Howdo! Because it would be altogether too sensible to do these things in any way approaching a chronological order, the next two articles are going to be all about our hotels. Like tripadvisor, except I’m not a self-important gimp. I’m a self-important blogger, there’s a difference and that difference is 2,500 words. Anyway, our four hotels.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
It almost goes without saying, but the Contemporary Resort is a wonderful, beautiful hotel. We had wanted to stay here ever since seeing it on our first trip fourteen years ago – there’s something so cool about being able to take a monorail into your hotel, plus being only a kick of the arse off Magic Kingdom. We had planned to stay here for our honeymoon but ended up in the Polynesian instead which was by no means a taxing swap but we always said we’d do the Contemporary on our return, so we did. It also goes without saying that this is an expensive, expensive stay. I’m not mentioning this to be a braggart, it ties into what I’ll say at the end of this bit, but lordy-loo. For context, we paid more for nine nights here than we did for (almost) the rest of the holiday hotel nights altogether. But you are paying for three things: the proximity and connections to the park, the extra hours you get in those parks in the evening and also, at the time of visiting, daily housekeeping. The room itself was huge and overlooked the lake which was nice, if only for the excitement of seeing people zip by on boats and forgetting you’re standing there on the balcony in boxer shorts you’ve been wearing since high school. We did have a wonderful view.
The first thing we noticed upon arrival? The smell. Oh the smell! As utterly wank as this sounds, the Contemporary just smells incredible. It’s a very citrusy fresh scent and when I asked the lady checking us in what it was, she mentioned we could buy candles online that replicate it. So it is now that our living room smells like the lobby of a deluxe hotel – which is appropriate, because the bedroom smells like a Days Inn being used by rail contractors. As we were checking in on Paul’s birthday we were given badges to wear for his birthday plus another to celebrate our anniversary – you best believe they didn’t come off for fourteen days to try and maximise the free desserts and drinks. I know, shameless. I’m going to talk more about Disney itself in a future blog post, but at least one of those badges led me into mischief. You’ll see, assuming I remember to type it up.
The room itself has been a bone of contention amongst Disney fans (who I swear, and I love you if you’re reading this but even so, are the most rabid fans out there) (after Doctor Who) because they’ve been redesigned away from what considered ‘contemporary’ back in 1980 (lots of brown, apparently) and to a fresher, more modern take. They’ve taken The Incredibles family as a theme and so you’ll find little touches everywhere – Ms Incredible’s jump-suit hanging in the cupboard, the baby pictures on the wall, that sort of thing. I did think about ringing front desk and demanding a live-action take on Mr Incredible to cuddle into but please, this is Disney. I did buy a t-shirt with him on it and ‘Dad Bod’ in big letters, as though my belly entering a room three seconds before my face does wasn’t enough of a clue. They had given us twin king beds which Paul and I both agreed wasn’t so bad, once we realised he was free of my snoring and I free of his wandering hands of an evening. I say wandering, they’re usually clasped over my mouth in a vain attempt to stop me suffocating on my neck-wattle. More than once I did wake up to find he’d got into my bed during the night. Apparently he was cold but we know that’s a lie: I’m just lovely to cuddle into. Imagine getting into bed with a fur-coat-wearing manatee and you’ll get the idea. Actually I’m being a bit unfair here because I love being cuddled in the night, even though I’ll fight anyone who tries it – one of the best things about Paul losing so much weight is he’s always cold and so it is that I’ll often wake up to find him curled into me like a content little cat. Naturally I’ll never tell him how much I like that.
We had been advised upon booking that the main pool was closed for construction but to our surprise it seemed fully open and, even better, they must have selected the lifeguards especially for us because to a man they were all chubby, hairy and bearded. Sure spent a lot of time in that pool – plus it had a water slide and I’m a sucker for those (and for the lifeguards, but the opportunity never arose). I did make the fatal error of jumping on the slide just as it opened and clearly not enough water was going down because I got stuck halfway, until enough water had dammed up behind me to get me going, and even then it sounded like a slab of wet ham being dragged down a mirror. I should have pretended I was dead as I popped out the end like an unenthusiastic turd: I might have at least experienced the sweet caress of one of those lifeguards. Ah well. Next time.
