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Saratoga Springs Resort – A Bit Like No One Cares

Three years ago, when my husband and I on a whim took a tour of the new Saratoga Springs Resort at Walt Disney World, we were immediately sold.  We had done time share tours before, and I had always managed to find something wrong with the property, the way we had to vacation, or the high pressure sales pitch they give.  Disney Vacation Club was different.  The sales people really are more like guides than sales people.  There was no pressure to buy, no bringing in a manager, only an offer of literature that we could take with us to look over, and a card with a phone number to call back with questions. 

The property itself was sparkling.  Everything was so clean it squeaked, and the rooms were bright, light, and welcoming.  The kitchens contained everything you could think you need while on vacation, the washers and dryers are a life saver – and a money saver if you are flying with luggage restrictions, and everything just looked wonderful.

We’ve stayed here a number of times during the three years since we bought our first contract here at Saratoga Springs Resort.  The first couple were magical.  Having been vacationing where there was an annual pass holder rate or a bounce back offer – if not off site at a Marriott with reward points – this was a huge step up for us.  Having all this room to spread out made vacationing feel luxurious.  The staff was friendly, the rooms were immaculate, and we’ve enjoyed many happy hours here.

And then, it just started to feel like no one cared.  Two years ago, my first mother daughter trip with just Brighid was marred when we checked in to find our Saratoga Springs bathroom had urine all over the floor.  The immediate assumption was the toilet malfunctioned at some point, but after having maintenance come in to check everything, it was determined that no, someone had come in and peed on the floor.  On purpose.  And they wanted us to still stay in that room!

We’ve had other little things – toys left behind by other children that my children discovered under chairs or behind furniture.  We found food left in the freezer once.  A visit to the pool found no clean pool towels.  Those were small things that made us feel like attention wasn’t being paid to things.  Stuff was being overlooked.  Are they rushed to turn the units over, or does no one really care?

When we checked in this visit, the first thing we were upset about was that I had asked to be in ANY section but Congress Park.  This was not a specific request, like near the pool, near a bus stop, in the third room from the elevator on the the second floor in the fifth building on the right.  Just don’t put me in Congress Park .  It’s not that I don’t like Congress Park.  The units are the same all over – I assume.  It’s just that we have never been anywhere in the resort except Congress Park.  In all of our visits here (and we now own 650 points, and can almost never get in anywhere but Saratoga Springs because of our last minute planning), we have never been put anywhere besides Congress Park.  So, when we checked in, we were put in Congress Park.  The rude clerk at the front desk – and yes, he was RUDE – when we asked if there was any other building available, never bothered to even pretend to check, he immediately just said, “no, nothing available”. 

So off we set to our room, only to find out there was no electricy in either of the bedrooms, and no television working in the living room.  WTF?  A phone call to the front desk had a maintenance guy at our door in a few minutes, but you will never believe the big problem.  There was a circuit that needed to be flipped, but the big problem was that someone had unscrewed all of the light bulbs in the unit.  Seriously.  Who does that, and why don’t the housekeepers know? 

Working with Roseann Vanella at Super Suppers, I learned a little something.  There are bars there, where our customers come in, prepare their meals, and pack them up to take home.  When I first started working there, she said that when a customer comes in, the bar should always look like they were the first customer to use them.  Why doesn’t Disney do that?  Why should I not feel like I am the first person in this room?

On this visit, in our new room, because they did move us from Congress Park, we found dirty dishes, broken handles on the furniture, missing drawer pulls.  The dishwashing soap was in a small bag, but it was open, so someone under filled and left the open bag, and that’s what we had to use for our dirty dishes. 

And there’s an odor here I can’t figure out.

It’s sad to see that no one cares here.  Check the dishes when a guest checks out to make sure the next guest doesn’t get dirty dishes.  Call rude employees on the carpet.  Hire people who want to do their job, be proud of it, and promote the brand to the best of their ability.

It’s not like we’ll never be back at Walt Disney World.  Perish the thought.  But I’m going to try harder not to have to use my points at Saratoga.  This resort is too young to have these kinds of problems, and I’m truly saddened by that.

Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage – A Contemporary Hit!



Just when I feel like we’ve done most everything we could do at Walt Disney World, something new comes up that makes me realize why I love going back there time and time again!

On our recent visit to Walt Disney World, we had the opportunity to join some Disney World Moms Panel Friends for this Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage.  This specialty cruise has been available to people who were visiting as part of a Grand Gathering, but it has recently been opened up to anyone.  How lucky are those of us who don’t have enough family crazy enough to indulge our Disney addiction by traveling with us!!

The Voyage begins at the Contemporary.  You check in with the Events Board to see where to meet, but it seems to be a theme to meet in the hallway of the Ballroom of the Americas on the 2nd floor.  You are greeted by a Cast Member who presents you with pirate bandanas for your family, along with a ticket that tells you which boat you need to board and which row you’re assigned.  In short order, the ropes are dropped, and you enter the area, decorated with various piratey type things, but the thing the kids hone in on is the snack table!

 Filled with a feast any kid would gladly give up Halloween to enjoy, on our visit, there were bags of pink cotton candy, bags of peanuts, trail mix, fresh fruit, gourmet brownies, crispy rice treats (yeah, I know, they’re Rice Crispie treats, but that must violate something somewhere, so for the purposes of this snackfest, they are crispy rice treats), cookies, and chocolate pirate coins.  You will also find a beverage station, featuring coffee, tea, ice cold bottled water and cans of soda.

  All of the snacks and drinks are portable, and there is nothing to discourage you from taking them with you on your voyage.  I know that my kids were so excited when the stars of the evening, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, appeared, they sort of forgot about the snacks.  They were glad to have them while they watched the fireworks.

