Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 5 The Missing Day

Somehow Marc forgot all about this day in his original writings. I had planned for us to get up early for the Extra Magic Hour again at Disneyland. This time it starts at 7am since it is Saturday and the park opens at 8am. Last night Marc decided he didn't want to get up that early. Since Jacob and I are "morning people" we did Magic Morning on our own. It was great! We were the first at the security checkpoint again. And of course one of the first in the park when it opened. We got some nice pictures and then headed quickly to Peter Pan which fills up sooo quickly!
Here's what we did before the park opened to the general public: PeterPan, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Snow White's Scary Adventures, Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, and Star Tours twice! Then we went over to get Marc a fastpass for Space Mountain and gave the rest of them a call.
Turns out Marc and the rest of the kids were in the park already too and went on It's a Small World. Small World had been closed the previous days and just re-opened. Jacob and I grabbed a cinnamon roll to share at the new Jolly Holiday Bakery and then met up with the rest of the group at Sleeping Beauty's Castle. We had never toured the inside and wanted to do that. Then I took the kids on It's a Small World while Marc rode Space Mountain. Little Ella was walking around in a Sleeping Beauty dress but her hair didn't even look like it had been combed since I left before she woke up. I took a couple minutes to fix her hair now and then we all went over to California Adventure.
Since California Adventure opened at 10am today, we arrived before opening (as planned) so we could do the mad dash to ride Toy Story Mania before it gets too crowded. We walk briskly but other people run and knock into you. I was pushing the stroller with Ella and Zoe in it and Max was walking beside me. He tripped and fell and fortunately was not trampled, but I had to carry him since he was crying and push the double stroller. Jacob's job was to get Marc to walk faster than usual to the ride and he was taking it seriously so they were ahead of us when Max fell and they went and got in line. We caught up quickly and the rest of the day went smoothly. Max was just fine. (P.S. In case this sounds familiar, I mistakenly wrote this the first time we did the mad dash, but it actually happened this day. It didn't happen twice!) It would have been fun to go on California Screamin' again, but these days we live for the kids and that means we headed toward Goofy's Sky School to ride and grab fastpasses for later.
We had early lunch reservations for Ariel's Grotto today and it was time to go there. We arrived a bit early and had time to look at the nearby store. We really haven't done much shopping/looking at all. This lunch was the most expensive meal of this part of our trip--maybe (hopefully) the whole trip! It cost $155 including tax and tip. It was pretty fancy. The brought us an antipasta tower to start. The kids especially enjoyed the bread with special spreads. Then everyone had an individual entree and finally the dessert platter. Wow! Contrary to Marc's remarks, we actually left a couple pieces on the tray...but not much!
It was a very good meal But the real draw was dining with the princeses. This was Ella's special event! By the way, Zoe did not appreciate the princesses at all. Strangely, she was fine around the big fuzzy characters, but she cried at most of these princesses!
We actually thought about taking an afternoon break at this point, but decided to spend time in Redwood Creek instead. The kids had a blast exploring this place and Zoe had a nice nap in the sling. Ella was mad she wasn't tall enough to go on the zip lines and rock climbing. We spent at least a couple of hours here.
I think we went back to the villa and packed and wrote postcards after that. Then we returned to CA and rode Little Mermaid together. We were hungry and Marc wanted "real food" and the kids wanted corndogs, so I took the boys to Corndog Castle and we rode Goofy's Sky School a bunch of times again. We used our fastpasses from earlier for Max and me while Jacob used the single rider line to maximize our number of rides with no waiting. Remember those "ultimate fastpasses" we were given at check-in? We used one of those too. Marc decided to check out the Tron show with the girls and then head "home." The boys and I decided to use the fastpasses we had for Soarin'. When we got there, even the fastpass line was out the door. The kids were spoiled by not having to wait much at all and we decided not to ride Soarin'. In fact, we gave a lucky guy our Soarin' fastpasses and the 4 "ultimate fastpasses" that we never had the occasion to use! We got a snack from Whitewater Snacks at the Grand Californian hotel and returned just in time for the kids to finally see World of Color. What a great trip to Disneyland!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Villas at Grand Californian

