An Aulani Review – Continued

Editor’s Note:  Here is the continued blog from Tracy Ferguson from her recent stay at Aulani.  Thank you Tracy!

Day Two

Off to breakfast at 8am at Mahiki. We are greeted and seated immediately. Belinda from France is our excellent server.  She takes our drink orders and assures us it’s not Nescafe…phew.  By the way, there was decent Kona blend coffee in our room although I had stopped and picked up coffee just in case.  We are from Seattle, we have to have coffee.  It’s a religion here.  The breakfast buffet is quite good and there is lots to choose from.  Some things are a little saltier than I am used to but it doesn’t matter because you can go get something else as many times as you want.  The bacon was my favorite and all the fresh fruit.  They bring you a little piece of coconut pineapple cake as soon as you are seated and its really good. Way better than Ohana’s bread at the Polynesian Resort.  There are a few gnats and flies so if that is an issue for you, you may not enjoy the buffet or any of the dining for that matter. We heard several people quite put off by the bugs..I imagine they are worse later in the morning or when the winds die down.

At the end of the breakfast something black fell on to my was soot from the poorly positioned lanterns and this soot would haunt us and several other guests, many items of clothing were ruined and it is a real problem.  We made as many people aware of it as possible. There are lots of little things like that needing to be addressed and sometimes the staff appears weary of hearing about it. I feel they have not been empowered by management with either good information or solutions.  Well after a good hand washing and laundering of my husband’s khaki shorts we are ready to begin our day.

I sent him to Pearl Harbor, he loves all that stuff and since I had a touch of the flu earlier in the week I decided a spa day would be best for me.  When is a Spa day not a good idea?  The spa at Aulani is Disney’s first shot at actually owning and operating a Spa.  (I think.  That’s what I was told anyway)  This part they got right.  The spa is the best I have ever been to.  I have not been to Red Door but I imagine this was Disney’s model.  I see signs also of the Spas on the ship. There is a large kid free area for relaxing with Whirlpools, showers etc. co-ed and then of course female and male showers, changing rooms etc.  The entire spa complex is walled off and I mean WALLED off from the rest of the resort and it’s perfect in every way. I had a very good massage therapist, Pat from Oahu.  She has studied medical massage which is my preference. If you have had a spa treatment the spa is yours for the day or you can buy a day pass space permitting for $45.00.  Those of you who have cruised think Rainforest on steroids with tea and muffin deliveries at regular intervals. You may also order lunch from basically the Room Service menu. Pricey.  Massage and other spa service prices are similar to those on the ship or at any resort spa.  Think home prices times, yup you got it, time two. I paid $187.00 for a 50 minute massage, I tried to drink enough of their tea to bridge the gap between what I pay at home and the $187…but you know that’s alotta tea.  But it was very nice spending virtually the whole day there and they make you a little sugar scrub to use in the shower..very nice.  If I had to find fault(s) it would be that the women who are the ones bringing the tea and making sure you have everything you want are both a bit too busy.  Not that they have too much to do they just are sort of rushing about….they need to chill as my daughter would say and go with the flow…be more Zen like….you know it is a spa!  And they added a 20% gratuity (hence the $187) you don’t get to vote.  I was okay with it as I had very good service but I would have raised the roof if I felt differently.  If you can spend a day or two at the spa it’s shady (the rest of the resort is not) its quiet, its beautiful, I cannot say enough good things about it.  There is wi-fi everywhere so you can Facebook from the spa…your friends will love you for it …especially if they are at work!

Got back to my room about 3:00.  I was so clean I was not sure what to do with myself.  Our dinner ressies were not until 8 and in fact my husband wasn’t even back yet.  So I went to the pool… the place is starting to empty out so I am hitting the slides. There are 2 where you use an innertube (no charge for these) and one that’s dark, you do not use a tube and your head sort of bangs the whole way down. I prefer the tube slide.  When I splashed out the other end on the dark one, some very friendly man said I made a great splash. Every time I saw him after that he complimented me on my splash..biggest splash he ever saw was the gist of it..he was mighty pleased!  Hmmmm.  Anyway we found the hot tubs (and I found my husband by then). The hottubs are kind of hidden here and there and not that easy to see… hence often they are empty. There are two large tubs that face the sunset and they are always jammed.  I think folks may think they are the only two.

Tonight is the big show on the lawn so we get a seat early at the quiet pool, pool bar and settle in.  In no time at all we and several other people are sooted by the lanterns. Some folks join us and naturally they are from the same state we are so we have a nice chat and wait for the show. It takes them forever to set up and they have bamboo mats for folks to sit on on the grass and it’s all very clumsy and cumbersome but the man “Uncle” who emcees the show is very good… the rest of the show sort of drug on and I didn’t really get it.

Eventually we made our way to dinner at Mahiki and I am pretty excited because the breakfast was pretty good. We are clumsily greeted and finally shown to a table… same table…. ummm no way no more soot for me.  I have been sooted at two other locations by now, so they decide after a bit of discussion that yes we can have one of the other 200 or so unoccupied tables.  So we pick one and sit… did I mention it had rained briefly??… the cushions were soaked… hello can we get a manager over here???… no????  he left???   Delightful well how about a dry chair?? or two???  Just take the one from the next table?.. and put our wet ones there??  Ok well its not my restaurant, but does anyone see a problem here?  Yikes a huge wedding party just came in so we better get to the buffet before its jammed… it’s a very small buffet… and there is no food on it  really?… half the dishes are empty… ok am I the only one that saw that huge party come in and they are now approaching the buffet… and oh well I am taking myself, my wet pants and my half a plate of food back to my chair.  The people at the next table have arrived… they are summoning a manager… hmmmm wet chairs go figure… and to boot the food was… let’s leave it at not good.  The service was amateur.  The manager was on loan from Grand Floridian and I have the feeling he cannot wait to get the heck out of there.  He looked bored and just wanted to adjust my bill as quickly as possible and get rid of me. We received a 40% discount.  The bread and the bread pudding are good.  Everything else was a little below average or downright yucky.  Our bill after adjustment $60.

