Animal Kingdom Lodge
Who: Rich and Kathy
When: January 28, 2006
Where: Animal Kingdom Lodge
Colorado friends Jeff and Jan were heading for Walt Disney World to celebrate the 6th birthday of son Daniel and were staying at the Polynesian. Then we got word that Passporter friends Bob and Larry from Alabama were heading for WDW for the Sneak Preview of Animal Kingdom’s latest ride, Expedition Everest, and were staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Since we were looking for any excuse to stay over at Animal Kingdom Lodge, we booked an overnight and scheduled lunch with Bob & Larry and dinner with Jeff, Jan, and Daniel.
The weather can vary wildly this year of year from hour to hour and day to day (as opposed to summer when you know it’ll just be HOT), we packed 2 suitcases the night before and got very excited because it reminded us of out-of-state trips in the past. The cats were getting a little anxious, though. They seamed to remember those trips, too. But the next morning we were up at our usual time and on the road by 8:30. About an hour later, listening to Mo’Rockin (from the Morocco pavilion in World Showcase), we were checking into the Lodge. We noticed we really didn’t mind the 70-mile trip knowing we wouldn’t have to drive back until the next day. Plus the lively Moroccan music helped. It’s not that the trip is all that long, but the quality of the drive isn’t the best and after wearing ourselves out in the parks, we’re usually so tired on the drive back on the same day. So, this was a real treat.
After enjoying a wonderful meal at Jiko on a previous trip, we were really looking forward to being able to stay at AKL.
The Lodge is really quite beautiful and we love the atmosphere – dark, mysterious and adventurous. We felt like we were on Safari.
We checked into our savanna view room which we had booked so we could enjoy animal viewing which is the big deal here at the Lodge. After being asked if we wanted 2 queens or 1 queen with bunk bed, we answered the 2 queens but when we entered our room it had the bunk beds. Because it was available so early, we didn’t want to let the room go but I noticed how claustrophic the bunk beds made the room feel and we went back down to the lobby and, happily, were assigned a room with 2 queens that was also available that early.
It was especially fun watching these 2 giraffes share a bite of palm frond.
We then hopped on a bus headed for Epcot for our lunch at Rose&Crown with Bob & Larry. First, though, we wandered through the shops while Kathy shopped for a new top. She had meant to change her clothes in the Lodge but was too distracted by the animals. She had no intention of wearing all black in a fun, WDW theme park.
It was a beautiful day, though, and we enjoyed wandering around World Showcase.
Eventually, we found a colorful wine-themed top in France. Here Rich waits for Kathy in the restroom.
It was great to see Bob & Larry again. We enjoyed chatting and dining alfresco at the Rose & Crown. And the friendly CM took a picture of the 4 of us.
We started off by ordering drinks:
Rich: Flight of Single-Malt Scotch (see the description below)
Kathy: Ketel One Vodka Martini—shaken, not stirred
Bob: Harp Lager
Larry: Harp Lager
For our entree selections, we had:
Rich: Beef Stew—flavored with Guinness stout served with mashed potatoes, and a cheddar cheese cracker
Kathy: Chicken Pasty—chicken and fresh garden vegetables wrapped in pastry, topped with a cream sauce and served with English peas
Bob: Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chips—batter-fried cod served with English chips and garden peas
Larry: Chicken Pasty—chicken and fresh garden vegetables wrapped in pastry, topped with a cream sauce and served with English peas
Remembering the Cornish Pasties Kathy used to enjoy in San Francisco, she was craving one and knew she could get one here. Unfortunately, it was not quite as good here as Kathy had remembered but maybe she is now wondering if was remembering the ones in San Francisco. But Rich didn’t think the Beef Stew was quite as good as before either. Bob & Larry hadn’t eaten here before so they had nothing to compare it to. Usually, we split a dessert but today it was every man/woman for him/herself.
Rich: Sticky Toffee Pudding—steamed pudding cake with warm vanilla custard and hot butter rum sauce
Kathy: Sticky Toffee Pudding—steamed pudding cake with warm vanilla custard and hot butter rum sauce
Bob: Chocolate Guinness Cake—chocolate cake infused with Guinness beer, layered with a chocolate mousse, finished with cream anglaise, and a shot of Guinness
Larry: Chocolate Guinness Cake—chocolate cake infused with Guinness beer, layered with a chocolate mousse, finished with cream anglaise, and a shot of Guinness
Single Malt Scotch Flight (with tasting notes from malts.com):
Glenkinchie 10 year old
Appearance: Pale gold.
Nose: A light sweet nose with barley-malt, green grass and wisps of autumn smoke.
Body: Firm, light.
Palate: Slightly sweet yet fresh, late summer fruits and harvest fields, young wood and malted barley.
Finish: A surprising dry finish with a smoky spiciness.
Oban 14 year old
Appearance: Olive gold.
Nose: Rich sweetness and fruits—oranges, lemons and pears, with sea-salt and peaty smokiness.
Body: Full, rich.
Palate: Mouth-filling late autumn fruits—dried figs and honey-sweet spices; followed by a smoky malty dryness.
Finish: Long, smooth-sweet finish with oak-wood, dryness and a grain of salt.
Lagavulin 16 year old
Appearance: Deep amber gold.
Nose: Intense peat smoke with iodine and seaweed and a rich, deep sweetness.
