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OTHER LOCATIONSAulani - Disney's Resort and Spa
w/DVC Villas - Hawaii
by Jack Marshall
This article originally appeared in the All Ears® September 13, 2001, Issue #103 issue.
Well, I finally did it!
As a Disneyite who was partial to the moderate/deluxe resorts, I was probably one of the only remaining people who had never stayed at one of the All Star Resorts. This was to be my baptism.
I chose All Star Music Resort for this initiation mainly because my daughter hates sports and there wasn't a price incentive for All Star Movies -- the current $49/night rate at All Star Music was very persuasive. I approached it as "so what if it stinks, it's only $49". I know, I was a little pessimistic. That's just my repressed Chicken Little complex manifesting itself.
We (my 10-year-old daughter Janet and I) arrived on a Monday night in August around 7:30 p.m. There was no line at the check-in. The Cast Member did her magic and handed me my American Express White Glove fanny packs and my room keys. I asked if these were for a non-smoking Jazz Inn building room as I had faxed in the previous Thursday. I could tell by the blank look on her face this was a definite "uh-oh".
The CM said there were no requests showing on my reservation and that the room that she had just given me was in fact a SMOKING ROOM!! Not long after I came to and picked myself off the floor, I asked her to please check for a nonsmoking (not "smoking optional"!) room for us. She went into the back room to see what was available. I'm sure she was really out there with the other front desk CMs saying, "Hey guys, I got a live one here." She returned about two minutes later. She took back the ID cards and started pecking at her computer. Out popped new ID cards. She grabbed a map and circled Calypso 0517. We grabbed our luggage and began the journey through our own "final frontier" to search for this elusive room.
On the way out of lobby we walked past the Calypso Pool, sometimes called the Guitar Pool. Janet liked what she saw. It was a guitar-shaped (!) pool with an island in the middle, and figures of the Three Caballeros squirting water. The pool's posted hours were 8 a.m. to midnight, while the lifeguards worked from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Speaking of lifeguards, the ones we saw here during our week were very attentive and diligent. My only pool thought during the week was if they heat the pools in the winter why can't they refrigerate them in the hot Florida summer?
We turned left at the pool and entered into the neon green Building #10 and found our room. I slipped the card into the card reader and giggled with glee as the little LED flickered green.
As I opened the door, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised. The room was bright and cheery. Snow white walls (color not the character) and ivory trim doors. The carpet still new and plush and loaded with Mickeys. It almost looked as though it had been recently redone. The room was slightly smaller than those I stayed in at Port Orleans-French Quarter or the Caribbean Beach Resort, but not uncomfortably so. As we found out as the week progressed, the room was a very quiet parking lot view. Of course there were no cheerleader events going on right now either.
The other side of the building was much noisier, since it bordered the pool. I can see where people who had these rooms would sometimes have a problem with noise. The only noise I detected all week were the infamous "turbo toilets". There's sure no mistaking when you're at Disney, is there? "...tinkle...tinkle..tinkle...Bombs Away!"
Janet wanted to know why the Calypso building had "barrels" around the stairways. Ugh. I could see I'd have to someday relate to her tales of my coffee house days in my youth. "Like, hey daddy-o, far out! Cool bongos, man." Barrels...only my kid...
I pulled the comforter down and found what appeared to be brand new white sheets. I always like to check the sheets in a hotel. You can tell a lot by what the sheets look like. There was more storage space here than I had in the moderates. The bureau had six full, deep drawers. There was none of that silly armoire nonsense. Does anyone *really* close the armoire doors while they are there anyway?
I loved the fact that the air conditioner wasn't in the window like the moderates. There was a wall thermostat that controlled this absolutely silent cooling machine. Why can't the moderates get these? Heck -- why can't I get these at home?
Next, I checked out the bathroom. Once again, it appeared to be freshly redone. There was a shower massage head on the shower and the wall-mounted soap dispenser was nicer than the ones I'd had in the moderates. This one had two separate sides, with a slide switch to choose between them, one for the ivory-colored liquid soap and one for the green shampoo. Soooooooo much better than that old, all-in-one gold soap/shampoo combo stuff. A nice clean blue and ivory Mickey shower curtain completed the decor.
After unpacking, Janet and I went exploring ASMu. The food court was great. Very easy to read overhead menus that changed for breakfast and for lunch/dinner. Daughter approved since it had grilled cheese on the lunch/dinner menu. She *lives* on grilled cheese. We found the food to be very good here for food court fare. It had a very good selection for all meals, too. The food court is not open 24 hours, though -- it closes by midnight. Refillable mugs (regular and travel style) were $8.99 each, plus tax. I drank my $8.99 the first day. TIP: There is no milk on the beverage island, but if you are a coffee drinker like me who prefers milk to cream, just ask one of the CMS They have some put aside just for this.
