Monday 31 August 2015

Disney's Sequoia Lodge Hotel Review - Part One

It's been a little while since I wrote a blog post and with no Disney trip happening, or planned, I have been debating what to write about. So I thought I would look back to my last Disney trip which was to Disneyland Paris in February and give you an overview of our hotel experience.

For this trip we stayed at Disney's Sequoia Lodge hotel, which Disney give a rating of 'three keys'; or what I would call a moderate resort. So for those of you with experience of staying at Walt Disney World I would compare this resort to the likes of Port Orleans, Coronado Springs and similar.

When we arrived we approached the hotel from the Disney Village as we had travelled by Eurostar and the train station is located next to the Disney Village. This meant that we effectively entered the hotel by the 'back door' and had to find our way to the Reception area.
Sign post to let you know you're in the right place!
Approaching the entrance at the rear of the hotel

The rear of the main building which is the main access point when going to and from Disney Village and  parks
When we first arrived we had to make our way upstairs to find the Reception area. Thankfully our luggage had already made it's way to the hotel by way of the 'Magical Express' service. Checking-in was very straight forward and we were greeted by probably one of the best cast members that we encountered on our visit. We were given our room keys (plastic credit card type) along with our Resort ID card (paper) and a card for charging purposes (paper) plus a map of our hotel (in French!). To be honest I hadn't realised the map was in French until we got home...most of the map is very self explanatory, my basic level french was obviously enough for me to be able to translate without realising I was doing it and the use of traditional symbols on the map also helped. Although I would guess that as the back of the map has 'Mickey ears' with the french flag colours that maps in other languages were not the best service giving an English speaking guest a French version of the map!!
Hotel map
Resort ID, charging card and park ticket - a lot of pieces of paper!
Before we could make our way to our room we had to visit the Left Luggage Office to retrieve our luggage which had been sent over from the train station. Our room was away from the main building in one of five 'lodges'; ours was called 'Big Sur' and was less than a five minute walk from the main building.

Let's talk about theming! So as the name would suggest the Sequoia Lodge is styled along the lines of a 'mountain lodge retreat'.  So lots of natural wood, earthy colours, fantastic landscaping with an abundance of trees, natural materials and the feel of an American National Park.

Some of the walkways between the main building and our 'lodge'.
Our 'lodge'
Entry into our 'lodge' - 'Big Sur'
Once entering into the lodge you walk into an entry hall which has no real signage and looks a bit strange; basically a blank room with stairs off to the right and a pair of very plain, unattractive doors straight in front of you with no guidance on where to go. But suffice to stay if you have a ground floor room (which we had) then you go through these doors and enter a typical hotel corridor, as seen below.

From the photos you can see the palette of colours that has been adopted for the resort; natural colours, reds, oranges, yellows, browns etc. As well as wall coverings and carpets that incorporate images of trees and leaves.
 The theming is then continued inside the hotel rooms.

Just arrived!!

When you enter the room there is a small entry way with the bathroom off to your left, before entering the main room which has two double beds, TV and a small desk and chairs.

The above photo shows the space as you enter the room; this view is looking towards the hotel room door and shows the entry to the bathroom/vanity area on the right of the photo. You can also see a full length mirror which was very handy - after all it's important that you look good!!
In the vanity area there was space for hanging coats and storing luggage plus a very handy safe that worked on a combination lock where you were able to set the code yourself.
Opposite the safe was a sink area with hairdryer.
The bathroom had all the usual facilities including a shower over the bath, and as you can see the natural earth colours and decorating theme were continued into the bathroom.

The wall coverings and pictures in the room all depicted characters from Bambi...not sure if this is the same for all rooms as we obviously only experienced this one room!

Light features also continued the animal vibe;

Now whilst the rooms looked well maintained I was not overly impressed by the level of cleanliness that we experienced over our four nights there. Initially everything looked fine but on day two I noticed that there was a french fry on the floor next to the edge of a unit!! As we had not brought any food back to the room by that point I knew that the offending article had to have been there for some time. I deliberately left it to see if it would get cleaned away during our stay - unfortunately it did not :( Now the trouble is once you notice something like this you start to look for, or perhaps just notice, other inconsistencies and having been used to the very high standards in Disney property in the US our expectations were perhaps set too high?!

