Guest Author: John Knell
John Knell…you and your fiancé just got married! What are you going to do next? “We’re going to Disney World!” Exactly.
The year was 1993. It was July. Bill Clinton was in the White House. Jurassic Park (the original…not the 3D version) was scaring up the box office and Janet Jackson was singing about “How Love Goes” on the charts. My fiancé and I were both fresh out of college and ready to embark on our lives together as man and wife. It was a time of firsts and transitions. Of ceremonies and achievements. Of milestones and celebrations. It was also a time of family and traditions and one of my family’s most enduring vacation traditions were the trips to Walt Disney World of my youth.
While other couples have planned for honeymoons in tropical/exotic locals, from St. Croix to Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas to Paris and beyond, there was only one place my wife and I ever talked about spending our honeymoon and that was WDW. It was always THE place for me and, after about a nanosecond of discussion, my future wife very much agreed that WDW was the place to go.
So…after the walk down the aisle; the exchange of vows; the cutting of the cake, and the traditional first dance as man and wife, it was on a plane and off to sunny Orlando for our 7 night 8 day honeymoon at the house of the mouse. It was not only the beginning of our new life together it was also the start of something special and magical.
Since it was 1993, and there wasn’t such a thing as a Magical Express, my wife and I decided to go with the “slightly more expensive but it’s our honeymoon so honestly why not” option and rented a limo to transport us in style from Orlando International to our home resort: The Grand Floridian. Perfect idea right? Romantic. Classy. Comfortable. Just what we needed to set the mood and start our honeymoon off properly. Only problem is that our Disney reserved limo didn’t show as scheduled and we were left waiting, with sad faces and a cart full of luggage, in the Orlando International airport without a ride. And, after about an hour or so of waiting, it was time for a phone call to the Grand Floridian to find out what was going on. (I had to use a pay phone…no iPhone in 1993 right?)
In my experience the great thing about Disney, and what separates them from 90% of the companies out there, is that when they do make a mistake (or have an oversight like …um…forgetting to pick someone up at the airport for example) they take great pains to not only correct the situation but to also do something special to go above and beyond what is needed to rectify things and set it right.
For our situation the customer service rep at the Grand Floridian directed us to take a shuttle to the resort and our costs would be reimbursed upon check in. But, as an extra special “I’m sorry”, our honeymoon accommodations got a massive upgrade. What was once an outer building room with two double beds and a garden view magically became a deluxe concierge room with a king bed and resort grounds view in the main building. *Poof* Disney magic applied. Wow. Talk about setting things right….well done Disney.
So after our momentary (albeit fairly minor) transportation delay the honeymoon had officially begun and promised to be even bigger and better than before thanks to some additional Disney applied magic – Ka-chow! (As Lightning McQueen would say)
Back in 1993 The Grand Floridian was the jewel in the WDW Resorts crown and the same really holds true in 2013 as well. It is truly a breathtaking/magical place and always worth a visit even if you aren’t staying there. Things like strolling through the well-themed lobby to marvel at the open elevators and stained glass windows in the ceiling. Stopping at Mizner’s Lounge to relax with some live jazz standards and a snack and beverage. Enjoying a grand breakfast or dinner with some character dining at 1900 Park Fare. All are only a few of the reasons that make it worth the short monorail ride over from the Magic Kingdom.
For our honeymoon…having the luxury of 7 full days to enjoy the parks (remember there were only 3 in 1993) allowed us to take some time and just enjoy some of the things the resort had to offer at a more leisurely pace. Relaxing by the pool. Walking along the beach. Enjoying the Florida evening on our balcony. Shopping in the main building. Slowing down and savoring WDW is always worth while and a honeymoon is an extra special reason to do so.
I still vividly remember the first night we checked into the resort. As you could imagine we were both quite exhausted after our wedding festivities. You pair that with traveling all day, and then waiting at the airport for our ride, our first evening in Disney found us both drained and in dire need of some down time to catch our breath a bit and relax. Consequently, after check in, we made the decision to seriously chill out in the resort that first evening and take a moment to unwind, grab some room service and watch the 4th of July Disney parks fireworks from our balcony. (Ka-chow moment #2) It was truly a special evening….made even more special by the fact that it was our honeymoon as well as the first night of our Disney vacation. I don’t know what it is but for me the first night of a Disney vacation always seems to be a bit more special than the rest of the trip…I think it must be the anticipation of all the magic and memories to come.
The Grand Plan
Still to this day my wife and I fondly refer to our honeymoon as the “trip where the couple ate their way around the world” largely due to the fact that my parents gave us the ultimate dining experience as part of our honeymoon – “The Grand Plan”.
Remember that this is 1993 and the general Disney Dining plan didn’t exist yet. So, as a perk for people staying at The Grand Floridian, Disney created the “Grand Plan” as a way for their guests to indulge in the ultimate “foodie” package. (Did the word “foodie” exist back then? I don’t think it did but if it did I think this package was created just for them.)
Purchasing The Grand Plan gave you priority access to dining reservations prior to your trip (Can you say Cinderella’s Royal Table anyone?) as well as three table service meals and two snacks every day during your trip. Each meal could consist of an appetizer, main entree, dessert and all the non-alcoholic drinks you could consume. Room service meals, as well as Victoria & Albert’s (more on that in Part 2), were also included in the plan. Plus, as an added bonus, since we were now staying on the concierge level we had unlimited access to the concierge lounge’s selection of food/beverages every day. *Whew* Talk about foodie overkill.
While there were definite benefits to having the plan on board (the ability to experience some of the finest table service food and restaurants that WDW had to offer is always a benefit) our honeymoon quickly devolved into us trying to squeeze as many things as we could into the spaces between our rigidly scheduled/3 table service meals a day dining agenda. Consequently, after a few days, The Grand Plan quickly became the Grand Nuisance as it seemed like we always had to precisely, and rigidly, move through our day just to make sure that we could make it to our next dining reservation on time. Sometimes you just need to get a sandwich (or corn dog nuggets…I love those things) and go grab a Fast Pass right? (Oh…that’s right…there were no Fast Passes in 93. Bummer. How did we seriously survive?)
That’s all for part 1. Please join me for part 2 where I will talk about touring the parks in 1993 as well as the ultimate dining adventure…our dinner at Victoria and Alberts.