Body: Full, rich.
Palate: Dry peat smoke fills the palate with a gentle but strong sweetness, followed by sea and salt with touches of wood.
Finish: A long, elegant peat-filled finish with lots of salt and seaweed
Rich truly enjoys a fine Scotch and it was the perfect time to try a flight since we didn’t have to drive home but were staying onsite and using Disney transportation.
After lunch, we stopped in at Pin Station to buy the ’06 AP pin – which looks way cool – and tried out the newly-remodeled “Club Cool” and decided it should be labeled “Club Lukewarm.” We liked it better the old way and the Coca Cola samples were not all that refreshing.
We headed for the Resort bus stop and happy to see an AKL bus arrive already immediately. The bus service to AKL has been quite good. Once we returned to our room at the AKL, we watched more animals out on the savanna and took a short nap until time to get ready to meet Jeff and Jan at O’Hana in the Polynesian.
Arriving at the Polynesian (Poly) was a magical experience at night. With the tiki torches lit and the Hawaiian music piped in throughout we actually felt like we were back in Hawaii. We knew that the Poly has a lot of fans but we were skeptical, having been to the “real” Hawaii. But at nighttime, it is quite magical. We walked around the resort, including the shops and the beach/pool area and out to the boat dock. The views of the Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian and the Contemporary were simply awesome. This is definitely on our list of where we must stay.
We met Jeff, Jan and Daniel in the waiting area for O’Hana and then the 5 of us were seated at our table.
We had never tried O’Hana before and it was a lot of fun, with an emcee hosting several group activities, mainly for kids, but it was quite jovial. Hawaiian music, Hawaiian hosts, family-style dining and an open fire kitchen.
Here’s the set menu:
‘Ohana …a place of family, laughter and sharing …Hawaiian style.
Spend an Evening with Us and Experience an Unforgettable Event as We Celebrate the Meaning of Family.
Your waiter will entertain you with island wit and banter as you are served from 3-foot skewers.
Food Served Family Style
Fried Wontons served with peanut sauce, chimichurri sauce and harissa
Mixed greens with a honey-lime dressing
Spicy-sweet and sour shrimp
Honey-coriander chicken wings
Prepared over an oak fire
Marinated Sirloin Steak
Asian Barbecue Pork Loin
Mesquite Grilled Turkey
Hawaiian Pork-sausage with pineapple teriyaki glaze
Maui Scalloped Potatoes
‘Ohana bread pudding a la mode with Bananas Foster Sauce
It was all incredibly tasty —we even liked the Bread Pudding, which we usually don’t care for. But the Bananas Foster Sauce(and vanilla ice cream) made all the difference. Daniel got a special treat— his favorite slurpee in a sandpail. He had plans for some sandpail on the beach time later on in his trip.
The O’Hana staff also brought him a special birthday cupcake.
After dinner, Jan took the birthday boy, a very tired 6-year-old who had traveled by plane all the way from Colorado that day, back to the room. He didn’t do much more to the birthday cupcake than lick the frosting but he’d have another chance at celebrating his birthday at a birthday character breakfast at Cinderella’s castle at 8:15 the next morning.
The 3 of us (Jeff, Rich and Kathy) headed to their Concierge Lounge, talked, and watched Wishes (the nighttime fireworks spectacular)—what an incredible view of Bay Lake, the Electrical Water Pageant and Wishes over the MK Castle. We definitely need to book concierge, too.
We eventually said good-night and drove back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and sat out talking on the balcony watching a few animals in the dark— or rather, the lit-up sky. It was a magical evening. But because we had stayed up so late we had decided against going to the EE preview the next morning (I know, we’re probably the only AP holders on-site who didn’t go to the event). But we wanted to sleep in late and order in room service. Our visit was about enjoying the lodge, dining and visiting with friends— rides were secondary. Besides, as locals, we can ride EE once it’s open to the public.
The next morning we made a small pot of coffee, provided in the room, and sat out on the balcony watching the animals eating. By the time we ordered room service, they said the wait would be an hour. Okay, we thought. We’ll just keep watching the animals, enjoying the Lodge. An hour later, they called and said it would be another hour and asked if we wanted to cancel? Disappointed but no longer willing to wait, we canceled and headed to Boma to look into the breakfast buffet. As you can imagine, it was packed.
We then went over to the quick service restaurant, Mara, and it was also packed. But we eventually got a couple of danishes and coffee and enjoyed them out by the pool. It was a beautiful day and we decided it worked out just fine. But we have noticed that any time we’ve been at the AKL, the service in all of their restaurants suffers compared to other deluxe properties. The man in line in front of us was also frustrated and commented that he had better service in the moderates and value resorts.
Disney people love to share their experiences — both the good and the bad — and we all learn from each other. Plus it’s a great bonding experience. Before checking out, though, we stopped into Zawadi—one of our favorite onsite resort gift shops, and purchased a bottle of South African Red wine to take home and 2 Animal Kingdom Lodge coffee cups to add to the AKL t-shirt and magnet we had purchased the day before.
Before we knew it, it was time to check out and head home. The new onramp by the AKL put us on I-4 even closer to home and we were home in no time. We really do love splitting up the drive by having an overnight. But it’s tough to re-enter the real world after enjoying such a surreal experience at Disney—whether your stay is 1 night, 1 week or 1 month.