So whilst our beds were made each day I do not think the bed linen was changed during our stay. Pillows that we had removed off the beds while sleeping were left where we had placed them on the floor. Glasses that had been used were left where we had left them (some with water in) and not replaced. There were no towel animals and no little notes from 'mousekeeping'. The toiletries were only replenished once during our stay and when I purposefully removed all the toiletries to give the appearance of them all having been used (just to see what would happen) no replacements were left for us.

The room was of a decent size, a good layout and with good basic facilities but was let down by the poor cleanliness. One point to note is that the rooms do not have tea/coffee making facilities; these are however available but you have to ask for them at reception (they are not offered) we on this occasion did not bother asking. On a positive note all the hotel rooms have access to free Wi-Fi which we found worked pretty well for all four of us, and which we took great advantage of as free Wi-Fi has not yet reached the parks or Disney Village. However, we found that the Wi-Fi did not work in the hotel's restaurants. If you're looking for free Wi-Fi outside of the hotels then try the Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village!

The view from our room was lovely and completely within keeping of the layout and theming of the resort;

 And here to finish part one off are a few more shots of the beautiful outside areas of the hotel;

Covered walk ways linking the lodges, the indoor pool, gym and main building.

A lovely bright and sunny day (if rather cold) to catch a few more shots of the landscaping around our lodge;

The walk away from our lodge getting ready to embark on a day in the parks.

Friday 7 August 2015

Looking Ahead....

So having completed my diary posts from my trip to Disneyland Paris what's next on the horizon?

Well I would love to say that a transatlantic Disney vacation (either coast...I'm not fussy!) has been booked but alas no :(

As I have said on previous posts taking a family of four, especially when the two 'kids' are no longer kids, is not a cheap affair. And then when you factor in the timing to avoid key exam dates for the kids as well as allowing for my job working in education then our windows of opportunities are limited...and consequently expensive! Our situation at the moment means that I can only dream about getting state-side but until that time arrives I will have to suffice with co-hosting the Disney Dream Girls podcast, watching social media and finding other distractions.

Which brings me to a small trip that we do have planned. Next July Simon and I will be visiting London for a long weekend as we will be attending Star Wars Celebration 2016!

Now whilst I enjoy the Star Wars films it's Simon that is the big fan; he has been a fan since the original was first released and has a ton of books, comics, action toys etc. So not only will we be attending Star Wars Celebration we will be doing so in costume!

Simon is very creative and simply loves the chance to 'make stuff'. So it didn't take him long once the idea of attending Star Wars Celebration had been mentioned to take the next logical step and suggest that 'if we're going we might as well go in costume'. I thought well that's ok we can trawl the internet and find some pretty decent costumes...I'm happy to do that (providing Princess Leia's metal bikini outfit wasn't an option!) but oh no Simon had other ideas!

This was his chance to make our very own costumes from scratch!

We decided to find something that we could both do together and the logical route to take was to become Mandalorian's. Now for those of you not completely up on their Star Wars universe these are a set of mercenaries of which Boba Fett is probably the most well known.

So our spare time is consumed by costume building. We've ordered our 'soft parts' that's the clothing underneath the armour! Simon is busy making guns...I have two small blasters under construction and Simon is now making his much larger blaster! We are making good progress with making our own helmets and are making headway with colour options.

Various stages of helmet construction...lots of foamex (a malleable card), a heat gun, glue gun, super glue and lots of attention to detail!

Not really sure what I'm doing but I'll give it my best shot!
Moulding the foamex after applying heat
Waiting to be filled, sanded and first coat of primer paint
Now this is pretty serious stuff and having chosen to become Mandalorians we have actually joined a group on-line called 'Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club'. This is a worldwide non-profit organisation which came about through fans love of Star Wars and the desire to create costumes based on the films. The club sets the standards for Mandalorian costuming as based on the Star Wars universe whilst still allowing it's members their own creativity. So whilst there are certain elements of the costumes we are making that we have to follow guidelines for there is still scope for a lot of our (well I say 'our' but of course I really mean Simon's!) own creativity to come through. I'm even hoping to get a little Disney in there somewhere....

As our costumes take shape I shall keep you posted.