Pop Goes the Webmaster:
The Pop Century Resort Review

by Deb Wills
AllEars® Editor-in-Chief

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 13, 2004 Issue #225 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Deb Wills just returned from three nights at the newly opened Pop Century Resort. Here's Part I of her two-part, in-depth look at Disney's newest accommodations.


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CHECKING OUT CHECK-IN
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Platform shoes, "Do the Hustle," mood rings, juke boxes, "Be Bop," Pac Man, peace signs... these are just a few of the icons and sayings you'll see as you walk the grounds of Disney's newest resort, Pop Century. Phase I, the Classic Years (1950s - 1990s), opened on December 14, 2003. In just a few short weeks, this has become one of the hottest places on Disney property. In fact, since it opened, the resort has been at or near full occupancy for its 2,880 guest rooms! The addition of this huge resort brings the total number of value category rooms on Disney property to over 8,500.

Your trip "back to the future" starts the minute you turn on to Century Drive, where you are greeted with familiar hotel signs such as:Color TV, Air Conditioned Rooms, and Heated Pool. The drive to the guard's station (standard at all Disney resorts) puts you in the mood for your trip to nostalgia.

You'll notice some differences from the other Disney value resorts, though, the minute you step inside Classic Hall, which houses the front desk, food court, arcade and store. For starters, the front desk area is a mini-nostalgia museum. As you look behind the front desk and Guest Services areas, you'll see signs for each decade represented (the '50s through the '90s) and large photographs appropriate to those eras. Across from the front desk are numerous shadow boxes, each loaded with memorabilia and sure to make you "remember when." You'll find such items as a four-pack of Tab soda, New York World's Fair souvenirs, an Adam-12 lunchbox, a hula hoop, an original Atari game console, a TV Guide with J.R. Ewing on the cover, a Village People album, a Sonny and Cher 8-track and much, much more. Visitors spend a lot of time perusing these exhibits, amid exclamations of: "I did a great 'walk the dog!'" "My dad was the yo-yo king!" "Mom, what's that?" "Hey, how do you play this Twister game?" To create these displays, a team of Cast Members spent six months combing flea markets, antique shops, yard sales and vintage clothing stores and collected over 750 items. (Wouldn't you want that job?) Just off this area is the children's waiting area, complete with large sofas and chairs and a big-screen TV.

With almost 3,000 rooms, you can imagine what the front desk area is like! In the resort's attempt to keep up, almost every station had a Cast Member helping guests during our visit. Regardless, there was some sort of line no matter what time I walked past. Even when checking in at 10 p.m., I found a couple of folks in front of us. During peak times throughout the day, the line can get very long. Check-in is officially at 3 p.m. and checkout is at 11 a.m. With the resort operating at close to full occupancy level, don't expect to be able to obtain late checkout on your day of departure. Likewise, if at all possible, USE EXPRESS CHECKOUT! You don't want to have to wait in that long line unless you absolutely have to.Express Checkout requires that a credit card be on file, though. On the day of your departure between 6 and 8 a.m., your checkout bill will be placed on or under your door. The only drawback to this process is if you must leave before your bill is delivered to your room. For example, we checked out at 7 a.m. and the bill had not arrived yet. I went to the front desk and had them print out a new one, since I believe it's important to always review the bill prior to departure. (However, I was not entirely comfortable knowing the original would be on the room door until who knows when. I asked if they could radio the person delivering the bills, but was told they didn't have a radio with them.)

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SAMPLING THE STAFF
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I found most of the Cast Members at the front desk and Guest Services to be very friendly, although not always the most knowledgeable. For instance, one afternoon I found that the park hours sign stated the Magic Kingdom was open until midnight when it was actually open until 7 p.m. Also, I had heard prior to opening that the lobby area would be offering a tour of the memorabilia. When I asked about it, one Cast Member was unaware of such a tour, while another said she had heard there was a tour but didn't have any other information. When I asked who I could speak with for information, she shrugged and said she didn't know.