Long-term readers may remember I proposed to Paul at Disney after hiring a boat and taking us out into the lake and we were keen to honour this moment but alas, you can no longer hire the zippy little boats anymore. My Bobby Fisher death reenactment remains just out of grasp. We instead hired one of their pontoons for an hour and cruised around the lake in the glorious sunshine – it was lovely yes, but I get bored easily and we’re long since past the age of impromptu outdoors shenanigans. I let Paul take the wheel and started to fuss on with trying to get the speakers on the boat to pair with my phone. You may have seen those TikToks of people queueing up ‘I Feel Good’ by James Brown and terrifying people by loudly playing the first few seconds where he shrieks? I did exactly that with Paul – he was merrily cruising along without a care in the world when James Brown burst out of the speakers to the left and right of him and I swear the poor bastard lifted about 4ft off his chair. I’m glad we weren’t going full speed or he’d have landed in the water. I know, I know. Be my pal and tell me, am I a good man?
The rest of the brief time that we spent actually on site was thoroughly lovely, although I will say this: the families staying at the deluxe resorts do have a certain…air about them? Not all of course, but there’s the slight air of superiority, entirely unearned, floating about. More than once we had someone look us up and down as though itching to ask whether we’d somehow wandered in from the street in our scruffy shoes and scotchy t-shirts, but a returned hard stare soon put paid to that. We didn’t eat in Chef Mickeys because I’ve never been one for enjoying a meal to the chorus of two billion children screaming in sugar-rushed excitement and wonder. We did have breakfast in Steakhouse 71 which was sublime and came with a Bloody Mary so strong you could have rebooted the sun with it. The waitress asked me if I wanted my rim dusted and I thought well, that’s the deluxe difference right there, but turns out she meant the glass. Liquor? No, but I did leave a tip.
The housekeeping were a delight with their creative towel animals – I was particularly pleased with this effort:
Seriously, stick a cigar in that top pocket and I’d probably have asked Paul to leave the room for a bit
One thing that disappointed me about the Contemporary (and it’s actually a wider Disney problem now) is the lack of resort-specific merchandise. The Polynesian used to have all manner of tiki-themed-tut (that’s fun to say out loud, try it) but the Contemporary had nothing bar a few art prints (because who doesn’t want to cart an A2 cardboard-back poster around in their suitcase) and an etched glass. Paul eventually found a lunchbox shaped as a monorail car in a shop in Epcot and was delighted: he can take his Choobs and Babybel lunches into work in style. We wasted $30 in the arcade, coming away with nought more than two rubber duckies and some sweets that, judging by the texture, Walt had started sucking himself back in 1971. We watched the fireworks from the stairs and that was magical, not least because it meant when we were in Magic Kingdom we could focus instead on pushing folks out of the way and getting onto rides.
But was it worth all the extra money? Well, depends. It’s a glorious resort and the perks of staying in a Disney Deluxe are great, but in my mind, unless you’ve got oodles of cash or this is a once-in-a-decade trip like ours, you don’t need to spend so much to have a great Disney stay. It’s handy being able to jump on the monorail to Epcot (with a transfer) or walk along to the Magic Kingdom, yep, but with the money you’d save by getting a cheaper place you could easily get a Lyft to the parks and back and still save money. When we next go we’ll be staying in the Art of Animation Resort and doing just that, if only so we can ride the Skyliner to our heart’s content. But we did love it so.
That said, it was clear I didn’t want to leave on the last day…
What I love most about this photo is how much it looks like I’ve fallen from the sky like Mr Bean
Hilton Orlando on International Drive
The second quarter of our holiday saw us ditching Disney and checking into the Hilton, situated towards the bottom of International Drive. Now I confess, when I first booked this hotel I had thought it was the Hilton right next door to Disney Springs and therefore we’d still be close enough to Disney to get around easily, but I was wrong. I’m telling you this now because naturally when Paul pointed out my error on holiday I lied like a cheap rug and pretended I had made no error at all and actually us being further away from Disney would be no big issue. To be fair, I was right: we just took the bus (once, because who needs that in their life) or Uber/Lyfted it. Now you may be thinking at this point that we couldn’t possibly have spent each day at a theme park and of course you’re right – the idea was for the days we were staying on-site at Universal or Disney, we’d absolutely hammer the parks, and those weeks when we were ‘off-site’ we’d take it easier and drop in as and when we fancied, taking in some of the sights on International Drive and doing shopping and all that. It worked out really well doing this because we’d tucker ourselves out for a week and then rest up the week after. That said, I think we ended up in a theme park most of the days we were away – what can I say, a holiday day isn’t complete unless I’m worrying I’ve given myself arrhythmia from too many rides.