Avoid eating dinner here.

Day 3

Ok after a rather restless night my stomach feeling rather queasy I am ready for a decent breakfast.  We are greeted and seated immediately and a lovely woman Alexi who appears to be a manager as well is our server. We are seated inside. In fact it seems there is a note on our ressie to only seat us inside, where the chairs are dry and the soot non-existent. Well I gotta say this, they have some sort of secret communication system that is working well. Gotta love computer aided guest relations. Our every wish is granted and we do not go in to detail about dinner but we do let Alexi know the day shift is way better than the night. The food is good and on the carving station is a ham that was really good. I do not even love ham normally and I went back for seconds….and just one or two more little pieces of bacon. The French toast was also very good. I didn’t even put syrup on it. Lots of fresh fruit and now there is someone standing over the food waving a palm frond to keep the gnats at bay. Clumsy but it works and they are really trying. Cannot say enough good things about the day staff.  All seasoned professionals.

After breakfast we hit the pool for a bit and then we are off to Kualoa ranch. We were provided preprinted excellent directions from the excursions desk. Disney has excursions to Kualoa but we went on our own for a 2 hour ATV ride. $200 for the two of us.  Kualoa ranch is located on the Northwest side of the island and you kind of cut through the middle of the island to get there. Beautiful drive. It was a fun excursion and I would recommend it.  They also have bus tours and horseback riding, etc. It is a quality run operation.  They have a great and accurate website.  On the way back to Aulani I remember I have coupons for Roy’s restaurant that Alaska Airlines gave out.  First we go to The Marriott not JW Marriott, the other one on the other side of Aulani.  They charge $7.00 for valet parking but since were were only there for 30 minutes they did not charge us anything.  We looked around it was beautiful and then their show started. WOW!  It was a great show but you may have seen others. It was the usual Polynesian dinner show but the quality was excellent. The Disney show was definitely more family but it was strange to see such precise execution after watching the Disney debacle. I am not sure what the charge was for the Marriott show but it looked like a dinner/show combination. We then ventured over to Roy’s which is at Ko’Olina golf club directly across the street from Aulani. You can walk and should walk there rather than eating anywhere else. The food and service were top notch and the prices were not bashful but the portions were good and the food really, really excellent. If I return I will eat dinner there every night. Our server was Grant. Very nice young man, knows his stuff.  We both had the complete dinner for $41.50.  Small combo assorted appies, macadamia crusted Opah with spring vegetables and chocolate lava cake (think Palo).

We returned to Aulani and Uncle was telling stories by the firepit. He is very good, very authentic.  I could listen to his sing song voice for hours.  But it makes you sleepy so off to bed we went.  What can I say, we are lightweights.  The chocolate cake did me in.

Day 4

Well time to go home, but first another very good breakfast at Mahiki this time with characters but still great service this time from Mahine who was from Oahu.  Again seated inside.  Minnie and Goofy were there the entire time along with “Aunty” who led the kids in songs etc.  The kids and parents seemed to really enjoy it.  It’s a small restaurant so you really never cannot see the characters.  I cannot imagine how this facility will handle larger crowds.  Everything was quite busy and yet I was told they were at very low numbers…less than 20% on this day.

Checkout was easy… they comped everything they said they would and service was very good.  One thing to note we have stayed at lots of Disney resorts so we know when to check in and when to check out.  Timing is everything.  I did see times when there were quite a few people waiting.  The airport and rental car return were very easy… everything is small so it takes little time to get places, even though at times the traffic can be heavy.

Let me know if there are any questions!



5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mike on September 13, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    Great review and very helpful. We are going next month with our kids, ages 9 and 6. Is Roy’s family friendly? Thanks again!


    • I checked with Tracy and she said that they did have high chairs there and it appeared to be family friendly, though it is a nice restaurant. All the waiters wore ties, there were no waitresses, only waiters.


  2. Tracy wanted to add that the catamaran was back in service on Tuesday, but they weren’t able to fit this back into her schedule. When they went back to Ama Ama for lunch with their local friend who worked in the restaurant business, he was underwhelmed by the and portions.


  3. Great tips, Tracy. I’m glad to read that you reported the problems you found at Aulani to management so that they can be addressed. I noticed in DVC News that three of the top management for Aulani planning were fired back in July and sales were put “on hold” until kinks could be worked out. I got the impression that a lot of errors happened along the way to opening the resort (sooty lanterns and other poor choices, perhaps?). The more people complain about the issues and compliment the positives, the better it will be for all of us in the future. Evey =)


  4. Posted by Tracy Ferguson on September 13, 2011 at 6:32 PM

    Also in the Disney Files magazine that just came in my mail today is the resipe for the delicious bread served at Mahiki breakfast! Now if I can figure out how to convert it to my bread machine I will be all set!


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