Monday, August 29, 2011

Disney Called!

I got a call from Disney today while I was at work and gave them a call back on my lunch.  I spoke with the very nice cast member, Yolanda.  I basically retold my story to her.  She informed me that well, basically every single cast member that we spoke with was wrong in one way or another.  A HUGE amount of bad training caused cast members to think that Friends and Family could receive a dining plan discount.  Apparently that is never true.  Only cast members can actually receive a discount on this.  Good to know.

Yolanda extended the offer to allow us to pay full price for the dining plan.  She began to plug numbers so I told her that I had already booked us a reservation with the Free Dining promotion offered to the public.  She decided to compare the prices for us with using the cast member 40% off room discount and paying for the dining plan, to the Free Dining promotion.  We were saving about $400 going with the Free Dining promotion over the room discount so we stuck with what we had.  Yolanda cancelled our cast member discount reservation for us.  She also downgraded our room back to a standard view at Caribbean Beach Resort so we could get the difference that we had to pay to upgrade in order to have Free Dining.  This was much appreciated because the Pirate Room did not appeal to me for many reasons.  Yolanda took my room location request (Jamaica) and she also told me that she put us down for an upgrade at no charge if one is available upon check in.  Whether this means an upgrade to a preferred location or a... deluxe resort... I'd be satisfied.  This was very nice of her to do this.

I'm pleased with the way the issue was handled.  Yolanda explained everything to me as to why the misinformation was given and she also strived to make it up to us.  She was very polite and treated me with respect.  While the inconvenience we endured was stressful, I'm alright with how it turned out and so is everyone else in my traveling party.

Now we're just waiting for Mickey Mail! Yay!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Condede. Or Do I?

Barbara and I decided to have the dreaded discussion yesterday of what to do if push comes to shove and we're backed into a corner to make a decision on this dining plan matter.  I number crunched and number crunched.  Contrasted and compared.  I analyzed every option until I was blue in the face.  While I could type everything out for you to go over for yourselves I just don't feel like putting the energy forth to lay down the groundwork but I can tell you that we made a decision.

We'd decided to drop the cast member discount and book a "Free Dining" package.  During Barbara's initial call to Disney and getting a quote at the only value resort available, All Star Sports, the cast member told her that it would only cost $44.00 to upgrade all four of us to park hopper tickets.  HAHA!  You can laugh along with me... go ahead.  It's hilarious how wrong he was but whatever.

I decided to find out how much more it would be to stay at Caribbean Beach Resort and do Free Dining.  Believe it or not, it was still a deal compared to eating out of pocket.  I even questioned my math and ran numbers twice and still came up with the same outcome.  I gave Disney a call after I got back from the gym and they got a higher priced quote then what I came up with myself.  Reason being... the only thing available at ANY moderate is a Pirate Themed room.  I was trying to stay away from the Pirate rooms!  Grrr!!  I got off the phone and did a little more math.

Somehow, Free Dining still came out on top.  I booked it.

I booked that package not knowing what Disney is going to be able to do for me regarding the cast member discount issue.  I booked in fear that if we waited any longer we wouldn't be able to get any type of discount at all.  I really wanted to make this vacation happen and I just wanted all this madness to be over with.

While I'm still anticipating a phone call from Disney to discuss the troubles I've had, I feel relieved knowing that it's all done and settled.  Time to get excited again!

Disney World in 43 Days!

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Should Write Complaint Letters For A Living

To update all of you on our complicated situation... you can just read this awesome complaint email that I just sent to Disney.  I honestly want this to be over.

To Whom This May Concern,

I've recently encountered some of the most horrible, confusing, stressful customer service by your company and I feel that I should voice my concern with you in hopes that something can be reconciled from this matter.

On July 10th, my traveling party booked a reservation with a discount via a cast member friend. When we called to book, we requested to visit your resort within a time frame that included a discount on the Disney Dining Plan as well as we are traveling on a tight budget. We were told by the Disney booking agent that the window for booking the dining plan at that time hadn't opened yet and we'd have to call back on August 13th to add it and we'd either get 40% or 50% off. We thought, "Great!"

Upon calling back on the 13th, we were told that there was a blackout period over our reservation dates and the cast member that we spoke with could not help us any further and ended our conversation even after we offered to pay full price for the Disney Dining Plan. Even with us trying to be reasonable and find a solution, we were rebuffed.

Hoping that this was an error on the cast members part we tried again the next day and this time we were told that the offers just hadn't come up yet and to keep trying to back frequently so we can book it when it does. 3 tries later, same answer over and over again.

