Here are some pictures of the lounge area and the offerings during breakfast, snacks, hor d'oeuvres, and desserts.
The staff in the lounge were amazing! Every single person we met was smiling, welcoming us, asking if we needed anything, and always cleaning the area. A special thank you to Jabez who brightened up our afternoons with his wonderful personality!
In the Magic Kingdom, our first stop was to the guest services desk. We got signed up for the DAS program (for those with disabilities) and also asked for a stroller used as a wheelchair tag. With the toddlers having autism we didn't know what to expect so we planned as best as we could. We knew their stroller would be a safe place, we knew we had 3 fast passes booked, and with the DAS pass, we could get a time slot for a 4th ride. We found these resources helpful when planning this trip: Disney Parks Blog, and Disney Guest Services.
We ended up watching a show, going on the Mad Teacup ride, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and enjoyed walking around and seeing the sights. With the high temperatures, and the full sun we thought it would be best for everyone to go back to the hotel for lunch and then head to the pool. I'm aware that people will say this was a waste of a ticket but for us, this was a perfect first Disney outing for the kids.
For lunch, we dined at the Grand Floridian Cafe and I'm sad to say this was a mistake. We were seated right away and our server came over to welcome us. We explained that the kids can't sit for too long and why then asked if we could have a speedier meal. He assured us this would be fine. We ordered appetizers, entrees, and 1 dessert to go. Our meal itself took an hour and a half which was longer than we hoped for. On top of that we hardly saw our server and when we did the bill was incorrect. It took another 20 minutes to have a manager correct it. The next morning I realized that my dining plan points were incorrect. We spoke to the concierge who was going to have the restaurant manager call me back. In the afternoon, we went back to the concierge who went and corrected the issue for us. I definitely wouldn't return to this restaurant.
In the end, these were great rooms and they were kept immaculately. The downside to staying at the Grand Floridian Resort was there weren't any special touches. We didn't really receive any towel animals, for our 20th anniversary we only received buttons (previous trips we were given pictures or cards), and other than the lounge staff everyone else seemed to just get their job done.
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We had reservations for California Grill at 6 pm. When we checked in for dinner we again explained that the kids are autistic, we need to use their stroller, and if we could have a more expedient experience we were met with resistance. The initial response we received is that they weren't sure there was room for the stroller, that the meal usually takes 2 hours, and we were made to feel like it was a completely outrageous request.
Eventually, the boys won the staff over with their adorableness! We were shown to a table with a nice view and ordered our cocktails. For my meal, I ordered the salmon roll with lemon zest, the lamb, and guava sorbet. The salmon roll was nothing special. My lamb was delicious and with the 61-degree egg created a wonderful accompanying sauce. Getting fruit or sorbet is really my pet peeve. I was definitely expecting more from Disney considering they have a lot of newer vegan options. With that being said the sorbet was pretty tasty!
Back at our resort, we stopped in the lounge for a couple glasses of wine and headed out to our balconies for the fireworks. We had views of the water parade, and two firework shows and they were wonderful!
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast in the lounge and made our way to the Animal Kingdom. We weighed out our options of waiting for the bus, taking a Minnie Van (Disney themed ride through Lyft), and driving ourselves. We found the cheapest, fastest, and the most efficient option was driving ourselves and the Handicapped pass that our friends have definitely helped.
Our first stop inside the park was Pandora. Disney outdid themselves with this area in the park. Even though we were 10 minutes late we were stilled allowed to use our fast pass on the Na'vi River Journey. We continued exploring the area before making our way to Africa.
In Africa, we purchased some snacks. A Mickey pretzel for me, grilled corn for the kids, and water for everyone. Next we used our fast pass for the Kilimanjaro Safari. While the line was short we also appreciated the disability area to park the stroller and be brought back to the same spot once the ride was over.
We tried to get lunch in Dinoland but the lines were outrageous. Instead of lunch, we walked over to the Boneyard and we're going to take the boys through but the oppressive heat and crowds had us running back to the Grand Floridian and their pool!
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Our evening plans included dinner at Jiko inside the Animal Kingdom Lodge. At the check-in desk, we again explained our situation with the boys and asked if we could have a speedier meal. The reaction we received from Jiko was the complete opposite from California Grill. The staff at Jiko were understanding, friendly, and utterly helpful!
Two staff members showed us to our table, brought us tea, and towels for our hands. Our server was not only friendly, understanding of our situation, but also knowledgeable about allergies and food preparation.
My friend and I ordered drinks that ended up arriving with floating and lit up flowers. My appetizer of Mauritius Poached Shrimp was fresh, bright and still packed with the bold flavor that I thought I would miss out on by going dairy free. Greg's appetizer of the grilled wild boar tenderloin was very good (ask that man for some adjectives about his dinner and that's what you get lol).
For an entree they only real dairy-free option for me was the filet mignon. The steak was cooked beautifully and the sauce was nice but the dish was over salted. Greg's entree was the Mrouzia-style Moroccan Lamb Shank was impressive and delicious.
For dessert, I quickly jumped on the dairy free coconut milk panna cotta. The dish was very good I just wish I had more time to enjoy it but our time was up and the kids were ready to leave the restaurant.
After dinner we took the kids over to the playground and let them climb and explore. It was an interesting experience helping a kid climb up a jungle gym while wearing a dress and high heels.
I highly recommend dinner at Jiko and visiting the hotel does make me want to stay there again in the future.
The first step was to head to the concierge and cancel our dinner plans at the Boathouse and to make dinner plans locally at Narcoosee's. Once that was finished we swam in the main pool for a while. This was actually what we all needed. The sun was shining, the pool was warm, and there was a light breeze!
A little while later we packed up our stuff and headed to the splash pad area. Our friend was feeling a little better and so we all asked Barry for some menus. We basically ordered the same exact thing as the day before and it was just as good. I also appreciated Jose stopping by our table again to make sure I was enjoying my dairy free lunch. Very thoughtful!
When it was time for the kids to nap Greg and I headed to Disney Springs. We spent some time browsing for souvenirs for family members. I found the cutest Tinkerbell cup for my mom (a tradition I keep every time we go to Disney World).
Our main reason for visiting Disney Springs though was to shop at Sprinkles Cupcakes. A few days ago I ordered 6 of their special Game of Thrones cupcakes and 2 vegan red velvet cupcakes. We skipped the main line and went to the pickup counter and within a minute had our cupcakes in hand and headed back to the Grand Floridian Resort.
For dinner, we crossed the resort to Narcoosee's. When we checked in for our reservation we ended up having a short wait due to our need to use the stroller and have a faster paced meal. Once seated at our table our server came over with waters and took our drink order. My starter of poached and chilled shrimp was good but definitely not as good as the dish I had at Jiko. Two of us ordered the scallops for our entree and both of us agreed that they could have used a little more cook on them. We all agreed nothing was bad at Narcoosee's but we wouldn't return.
The next post will be about our drive and overnight stay in Hilton Head NC.