So, yeah, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee!  They arrive on the scene, and graciously – as graciously as villainous pirates can – pose for pictures.    Not only do you feel under no pressure to have your photo taken, it is entirely up to you to line up for the pictures.  The cast member was kind enough to lend my daughters her marker, and they were excited to have the pirates autograph their bandanas.  She was also kind enough to attempt to include my youngest daughter in the picture by having her stand a comfortable distance from her arch nemesis (who knew my four year old had one of those!), but she was having none of the picture taking nonsense.

After the pirates are through posing, they mix and mingle.  As with other Disney characters, there is no speaking involved in the mixing and mingling, but there was some great fun to be had.

At some point in the midst of all this fun, we are introduced to our host for the evening, Patch, and his twin brother, Patch.  During the party, this knowledge is only marginally important.  Once we get on board the boats (there are two), Patch takes over the entertainment, and the evening is both fun and funny, with a generous enough dose of romantic to make this seemingly family voyage a very suitable option for honeymooning and anniversarying couples.

 Games are played, songs are sung, and a special guest introduced.  At one point, Patch actually goes row by row and welcomes every family, asking where they are from, acknowledging their celebrations.  If that’s not a magical Disney touch, I don’t know what is.  Then there is the part where Patch sings Kiss the Girl after he invites all of the couples celebrating their anniversary to get up and dance.  It wasn’t my anniversary, but I was so tempted to dance – it was just that sweet!

 Everyone was having a blast, and this really went a long way to dispel the concerns that this voyage was only for children.

The cruise took us past the Electric Water Pageant, something only one of the children with me had seen before – and so long ago, she didn’t remember.  And from there, we found a spot, better than front row center at a Jimmy Buffet concert or behind the plate at a Phillies game, from where we enjoyed what seemed like a private showing of the Wishes Fireworks from the Magic Kingdom.

On the way back, as we are all glowing from the fireworks, Patch plays trivia games and awards prizes.  Don’t worry if you don’t win one of the awesome prizes (I know they are awesome, because my kids mentioned 4,672 times on the way home that they were awesome).  Everyone leaves with a sticker at the very least.  Patch on our boat, by the way, was originally from my own home “port”!  He was “awesome” – my kids said so.


And just when you think the fun has ended, a big surprise was awaiting us when we arrived back at the dock!  Guess who?

The evening was wonderful, and well worth the price ($54 for adults, $31 for children).  My girls talked themselves to sleep in the car on the way home, bubbling over with excitement. 

We would defintely do the cruise again – and I might do it soon, to take my teenage daughter, who missed it due to sorority recruitment.  Fun for kids, fun for adults, and an evening we’ll long remember.

Would You Want to Be a Disney Moms Panel Mom?

It’s that time of the year!  Tweeple are Tweeting!  Facebook statuses are updating!  Even the on life support MySpace is taking notice.  Walt Disney World is about to begin it’s search for candidates to serve as members of the Disney Moms Panel!

Last year at this time, I was anxiously awaiting the announcement.  I had applied the year before, but the essays I wrote, in that oh so sarcastic tone I tend to use when I write, apparently didn’t appeal to anyone.  I never made it past round one.  I hesitated to apply a second time, but thought if I wrote essays that spoke from a less sarcastic part of me, I could submit a heartfelt, emotionally charged without being mushy, list of reasons why I wanted to be a member of this panel.

I am, after all, a Walt Disney World fan.  I am not so much into the trivia part of things, nor am I into the minute details that would pack my brain with information such as how long it takes to bus from point A to point B.  But I do know that some of the best and most memorable times in my life have taken place at this happiest place on earth.  I really felt like I could do good with an opportunity to be on this panel. 

So, seven months into this gig, would I feel the same way now that I did a year ago?  Would I want to be a Disney Moms Panel Mom if I were not already a Disney Moms Panel Mom?  Has the job been all I thought it would be?

The answer to that last question is a resounding No.  This job is not all I thought it would be.  This job has been mind blowing, life altering, confidence building, and way more than I could have ever hoped for.  I expected to happily answer some questions from people planning WDW vacations – pretty much the same thing I’ve done on my own for years – for people that wanted my help or not.  In return, I’d get a free trip to Disney for my family, and the world would keep spinning


I have absolutely fallen in love with 15 people who, without this panel, I never would have met.  I’ve taken weekend trips without my husband and children – and had fun without them!  I’ve spoken publicly several times – something I haven’t done since speech class in college.

I’ve lived through the terror of video shoots.  I’ve lived through the trauma of Podcasts. 

I have been introduced to some amazing people.  John Rick – the amazing pin dude from the Central NJ Disney Pin Traders – you just want to be best friends with this man!  Lou Mongello – warm, friendly, and probably as close to Walt himself as you are likely to come.  I have even been introduced to a few Skurvy Monkeys – and not only lived to tell the tale, but liked the encounter!

My WDW online community hero has spoken to me live and in person.  Deb Wills from www.allearsnet.com is my idol, and it’s always an awesome feeling when you get to meet your idol, and in person, you find absolute justification for your feelings.  What an incredible human.

There have been surprises along the way, there have been opportunities I never thought I’d have.  My life has been enriched by the friends I have made, and my laugh lines are definitely a little deeper as a result of these friends.

Would I want to be a Disney Moms Panel Mom if I were not one already?  As I recently told someone that I have worked with this past seven months, I would do this gig for a hot dog from Casey’s and a Fast Pass to Test Track.  I love it that much.

Keep your eyes peeled.  The announcement for applications to join the Moms Panel is coming, and you will see it at either www.disneyworld.com or www.mickeymomsclub.com .  This is the opportunity of a lifetime, that has changed my lifetime for the better.