Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Disney Magic Story of Two Hotels

I'll start this with an admission. Last summer, for the first time, we stayed at Paradise Pier, one of the Disneyland Resort Hotels. We've now been ruined for all others...

After pouring over web page after web page of reviews, I finally chose the hotel we'd stay at for our second big Disneyland adventure of the summer. We chose Candy Cane Inn, the self-described "luxury boutique hotel nestled 250 yards from the main gate to the Disneyland® Resort." It has the number one Trip Advisor rating for Anaheim hotels , which includes extensive user reviews. I was aware of it's downfalls, such as really being more of a motel, situated around a parking lot, but the lush landscaping, free breakfast, comfy beds and more seemed to outweigh the drawbacks.

First let me say, that this is NOT a luxury hotel, despite their description. It was nicely landscaped, the beds were VERY comfortable, the toddler pool was nice, and breakfast was quite decent. The location is great, on the same side of the street as Disneyland, so its an easy walk to the park. There is also a very reliable private shuttle. Since we were paying around $150 instead of the $250 and up for more of a true luxury hotel, some flaws could be overlooked. I was ready to deal with that fact.

Our shuttle experience to the hotel was horrendous - with a crazy driver who had wanted to pack way more people into the shuttle than would have been safe (his airport counterpart talked him out of it, thank goodness) talked on his cell phone, didn't use traffic signals, and zipped in and out of traffic like he was driving a sports car. So, we arrived in a bit of a nasty mood, with my Wife feeling totally carsick. Check-in resulted in receiving keys that did not work, which meant towing along two hot, tired kids (ages 1 and 4) for the walk back to the front desk to get new keys. Still, we were almost in Disneyland. We shook it off, and went to grab some lunch at Denny's before heading into the park.

There is a lot of traffic along the main street you must walk to get from the motel to Denny's or McDonald's or any other place to eat. This shouldn't be a huge deal. We had strollers; we know how to cross streets safely; no one tried to run us down. It didn't SEEM like such a big deal. Ends up it was. You'll see.

Denny's was fine. What more can be said?

We walked back across the street, ready to enter Disneyland! Let me cover our kids first glimpse of the Magic at another time since that isn't what this is about. I will say, we had a wonderful afternoon/evening.

When it was time to go back to the park, it was a fine walk back - next to the busy street. As my wife got our kids ready for bed, I walked to a sandwich shop, across the busy street, to pick up dinner. It was a lovely evening, and I enjoyed the feeling of being in Southern California. We don't live there, so I always enjoy the palm trees and the excitement of being away from home. I even picked up some Malibu Rum and orange juice from a convenience store for a little in-room celebration of our first night. (Can't buy alcohol anywhere other than at liquor stores back home, so that was fun.) We had a relaxing dinner and the kids were soon out.

The neighbors, which we'd heard earlier in the day, arrived to their rooms around the time we tried to go to sleep. Yes, I said rooms, plural. We were in the middle of a family reunion; they were on either side of us, separated by a room on both sides. The adults had no qualms about shouting down the outside corridor to each other. The children could not seem to keep clear on which rooms were theirs, and kept trying to open our door. We were irritated, but it finally quieted down.

Let me spare you all of the details of the next day, and say their noise continued. I asked the front desk when our neighbors in ###room would be leaving as they were quite noisy. It would be another couple days. Great! We were booked for 6 nights, and they would be there for at least half of it. The front desk person did not ask if there was anything she could do, nor offer to move us. I did not ask to be moved.

By mid-afternoon, when we went to our room for a nap with the kids and our noisy neighbors were shouting again, my wife and I realized we were both cranky. We hated the neighbors. We hated walking next to the busy road. We hated that one of our beds was right next to the outside corridor window, which overlooked the parking lot. We realized we'd been spoiled to traditional hotel rooms that put the bathroom as a buffer between the hallway and the sleeping area. We hated the smell that was coming from under the bathroom sink. (Note: even Paradise Pier has this smell from time to time.) We hated getting on and off the shuttle. This was a lot of negativity coming from two people who should be thrilled that they were on the totally unexpected splurge of a second fantastic vacation of the summer.

I jumped out of bed where I had been unsuccessfully trying to nap and said I was calling the Walt Disney Travel company to see if we could be moved to a different hotel. Thank God we'd booked through them. (The travel consultant I use, who books through WDT is listed to the right.) They were wonderful! First, they tried to work it out with the motel, since that is what they are supposed to do. The motel manager offered to move us, but by this time, I did not want to waste more time, in case the same problem happened again. I was already losing part of an afternoon. There was availability at the Disneyland Hotel. The price difference was considerable, like around $1200 more.

"Do it."

She did. We did. Within a couple hours were were packed, had checked out of the Candy Cane Inn without so much as a nod from the manager, had taken a taxi to the Disneyland Hotel, and were checking in, where we were informed we'd been upgraded to a pool view. Nice! Ahhhh.....the Magic is beginning. I could feel it washing over me.

We walked into our room and it was PARADISE. The little Disney-themed touches in the wallpaper, on the armoire, the Mickey lamps in the bathroom, and more were so much appreciated, and our view was excellent. This was worth every extra penny we spent, and we had only just begun to realize how much.

By now, it was getting to be evening and we wanted to get back to the parks. We walked from the hotel, under the Magic Hat (Mickey's Sorcerer Hat in gigantic size greets visitors at the edge of the hotel as they head towards Downtown Disney.), and into Downtown Disney. Our then 4-year-old son asked for some KettleKorn, and we accommodated his wish. Both kids had been fairly good through this move, but the adult tensions were just starting to flow away. Then it happened. The Real Magic.

"Mom, would you like some of my popcorn?"

This boy had been going through a phase where he rarely shared willingly. This offer was a clear sign that the Magic had hit us. We were in the Happiest Place on Earth. We all happily munched on KettleKorn as we strolled through Downtown Disney and into Disneyland for a night of fun.

Over the course of our stay, we found many reasons to be happy about our choice to switch hotels. We realized a big part of going to Disneyland for us is absorbing ourselvs in the whole Disney experience. We want to get away from the traffic, the noise, the hustle of the outside world. Disneyland certainly has its own noise and hustle, but it is different. Disneyland is an escape - and for us, once we're in, we may as well go all the way, as far as our dreams will take us.

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