Today, August 22nd, I called and spoke with a cast member that said all we would have to do is upgrade our room at Caribbean Beach Resort to a water view or Pirate Theme and we could receive the dining plan discount. I got the promo code from him and told him that I'd have to check with my other traveling companions to make sure that the upgrade would be okay with them. Upon calling back, the next Disney booking agent informed me that the promo code that was given to us was for Cast Members only and not Friends and Family. Once again, another very frustrating dead end.

We booked these specific dates to travel to the Walt Disney World Resort BECAUSE we could receive a discount on the Disney Dining Plan. To change our travel dates NOW would incur a $150 fee with our airline per ticket. We'd also have to rearrange all of our dining reservations that we have already worked so hard to get. We literally cannot budge on our travel dates and also cannot afford to dine like we have planned being off of the Disney Dining Plan.

As a frequent guest of Walt Disney World Resort since 1997, I have never ever encountered such trouble and headache. I write for, a well known Disney travel website, and upon speaking with hundreds of other Disney guests, I have not heard of such difficulties. This is becoming a nightmare for my entire traveling party. We have two guests in our party that have never been to Walt Disney World before and this is not giving them the best first impression.

What we have hear is a very unacceptable situation. We would like someone to please contact us as soon as possible to discuss this matter and resolve it. Our reservation number is ************. You can contact me at this email address or at ***-***-****  at any time.

Thank you very much for your time and understanding. I look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stroke of Genius

Today, while browsing some Disney sites just like every morning... I had a lightbulb go off above my head.  I thought of something that I want to research and write about while down at Disney World. 

On a trip to WDW last October, I snuck a peak at the ordering screen at Pecos Bills in Magic Kingdom and I noticed some options for vegetarians that aren't listed on the menu.  I noticed a veggie wrap and a veggie taco salad.  These things aren't even talked about on the vegetarian thread on the DIS.  It made me wonder what OTHER things are available for vegetarians and vegans at other counter service restaurants.

I'd like to make it a point to visit as many counter service restaurants as I can and ask around to see what I can find out that might be new and exciting for those of us with dietary restrictions.  I used to walk by counter service restaurants, peak my head in, and if I didn't see anything on the main menu that appealed to me, I'd just keep walking.  Now I know better.  Every counter service restaurant has something vegetarian and even vegan available but you just have to ask about it sometimes.  Some places are more accomodating than others and that just depends on what ingredients they have on hand.

I figure I'll buy a small journal that I can carry with me in my bag for all of my little research topics.  If I have sections set up and a pen ready then I'm more likely to take the time to write when I get a chance.  I never stop anywhere or waste time by writing.  I just make notes in a slow queue or during a meal.  Any down time that I may have.

To update you on the dining plan ordeal... still nothing yet.  But, I haven't called since Tuesday.  I'm planning to call tomorrow since that will be one week since they inititally told us to call back.  My biggest fear at this point is getting the "blackout" excuse again.  I have hope that we can get this like we were promised but I just have to be persistant. 

Matt and I have to send for our "Disney Dollars" from our Disney Visa here within the next couple of weeks.  So far we have 27 Disney Dollars to spend.  That will buy us some trading pins or a handful of items at the Food and Wine Festival booths.  Yay for extra money!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Issue" Update

I got a text from Barbara telling me that her cast member friend, Amber, just booked the dining plan for the same weekend that we are going for herself.  With much hope I called up the cast line and got in touch with someone right away.  She was wonderful and within a few minutes she was able to tell me that right now there are no Friends & Family discounts for the dining plan available right now but to try back soon.  She explained that they don't even know when discounts happen and sometimes they come into work in the morning and find out about something new.

This makes me feel better knowing that I've gotten this answer a few times now.  For me the "blackout" excuse we'd gotten before is becoming less of the truth but I'm not 100% sure.  I still will keep trying back every single day until we figure this out.  I really hope that the discount comes up for us to book sometime soon so I can put this all out of my mind and get my excitement back.

In other news.... BabyCakes NYC now has sign out on their building!  They exist!  I miss their treats and can't wait to get them in a few short months.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reservation Agony

We've been having some issues lately when trying to add the Disney Dining Plan to our existing reservation.

We booked our room on July 10th. Barbara's friend and coworker, Amber, called in and got it all set up for us since she is a cast member and could get us a discount. We got a great 40% off on our room at Caribbean Beach Resort. We picked our travel dates based on availability of a discount for the Disney Dining Plan. We were told that our booking window for the dining plan hadn't opened yet and to call back on August 13th and we'd either be getting 40% or 50% off of the Disney Dining Plan! Woo! Great! We made note to call back then and we went on with picking our Advanced Dining Reservations. All four of us also booked our flights for our chosen dates and we thought we were all set!