For those interested in what the Disney Vacation Club Villas are like at the Grand Californian Hotel, this post is for you! We stayed in a one bedroom villa and it was the perfect size for the six of us! That's just because one of us is a baby--not sayin' who. We'll definately be upgrading to 2 bedrooms soon enough. But it does sleep 5 and a baby comfortably. We were on the 4th floor overlooking Paradise Pier. The room was 4508. We did request certain rooms (thanks to the DISboards)trying to get a view where we could watch the World of Color Show from our balcony and we were accomodated. This is what it looked like as we walked in. You walk into an entry area that was perfect to keep the double stroller in. There was a large closet there too that we kept our unpacked suitcases in, the laundry basket for our dirty clothes (which Marc washed every day--thank you!), and any clothes we hung up for the kids. There was a lot of storage space in this villa!
This is the view of the living area, kitchen, and dining area from the other side of the room. I didn't really take enough pictures to do this justice. There is a door that leads to the balcony. The sofa turns into a bed and a single bed folds down from under the television.
There is a small bathroom with a shower in the hall that leads to the bedroom.
The bedroom is large and has a roomy closet and plenty of drawers for storage. The sliding doors lead to same balcony the the living room door does.
Here is the view of the bedroom from the balcony. Now you can see the bathroom through the opening which can be closed off with sliding wood panels for privacy or to keep it darker in the morning when the bathroom light is on.
The large whirlpool tub is right by the opening to the bedroom and there is a large shower on the other side. There is also a separate area with a door for the toilet.
And the best part of this room was the view of Paradise Pier...especially during the WOC show! IF you weren't interested in seeing it every night then the noise might be bothersome. I hope no one gets the room who doesn't appreciate this great view! Marc liked watching the goings on in the park during the hours it wasn't open too. He also commented about how loud the street cleaners were in the early morning, but I never noticed it.
The VGC one bedroom is well layed out and seems pretty spacious. The decor fits our taste well. It's been my favorite DVC room so far (excluding the Grand Villas we've stayed in at BWV and BLT.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Note to blog readers

Note: Kyrie has started loading pictures into the earlier posts and adding her comments, with much more detail. If you're reading a post without pictures...stop and come back later.  Pictures and additional details should be added by early April.

This blog is best read from the earliest post through the latest dated post with a few exceptions...
Day 5 is out of order.  There a few posts about the overall resorts that can be read whenever you like.  Feel free to comment.

Day 19 - on our way home/Hawaiian Time

There isn't much to write about today. We woke up at 3:00am (ouch!) to get ready to go to the airport. Woke the kids up at 4:00am (they handled that better than us) and were soon on our way. We arrived at the car rental place at 4:45am and had to wait for it to open at 5:00am. The gas station opens even later, so we had to pay over $6/gallon for a quarter tank of gas.

"Soon" we were boarding our plane, and were in the air by 7:45am. We have a long day of travel ahead of us. We have one stop for 2 hours in San Francisco, before landing in Chicago at 11:15pm. Thankfully the first plane is extra roomy and has video screens in front of every seat were you can choose from about 10 different channels and even play some games. We had lunch/dinner at the San Francisco airport.  
The surprise of extra room and individual monitors with so many choices for movies ALMOST made me feel like we were flying business class.  Nice!  Are all Continental planes like this?  We've been missing out flyng mostly United.  I like the San Francisco airport too.  There is a science themed play area for the kids to spend some time and burn off energy while we waited. 

Max and Ella slept for quite a bit of the second flight, so they did well. Zoe was tired of travelling and wished we would just let her crawl around. Kyrie and I played hot potato with her for most of the flight. Kyrie most definitely lost that game, but there were no winners. In the end, Zoe didn't do that bad. She was certainly annoyed by the experience, but she put up with it pretty well for a 9 month old.

A 3 year old that travels like a pro!
By the time we picked up our luggage and drove home it was about 12:30am. Unfortunately, that is only 8:30pm in Hawaii and the kids, especially the ones who slept on the plane, were ready to play. We did eventually get them to sleep. In the morning Jacob woke up first, but not until after 10:00am. Max and Ella didn't wake up until about 11:00am. It's going to be tough getting them back on Central Time!

Day 18 - Last Day/4 Floors with Kelly Ripa

Our vacation is coming to an end. It has been a great time. It's hard to believe that we started this trip in Disneyland, that seems so long ago. I'm sure that the kids liked Disneyland the best, but the kids club at Aulani certainly came in a close second.  Kyrie liked the Marriott in Maui the best because it felt the most like Hawaii. I liked it all, but snorkeling with sea turtles was certainly a big highlight.

Today we just repeated some of our favorites. For Kyrie it was floating around the lazy river with a napping Zoe and the boys swimming along.. For Jacob it was the waterslides. For Max and Ella, the kids club. For Zoe, it was smiling at people to get attention. And for me? A little of each of those things - except the smiling for attention.  We were informed that there was a jellyfish in the lagoon, so I couldn't go snorkeling.

We did some more of the Menehune Trails.  I don't want to give much away, but one of the things you can do is start a waterfall by the cave in the main pool.  You can time this to surprise someone if you so desire. 

Jacob proudly displays his daily wristbands.  He finally took them off 2 days ago (over 6 weeks later!)
The kids also joined in more pool games with the Disney characters.  I snuck up to the room to do some packing before dinner while Marc and the kids did the inside Menehune Trail.  You're really missing something if you at least give it a try. 


For dinner, we walked over to the Marriott Beach Club. There was a band playing at the restaurant and the Ella did some nice dancing for everyone (instead of eating). Again, I wish we would have left the resort for dinner earlier in our trip.  The food at Longboards at the Marriott was quite good.  I think it was the best dinner we had in Oahu.  The tropical drinks were much better too and the atmosphere was great! 

