Visiting The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian

The Villas

The Villas

We always try and do, or see, something new every time we visit WDW.

Disney held the grand opening for The Villas in October 2013 while we were doing our Fall DCP program.  Unfortunately, we were both working a lot and missed it.

I did get a Grand Opening pin (limited edition 1000 pins), October 2013, for The Villas.

I did get the Grand Opening pin for The Villas (limited edition of 1000 pins), October 2013.

We’ve stayed at the Grand Floridian several times and wanted to see this new addition to the resort.

So, one day after lunch at Captain Cook’s, we took the monorail over to the Grand Floridian to check it out.

Mary Poppins fountain

Mary Poppins fountain in the lobby

The best part of the lobby is most certainly the penguin fountain located right in the center. It’s beautiful.  The penguins depicted in the fountain are the penguin characters from the movie Mary Poppins.


The lobby.  Not as grand as the Grand Floridian lobby that’s for sure, but nice.


Tossing pennies into the fountain.



45-foot brass and green crystal chandeliers in the grand lobby.

45-foot brass and green crystal chandeliers in the grand lobby.

View inside one of The Villas

View inside one of The Villas.

Room overlooking the lake.

Room overlooking the lake.

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The Villas are south of the Grand Floridian

Opening in October 2013, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa became the twelfth Disney Vacation Club property. Combining the charm and allure of Victorian elegance and premium service that only Disney can provide, the Villas immerse guests in a true “Jolly Holiday” vacation.

Sitting center stage in the lobby is a bronze fountain featuring the ever classic maître d penguins best known from the film. Over half a dozen of these friends make up the fountain as they greet guests in the early hours of the morning or after a long day of travel. Spare change is often tossed into the surrounding water which, like other “penny wishes” cast elsewhere at Walt Disney World, are collected regularly for local charities.

Beautiful flower arrangements throughout the lobby.

Beautiful flower arrangements throughout the lobby.

Throughout the atrium lobby, guests will feel welcomed and at peace. Overstuffed chairs and couches offer a great spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks. It’s also a fantastic area to enjoy a few pages of your favorite book under the light of 45-foot brass and green crystal chandeliers. Be sure to take in the decor surrounding you while doing so especially the carousel horses.

One is a replica of Jingles, the most ornately decorated horse on King Arthur’s Carrousel in Disneyland, which was used as the attraction’s lead horse before the ride was automated; cast members would count the number of times Jingles made it full circle and stop the carousel appropriately. Seeing its sister horse at the Villas lobby is a nice touch.

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We worked at WDW for a year in the Disney College Program (Fall 2013/Spring 2014) and have written a book about what it’s like to be a cast member working for Disney.
We included advice on how to successfully get into the DCP program, including some of the actual phone interview questions, how to have a successful internship, and how not self-term before your program ends. Our book is filled with lots of behind-the-scene stories of the magic of Disney.
Available now at in paperback and Kindle formats. Published by Theme Park Press.

Things All First Time Guests Should Do at WDW

(adapted from Disney Dining)

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida

Never been to Disney World (it’s the one in Florida!) before and feeling overwhelmed after reading a few Disney guidebooks, both official and unofficial?

Walt Disney World is HUGE! It covers 37,000 acres, has 4 major theme parks, 2 water parks, a dozen resorts, several golf courses (both regualr and mini), etc. It’s impossible to see and do it all in just a week’s vacation or less!

So, what should you try and do on your first – and maybe your last! – trip to WDW?

The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion

Experience Classic Disney attractions: Pirates of the Caribbean, Walt Disney World Railroad, Liberty Square Riverboat, Carousel of Progress, “it’s a small world”, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Splash Mountain, and Peter Pan’s Flight, etc. are attractions that have become part of the classic Disney World experience.

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Ride the Monorail: You have a few opportunities to do this, and it doesn’t have to cost you anything to do it. You can ride from the Transportation and Ticket Center, where you park if you are going to Magic Kingdom, to Magic Kingdom or one of the monorail resorts (Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian) or to Epcot. It is an iconic ride that everyone should ride at least once each visit to Walt Disney World.

Ride the Boat transportation: There are many boat styles and voyages around Walt Disney World. They move people from resorts to parks, parking lots to parks, parks to parks, cross water within the parks, sometimes they are even featured attractions within the parks, just choose one and enjoy smooth sailing.

Space Mountain!!

Space Mountain!!

Ride at least one of the Disney “mountains:  Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Expedition Everest, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Get FastPasses to ride them with little waiting!

Ride the Kilimanjaro Safari: Count up all the different animal species you can spot. This is a truck safari through the recreation of an African landscape. Yes, the animals are real. They are real enough to block the road sometimes and slow things down a bit. You won’t regret taking the time to do this.