Amber called Disney's reservation line on the 12th, a day before we were told to call back. Why she called a day early I'm not sure. When she spoke with the booking agent they informed her that they couldn't add the Disney Dining Plan because we were traveling partially over a blackout time period and the discount on the dining plan wasn't offered then. Amber asked if we could just pay full price for the dining plan and the agent said no, there was nothing that they could do for us. End of conversation.

Barbara and I immedietly began flipping out a bit. We had everything planned around these days because we were TOLD that we would get a discount on the dining plan. Had we been told that those were blackout dates we would have picked a different week to travel! We've decided to not take this as a final answer and to fight harder to get what we were promised.

One speculation of ours if that maybe the reservationist thought that Amber was talking about the "Free Dining Offer" that is available to the public around that time. If this was the case then that would explain why the booking agent told Amber that there were blackout dates.

Saturday, the 13th, I tried calling Disney numerous times only to be met with 30 minute wait times. I figured I'd wait and deal with this when I had more time to sit on hold.

Today, Monday the 15th, after being put on hold numerous times and being hung up on accidently, I got a hold of a nice Indian gentleman named Spencer. I had to hold back my laughter on that one. I played stupid with Spencer and just told him that we were told to call back after the 13th to book the dining plan and we'd either be getting 40% or 50% off. He put me on hold while he looked for the code. About five minutes later he told me that he couldn't find the code and had to call Guest Relations. Another five to ten minutes later he informed me that Guest Relations told him that currently there isn't a code available for our time frame just yet and we would need to try calling back at another time. Apparently their system was supposed to update with new codes on the 13th but that didn't happen. So, I hung up with Spencer with no dining plan booked.

I'm unsure of whether what Spencer told me was the truth or not. I wanted to make sure I understood perfectly what he was telling me and I repeated what he said and even reworded it as I understood it. He agreed that I understood correctly. I'm not sure if he just didn't have a good answer for me so he was told to tell me that or if that really is the truth. I'd like to believe it because that means we still have a chance to book the dining plan.

I have decided to go through the painful task of calling the reservation line every day this week and see how many different answers I can get. Spencer said that their system could update tomorrow even but they don't know and don't have a date that they can give me. If I get the "blackout" answer again then I'll go into my next step... a complaint e-mail.

I really do think that this matter should be handled. I feel that my complaint is 100% justified. I am NOT a person to complain about anything... especially Disney related. I can't even send food back at a restaurant if it's poorly cooked. What we're dealing with right now with Disney is an exception to me though. We can't change our travel dates because it would incur a $150 fee per ticket to fly out and back on a different week. We were told something specific, now TWICE, and I feel that they need to hold up to their word. It's about decent customer service and they simply are not offering that right now. This has been SUCH a stress to all of us and it's putting a damper on the excitment that we had going.
Will update you when we find out anything new in the coming days...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Less Than 2 Months To Go!

It's hard to believe that in just 2 short months my friends and I will be enjoying a magical vacation at Walt Disney World.  I love how fast it all comes up.  Sure, at times, it feels a million years away but I know that in retrospect the trip will sneak up on me quickly.

In a couple of days we'll be adding the Disney Dining Plan to our package and we'll find out how much of a discount we'll be getting.  I still keep checking if we can get an ADR at Rose and Crown on Thursday, the day we arrive.  I don't want to eat there, just nab a table to get a drink and have a place to sit outside for Illuminations.

I found out that more than likely Fantasmic! will not be showing every night in October.  The only night that we'd be able to go and see it is our first night in Walt Disney World.  There are pluses and minuses to doing that.  First of all, we'd have to leave Epcot and take a boat to the Studios... taking time out of actual park touring.  Without park hoppers, we'd have to try and get Guest Relations to give us park hoppers for the night to be able to enter the Studios just to watch Fantasmic!.  I have a HUGE bone to pick with the Studios anyway about limiting Fantasmic! showings and this would be a good time for me to go in and voice my opinion.  I think guests can really make changes happen if only we'd speak up a little bit more.  Fantasmic! is easily the best nighttime show in my mind and I can't believe that there is even rumor of the show being discontinued and replaced with something else.  This would truly break my heart.

My mom and I went to BINGO this past Sunday and won $600!  We split it and with $100 of it I went shopping for some clothes for vacation.  Got 2 dresses, a romper, a shirt, and 5 necklaces for $84!  Woop!  Only.. one of the very cheap necklaces broke this morning when I went to put it on.  Fail.  That's what I get for paying $5 for an item of jewelry. 

I'm currently recovering from a bug I got that kicked my butt hard.  Stupid colds in the summer.  Seems like such a contradiction.  Right now I'm at the "coughing up crap and blowing my nose a lot" phase.  It can only get better from here!

