a spectacular resort with breathtaking views! The beach was totally abandoned, so we enjoyed some quiet, leisurely time strolling around.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 3... Boating on Bay Lake!