Meeting Princess Ariel

Meeting Princess Ariel

Meet a princess: Do whichever one of these is the most wanted. Princesses are available for Meet and Greets in each of the parks so check your Times Guide for times and places for them. The Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial takes place several times a day on the stage facing Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland, Magic Kingdom.

Seeing the Beast at Be Our Guest restaurant where he greets all the guests.

Seeing the Beast at Be Our Guest restaurant where he greets all the guests.

Get your photo with a character: There are Disney characters all over the parks so pick one that has a short line, or choose a favorite Disney film and look specifically for those characters, just get started and have fun with those engaging, animated, Disney characters.

Dine at a Character meal:  This proves to be the proverbial hitting-two-birds-with-one-stone idea as you can meet and get photos with several characters at one time and get a great meal too. Choose either by which park you will be in, which characters you want to meet, or by the menu. Several of these are buffets so you can really get your money’s worth here. Eat a bunch of ice cream at that buffet and you do a good job of hydrating yourself too!

Have a Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar: This has to be the most loved ice cream bar on the planet. It is a Premium experience and should be experienced at least once during your Walt Disney World visit.



Have a Dole Whip: This is a classic Disney treat that is a frozen pineapple dessert made by Dole. Try the Dole Whip Float which is the Dole Whip ice cream on top of pineapple juice, it is awesome!

In our Christmas holiday ears

In our Christmas holiday ears

Get some kind of headwear: The traditional Mickey Ears can be embroidered with your name on the back and is often the most sought-after headwear. You will find quite a selection of ears and other hats or headbands available to meet your Disney stylin’ needs. Have fun, you’re on vacation!
Typhoon lagoon (2)Spend an afternoon at one of the water parks: Challenge yourself to go down the tallest water slide, or at least start with one with the mindset that you will bump up your experience the next time you visit

See a live show: You won’t find shows like these outside of Disney! If you are visiting Animal Kingdom you can take in Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo-the Musical; Disney’s Hollywood Studios has Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast Live On Stage, and Fantasmic!

Shop and eat at Downtown Disney: This is a fun non-park day activity. There are many interesting shops with unique merchandise and a wide array of restaurants to choose from. You will find the largest Disney store in the world there where they will help you find any Disney merchandise you are looking for. Visit the Christmas store. Shop and have your ornament personalized. Taste all the flavors of Goofy’s Glaciers at Goofy’s Candy Company before selecting the one you want. Have a custom candy apple made there too. Ghirardelli ice cream sundaes are pretty spectacular and you can get a free taste of Ghirardelli chocolate candy too.

Cast member lanyard with lots of fun trading pins.

Cast member lanyard with lots of fun trading pins.

Pin Trade: A lot of the cast members wear lanyards with Disney pins to trade for.

Watch Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream: Everyone should visit this attraction in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It provides a well-put-together display of photos, art pieces, a full size replica of Walt’s office, models, and concludes with a film. They all attempt to show you the many things that inspired Walt Disney and things he created to make his dreams come true. If he ran up against a challenge, he would invent something that would get him over that hurdle and finish what he wanted to. He was brilliant in so many areas yet never lost his sense of fun and exploration. This will give you a whole new perspective on the man and the mouse and all the Disney parks.

Lotus Blossom Cafe in Epcot China pavilion

Lotus Blossom Cafe in Epcot China pavilion

Dine in Epcot’s World Showcase: Make sure you try food at some of the quick-service locations. These include Yorkshire County Fish Shop (United Kingdom), Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie (France), Tangierine Café (Morocco), Katsura Grill (Japan), Liberty Inn (The American Adventure), Sommerfest (Germany), Lotus Blossom Café (China), Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (Norway), La Cantina de San Angel (Mexico).

View a Parade and stay for Fireworks: No one does parades or fireworks like Disney does! Check your Times Guides for the parades in Magic Kingdom and the Fireworks show in Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There are no fireworks shows at Animal Kingdom, but in a couple years you will be able to view a nighttime light show on the water accompanied by music.

Stay at a Disney World resort: You can really get away from it all while close to WDW. All the resorts are comfortable, clean, welcoming, and close to the parks with the added benefit of saving us time. Disney resort guests also have the advantage of extra magic hours where you can be in a specified park from one hour earlier than official opening time and up to three hours after official closing times for the park. It just adds so much to your vacation to stay in a Disney resort.

Ride whatever is the newest ride: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the newest at this time. You may have to wait in the standby line if you are unable to get a FastPass+ time, but the queue has large fans and interactive games to play to keep you entertained and cooled off. It is a fun ride, but don’t expect a high speed runaway train. 🙂

Need more ideas?
We’ve written a book about our year working at Disney: Two Girls and a Mouse Tale.
Available now on in paperback and Kindle. Published by Theme Park Press.

