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RICK & GAYLE PERLMUTTER
"Walt Disney World for Couples"
This interview appeared in the August 8, 2000 Issue #42 of ALL EARS®
ALL EARS® continues its series: Meet the Authors! These interviews give you an opportunity to get to know the authors of various Disney-related books, as well as ask them questions directly.
This month, ALL EARS®' Meet the Authors series features Rick and Gayle Perlmutter author of WDW for Couples!
For our second interview in the series, ALL EARS® features an in-depth interview with Rick and Gayle Perlmutter, authors of WDW for Couples. Many thanks to everyone who submitted questions!
On behalf of ALL EARS® subscribers, Welcome Rick and Gayle!
Deb: Let's begin with what prompted you to write the guidebook in the first place.
Rick and Gayle: We'll admit to having fallen in love with WDW before we even thought about writing a guide. After we packed our last kid off to college, we started vacationing all around Florida. We hit all the high spots, The Boca, Coconut Grove, beds and breakfasts, and more.
It took us only one visit to WDW to discover that we could have a great resort and terrific food plus all the fun of Disney in one place. All other destinations paled in comparison. We were hooked. Several years later, we accompanied some friends to Disney. These folks didn't think much about WDW but were curious about our fascination with it. After 5 days of fun, relaxation, and romance, one of them said that we should become Disney World guides. A bell went off and we soon had a publisher and a few months to write our book, first titled "Walt Disney World for Lovers."
Corina Drozdowski: My husband and I are going down next month for our 10 year anniversary. Our honeymoon was spent in WDW, and this year we are taking the cruise. I read on the RADP boards and in Deb's website about some couples who have had extra special "happenings" Disney style for their honeymoon. Do you have any tips on how to let Disney make it more memorable for us?
Rick and Gayle: Yes, we love how Team Disney can acknowledge a birthday, an anniversary, or a honeymoon. On past anniversaries, we have enjoyed cards and even small gifts left in our resort rooms as well as such treats as complimentary desserts or appetizers at many of WDW's dining destinations. We have even heard of couples being upgraded to suites or concierge service, although this has never happened to us. But we think it wise to keep in mind that sometimes, often during the busy season or a hectic time, it is possible to slip through the cracks.
So, it's a good thing to keep sending out little reminders that this is your anniversary. When staying at WDW, mention it when you book your room [the reservationist should make a note of it in the computer], again when you check in, and every time you make priority seating arrangements for dining. And when you arrive at the restaurant, we would suggest a gentle reminder [these places get awfully busy!] and perhaps a request for a special table.
This has worked like a charm for us in the past at WDW, but the cruise ship is a place we'll admit we haven't tested. We know that the Cruise Line offers several options for honeymooners but frankly, we weren't impressed by them, especially considering their price tags. We would suggest that you simply try the same thing you would do ashore at Walt Disney World: let everyone know you are on a special anniversary. Mention it to your cabin steward, your dining room wait staff, etc. They will be the same people for the length of your voyage and we'll bet that they'll indulge you a bit.
For romance on the Disney Cruise Line, two things you won't wish to miss aboard ship will be Palo [the adult-only restaurant on the fantail] and the Vista Spa.Reservations for both, while they are part and parcel of a honeymoon cruise package, are difficult to get. You'll do best to split up as soon as you get aboard ship, one of you heading for Guest Services to secure your Palo reservation, the other heading to the spa to make an arrangement for a treatment. We'll tell you that we had the Surial Bath for Two and it was fabulous, romantic (!!), and relaxing. You'll be given your own little "suite" and will cover each other in a variety of mud packs, take a sauna, and generally mess about while you are left alone. If this doesn't get you in the mood for a romantic cruise, you'd better check your pulses.
Jay Angoff: Which hotel would you stay at the Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian, or Yacht & Beach. My wife and I are still deciding. We've stayed at WL last two times and the GF is the only hotel I've never stayed at.
Rick and Gayle: We make no secret of our love for the Yacht and Beach Clubs. For us, they are perfectly located [near Epcot, many outstanding restaurants, the BoardWalk, and the Studios] and we love the New England ambiance as well as Disney's best pool and the wonderful Beaches and Cream soda shop. We have stayed at these resorts more than at any other at Walt Disney World and would probably continue to do so if left to our own devices [however, we simply have to check out all the resorts].
If you've never stayed at the Grand Floridian, it is a wonderful experience and its convenience to the Magic Kingdom is hard to beat. However, the lodge buildings are not particularly convenient to any other of Disney's attractions and you'll find yourselves spending a lot of time on buses.
For the price of a GF room, you could stay in Yacht Club concierge and discover a whole new level of luxury and service. Of course, there is nothing on property to rival the service [or price] of GF's Royal Palm Concierge Level and if you can afford it, you'll never forget your stay there. We still gush about ours.
After half a dozen stays at Wilderness Lodge, we still find it exciting but you've stayed there twice already. Time to try something different. We must tell you that each of Disney's Resorts has something unique to offer and trying them all is a worthy project.