Until next time...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Food Food Food! Let Me Eat!

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with dining at Walt Disney World.  Every vacation it's one of my most favorite parts!  For my upcoming trip, I've made sure to get a good variety of dining reservations.  I wanted to strike a balance between amazing food and outstanding ambiance.  Since this is Barbara and Ben's first time dining at Disney I felt like I had to get it just right.  They chose two restaurants that they for sure wanted to try and left the rest in my very capable hands.

Going through the menus of each of our chosen restaurants is always fun.  I'm dreaming about what I'd like to order at each of them.  Sure, I am probably getting ahead of myself but who cares?!

Every time I visit this amazing German buffet I have to get a beer in the classic 1/2 liter stein.  I always choose Oktoberfest but this year I'd like to try the beer sampler.  A couple next to me got it last year and boy did it look fun.  With all of the awesome German Riesling available I'm going to go out on a limb and presume Barbara will be partaking in that.  At least, I hope so because I'd like a sip.  Ha!

The food selection doesn't change here often but things that I am most excited about having again would be the Greens with Creamy Herb Dressing, Tomato Salad with Basil, Warm German Potato Salad, Roasted Potatoes, Cheese Spatzle, Salmon, and my favorite... Red Cabbage.

50's Prime Time Diner
Such a fun restaurant with such a simple concept... Mama's home cooking.  A lot of the dishes are just like the ladies in your family would cook and some of them have a bit of a non-traditional spin.  One bonus about this place is that you can get a milkshake instead of a traditional beverage!  In the past I really haven't expected much out of 50's Prime Time food wise.  I basically come here for the atmosphere.  Not eating "meat" has limited my options here in the past when dining for lunch.  In October though we'll be enjoying dinner here and that menu gives me a few extra options.  I'm almost 100% sure that I'll be trying the Uncle Charlie's Grilled Tuna Casserole.  Apparently instead of using traditional "canned" tuna they use a grilled tuna steak.  Sounds delicious to me!

Dessert is the highlight here!  You check out the options through a ViewMaster!  Previously I've always gotten Dad's Brownie Sundae but I think it's time I try the S'mores.

I can't contain my excitement!  This is a new experience for me!  After looking at the super vegetarian friendly menu I think I've decided that I really have to try the Vegetarian Sampler.  You get two choices served with Basmati Rice or Five Grain Pilaf.  I am not totally sure but as of right now I want to try the Vegetable Sambar and either Spicy Cauliflower or Stewed Lentils with the pilaf.  Tough choice!

Reading so many reviews on the restaurant I have realized that there is one stand out dessert... Chai Cream.  Guess I gotta try that and see if it lives up to it's reputation!

1900 Park Fare
While I've dined at 1900 Park Fare for breakfast before, I've never been here for dinner.  My favorite chef of all time at Disney is now here after previously being at 'Ohana.  Chef TJ always creates very interesting and delicious entrees for vegetarians.  The buffet looks like it's a little pescetarian friendly but I'll play it by ear with whether I want to eat fish or not that night or leave my stomach in Chef TJ's hands.

My favorite thing that is always at 1900 Park Fare is the Strawberry Soup!  Yummmmmmy!

Coral Reef
This has always been one of my favorite dining experiences in all of Walt Disney World.  Sometimes the food is just good and sometimes it's outstanding.  The atmosphere though is always amazing.  I make sure to ask for a table right by the tank to ensure a great close-up view.

Not sure what I want to get here yet because there are so many choices!  I'm a HUGE fan of scallops and the Pan-Roasted Jumbo Sea Scallops sounds killer... minus the chorizo.  I wonder if that would make a huge difference if I had them leave that out? Another thing that sounds good is the Seared Rainbow Trout.  I've never had trout before but there is a first time for everything.  I'd just have them hold the bacon of course.  :)

I've never gotten anything other than the infamous Chocolate Wave for dessert.  While I'd like to say that I can change and get something new... I don't think I can pull myself away from what I know and love.  :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pre-Trip Report! Giddy Up!

I don't know why I said used the phrase, "Giddy Up" in my title.  It just felt right.  I'm expressing my excitement to announce my upcoming trip to Walt Disney World!

After being bummed for months about unexpected medical bills (Health Savings Accounts suck... by the way) we decided that there isn't any reason that we couldn't still take a vacation.  We're just paying off the medical bills at a slow rate... I mean, there isn't any interest so whatever.  We want to live, dangit!

