Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Trip Report: [Day 3] Conquering Hollywood Studios Overrun by Tour Groups

Frozen Summer Fun

July 5th was the debut of Frozen Summer Fun at Hollywood Studios.  I had planned our morning at Hollywood Studios long before I knew that Anna and Elsa would be arriving.  And as someone who truly enjoyed the movie Frozen, I thought it to be more of a great surprise and good fortune rather than a setback.

Frozen at Hollywood Studios

The park was filled with media crews, awaiting Anna and Elsa so that they could report the latest information to Disney blogs. But I did not take advantage of this opportunity. I mean, it's three weeks later, and I'm just now posting about Frozen Summer Fun.



We were in search of food. Because we should have eaten beforehand at the resort, but we didn't. The Frozen crowds and our Toy Story Mania FastPass+ had kept us from finding breakfast along Sunset Boulevard, so we eventually found some popcorn and called it breakfast.

We grabbed our take-along Olafs which were being distributed across from Wandering Oaken's Trading Post (near Toy Story Mania). This is a great marketing scheme by Disney. Take photos of your Olaf and post to Instagram and Twitter using #OlafSummerVacation, and your photo may appear before the Frozen fireworks that evening. Note: if you try to use Olaf as a paper fan, he will fall off his stick.

#OlafSummerFun

We took Olaf along with us on Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror.  I believe Olaf will be appearing in the Tower of Terror ride photos quite often this summer.

Tower of Terror

Popcorn for breakfast didn't quite hold us over, so we got some fruit and soft pretzel along Sunset Boulevard.  The Cast Member who checked us out spotted Dad's birthday button.  "60!  That's a big birthday!  Here, would you like this special cookie?"  Dad might have been embarrassed by his birthday button, but hey, it got him a free cookie!  And it was a delicious cookie, too!

Birthday Cookie

The title of this post says that we conquered the tour groups.  That is actually a lie.  We were ready to use our FastPass+ for Star Tours when we walked up behind a giant tour group, all entering the FastPass line.  A huge mass of people like this totally defeats the purpose of the FastPass line.  The stand-by line was only 20 minutes.  I was NOT going to wait in line behind an obnoxious tour group, so we decided to wait to use our FastPass+ and went to check out the nearby book and coffee shop.

Tour Group Takes over FP

Lunch - Beaches & Cream

We rode Star Tours and then left the park, taking the Friendship Boat to the Yacht & Beach Club for our lunch reservation at Beaches & Cream.

Yacht Club

Yacht Club

Until this year, Beaches & Cream has not accepted advance dining reservations.  It's a small but popular sit-down restaurant located at the Beach Club Resort, and I suppose its popularity is why Disney decided to begin taking reservations.  Honestly, I'm not sure if this was the correct route to go.

Having a reservation didn't make our wait any shorter than in the past when it was walk-up only.  Of course now, a reservation is absolutely necessary, as they were quoting walk-ups an hour+ wait.  Even though we had a reservation, we had to wait half an hour until we could sit down.  We were told that they were having trouble getting people to leave.  Instead of waiting outside in the miserable heat, we waited indoors in the loud arcade which is next door to Beaches & Cream.

Beaches N Cream

Beaches N Cream

After sitting down, we realized that the reason they were having difficulty turning over tables quickly is because the service was incredibly slow.  It took us over an hour to get out of there, and it's not because we are slow eaters.

Rachel ordered the Beaches Chef Salad which she wasn't a huge fan of.  Beaches & Cream is not known for its salads.

Beaches Chef Salad

The rest of us stuck with our tried and true favorite, grilled cheese & tomato bisque.  It's delicious.  And whenever I go to Beaches & Cream, I am always torn between trying something new or getting this because I love it so much.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque

After finishing our entrees, we had asked for the dessert menu.  Ordered dessert and had to wait about 20 minutes for it to come.  Ridiculous!

Dad's button earned him a birthday balloon.

Mini Kitchen Sink

Beaches & Cream is known for its Kitchen Sink, which is a giant ice cream sundae dessert served in a kitchen sink.  This year, they introduced the mini Kitchen Sink which comes in a souvenir sink - Mickey's iconic red shorts.  The souvenir sink itself is priced at $9.99, so if you want the better value, the original Kitchen Sink is actually the way to go.  The mini Kitchen Sink, however, is a more realistic portion and an incredibly cute souvenir.

Mini Kitchen Sink

Mini Kitchen Sink

Mini Kitchen Sink

Mini Kitchen Sink

For perhaps the first time ever, we left Beaches & Cream rather unhappy about our slow service.  The food, however, was still delicious.  But when adding together waiting for a table, waiting to order, waiting for food, waiting to order dessert, waiting for dessert, and waiting for the check, the entire experience actually cost us three hours.

Rainy Afternoon at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

We took the bus from the Beach Club to Magic Kingdom and the ferry back to the Grand Floridian.  Rachel went to the spa and made a reservation for later that evening.  She returned from her spa treatment and told me that it was life-changing, and she promised to write me a review for the blog.  She even took pictures!

Dad and I did a little resort exploring.  We checked out the fitness center which is next door to the spa. It's a rather large facility for a resort gym, and it was completely unoccupied when we entered.

Grand Floridian Fitness Center

Grand Floridian Fitness Center

Grand Floridian Fitness Center

We also took a peek at the new DVC building at the Grand Floridian. It doesn't look quite so giant and out-of-place from the front.

Grand Floridian DVC

The interior, however, is quite lovely.

Grand Floridian DVC

Grand Floridian DVC

Grand Floridian DVC

Grand Floridian DVC

Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian

Grand Floridian

The grand lobby of the Grand Floridian is quite beautiful.  And when Rachel and I walk through, we cannot help but yell, "Steve!" mocking DJ Tanner from Full House when Steve made his entrance down the grand staircase.

Grand Floridian Lobby

I love the band that plays in the evenings.  It creates such a wonderful atmosphere.

Grand Band

Below is the lobby of the Boca Chica building.  Even the outer buildings are grand.

Boca Chica Lobby

Magic Kingdom Evening

We took the monorail to Magic Kingdom that evening and ate dinner at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland.  It was during the fireworks, and they blasted the audio in the restaurant, but did not dim the lights.  So we could hear Wishes wonderfully, but could hardly see the show.

Big Thunder Mountain

Pirates of the Caribbean

We finally got our Dole Whips.  I find it quite unfortunate that the past two times I've eaten a Dole Whip at Disney (specifically, at Aloha Isle), the consistency has been that of a sherbet, rather than the creamy pineapple texture that I love.  Ironically, Rachel and I ate at a frozen yogurt shop, Menchie's, in Lexington this weekend where they were serving Dole soft serve... which is essentially Dole Whip and actually a better consistency than the past two Dole Whips I've had at Walt Disney World!

Dole Whip

After returning to the Grand Floridian, we noticed fireworks which appeared to be shot over Bay Lake, behind the Contemporary Resort.  It was around midnight, and I still have no idea why these fireworks were there.  The only thing that I can figure is that it was a private show for Katy Perry who was at Disney that weekend.

Fireworks over Contemporary

Fireworks over Contemporary

Magic Kingdom View

If you know what the mystery fireworks were for, please let me know!

NEXT: Day 4 - Hitting 3 Parks and 2 Character Meals in 1 Day!