Monday, December 29, 2014

Aulani :  "Distinctively Disney, Authentically Hawaiian"


A Disney hotel in Hawaii?  Sounds kind of crazy, but it's true!  A true Polynesian-style resort on the island of Oahu that keeps Hawaiian traditions alive & guests happy!

Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa carefully blends the Polynesian culture and imaginative Disney style to form a terrific experience for adults & kids!  This 360-room, 480 villa property sits on the Leeward coast of Oahu, on the Ko'Olina shore, and in my opinion has the best beach area on the entire island.  It's about a half hour ride from the Honolulu Airport (of course, depending on if you catch the traffic during rush hour from 3:30pm to 6:00pm).

Of course, not being in the Honolulu/Waikiki area of Oahu has it's pros & it's cons.  I loved the fact that you get a true sense of relaxation here and you  can enjoy an uncrowded beach experience, as well as have a very authentic Hawaiian experience.  But, you are away from the area where you can quickly take tours to the points of interest on the island.  Although you can certainly visit Pearl Harbor, or the Dole Plantation, or various other areas but you have to plan it ahead of time.  Aulani does offer a 'shopping shuttle' three times a week that brings guests to one of 3 locations for the day. (Aulani sits right next door to Paradise Cove Luau - about a 5 minute walk, as well as across the street from Ko' Olina Marketfor shopping & dining options.)

So Disney is all about story-telling, and of course Aulani is no exception!  With a wonderful 'cultural advisor' with a soft-spoken way of teaching guests about the history & traditions of Hawaii, and firepit story-telling nightly, family movie nights, Disney's 'Starlit Hui' show featuring local artisans, hula, live music & a dance party two times a week, guests can certainly find enough entertainment to keep their families busy.   On those rainy days that you might catch, the Pau Hana Community Hall offers arts & crafts, board games, and DVD rentals too!

Of course, one of the most fantastic areas of Aulani is the outdoor pools!  As if the beautiful beach wasn't enough to keep water-lovers happy, there are 3 amazing pools in which guests can find a comfortable spot just for themselves!  There's the zero-entry Waikolohe Pool, Ka Maka Grotto, and the adult's only Wailana Pool.  In addition, kids have a great interactive water play area, and the Waikolohe Stream Lazy River, two waterslides & 4 hot tubs!

And it wouldn't be 'Disney' if it didn't have a 'kids only' area as well!  Aunty's Beach House is reason enough for kids to never to want to leave Aulani!  This great 'cottage' is designed for the little ones, as well as the teens, and is complimentary to guests!   Disney's youth counselors entertain kids ages 3 to 12 with hula lessons, lei making, crafting, and anything else to keep them busy!
And of course, costumes for dress-up time included every princess & pirate outfit imaginable!
 The guest rooms are creatively and thoughtfully designed so that families can be comfortable and kids are taken care of during their visit.  Guest rooms have Pack'n Play playards, a fridge, iron & ironing board, all have balconies, great size closet & storage space, and free Wifi (as with all Disney hotels).

A great variety of dining venues are offered, from the family-friendly 'quick service' locations that Disney always has available (Lava Shack, Mama's Snack Stop, and Ulu Cafe (grab & go breakfast or lunch; i.e. $7 yogurt & granola, $11 croissant sandwich) to full dining service like the terrific Ama Ama, or Makahiki offering the great character breakfast, where Aunty has a beachside celebration with guests (about $40 per person)!  Get your cameras ready!
I loved the fact that each night there was music playing outside of the Olelo Room, where 'Sunset Happy Hour' gets guests together in a really festive environment.   And the property would not be complete without a poolside bar - Off the Hook!  Mixed drinks ranged from $9.75 to $12, not too bad!
Food & beverage service is also available beachside & poolside!  And with a 'master mixologist' in house, the bar staff is kept busy all day long!

Laniwai Spa has to be one of the most fantasic spas in all of the Hawaiian islands, and in North America!  Water, light & color was used in the design of the spa to create a nature-filled environment.  Guests that reserve a spa appointment will have a full-day's use of the outdoor hydrotherapy garden area (Kula Wai) the only one in all of Hawaii.   Disney never forgets about kids, so of course there is a fantastic 'teen spa' called 'Painted Sky' .... great way to introduce your teen to the 'spa world'.  The fitness center is complimentary to guests.  Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Hawaiian-style' is available for your little princesses!  And the spa offers a mom/dad/baby experience too!

What I love about this resort is the fact that there are suttle 'touches' of Disney infused with traditional Hawaiian culture, and their phrase 'Distinctively Disney, Authentically Hawaiian' really sums it all up.  I cannot imagine planning a vacation to Hawaii with a family and NOT making Aulani one of the stops on the itinerary!
Suttle 'touch' of the 'Magic of Disney
Visited property October 21 - 26, 2014
For more information contact Vira Mastroianni at vira@largaytravel.com or 888-632-2660.vira@largaytravel.com

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Four Seasons at WDW



Fours Seasons at WDW - No Need To Leave! (Nov. 2014) 

What a great addition to Walt Disney World hotel properties!!  This fabulous resort gives new dimension to luxury hotels in Orlando that are available onsite at Walt Disney World in Florida! Having opened just a few months before I visited, it still is going through some 'growing pains' but it's understandable!  The Four Seasons at WDW is terrific for the guest that is looking for balance between a fun-filled vacation for their family, along with a luxurious resort to kick back and forget about all the hustle-bustle of the 'most magical place on Earth'!

