Of Birds and Stones

by 9/26/2014 01:49:00 PM 0 comments
Before we get eyeball deep in Meltdown this week I want to spend a minute and thank Kevin and Pete from 2 Men and the Mouse Podcast for mentioning me this past week. These guys put out an award winning Disney Podcast every week. It's because of them I felt inspired and inclined to create this record of my follies. Please, if you haven't listened yet, do check them out at 2menandthemouse.com.

Stranded

Our first day in Disney is slowly coming to a close and has already been pretty cool. We played in the rain on our resort's football field, enjoyed 18 amazing holes of Putt Putt, spent half an hour browsing an awesome Disney gift shop at the Contemporary resort and followed that up with mind blowing food at Chef Mickeys. Not to mention the character interaction. We were already worn out and haven't even so much as made it into a park yet. How will we ever make it from Welcome to Wishes if we can't even get through putt putt and dinner? I had to act fast and throw us into another activity NOW. Cue up the monorail.

Monorail zipping by in the background.
Social commentary in the foreground. 



When you eat at Chef Mickey's in Disney's Contemporary Resort you will find that a monorail zooms through and stops for passengers on the floor above you. I felt this would be another "2 birds one stone" moment by knocking out a ride on the monorail and a quick tour of another resort property that I had been dying to see. It's a win/win: The kids get to ride on something I can't promise we will get a chance to ride on later, and I finally get a chance to actually do something that was on my list. So up the escalator we go to board the Monorail. Destination: The Polynesian!

First off, let me go ahead and say monorails are crowded places. Getting on, getting off, it doesn't matter. They're always full of folks coming and going. Also, the resort monorails make several stops so keep this in mind if you hop on one, When the monorail stops folks will leave, and then be replaced by other folks and so on and so forth. Thankfully there was only one stop between the Contemporary and the Polynesian. And I thank God it was there.

Bullet trains are crazy fast. Monorails aren't bullet trains, That being said, boy do they seem to really zip around on their elevated track. And I mean elevated. Above the trees and stuff. Soon we were zooming along in a large metal snake some 100 feet in the air (not really 100' but still) headed to the Polynesian resort when we make an unexpected stop at the Ticket and Transportation Center in front of the Magic Kingdom. The engineer (pilot?) came on the intercom to let us know that everyone needed to deboard the train so maintenance could check it out. So people begin filing out and we're milling about on the platform while the conductor (tour guide?) walks through informing everyone that the problem isn't major and that we are fortunate to be stuck at the TTC because that's where maintenance is for the monorails, meaning we should fixed up in no time.

Image of monorail 100' in the air courtesy of onlywdworld.com

It seems "no time" is too long for some people because about half of the passengers grumbled and took off with their backpacks and strollers. I had no idea where they were going. I didn't care. I was busy making sure my kids didn't get the notion to try and walk the monorail track or see where this hole goes or what that button does, etc. Thankfully it wasn't much longer until we were told that the train had overheated due to (wait for it) the summer heat and they had reset the sensor so we were good to go again. I'm no rocket surgeon, but it basically sounds like they literally turned it off and back on. Who knew Best Buy's Geek Squad worked for Disney?

We board the monorail, again, for our short 40 second trip to Disney's Polynesian resort. I hope I've made it clear enough that I'm excited to visit Disney's Polynesian resort. I've heard about it from coworkers, podcasters and bloggers. The Polynesian resort is home to two of Disney's must do dining experiences. First is the terribly popular Ohana's restaurant and second would be the Spirit of Aloha Dinner show. It's complete with fire juggling, hula dancing and an all you care to eat dinner, all outdoors under the stars. Sounds great and magical, but I got Mickey Dome's so what now?


Jersey Angel

As the train came to a stop at the Polynesian we stepped out into the wonderfully humid Florida evening air and quickly stepped back into climate controlled goodness and came face to face with what I call our first real cast member: Jersey. I'm going to stop this story for just a moment to tell any potential Disney first timers something very important: when you meet a cast member that is just down right awesome, get their whole name so you can recognize them later. I feel awful that I didn't get anybody's name that helped us out. Cast members delight in bringing you magic, why not bring some to them by letting their lead know how awesome they were? Or you could blog about it to the 27 or so readers that accidentally clicked on the link to your blog from Facebook thinking it was Farmville.

Jersey was a super, pin loving girl from, well, New Jersey. She was so wide eyed and energetic when she found out it was our first trip and we knew nothing about pin trading that she gave us a guided tour through all the pins in her gift kiosk. By the time she was finished with us we all had lanyards, starter packs of pins, mystery packs of pins and felt knowledgeable enough to trade pins with anyone we came across. Now a note on "pin trading" for those that aren't so quick to this scheme: it's basically another way for Disney to take your money without you really feeling like they're taking your money. You buy yourself some authentic Disney collector pins, put them on a lanyard or a collector's bag, and then spend the entirety of your time in Animal Kingdom looking for pins and backs because your son just can't stop messing with them. Or you can trade them with other guests and cast members looking for some cool and unique pins...but where's the fun in that?