One thing I hadn’t realised upon booking was that the Hilton Orlando is one of those hotels which is really for guests attending nearby conventions or seminars. In retrospect it makes sense given it’s right next door to the convention centre, but of course it’s easy to be wise after the event, especially when the event was apparently ‘DILF Vet of the Year’, as was seemingly being hosted at our hotel. It was no bother at all, aside from the lobby was always very loud and full of very dashing folks in lanyards talking about horse medicine. Seriously – have you ever met an unattractive vet? Goomba’s vet is so damn handsome he made the bloody newspapers for it! I only wish I was taking Goomba in for something other than his bouts of diarrhoea – it’s hard to spark up flirtatious conversation when you’re being asked whether your dog’s stool is ‘like a badly poured Guinness, or one of those Daim cheesecakes from IKEA’. Sigh. The vets kept themselves to themselves for the most part and on the couple of days we spent at the Hilton lounging about, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.
Not the best picture, but we forgot to take many of the hotel
One of the best features of this hotel is the pool – absolutely massive and deep in places, but more importantly, there’s a giant lazy river circling around the grounds. We spent altogether too much time in here floating around, once Paul had figured out how to get into the floating rings without immediately tipping backwards, that is. I genuinely think he still sees himself as much larger than he actually is and moves accordingly – he still turns sideways when passing through doors, for example. After I’d let him stot his head off the floor of the pool a couple of times – always got my eyes on the insurance, me – we got him settled and must have floated for a good two hours, chatting away and trying desperately not to mow the odd child down as we went past. There’s also a tennis court if you’re feeling energetic – we weren’t – and a full size basketball pitch. We did give that a go but had to stop when we realised how like Marge from The Simpsons we were: we’re never ready for the Shaq Attack in this household.
We were huge fans of the onsite ‘Scratch Market’ which sold all manner of exciting, if a trifle expensive, snacks and goodies. We set out on this holiday to try and not gorge too much, but this always-open market would prove to be our undoing. The convenience of sending Paul downstairs every time we had a gurgle in our bellies gave us a good opportunity to try all manner of American snacks, which has led to me becoming addicted to Mike ‘n’ Ikes – these weird jellybeans that are frankly like crack in fruit form. I’m assuming, of course. It was fine when I was over there because we were on holiday and it didn’t count but I’ve since discovered they sell these in the American section of our local petrol station and I’m on a pack a day – I’m thinking about taking up an actual crack addiction just to distract me. Think of the weight loss, I guess. Ruin came on the penultimate night of our stay when I realised they had their own gelateria selling every possible flavour of ice-cream you can think of, including one called ‘garbage can’ where they seem to throw everything into one pot and stir it together. Gummy bears, marshmallows, bits of toffee, the lot. It was utterly magnificent and singularly responsible for me being a shade too heavy to go on one waterslide a little later in the holiday. Paul and I did agree that ‘Double Scoop Fudge Brownie and Garbage Can’ should be our porn names, should the book sales ever dry up and a market becomes apparent for two fat saggy men half-heartedly going at it whilst Tipping Point blares in the background.
Actually love this photo. Love it.
All in all, not a bad hotel at all. As I mentioned it was a bit of a ballache getting up to Disney first thing if you didn’t want to get an Uber, but other than that, it was clean and comfortable with plenty nearby to occupy yourself with, and that’s really all you can ask of a hotel. Well that and better toiletries: after enjoying the wonderful Disney H2Whoa toiletries at the Contemporary (for enjoyed, read ‘steal as many as we can from the trolley as we walked past and fill a suitcase with them’), the tiny rock-hard slivers of soap given out at the Hilton was a bit of a let-down. But listen, if that’s the only thing you have to bitch about, you’re living a charmed life indeed.
Now I had planned to rattle off reviews of the Hard Rock and Rosen Shingle Creek too, but they’ll wait for next time. You lucky souls!