The ride from the airport was about 25 minutes, exactly what was expected since it's inside the gates of Disney.  The cost for a luxurious sedan (MEARS) with tax & tip was $85 one way;  Four Seasons partners with Mears for all transportation between the resort & everywhere that guests need to be. The drivers can be quickly & easily arranged at a moment's notice.  The cost of the vehicle will be added to guest's room account.  The driver will meet guests at the baggage claim area, and quickly bring guests to the resort.  (Guests cannot utilize the Magical Express Transportation service).

Great colors!
Closet
The guest rooms at the Four Seasons are all the same;  the view is what will vary.  The rooms are beautifully designed;  honestly, it's not a big deal to have a 'Park View' room, in my opinion.  The park is SO FAR away, that viewing the fireworks going off at the Magic Kingdom is not a big deal.  The rooms are FANTASTIC - beautiful furniture, very soft & inviting colors, VERY technologically advanced (all come with tablets to arrange your stay, and to control room functions), bathrooms that are the size of a small hotel room (GREAT water pressure), the TV is set up to work as an information center, water is stocked daily in the room as well as refills on Nespresso coffee pods, Bose sound  system, plush bathrobes.  The hallways are great in that there is a little 'cubby' area that leads into 2 guest rooms (makes it great for maid service with their carts, to keep them out of sight & out of the way).  Very smart design!

The most fantastic area of the hotel is the outdoors!  There really is no reason to want to leave the Four Seasons!  With an 'adults only' pool area & sanctuary (called "Oasis Pool"), a kids area with a 'splash zone' and an activity center which has pool tables, kids & teens club, and beautifully landscaped grounds, it makes for a location that will please adults & kids alike.
The use of the kids areas, the splash zone, and the activity center is offered without charge.  There are cabanas for rental at the adults only pool area.  (As of November 2014 there was no charge; the charges will be $200 to $400 for the day, based on the time of year.)  The cabanas have meal & beverage service, there is a fridge & storage for personal items, has 2 sun beds in front of the cabana, and a nice, cozy sofa area under the shade.  Very, very attentive service!
 There are endless areas to escape, and to take a stroll, and to cool off from the beautiful sunshine of Central Florida!  Four Seasons is so smart to have added throughout the pool areas refreshment stands that have ice cold lemon water, aloe, body lotion & sun screen (for those of us that always forget those items).  It's a nice touch, and took me by surprise!  Another nice touch for the sun-lovers taking advantage of the outdoors - nice refreshing healthy treats through the day from the pool attendants!

The kids 'splash zone' has been designed to make it uber-friendly for parents watching their kids while they're playing!  With sun beds (and shade) all around, very comfortable seating, even for nap-time!  Kids will not be disappointed!  The design of this area is extremely focused on making everyone happy, not just the kids!


As far as the food is concerned, there are many, many options throughout the day.  Four Seasons offers a fantastic breakfast buffet, with indoor & outdoor seating ( a Virtuoso amenity valued at $40 per person).  The breakfast has the typical fresh fruits, parfaits, meats, breads, all types of jellies, jams, Nutella, peanut butter, etc., omelettes, eggs, sausage & bacon, waffles, pancakes, French toast, etc.  No lack of food for breakfast!

There is a coffee shop that sits off the hallway leading from guest elevators to the lobby, serving fresh espresso and gelato, and some quick lunch options.   PB&G offers lunch & dinner service, drink service for the pool area.  Cocktails were around $12, beer $7 or $8, appetizers $8 to $12 and burgers & sandwiches around $20.  Not too bad for a Four Seasons.....

The one thing I would caution about is in regards to getting to & from the parks.  Even though FS is on WDW grounds, for the guest that is looking for complete convenience TO/FROM the parks, it's not the place to be.  Although the location is in good proximity to the parks, it is still a bit of an effort.  The Disney buses do not operate to & from the Four Seasons; Four Seasons has a shuttle service that is offered every 1/2 hour to the Magic Kingdom, and every hour to the other 3 parks (not to Downtown Disney, or the Water parks).  If a guest is going to the Magic Kingdom, the bus will drop off at the Transportation Center, and then they either take a ferry over to the bus lots and then walk into the park, or they take the monorail that will bring them to the park.  If the guests are going to Epcot it drops off at the Monorail, and then they walk into the park; and if they are going to Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom, it will drop off at the entrance to those parks.  The other option is to rent a car, which may make it a bit easier.  Of course, guests can also rely on the taxi service that Four Seasons can arrange with Mears.





Visually, this hotel is magnificent!  The lobby, the ballroom, the staircases, the hallways - everything is super-clean, super-fresh, extremely beautiful.
The Four Season Orlando at Walt Disney World will not disappoint!






Visited November 15 - 17, 2014
For more information contact Vira Mastroianni at vira@largaytravel.com or 888-632-2660.