I totally wanted a Genie pin, in memory of Robin Williams.
Traded for it with my youngest son.

After blowing the heck out of our predetermined pin budget of $0, I led us off on an adventure through the resort to see how the other half lives. Remember, we're staying at an All Star resort, so I wanted to see exactly what $400+ a night looks like. And I can tell you, right now it looks like a lot of walls. You see, the Poly resort is undergoing a major remodel and when Disney does a remodel they put up huge unsightly walls so as to hide the huge unsightly renovation work. Now in Disney's defense, the walls were green and festooned with the appropriate tropically painted foliage one would expect to see on the grounds of an island paradise. Speaking of islands, where's this beach I heard about?
Beach view of the Polynesian Resort. Due to construction
only about half of the beach was available to us.
Note the large inflatable projector screen.
 It comes into play later.

Part of what the Polynesian is known for is it's man made white sand beach located behind the resort. My wife had asked just the day before how close we would be to the beach and if we would be able to make the excursion out to the ocean and take it in. With much regret I informed her that Orlando is located near NO beach and if we wanted to visit one we would be looking at a 3 hour round trip, assuming we never got out of the car. I could tell she was disappointed in hearing this but little did she know I already had a side trip to a beach cooked up and we were on it now!

Finding the beach behind the resort proved to be a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. We checked with Jersey to get directions and took off out the back of the resort and started following signs. With the added construction walls, what should have been a straight shot let us feel like extras in the Maze Runner movie. I swear somewhere along the way I saw Harry Potter holding the Goblet of Fire.

Flaming Mallows

When we finally made it to the beach I was a little let down. More walls. Like, less than half of the beach was available. We  must not have been the only ones that felt this way as there were less than a dozen people enjoying the evening view of Cinderella's castle against the sunset. This was both good and bad as it made for plenty of empty lounges and swings but it killed the mood of fun and kinship. I observed one couple in a swing, a cast member setting up for the evening movie and a small group in their late teens standing around an unlit fire pit whose cast member was setting up sticks and mallows for roasting. I've got to tell you, there really isn't anything more relaxing than walking barefoot across a white sand beach and holding hands with the love of your life, all the while knowing a flaming hot marshmallow is in your immediate future.

Now don't get me wrong, roasting a marshmallow over a fire is great. Yelling at your kids to get back from the water is great. Finding out your kid didn't listen and now has a wet foot because one of the Disney guest transport ships just cruised by is also great. But what's better than all that? Watching a cast member trying to set up a large inflatable movie screen in the evening breeze. Here's the scene: me, stick in the fire, mallow glowing, glancing over while he spreads out the nylon screen before turning on the blower. I pull my marshmallow from the fire, blackened and smoldering, while he shoots the juice to the inflator. I blow the flame my marshmallow and test the crinkliness of its incinerated skin, reveling in the crunchy sound it creates. Screen boy, having realized he should have staked down the screen before turning on the blower unit, fights to keep this inflatable wind sail vertical while the breeze seems determined to lay it down. I pop the hot puffed sugar in my mouth and begin quick chewing so as not to burn my soft fleshy parts. Screeny McSandypants, valiant to the end, succumbs to the draft and is swallowed whole into a white silken coocoon before being rescued not by his fellow cast member, who watches casually as she loads yet another cube of snow white goodness onto a skewer, but by a gentleman-hero who leaps up from his chaise lounge and to the poor lad's rescue. It was some of the best live entertainment I had seen in some time.

For real wooden sticks over for real wood on fire.

After throwing back a few more marshmallows, and making sure nobody was seriously injured on the beach, we made our way back through the resort towards the monorail station. When we got near the gift shop with all the pins, I had my youngest run ahead and call out to Jersey to tell her thanks and bye. Man did she ever light up like a spark plug. One of those high dollar kinds you get at like Autozone instead of Walmart. As we exited the resort to get in line for the train to take us back to the Contemporary I noted that, again, it was crowded. You see, with regards to the monorail system, just because it stops in front of you doesn't mean as many people are getting off that wish to get on. We did just manage to squeeze in just before it left. It made a few stops and as seats became available we occupied them. It took roughly 2 minutes after sitting down for my 8 year old to pass out. Man, if he's done by 9:30 how is he ever going to make it until midnight at mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party?

Beach selfie!


So this concludes my adventure into the Polynesian resort. I must say, that during any Disney vacation, take a few hours one day and just go check out a hotel. It doesn't cost anything and, as in this case, you might score a cool activity like a beach side movie and 1/3 of a smore.

To everyone else that has been keeping up with this, I promise, eventually I make it into a park. It might even be a another post or two away.

-M

- This entry is dedicated to Jersey for just being awesome.

Mikey Whisenhunt

Pseudo-blogger, Dad, Husband, Disnerd

I'm Mike. I'm a married father of 3 boys. When not at work I spend my spare time talking my wife into Disney trips.

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