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Topic: Aulani, Final thoughts from opening days?

Mon 9/5/2011 1:12p

First, I would say that I really like Aulani. It is a beautiful resort, and the people are very welcoming.

Upon arrival we were welcomed at the curb by a large group of valet and bellmen.  In addition we were greeted by a hostess who walked us into the lobby, showed us around, and explained a lot of the design of the lobby, and the resort, and the Hawaiian history contained in those designs.  

I would like to come back again if I am going to be in Hawaii already.  Also, as a DVC member, I would probably only stay at Aulani again on points, not with a cash reservation.  

The food here is very expensive.  From cold box lunches to the sit down restaurants, the few food choices available on property are too pricy IMO.  The only two sit down restaurants compare to the Napa Rose and Storytellers Cafe. There is not mid range sit down location.  We did not use room service, as the only time we called for it we were told it would be a two hour wait.  In the future, I am hoping that Disney realizes that there needs to be more food options, and hope that they are able to meet the demand of the guests staying on site. Otherwise many will leave the property to find other options like we did.

The largest challenge we had while at Aulani was the room charge issue, which caused two days of absolute frustration. Every purchase at every food/retail location by every member of our party caused a long delay in getting charged. In fact the first one was about an hour and a half wait at a register.  A big waste of time that could have been more vacation time in the pool or discovering more of the resort. What did Disney staff do about it? Nothing.  From front line cast members, to leads, to managers at the retail locations and the front desk, the staff were very aware of the situation.  When I voiced my dissatisfaction to retail managers and to the front desk managers, all I got was an "I'm sorry".  

And finally, bugs.  I don't know what kind of bugs bit us, but at least two people in the family got bug bites at night while in the room.  We either woke up overnight or in the morning with bug bites.  This was again brought to the attention of the front desk lead and her response was a gasp and then she quickly changed the subject.

My overall take on the issues is that the people are doing the best they can or know how, but they don't yet have the "Disney" touch.  I know that if I had similar troubles at DLR in California, I would have received a different response. I am sure over time, things will get better here.  At least I hope so.

Thanks for following my travels here.  I have received some great feedback from some readers, and it is appreciated.

Mon 9/5/2011 6:49p
Thank you for your views on your vacation. I'm sure Disney will make things better as soon as they can. It will be interesting if you go back in a few years how different it will be.

It definitely was a trip to remember on numerous levels.
Mon 9/5/2011 8:02p
Maybe you and your party were bit by those mischievous little menehune...
Mon 9/5/2011 10:48p
Thanks for the write up retlawfan. I think I might be more inclined to stay at the Marriott and dine at Aulani, based on your and others' reviews. Thank you for sharing.
Wed 9/7/2011 11:41a
This is the reason most seasoned travellers do not stay at a property during the first six months of operation.

I don't care who the owner is, or what management school the executives attended, or the plaques on the wall from impressive organizations, there are still teething problems that are unacceptable to paying guests. I believe the first months of operation should be half price to allow for guest experiences that do not meet expectations.

Hawaiian hotels have been dealing with insects for two centuries. It is a well practiced art there. For them to be infested shows a lack of understanding on the part of California management. The Hawaiian jungle is not made of fiberglass, you need to deal with it on its terms.

I would hope that the company would invite retlawfan back in a year, on the house, to see what a well run destination resort can be like.

Hint to management: Spend a week at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok to see how a hotel should run in the tropics.
Wed 9/7/2011 5:44p
Or if the management doesn't want to take that trip, I'd be more than happy to take an all-expenses paid trip to the Mandarin Oriental and report back to them on everything. It's only fair, since they're now so busy operating their own hotel, and fixing all the 'oops'es they've created.
Wed 9/7/2011 9:24p
Although I agree they have just opened and there will be teething problems, what is their excuse for the WDW resorts?
Fri 9/9/2011 11:52a
I was contacted by a reporter for USA Today regarding my comments about Aulani here on LP and the story was printed today in the travel section.

I'll be available for autographs next month at DLR.


Mon 9/12/2011 7:12p
A friend at the Disneyland Hotel explained that nearly all staff sent over from the mainland to handle Aulani's pre-opening and opening phases are from WDW resorts. Very, very few CM's from Anaheim were sent over; mainly just the Entertainment teams who handled the shows and the Character elements of Aulani.

Back of house staffing for HR and scheduling and purchasing were also staffed almost exclusively by WDW Cast Members. Only in early August, when things were at a near-crisis stage, did they send over reinforcements for just a couple of weeks from Anaheim. And those Anaheim reinforcements who were supposed to stay for a week but ended up staying for almost a month, came home with some horror stories of how screwed up Aulani is from a personnel perspective.

It's a beautifully designed and Imagineered property, but the staffing and training of the Aulani CM's is at a near-crisis. And almost all salaried leaders there are people sent out from WDW who have been trying to cram the WDW mega-huge model down the throats of a relatively small hotel operation like Aulani.

In short, it's a mess.
Mon 9/12/2011 9:27p
The issues I am hearing about are very similar to the experiences we had in WDW. So sad to hear. Our two stays at the Grand Californian have been excellent, our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge was not. I would have hoped Californian cast or DCL made up the opening team (with locals of course), shame they did not.

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Note: Information on the discussion boards is sometimes based on rumors or incorrect information and should not be assumed true. Messages do not necessarily reflect the opinion of or its editors.

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