Category: Halloween

Moving to Saratoga and the Disastrous Halloween Party

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By , October 5, 2012 5:27 am

Thursday, October 4

This was the day we bought off more than we could chew. Our mission: check out of Boardwalk, move into Saratoga and go to the Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom. I didn’t intend that schedule, but it was the only DVC Member discount night that worked in our schedule and none of our other travel companions committed to going any other day. I had reservations about attending this party all trip. Seems my instincts were right.

The morning started out on a good note. GpaM and I both woke up early (by 6am). One of those “once you’re up to go to the bathroom you can’t get back to sleep mornings”. So I showered and dressed. Cousin & I had taken a load of loose stuff out to the van before bed just to get started. And we packed up a bunch of stuff for Bell Services to cart over. We had suitcases, groceries and this annoyingly large sun canopy the ECV rental company insisted on giving us. I chose to hold back my suitcase and electronics for the van because of the party. I feared by the time we treturned from the party, Bell Services would be closed for the night at Saratoga. Better to have my necessary things on hand than be without for a night.

After dressing, GpaM and I made another run to the van with a bunch of toiletries stuff. Then we returned to the room and called Bell Services. That was around 9am, before they got real busy. A Bellman was there within 5 minutes and took the lot of groceries and luggage away. That left a few remaining odds and ends for us to cart to the van. Seems GpaM and Cousin followed my example and each decided to hold back a back of luggage and electronics. It was enough to be annoying with the trek up the elevators to the lobby and out the looooong walkway to the van.

Instead I went ahead of them to go fetch the van and bring it around. Took an armload of stuff myself on the way. Then plugged in my phone and started streaming ragtime music for ambiance as I pulled around to the lobby. The sun was shining and I was treated to a postcard perfect view of a Disney Cruise Line bus parked right beneath the Disney Boardwalk sign. Meanwhile my phone is playing Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer”. Made me wish I had my camera handy.

GpaM had gotten a mug refill of coffee at the Bellvue Bar then remembered he forgot something in the room. While Cousin and I dealth with loading the rest of the stuff in the van, GpaM got lost in the hallways of BWV. Not his fault. When you pull forward into those tiny elevators in an ECV you cannot see what floor you’re getting off. He kept getting off at 3, wandering around the corner before he released he was on the wrong floor. BWV is a beautiful place but it is laid out as a hotel more than a timeshare. It’s just not conducive to personal car travel. In this regard Bay Lake is much better.

No worries. My ragtime music was still playing and there was a gentle breeze in the air. GpaM finally found his way out and we loaded up. Cousin opted to travel by bus via Hollywood Studios. That left us to make the short 5 minute drive down Buena Vista Driver to Bonnet Creek and Vacation Club Way. We were driving up to Saratoga by 10:30am. Had a bit of a contest for handicapped parking at check-in. They have too few spaces and everyone seems to whip out their placard’s at the last minute. I played a game of chicken with another couple who approached the one remaining handicapped spot from the oppositie direction. Fortunately another spot opened allowing us to quit the game without getting angry.

We were greeted at the front door by Mike the Doorman (one of Saratoga’s regular CMs) and were able to check-in at the desk about 10 minutes later. Our 1bedroom HA villa with a lake view was cleaned and ready for us at the Springs. Turns out it is the exact same room we had for our inaugural DVC stay in December 2006. I can’t believe it has been 6 years since we’ve been DVC regulars. So many trips and so many wonderful memories.

I drove the van around while GpaM settled into the room. Texted Cousin our location. He was on the bus at the time so knew to get off the bus at Springs and join us at the room. We had the van unloaded by 11:30am.

Saratoga has remodeled the soft goods in these rooms. New drapes, new bedding, new upholstery, new lamps. All with an equine motif. Oh and a new brighter carpet. Makes the villas look lighter and prettier. We did have a couple maintenance issues to tend to: a burned out light over the stove and the removal of a couple big chairs that took up necessary wheelchair and scooter maneuvering space.