This trip is going to be a first for me.  Yeah, my husband, Matt, is going but we're also taking Disney newbies!  We have a couple that we often do things with and we all decided that it would be fun to take a trip together and Disney just seemed like the perfect spot.  I won't keep you waiting... here is the cast.

Stacey:  ME!  Duh.  In case you are new to my blog and don't know much about me... I'll give you the run down.  I'm 23 and I'm an absolute Disney freak.  100%.  No hiding it.  I work at a bank (....yeah) but I also have a side job writing for  It's basically like I'm living in a dream writing for folks I've admired for years.  I'm also married to...

Matt:  My husband of 4 years.  He puts up with my Disney obsession and he "gets it" like I do.  I never have heard him go, "Ugh, Disney World... again?"  His reaction is, "I can't wait for Tower of Terror!"  He is 27 and works security for a pharmaceutical company.

Barbara:  I met Barbara all the way back when I was 16 and she was 17.  We both had meet and greets for Kelly Clarkson.  True story.  That's where we met.  7 years later, we've grown to become quite great friends.  Barbara has the most awesome job... she sells wedding dresses!  A real life Say Yes to the Dress.  Her 24th birthday falls on our trip!  For the past year and a half she's been dating...

Ben:  What to say about Ben.... he's rad.  He does screen printing for a living and loves bikes and beer.  Ben and Matt have really clicked which we are so thankful for.  They spent the 4th of July blowing up firecrackers in our back yard.  Please don't call the cops on us.  ;)

Here are some random shots of the whole crew!

Barbara has only been to Walt Disney World once... back when she was 10.  A lot has changed since she's visited the land of Mickey Mouse.  And Ben has NEVER been!  You can imagine how much my mind is exploding at the idea of being able to show to virtual newbies around.

Barbara's co-worker is actually a Disney cast member and offered to get us a discount on rooms, dining, and park tickets.  We originally had desired to stay at Pop Century and it was even available to book at 40% off!  But, we waited one whole week and of course...  it wasn't available when we went to book.  I found this out while playing Bingo at the American Legion with my mom.  I knew we needed an extra $135 to upgrade to a moderate resort or else, stay at All-Stars.  Funnily enough, I walked out of Bingo with $175 bucks in my pocket.  We are now staying at Caribbean Beach Resort.  :)

We're leaving October 6th, A Thursday, and coming back October 11th, a Tuesday.  This is the first time that we won't be using a park hopper.  We decided not to spend the extra money since we are on a budget.  I'm not too fearful about this except if Disney decides to not extend nightly Fantasmic! runs.  Barbara's coworker is getting us a slight discount on our park tickets.  We're also nabbing a cast member discount on the Disney Dining Plan.  We haven't booked this part yet and won't until August 13th.  We were told that the standard DDP discount for a cast member is 40% but when we call back to book there is a chance it could be 50% off.  Either way, that is WAY less than what we'd be paying for dining if we had to shell out full price... on or off the DDP.

Of course, within days of deciding on our travel dates I made sure to figure out what Advanced Dining Reservations I'd need to book for our group.  Barbara and Ben gave me two restaurants they were really interested in eating at and luckily, they are two of Matt and I's favorites!  My goal was to try one new restaurant that I've never been to.  Without having park hoppers, I really had to have my schedule solid before I booked our ADRs.  This is what I came up with...

Arrival Day - Our flight leaves around 8:00 a.m. and we'll be into Orlando by 11:00 a.m.  Taking the Magical Express to Caribbean Beach Resort and then heading off to Epcot.  Dinner is at Biergarten.  I really wanted to start the trip off with a super fun restaurant with atmosphere that sort of said, "Welcome to Disney World!"

Day 2 - Disney's Hollywood Studios with dinner at 50's Prime Time Cafe.  Seriously praying to see Fantastmic! on this night.

Day 3 - Barbara's Birthday!  Off to Animal Kingdom until 2:00 p.m. when we'll travel to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a late lunch at Sanaa.  This is a first dining experience for all of us.  I can't tell you about the rest of the day because it's a big surprise for Barbara.  :)

Day 4 - Magic Kingdom day!  For dinner, we will leave the park and go to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to eat at 1900 Park Fare.  My dear Chef TJ has moved here from 'Ohana.  Can't wait to see what vegetarian goodies he'll cook up for Matt and I!

Day 5 - Back to Epcot to enjoy the International Food & Wine Festival with a late dinner at Coral Reef.

Departure Day - We don't have to leave for the airport until around 3:00 p.m. so we'll probably spend the morning and early afternoon at whatever park we want to go back to.  Maybe we won't even go to a park and just enjoy a day by the pool!  Who knows!

That is all the details I have for you for now.  I'll make sure to keep you all posted when I find out more about our fabulous trip!