I very rarely take the time to write letters such as this in regard to vacation experiences. My wife and I have been Disney Vacation Club members for nearly a decade and have enjoyed many trips and experiences around the Walt Disney World Resort. In fact, we’ve never had any concerns with service or Cast Members. However, on our most recent trip, I want to bring attention to some who truly deserve it!
My wife and I had planned this particular trip for several reasons. First, we wanted to enjoy time at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Second, we truly wanted to be there for the 40th anniversary of the Magic Kingdom Park. But most importantly, we scheduled this trip so we could get “belly pictures” of our baby-to-be! We couldn’t wait to share our love of all things Disney with our baby boy, and the nursery already reflected that.
The original trip was too close to our due date (November 2), so we moved it up a bit and stayed at Kidani Village in Animal Kingdom Park. The day we left, we scheduled a doctor’s appointment to confirm that my wife was fine to travel – it’s a long drive from central Pennsylvania! We also mapped out hospitals every 30 to 45 miles throughout the trip (just in case!), and brought all of our medical records. It was also exciting to learn friends of ours would be vacationing there during the same week. This was our first time staying at Kidani, and we had lots to look forward to.
Our week was great – we loved Kidani and really liked having a vehicle on property. They accommodated my request of being close to the lobby too. We enjoyed seeing our friends and getting great pictures at some of the Character breakfasts where they really played up the pregnancy. We ate at Saana, Rose and Crown, Via Napoli, Wolfgang Puck Express, and Kouzzina for the first time and loved them all – we really had a blast!
Monday was our last day and we hit Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom for a few final pictures, took the afternoon off, and finished the day at ESPN Zone for Monday night football. Oddly enough, we talked about leaving on Monday instead of Tuesday, but thankfully we didn’t. That night, my life changed forever. Somewhere around 2 am, I heard my wife get up and vaguely remember her calling my name. Her water broke and she was having the baby – six weeks early!
I helped her into comfortable clothes, got dressed, and grabbed what we needed for the hospital. We made our way to an empty lobby where a Cast Member was working. I asked for the manager, and gave a quick yell back towards the office. The poor woman who answered got more than she bargained for. First, I needed exact directions to Celebration hospital. Second, we had to extend our checkout time as this was our last day at Kidani. She insisted on calling 911 instead of having us drive and soon after the ambulance arrived. I followed them to the hospital. Obviously, this drew the attention of what seemed like every Cast Member on duty. They got the hospital info and even had us laughing and feeling a bit more relaxed despite what was happening – they were great.
Off we went to Celebration hospital – we were there about 10 hours before being transferred to another hospital in Orlando. Still no contractions, so I stopped by the resort to let them know our current status since we were supposed to check out. When I got to the front desk, the shift had long since changed – it was now after 1 p.m. Again I asked to speak to a manager thinking it would just be easier. While one Cast Member went to get the manager, two others asked if they could help. I explained everything to them as the manager approached, and was scolded with concern. “You go take care of your wife. Don’t worry about the room. Just let us know when you won’t need it anymore!”
Looking back I’m not sure why this surprised me. Everyone at the resort was so welcoming and concerned – it’s difficult to put into words exactly how much they helped us. We were a long way from home and by ourselves during one of the most important times of our lives. I rushed back to the room to get a few other things, and was off to the hospital again – the Walt Disney Pavilion, to be exact! Baby Elias (yes, we picked this name before the trip!) was born at 1:50 p.m. on Tuesday September 20, and weighed five pounds, 13 ounces and was 18 inches long. He was happy and healthy even though he arrived six weeks early!
We ended up using the room at Kidani for two additional days. When I checked in with the staff after our little man was born, Cast Members at the front desk (everyone seemed to know who I was by now!) gave us a little care package – a onesie, the baby’s first Mickey tee shirt, a signed picture of the Fab Five, and a Mickey baby towel. Not to mention the huge benefit of what they did by letting us use the room. I broke down in the elevator on the way back to the room – they didn’t have to do any of those things. Just having the room available was more than enough.
After my wife was discharged, we returned to the resort to check out. They overheard us joking about maybe taking the baby to the Magic Kingdom for a few quick pictures before heading home, and gave us two one-day Park passes!
Two days later, our little man was ready to leave the hospital. I’m sure some may think we were crazy, but we returned to the Magic Kingdom for those pictures. Elias was only three days and 20 hours old when we took him into the Magic Kingdom for the very first time – and yes, I’d love to know how close he was to being the youngest Guest ever! We stood a few feet in front of the train station with “Let the Memories Begin” in the background and Mickey’s meet and greet near the Town Square Theater.
Then we headed off for our trip home – with one very special souvenir and some very anxious grandparents waiting. I truly wish I could remember all of the Cast Members’ names to give them the credit that they deserve – I’ll never forget all they did for us. I also need to mention the “mouse-keeping” staff – they were fabulous. They kept fresh towels for me and even folded my laundry during those two extra days. But what touched me most was the phone call from the housekeeping manager as we packed to leave. They must have been watching for us to return from the hospital. Of course, this is only the beginning of our Disney story. I know I’m looking forward to Elias’ first haircut on Main Street … this was our best Disney trip ever!