By noon we were all unpacked and settled before we realized we were also hungry and all ur groceries were with Bell Services. So I called over and asked that they make a note we were in our room already. Luggage from Boardwalk arrives between 1-4pm. It hadn’t made the short 5 minute trip yet. So I fetched some lunch at Artist’s Palette for the guys. Nothing too fancy: a muffin & soup for GpaM, cheeseburger flatbread for Cousin, and Saratoga chicken & chips for me. As soon as we finished eating, Bell Services was on the phone telling us ur stuff had arrived.

Our groceries and remaining luggage was delivered and unpacked by 1pm. It was also sunny and boiling hot outside. Time for a mid-day nap before the evening’s festivities. I flipped on the TV, crawled under the blanket and fell asleep to some re-run SciFi movie on AMC. Disney’s new channel line-up is 1000% better than their old limited selection. You have everything from HGTV to FoxNews and MSNBC.

Logging into the internet here was smooth as well with my phone and tablet, however GpaM had issues keepa live connection. Writing this in the middle of the night, I’m seeing the wireless connection dropping in and out. When I’m connected I get about 3mbps down and 1mbps upload. But the service will also lose it’s internet connectivity randomly. Then you have to disconnect and reconnect.

The mid-day nap was a perfect recharge for me. I had planned to be in the park by 4pm but it was very hot and the radar showed building storms. I wanted to see what the weather would do later in the afternoon before we left. That, in retrospect, turned out to be a wise move.

By 5;30pm the skies darkened. At 6 it was raining hard. It looked like we might get skimmed by the East-to-West storm pattern. So we tried on our Halloween outfits but the rain came down harder. So we changed into holiday shirts instead and decorated our wheels with bright purple twinkling lights.

Cousin hadn’t decided too get a ticket early and was planning on buying at the gate until he saw the rain come down. He chickened out and stayed behind at the room. GpaM and my tickets were waiting at the Will Call window. I stupidly forgot to pick them up when we visited last Monday. (Next time I’m putting on my list fetching all those Will Call tickets as soon as I see the Castle.)

We donned rain ponchos, tucked our phones into dry bags and went over to the Springs bus stop to wait. First bus was packed full. Driver said he’d radio for another bus, but we didn’t see a Magic Kingdom bus for 30-40 minutes. Felt like an hour as the crowd of partygoers swarmed in the bus stop. Saw lots of EPCOT and Hollywood Studious busses. The rain turned from an annoying sprinkle to a lightning wind-ripping deluge. Not a good omen.

Finally just after 7pm, two Magic Kingdom buses pulled up. An older lift bus and a ramp bus. Both had about 10 people already on. The lift bus driver offered to take us first, but to save him time I thought I’d try the ramp instead. This is where I encountered Bad CM #1. Pulled up to her door and asked for two wheelchair spots. She had no qheelchairs loaded (busses only take 2-3 of them) and only about 10 people on the bus at the time. She claimed she was half full and refused to let us board. Instead she opted to take the crowd of pedestrians and drove away leaving us in the pouring rain. So I went back to the lift bus and told that driver what happened. He was incensed.

Now this has happened only once before (i.e. that a bus driver claimed they were full and refused entry to wheelchair passengers). Both times the driver gave the half hearted excuse from his/her seat and hid their name badge only to drive away as quick as possible before we could catch their bus number or identifying info to report them for bad service. It happens because the driver is just too lazy to get out of their seat and load wheelchair passengers. The excuse is they’ll let the next driver take up the slack. In this case, she left the poor lift bus driver to double his load time trying to get older, more cumbersome equipment to work with a now loaded down bus full of passengers.

I have to say Driver #2 was a champ about it. I swear he was angrier about us being left behind than we were. And everyone else on the bus were very patient with us. I had a great time talking to the various families and their kids dressed for the party determined to make the best of the night.