Janet gave the arcade a big thumbs up. This was a rather large one, with all the bells and whistles and "virtual everything" games designed to suck out your quarters. I just rolled my eyes as I thought that this was just what I needed to see at a Disney resort... an overgrown Chuck E. Cheese with games that pay off in tickets. Ugh. I was hoping that, with a little luck, I could steer Janet clear of there most of the visit. I was mostly successful, save for one other stop there.
There was also the obligatory caricature artist stationed every evening right between the food court and arcade. I watched him on several occasions -- he was very good. I was very tempted to have a caricature done of Janet but she didn't want to sit for it. Oh well.
After checking out the gift shop, which was your standard Disney resort gift shop, we encountered the Singing Spirits Pool Bar, attached to the pool side of the food court. It's set up so you can sit on bar stools outside, or there's a window to order from in the food court if you want to sit at your own table in there. The drinks were good: Bacardi and Coke cost $4.75, while a 32-ounce (32 oz!!!) can of Foster's was $7.20.
We strolled down to the Piano Pool at the back of ASMu and found it to be a small, but very nice, intimate quiet pool shaped like a piano. Surprised? Right next to this pool, as well as next to the Calypso Pool up front, were the laundry rooms and restrooms. I was surprised to find out that you had to use your room key for admittance to either the laundry room or the restroom. I checked out the laundry area ($1 for soap packets, $2 for wash, $2 for dry) in the one by the Calypso Pool. I also looked inside the restroom there and found out that inside there are coin-operated single use lockers ($1) as well as two changing areas with showers, for guests who check out early, but stay to swim before they have to leave.
PET PEEVE: I had to wonder who the Einstein was that hung the shower rod at 78 inches and put a 72-inch shower curtain up. The water from the shower absolutely flooded the drainless floor in the changing area, creating a very inconvenient lake right where a person would be changing into dry clothes.
I must admit that the two full-size beds in our room were both quite comfy. The maid service was adequate. Our room must have been on the early morning make-up sheet, since it was always done by noon. We slept in one morning following an E-ride Night and put the little "Do Not Disturb" sign in the key slot -- we never heard a sound that morning. We left the room about 11 a.m. and it was made up when we returned around 4:00 p.m. Getting extra towels for the pool was easy enough -- I left a little note with my gratuity and received all the towels we needed.
Later in the week, we took a stroll over to the All Star Movies Resort. We thought it was OK, but just OK. We both liked the ASMu pool better, as well as the set-up of the food court. I'm sure Movies is very nice, but we just preferred Music.
The often-maligned bus service was wonderful all week, although Janet expressed her dislike for the new Disney buses. "They're funny-looking and they don't have enough seats", she says. She's right. Regardless, our longest wait for a bus was about 15 minutes at Typhoon Lagoon. It should be noted, however, that we did not stay for any park closing crowds, nor did we visit Downtown Disney in the evenings.
Being a 10-year-old girl, Janet had to have a hair wrap. I found out quickly that this is not exactly an inexpensive activity. It's $1.50 per inch for the wrap and the jewelry you add on to the bottom runs another $15-$25. Since Janet's hair is about 13" long, her wrap came to $35 including the jewelry she picked out! She had to think long and hard about it, since she was spending her allowance money for something that was only going to last about 2-3 weeks. Undaunted, she decided to go ahead with it. I on the other hand quivered. For $35 I can get three full haircuts, including tip!
The bottom line is that we thoroughly enjoyed ASMu. It is a bright, cheery resort. In comparing it to the moderate resorts, the only real downside differences I saw were: no pool slide, no hot tub, no boats/bikes, no sit-down restaurant (but PO-FQ doesn't have one now, either) and a *slightly* smaller room. On the upside, though, were: the quiet central air conditioning, a better food court, better more frequent (in my opinion) bus service and more drawer space in the bureau. Not to mention the price!
I am sure that ASMu will be seeing us again.
Now why was it again that I waited so long to try the All Stars????
(Editor's Note: Jack Marshall has been visiting WDW at least once a year since 1984. He's stayed at a private home in Kissimmee, as well as the Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans, both French Quarter and Riverside, and many times off-site, so it was about time he tried the All Stars Resorts!)
To learn more about the All Star Music Resort, visit the FAQ and the Photo Gallery links in the left column.