Kelly Benson: My husband and I are going to be at WDW over Thanksgiving week. What restaurant would you recommend for a quiet (at least for WDW) yet festive meal on Thanksgiving Day? We're on the Deluxe Plan, so any restaurant but Victoria and Albert's is fair game.
Rick and Gayle: Kelly, we think that Cítricos is the quietest restaurant at Disney as well as one of the most charming and romantic. However, while the food and wine there are memorable, you're not likely to find a traditional Thanksgiving meal at Cítricos. Artist Point [also reasonably quiet], however, usually offers a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with all the accompaniments. This restaurant is one of our favorites, especially since Chef Anette Grecchi has taken over the kitchen there. We should add that we've never tried the Thanksgiving dinner there.
Other good, non-traditional choices would be the back room at the Flying Fish [not really quiet but festive] and the Yachtsman Steakhouse.
J. Tocker: We will be in WDW with our 3 children, 18, 14, and 10 years old, and I would like to know where in the parks DH and I can go for a romantic dinner while the children are safely on their own nearby.
Rick and Gayle: Romantic, in-the-park dining, choices are limited, as most in-park eating places simply have to cater to such large numbers of guests. Our choice for the Studios would be the Brown Derby, especially around park closing time.
At Epcot, we particularly enjoy Restaurant Marrakesh and Bistro de Paris. The atmosphere in Mexico at the San Angel Inn is wonderful but we have yet to have a great meal there.
If you are interested in trying something more unusual, you might check out Disney smallest restaurant, Tempura Kiku, in Japan. Small, even personal, the drawback here is its counter seating.
At the Magic Kingdom, we would suggest Cinderella's Royal Table. Not quiet, but Charming [apologies to the Prince] and the food has improved in recent years.
Unfortunately, the Animal Kingdom does not yet offer a restaurant that we would consider romantic, although you can find pleasant and often quiet seating areas outside behind Tusker's and on a distant patio at Flame Tree Barbecue. There's not much romantic about eating counter service food, though.
Rich Pearlstein: My wife and I have had the great pleasure of dining with the Perlmutters. We find their tastes and ours quite compatible. We also appreciate their connoisseurs view on dining in the Real World, and value their opinions highly. Rick and Gayle, what is your favorite all-around fine dining experience at WDW. Ours continues to be the California Grill, for its consistently excellent food, innovative cuisine, and Cliff Pleau's graciousness. What other restaurant should someone consider if they have only one night at WDW and want a fine dining experience?
Rick and Gayle: Hi Rich! Great to hear from you! Yes, the Grill is still number one in our book, so to speak. Wherever we may be dining, we find ourselves comparing it to the California Grill. And we must tell you, few places measure up. Not only are Cliff's creations original and cutting edge, but they are simply delicious. We love the food at the California Grill and it has no equal at Disney.
Also, the Grill's wine list is extraordinary and their policy of serving single glasses from any bottle makes tasting high-priced [and hard-to-find] wines a possibility. Some other of our Disney dining favorites include the Flying Fish [still dependably great after all these years], Cítricos, Artist Point, Yachtsman Steakhouse, and of course, Victoria and Albert's. Disney's come a long way from hot dogs and burgers and we've savored every calorie.
Faith Zeichner: I have already purchased your latest book Walt Disney World for Couples 2000-2001 because my fiancé and I will be going on our honeymoon to Walt Disney World in September, 2001 and would like to make it as romantic as possible.
We are contemplating on where to stay without going broke. We want to stay near the Magic Kingdom as that is our favorite park. I was thinking maybe the Contemporary Resort because it isn't terribly expensive and it's extremely close to the Magic Kingdom. My only worry is that I hear that the rooms in the tower are very noisy. Are there any rooms in the tower that are not quite as noisy? Are the garden wing rooms inconvenient and unattractive? Where do you suggest we stay?
Rick and Gayle: Faith, we agree that the Disney Resorts have really gotten expensive in recent years. $200 or $300 a night resort rooms can decimate nearly any budget. But we think you're on the right track with the Contemporary.
For your honeymoon, you will want to opt for something luxurious. In all our stays there, we've always found the rooms on the upper floors to be as quiet as resort rooms almost anywhere. Lake-side, park-side: it seems to make no difference unless you're out on your balcony watching fireworks. Make no mistake about it though, overall the Contemporary is quite noisy but mostly in the hallways, around the pool, and down on the Grand Concourse deck.
As for the garden wings, they have enjoyed a recent and stylish refurbishing but the rooms are "way out there." Quiet yes, but for Disney, unexciting and motel-like. We would suggest that you get yourselves a tower room [on the park side, so you can watch the fireworks or on the lake side so you can watch the Electric Water Pageant] on the highest floor available, close the door, and forget the rest of the world.
Since you are planning to honeymoon in September, which is value season, you might actually find a real bargain at the Polynesian.
love this resort and find it quite romantic as long as you don't have
a room by the pool. We would suggest that you go ahead and book the Contemporary
and then as time passes, keep trying to find a bargain at the Poly. You
can always get your Contemporary deposit back. Don't forget to have your
reservationist make a note in the computer that it will be your honeymoon!