As good as Key Lime Pie! Yum!

The musicians took requests and invited people to dance.

After dinner the kids got in one last hour at the kids club, while Kyrie and I finished packing. 
Zoe had a conversation in the elevator with a celebrity. Kelly Ripa, of the Live! with Kelly show (formerly Live with Regis and Kelly), is filming her show at Aulani for the next couple of days. She was in the elevator with Zoe and me and she said that Zoe smiled so much. She said some other stuff to Zoe also, but it was hard to pay attention. I was pretty sure that it was Kelly Ripa, but I never see the show so it was hard to know for sure. I knew that Kyrie would want to know for sure, so while she was talking I was busy trying to find some clue that would verify her identity. Unfortunately, she didn't have anything definitive, and I only had four floors before I had to get out of the elevator. I've since checked out pictures and it was indeed Kelly Ripa, but Kyrie would have preferred more proof. I guess I could have just asked her.
Marc confirmed for sure when we got home and we watched the shows she taped.  He said it looked like she (and her husband) were coming back from a Luau.  Sure enough the show showed her in the outfit he saw her in at a wedding rehearsal dinner Luau.  They obviously taped that part of the show this evening.  The other tapings occured the day we left and the following day.  I'm not sorry we missed it.  The only thing I noticed that the taping of this show interrupted was the Starlit Hui.  We thought the kids would get another chance to see it when we let then stay in the kids club that night.  Unfortunately, that was the only show while we there because they were building the set for this TV show in that area.  No complaints, really.  I think Aulani did a great job with not letting the taping interfere with the normal goings on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 17 - Sea Turtles!

With only two days left we were determined to make full use of the resort today. We started the day with family time at the kids club.

Then we made some video postcards which we will be emailing soon.   This is the booth where you can make and send a video postcard...for free!  It's really fun and well done.  No one was there besides us, so I think word isn't out about this yet.  It is in the community room.  There is probably another name for the room but I can't recall what it is.

Zoe took a nap - that seems to be her favorite activity here. 
Max and Ella headed back to the kids club while Jacob and I hit the waterslides.   When Zoe woke up we got the kids out of the kids club and then tried out the Menehune Adventure Trail. This was really fun. They give you a small device like a smart phone which sends you video messages. The messages give you different tasks to do around the property. When you complete the task special things happen, like a waterfall starting up or a torch starting on fire. We all had fun with that.
Kids getting clues for the Menehune Adventure Trail
Watching the magic of the Menehunes making this rock come to life

We decided to try lunch at 'Ama 'Ama since we were tired of the counter service choices.  The prices at lunch weren't much more than the counter service entrees and the quality of the food was better.  The only problem is that the service was painfully slow even though we specifically indicated we would appreciate faster service and the restaurant was practically empty.  It took 30 minutes after ordering dessert (that came with the kids meals) to receive it and the check.  Meanwhile we could see a crowd gathering out by the pool area.  The TV show "Live with Kelly "was taping a promo.  People gathered around Kelly Ripa.  I figured I would take a picture when we left the restaurant...but by the time we got out of there it was too late. Maybe the staff went out to see what was going on too and that's why we waited so long!
Dessert Kabobs  come with kids' meals.  Can't you see why that would take 30 minutes?!
After lunch Kyrie did some snorkeling while Jacob tried to beat his waterslide record and of course Max and Ella headed back to the kids club. While snorkeling Kyrie heard a rumor that there were sea turtles nearby. She didn't see any, but that rumor was enough to get me back out there.  Sure enough after a while I found one. It was a really huge green sea turtle. It was at least as big as Ella and maybe as big as Max! It was incredible seeing it slowly gliding through the water. I was lucky enough to see a second one on the other end of the lagoon.  So now I've accomplished everything I wanted to on this vacation.
We did some more of the Menehune Trail before dinner.  The staff had given us a code when we returned the device this morning.  They entered it into the new device and we were able to pick up where we left off. 

For dinner tonight we walked over to the JW Marriott. It was a nice change from the three restaurants here. They have a neat area there with hammerhead sharks on one side and various other fish and rays on the other side.

We ate at the poolside restaurant.  The shark pool was right there too.  It's a pretty small but nice resort.  The food quality was not that great, but considering it was just a poolside restaurant/bar, it wasn't bad.  There were a lot more options than at Aulani. It was just nice to be at a different restaurant.  We should have started straying from Aulani much earlier in the week.  The J.W. Marriott also had a couple of restaurants inside.  This poolside one was just right for us though.  I certainly wouldn't have wanted to miss the most spectacular sunset of this trip...

The small but niceand unique pool at the JW Marriott

The best sunset of the entire vacation.  Missed photographing it at it's peak though.

Aulani after dark