Disney Guests Evacuated from Monorail After Power Failure

About 120 guests needed to be rescued off the 6 car monorail.

About 120 guests needed to be rescued off the 6 car monorail.

Passengers had to be rescued from the Disney World monorail [Monorail Red] on Sunday night after a power failure on the train during bad weather.

“There was a huge bolt of lightning and thunder simultaneously and then the monorail slowly coasted to a stop. Everybody was looking around like, oh my goodness what just happened? Are we stuck here? You know of course all the worst things were going through everybody’s minds,” said Kelly Garland who was on the monorail with her two young sons and a friend.

Disney spokesperson Andrea Finger said the outage had been reviewed and the monorail was operating normally on Monday.

Guests at the park were initially posting on social media that lightning struck the track, which caused the train to stop on the Epcot monorail line, not far from the Transportation and Ticket Center.

Finger said that the train stopped because of a weather incident but there was no way to tell if it was struck by lightning, adding that the train car showed no signs of being hit by lightning.

Finger said the severe weather in the area caused the power outage.

“It started to get hot, of course, and we were stuck in there for two hours, wondering what was going to happen, when we were going to be rescued, if we needed to be rescued,” said Garland.

Firefighters were called to the track and had to use their ladder trucks to evacuate approximately 120 passengers off the train after attempts to power it back up failed.

“We, fortunately, were able to go out the side door. The other five cars on the monorail had to climb up through the roof,” said Garland.

There did not appear to be any injuries.

Officials said some passengers were stuck on the train for up to an hour and a half before being evacuated, with the train about 30 feet in the air, the last one being removed around 8 p.m.

“Where we were there was never really a storm. There was that one bolt of lightning,” said passenger Melissa Mock. “You could tell it was very close to where we were at and when the thunder hit you could tell it was so close.”

Officials said the train was stuck on a track switch, making it difficult for a tow truck to get there.

July 14, 2014: Monorail reopens after outage in bad weather

Disney monorail running again after evacuation

The power outage that shut down a Disney monorail that had to be evacuated Sunday was likely caused by lightning.

There was no evidence that the train itself was struck by lightning, Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said. But the monorail shut down about 6:30 p.m. during stormy weather.

Renee Wells of Ray City, Ga., said she and her husband Sean “actually saw the lightning strike,” though it didn’t hit the vehicle.

The monorail slowly came to a stop after losing power, said Wells, who is also visiting Disney with her two young children.

Some people were “freaking out,” Wells said. “We kept having to tell them it’s fine – yes, we’re 30 feet in the air, yes, it’s hotter than you know what, but we’re OK.”

Wells was one of the guests who climbed out of the roof of one car and back down through another to use stairs attached to a monorail beam. Others were lowered on a lift with railings that was attached to a Reedy Creek fire truck.

“It was neat because we got to be on top of the monorail,” Wells said.

No one was injured in the incident, but about 120 people were evacuated from the six-car train, which stopped on the Epcot line near the Wilderness Lodge, officials said. The monorail was back in operation on Monday.

Disney employees were able to restart several other trains that were on the system and return them to stations, Finger said. The train that stopped and was evacuated was between the Ticket and Transportation Center and the Wilderness Lodge, Jones said.

One of Wells’ photos showed that guests drew Mickey ears in condensation on monorail windows after the power went out.

Hidden Mickey on the monrail window.

Hidden Mickey on the monorail window.

Reedy Creek firefighters began evacuating passengers about 7 p.m., after several power restart attempts failed, Jones said. All of the passengers were evacuated by 8 p.m., he said. This was the first time in at least three or four years that a monorail had to be evacuated, Jones said. None of the passengers experienced any medical complications.

Wells said she was very happy with the way Disney responded.

The company gave toys to her children and FastPasses to the entire family, she said. Disney also made sure the family wouldn’t be charged for their missed dinner reservation in Epcot and helped them make new ones in the Magic Kingdom. 🙂

¿Dónde está el baño más cercano?

¿Dónde está el baño más cercano?

Love riding the monorail!

While I am fluent in both English and French, an unexpected bonus of working at WDW for 7 months now is that I am learning conversational Spanish while working at DTD.

Although I don’t speak it very well, I can now understand conversations between Spanish speaking guests, and also the maintenance guys who work at The Commons apartments. Winning!

My most favorite Spanish saying at WDW is, of course,: Mantengase alejado de las puerta.  [Please stand clear of the doors.]


Never get tired of hearing that! 🙂

Multilingual nametag.

My bilingual nametag.