Marcia Reilly: Is Disney planning to open a hotel just for adults? My husband and I recently went to Disney "alone", and would have liked to have had a hotel with adults only! It would be great to have a hotel with a very "romantic" theme!
Rick and Gayle: Marcia, the WDW rumor mill really churns out a lot of intriguing and often amusing stuff. This, we know, is largely because the Imagineers always seem to have several dozen projects under development, most of which come to nothing.
We heard once that Team Disney was considering a honeymoon resort on Discovery Island. Of course, that sounded great to us but a few months later, we heard that they were then planning a group camping area. More recently we heard that Disney was in talks with the creators of the computer game "Myst" and were thinking of an island "Myst Themepark."
Anyway [and to answer your question], we don't expect Disney to create an adults-only resort, as much as we'd love one. It just isn't a likely venue for this family-oriented company. If you are looking for places to stay where you won't find kids, WDW just isn't it. The closest thing at WDW is the Clarendon Level [for honeymooners etc.] at the Grand Floridian. It is part of Royal Palm Concierge so you would still see those little people when you visited the lounge area for treats but the honeymoon rooms there enjoy a real seclusion.
Deb: Rick and Gayle, I understand you have previewed the Animal Kingdom Lodge. What can you share about it?
Rick and Gayle: As soon as Disney announced the Animal Kingdom, we were sure that a resort would be created to provide an experience along the lines Kenya's fabulous "Treetops." We have been waiting ever since and were overjoyed when we were offered a tour of the now under-construction Animal Kingdom Lodge. We could write pages about what we saw [in fact, we did and it can be found at Themeparks.com ] but we'll tell you that for theming, this place will be beyond anything Team Disney has yet attempted.
The resort is surrounded by 3 wild animal savannas, each with its own array of beasts and birds. There is a walk out to an overlook, right in the middle of the resort. The lobby building is large enough to feature a suspension bridge and detailed down to Zulu-shield chandeliers. Its far end is a wall of glass, looking out onto the central savanna.
Here you will find the resorts interesting mix of restaurants and shops. Rooms will feature African décor, complete with individually hand-carved furnishings. From cast member costumes to cuisine, this place is going to be Memorable.
It sounds to us that most rooms with views of the animals will be around the same price point as the Yacht and Beach Clubs, with the best views reaching into the Grand Floridian price range. We understand that the top-floor Presidential Suite will feature a patio overlooking the central savanna. It must be nice to be the King!
Deb: What is your favorite thing to do at WDW?
Rick and Gayle: It never ceases to surprise us how excited we still manage to get when it comes to going to Walt Disney World. Keep in mind that we spend some 30 or more days there each year.
Our favorite "thing" to do is more our way to do it: we like to stroll about with no real agenda, without rushing to see or to do anything in particular. We are free to drop in at attractions that well, attract us, graze at restaurants that sound [or smell] inviting, and in general, enjoy The World without any of the hurry that usually accompanies a Disney vacation [or one of our more usual, business-oriented days].
Deb: What suggestions do you have for folks on a budget who want to have a romantic weekend at WDW?
Rick and Gayle: For visiting WDW on a budget, we always suggest going during Value Season. Plan as far in advance as you are able to and ask your reservationist about any special resort deals. Be persistent. If you have an annual passport, you should be able to get a good resort rate. If you are a Disney regular, having just one of these should pay for itself in resort discounts every time you go.
For a week-end visit, get a one-day, one-park pass. Spend an evening at Downtown Disney and another day at one of the water parks. Also, spend some time together at your resort enjoying the privacy of your own room, if you know what we mean. Stroll the BoardWalk, take a free dance lesson at Atlantic Dance, and enjoy walking around and ignoring the urge to see everything.
As for budget dining tips, we share. At all but a few WDW restaurants, a couple of appetizers and a single entrée and dessert will provide enough food for two. And surprise! You won't feel as though you've swallowed Lake Buena Vista. Later in the evening, you might even enjoy a small treat.We also "graze." We'll enjoy a small offering at 3 or 4 different restaurants during the course of the day. No full meals but instead, some interesting fare, usually something small and exotic. This works very well around Epcot's World Showcase at such places as the Tangerine Café, Lotus Blossom, Tempura Kiku, Yakitori, and others. Just order something small and move along. It's fun, not terribly expensive, and one of our favorite things to do at WDW.
Deb: Do you have any plans for a website?
Rick and Gayle: We talk about this a lot but have seemed on settling for writing for Themeparks.com. Still, it is something we know we should be doing and something we might eventually do. However, building our house in Maine [a project that has now taken nearly 2 years of our lives and is still not finished] seems to leave us with too little time. We would welcome any suggestions.
Deb: What last thoughts would you like to share with everyone?
Rick and Gayle: We'd like everyone to know that our publisher has informed us that our book will be completely redesigned this coming year and that we are already at work rewriting it from top to bottom. It will be completely new.
April 2002 -- Getting Out of the Fast Lane at WDW