Welcome back to “Episode 4” of our Bucket List Trip Adventures! As we mentioned last week, normally we are sad to end a cruise but because we knew we were on our way to Walt Disney World for a week, we were thrilled! We disembarked the ship as early as we could to ensure we would get on the road quickly as we had about a five-hour drive ahead of us. Even with a couple stops on the way up, we made it through the glorious main gates of Disney World around noon – we finally felt HOME again. We made our way over to the DVC Grand Floridian Villas lobby to check to see if our room was ready even though we know this would be unlikely as check-in isn’t until 4 PM. In case you are wondering, we are not Disney Vacation Club members and in order to stay here we had to rent points from a DVC owner. We have been doing this for a couple years now so are experienced in this process. If you are interested in finding out more information regarding this, there are several Facebook groups you can join, which is how we started. We have a couple regular owners that we now rent points from as we have established trust between both parties. Renting DVC points is more often than not a much more affordable way to stay at the deluxe resorts at Disney World. Rack rate from Disney for a room at the Grand Floridian was averaging about $750 a night while we were there and by renting points for our stay, we were able to get the room for an average of $350 per night. This is a HUGE savings and the only way we were going to be able to stay at our unicorn resort at Disney World.
We spoke to the cast member at the check-in desk, and she told us that our room was not ready yet and that it would be a couple hours. We figured that would be the case, so we ventured to The Wilderness Lodge by boat to grab some lunch. One of our favorite places to go for drinks or food when we do not have a reservation is Geyser Point at The Wilderness Lodge. This is an outdoor spot right on the Seven Seas Lagoon where you can watch the boats go by and even the Electrical Water Pageant at night. We grabbed our favorite bar seats and ordered the Teriyaki Chicken Wings and the Cheesy Barbecue Brisket Dip with House-made Chips. Sadly, we forgot to take pictures (aside from the Disney ducks patrolling Geyser Point) as we were so overcome with the excitement of being at Disney World. But if you are looking for somewhere to relax and grab drinks and apps or even a full lunch/dinner if you want, this is a fantastic option. As we were finishing our lunch, we got the much-anticipated text that our room was ready! We paid the bill quickly and boarded the boat back to the Grand Floridian.
We have a subscription with “Touring Plans” (touringplans.com) which allows us to make room requests in advance of checking in. We always take advantage of this to ensure that we have the best view and location possible. It isn’t a guarantee but even if they cannot get you the exact room that you request, they get you pretty close. In this case I received the building and view I requested but instead of 1st floor, we got the second floor and let me tell you the view did not disappoint.
Our beautiful spacious balcony overlooked the Seven Seas Lagoon with an epic panorama of The Polynesian Village Resort. It was a clear day and the sun reflecting off the water was just magical. We took a few minutes to take it in and then started to explore the room. The DVC Villas at The Grand Floridian had just gone through a massive renovation, and we consider ourselves lucky to be one of the first set of guests to experience it. We had a studio room which had two queen beds and a fifth sleeper twin option, a huge bathroom with double sinks and a separate toilet area, and a large couch and coffee table to use as a sitting area. There was also a vanity area when you first walked into the room with an expansive desk and mirror. This is much appreciated for us as we had two separate areas that we could both get ready in at the same time.
Another item that we noticed right away was the addition of electrical outlets with USB ports throughout the room. Older Disney rooms do not have USB ports or very many outlets and we often found ourselves unplugging things to plug something else in. This was definitely not the case here as we had an abundance of outlets that were obviously carefully planned throughout the room. The last item I want to touch on is the beautiful light fixture situated on the ceiling in the center of the room. This had little glass birds all around the upper rim except for one “hidden” glass penguin. Because this refurbishment was to have light “Mary Poppins” theming, we noticed this cute little penguin right away and agreed it was the perfect final nod to the film.
Overall, we were more than pleased with this room – it was beautiful, bright, elegant, and feminine with all the needed added technology in a meticulously planned layout. Even though were IN LOVE with this room, we wasted no time in getting ready for the evening. We had tickets to Disney’s After-Hours event at Magic Kingdom that evening from 7 PM – 2 AM but we wanted to explore a few places and have some drinks before that.
Because we were on the monorail loop, it was so easy for us to hop on that and head to the Contemporary Resort, one of our favorites places to hang out. We decided to start at Steakhouse 71 (previously known as The Wave) for our favorite wedge salad on property and also cocktails with our favorite bartender, Bo. We also ordered the “famous” Bacon and Eggs appetizer that has been on the menu since opening. This appetizer is a perfectly prepared over easy egg with a thick piece of pork belly over decadent cheese grits with a maple reduction sauce – DIVINE. It is a small portion, but we appreciate that as the dish is rich and allows us to taste more things on the menu. While dining at the bar there, we even met a newly hired cast member who was celebrating the start of career with The Disney Company.
As were finishing a cocktail, we thought we would walk upstairs and see if California Grill could accommodate the two of us at the bar. This is the BEST place to watch fireworks on property as it located on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort and has multiple outdoor terraces with viewing areas. I ran upstairs quickly to check the availability and when the hostess said she had two seats left, I texted Kat and told her to meet me up there ASAP. Currently, California Grill is offering a prix fixe menu which we have already had several times and did not want again. Luckily, at the bar you can order off a separate lounge menu with sushi and other appetizers. We decided on a couple glasses of wine and the Blue Crab California roll and the Spicy Kazan roll. If you have never had the sushi here, then do yourself a favor and try it – extremely fresh with unique flavor combos. The menu is also always changing at The California Grill, so a big plus is always having something new to try. We spent some time chatting with others sitting at the bar and the bartender until it was time to head outside to watch the fireworks. As always, a magical display of pyrotechnics in the sky with music piped into the terrace to coincide with the show. After fireworks, we paid our bill and headed to the After-Hours event at Magic Kingdom. Because of the close proximity between the Magic Kingdom and the Contemporary Resort, we were able to walk over which saved us a lot of time.
Because we didn’t make a park reservation for Magic Kingdom with a general admission ticket and the fact that we were staying at a resort right next to the Magic Kingdom, we knew we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to book this After-Hours event at Magic Kingdom. We have done one of these events before and loved it so we knew this would be no exception. The tickets for this event start at $149 per person before tax which sounds pricey but there is a limited number of guests which means extremely short wait times and all you can eat/drink soda, water bottles, ice cream, and popcorn.
We entered The Magic Kingdom around 9:30 after fireworks and jumped in the Starbucks line to get a dose of caffeine since we were in for a long night. We were able to ride every ride in the park with minimal wait times this evening aside from Jungle Cruise as it was closed. Considering we didn’t start riding attractions until 10 PM and finished everything by 1 AM, the $149 price tag is a steal! We also grabbed a few sodas and water to take back to the room and enjoyed some popcorn during the evening.
Utterly exhausted by this point, we decided to call it a night and walk back over to the Grand Floridian. Stay tuned for next week’s article in the Bucket List series – Day 2 at Disney World – and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at ourculinarycabaret.