We made it to Magic Kingdom in about 15 minutes. Unloaded the pedestrians and then Driver #2 (Carlos was his name) unstrapped GpaM and me. He stopped to take down our info and try to get as much information as he could to report to his supervisor about the bad driver. That I appreciated more than anything. I know Disney CM’s care and most bus drivers are awesome to us wheelie folks. The bad apples get turned on by their peers. Hopefully that driver is tracked via the time and GPS signal for some retraining. Leaving wheelchair passengers behind at a stop is an easy thing to get away with because the guests rarely know who to report to. The only other time this happened to me I was at EPCOT one January just after closing time. Bus driver drove right past me and refused to let me on even when the crowd of pedestrians told him it wasn’t right. Then he said he’d radio for another bus to come up from the staging corral (they keep extra buses on hand at staging in the park to clear all the stops at closing as needed). He never did and I was left sitting outside in the freezing cold for 30 minutes before another bus made it’s rounds. By then it looked like the stop only had 3 people and not enough to warrant another bus. I was incensed then. Tonight I didn’t have to be.

Ok so by the time we disembarked the rain had let up from a deluge to a steady light rainfall. A little more than a sprinkle but not enough to send you running for cover. It was like sitting outside in a football game. We were bundled under rain ponchos and had our electronics covered. The air was cool but not frigid. We needed to get our tickets at Will Call anyway so we made our way through Baggage Check and entered the line for Guest Relations.

That’s where we would spend the next 2 hours.

Yup, I said 2 long, wet, chilly hours. It was like slow death by Chinese Water Torture. My hat was soaked, my socks and shoes were soaked, my chair was dripping. Beautiful high arcing lightning rippled over the park adding an eerie effect to the night and making the crowd ooh and ahh. Fortunately it never turned into a deluge or struck the ground, but we all worried about it.

This is where I fault Disney CMs again for giving bad service. I was behind a couple who had purchased their Halloween Party tickets at the Beach CLub COncierge. When the thunder and lightning started they left the kids in the room and went back to Concierge to try and exchange the night. They were told no, they had to go to Magic Kingdom directly. So they called in their in-laws to watch the kids and spent two hours huddled under an umbrella and waiting in line with me.

An hour into the line waiting, CMs finally started polling the line to ferret out those just wanting to pick up tickets to go inside. This was well after 8:30pm when the rain hadn’t let up, lightning still arced overhead and the parades were canceled. I saw one family left hanging at the turnstyles as the CM allowed another guest in with one of their tickets them told them they didn’t enough for their kids. His answer was to direct them to the 2 hour line outside Guest Relations for a fix. Not a good show for Disney customer service.

By the time we got to the front of the line GpaM’s scooter started acting up. (He worried it was getting too wet, but I think one of the kids milling about messed with his freewheel lock.) I asked the CM to allow him to park under cover while I waited and she gave me a hard time about it. She didn’t believe I was in line, even though I was between two metal railings and sandwiched between about a dozen people. People I’d been talking to for the last 2 hours. ::sigh::

Finally the guests around me send me on the other side of the line where I could at least get out of the rain. I was at the edge of the building so had rain runoff dripping right into my eyes.

By the time we got to a window it was 9:18pm. They refused to refund anyone’s tickets unless you were leaving the next day. Instead we opted for Monday night tickets when the weather forecast calls for less rain. We were thanked for our patience. I probably should have been angrier tonight, but the people around me were so good-spirited it was hard to be grumpy with the bad seeds. I do expect you’ll hear a lot of bad stories from this night though. All in all, the party was mismanaged. They should have just canceled it outright and offered exchanges or refunds through Guest Relations and Concierge later.

We boarded the bus back to the resort at 9:40pm. Took a load full of people with us as well. The 9:30pm fireworks never happened. But when we pulled up to the Springs bus stop at 10:15pm I saw a big burst of fireworks in the distance. From the direction it looked like it was at Magic Kingdom. So maybe they did at least show the fireworks. I’d be surprised if they did either parade. It was far too wet and slick. I feel bad for the families I met who were going home tomorrow and only had tonight for the party.

We came home a couple of cold, bedraggled drowned rats. Peeled off our wet things, got into warm jammies and headed up bowls of hot soup. Thank goodness we had our groceries. A couple sandwiches, soup and hot tea warmed life back into us.

Now watch, by tomorrow morning the sun will shine and it’ll be boiling hot again by mid-afternoon. We’ve been stuck in this weather pattern all week. Makes any and all evening activities a non-starter. It feels more like September than October right now.

I don’t have many photos from the day to share. It was just too wet to chance taking out my camera or phone. Wish us luck for Monday night.

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