Sunday, August 18, 2013

Russian Adoption Reunion at Disney World--Part 1

On July 18, 2013, the boys and I departed for Orlando to attend the first big Russian Adoption Reunion at Disney World. Brian and I had gone back and forth about whether or not we should attend this...mainly because we had already planned our big summer vacation to Colorado for the same summer. We decided that to save money on airfare and food, I would take the boys while he stayed home with Alyssa.

The reunion group started out as 2 families from the same region...then it spread to more families in the same region, then it opened up to other Facebook families and ended up being over 50 families and 200ish people. I had met 2 families from the boys' region in Russia before this trip, but I "knew" many others through reading blogs and sharing emails from the past 6 years.

The group was able to get a significant discount at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, one of the deluxe resorts on Bay Lake (I think our group discount was around 40%) and a 10% discount on theme park tickets (for 2+ days). The reunion was officially 2 activities at Disney World followed by a 4-night Disney cruise, but we couldn't swing the cruise this year so we just attended the land portion.

On the morning of our departure, Delta called me at 4 a.m. to let me know we'd been bumped from our flight onto a later flight due to weather issues in Atlanta. In theory I could have gone back to sleep for a few hours, but I couldn't after that phone call. The boys did sleep until later, so they were all fresh and excited for our trip.

We had a connection in Atlanta, and our connecting flight was switched twice while we were there. More delays. Here is Joshua with his grumpy face. Thank goodness the boys both had video games to play while we waited.

So after a delay of about 4 hours, we arrived at the Orlando airport, my absolute favorite airport. We walked downstairs to the Magical Express waiting area, and it was deserted on a Thursday afternoon.

We boarded our Magical Express bus (free transportation to Disney resorts from the airport) and watched cartoons during the ride.

There it is, the gate to Disney World!

Wilderness Lodge was the second resort on the bus route. Here is what we pulled up to:

When we got off the bus, a cast member came up to me with an iPad and started checking me in as we walked to the lobby. By the time we got to the front desk, all we had to do was pick up the keys. The boys waited in this little area off the lobby:

The Wilderness Lodge is themed like a lodge in a national park. With the exception of a few Disney touches, you would never know you are at Disney World.

Our room was a short elevator ride up, overlooking the lobby. When we walked into our room, the boys were thrilled to discover we got a bunk bed room! (I was thrilled, meant I didn't have to share a bed with a wiggly boy!)

We had a Mickey-shaped towel waiting on our bed.

A small balcony:

Disney tiles in the shower:

Picture of our room:

The lobby of the resort was very beautiful and quieter than I expected. I had stayed at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge many years ago, and I found it to be quite noisy there.

The first thing we did after checking out our room was head to Roaring Forks, the quick-service food place downstairs. While there, we ran into a family I hadn't seen since 2009 in Vladivostok, Russia! We also met another family in the elevator.

After dinner, we decided to check out the resort. In the lobby, there is a little stream that starts inside and leads to the pool outside.

Outside by the pool, there is a waterfall and a geyser that erupts every hour.

The resort also has a beach off of Bay Lake.

Now that we saw the resort, the boys were ready to go swimming. As soon as we got changed and headed outside, it started to rain and the pool closed. Bummer! So we waited in our room for over an hour for the rain to stop.

The back side of the Wilderness Lodge:

Around 8:30 p.m., the rain finally stopped. I promised the boys we would go swimming. They loved night swimming!

Joshua had a smile on his face the whole time he was in the pool this entire trip.

Around 9:30, we headed to the beach to watch the electric water pageant. This is a music and light show on boats that Disney puts on for the resorts that are on Bay Lake. It's worth seeing at least once!

Then shortly after that ended, we could see the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from the resort beach.

It was 10:30 p.m. before we got to bed. The boys fell asleep quickly, which is good because we had an early morning the next day.

That first night, my water-proof camera broke. Apparently, some water leaked in while we were at the pool. In my attempt to travel light, I didn't bring my DSLR camera. I had a crappy camera on my cell phone, but nothing else. Not having a good camera for the rest of this trip was freaking me out. I am big on documenting all of our trips on the blog, with a video, a photo book, etc. So for the rest of the trip, I relied on a disposable camera and getting other people's photos of our reunion. 

Just a few more notes about Wilderness Lodge:

I've stayed at 6 of Disney's on-property resorts and Caribbean Beach has always been my favorite. However, Wilderness Lodge might have just jumped into my first place resort. It was so beautiful and peaceful outside that we truly couldn't tell we were in the hustle and bustle of Disney. I loved how we could walk to dinner and walk to the bus without getting wet, and since it rained every day we were there, that was a big plus. It was a lot smaller than Caribbean Beach (725 guest rooms at Wilderness Lodge vs. 2112 at Caribbean Beach) and it never felt crowded. We could take a boat from the resort straight to Magic Kingdom, and we could also take a boat to the Contemporary Resort where we could catch the monorail. It was nice being so close to the Magic Kingdom and seeing the electric water pageant and the fireworks nearby.

The biggest con of the Wilderness Lodge is the higher price and the fact that Disney only lets you fit 4 people in a stateroom. (Caribbean Beach only allows 4, for that matter, but the last time we stayed there my youngest was still in a crib, which was allowed).

This resort was the main hub of our reunion, and we met families on the elevator and at the pool, so I'm glad we stayed where most other families from our reunion stayed.

The boys said they liked Wilderness Lodge the best, and we all agree we would love to stay there again. However, we would have to get 2 rooms for the 5 of us, and the price might keep us away.

Up next: Our day at Magic Kingdom.

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