Luggage assistance is provided at Pop Century, as it is at the All Star resorts. Upon arrival, you can leave your luggage at the front door, but don't expect to have it delivered immediately. The Luggage Assistance department keeps track of when you check in and when your room is ready, and will deliver your luggage approximately one hour after your room is available. You do not have to be in your room for the luggage to be delivered. If you are in a hurry, walk your luggage to your room yourself. You can also "borrow" a luggage carrier from the stand to take your bags to your room. For checkout day, contact Luggage Assistance the night before to schedule a pickup -- with the resort operating near capacity, don't expect to call and have your bags picked up quickly. Again, you can always go to the luggage stand and borrow a wheeled carrier to take care of this on your own if you wish.

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POP SHOPPING AND
FOOD STOPPING
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Adjacent to the check-in area is the "Everything POP" shopping and dining experience, featuring a wide open food and beverage area, Classic Concoctions (a quick service lounge) and a 5,000 square foot retail shopping area. I was concerned at first that the noise level would be intolerable, but found it wasn't any noisier than any of the All Star food court areas. The food court has more than 640 padded seats -- much more comfortable than the traditional hard plastic chairs you'll find elsewhere at the Value resorts. Be sure to look up at the ceiling for some retro icons like roller blades and Legos!

We had several meals at the food court and found the food to be average -- nothing special, but certainly adequate for a solid meal during your stay. I must say, though, that the so-called "value price points" for the food are creeping upward, and are not as "value" as they used to be.

For breakfast one morning we had omelets (both the Western, $5.99, and Cheddar Cheese, $5.89) with potatoes and a "biscuit-ette" (much smaller than a normal biscuit, but good nonetheless). There are no "made to order omelets," but the ones we had were tasty, especially considering how they are mass produced. The potatoes, not a favorite of ours, were very salty, not cooked thoroughly and were on the cool side. We split a side of bacon for $1.89 (three slices) which was done just right -- meaty, crispy and not too greasy. For a breakfast with more "value", the Adult Breakfast Platter for $5.59, which comes with scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes and a biscuit-ette, is an excellent choice.

Chicken Tenders and a Sloppy Joe sandwich were our lunch samplings at the food court. The Chicken Tenders were good, tasting just like the tenders found all over Disney property.While they came with French fries ($5.49), I asked for them without the fries and was pleasantly surprised to have them rung up as such at the register -- $4.69! The Adult Sloppy Joe was just that, very sloppy and for $5.99, came only with a pickle -- no chips or fries. If you have a problem with peppers,**beware: there are lots of green peppers in the mix.

The bakery area has lots of tempting goodies, including some retro desserts like Twinkie Tiramisu and Tie-Dyed Cheesecake. Our recommendation is the Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich for $4.99. You choose which of the fresh baked cookies (sugar, oatmeal, chocolate chip) willsurround the ice cream of your choice. Or, do as I did and get a chocolate chip cookie on one side and a sugar cookie on the other. Beware, though -- this becomes a very rich dessert!

The food court hours are 6 a.m. until midnight. We found breakfast to be crowded, however we thought lunch was much calmer.

The resort's refillable mugs come in two varieties, the car travel mug and the regular mug, both offered at $11.99. These mugs are good for unlimited refills of coffee, soda, hot chocolate and even frozen cola during your stay. Printed on each mug are the words: "Free unlimited refills from our beverage islands during the stay in which the mug was purchased." (That said, I did see folks using mugs from other resorts and did not observe any Cast Members monitoring the beverage areas. For what it's worth, I also observed this notation on the refillable mugs at the other resorts I visited this trip (Riverside and Wilderness Lodge).)

Throughout the food and beverage areas a manager was always easy to find. In fact, I saw many a manager with cleaning solution and rag in hand clearing tables and getting them ready for the next guest. Also, the few times that I needed assistance, the food and beverage Cast Members went out of their way to help out. Of course, the floor in the dining area still looked like a disaster during our breakfast one morning. I can't help but think some of this mess could be avoided if folks would try to clean up after themselves.

We loved the lounge, Classic Concoctions, as a place to relax before heading for bed after a long day in the parks. Before ordering our drinks, we went to the food court and purchased a Cheese Platter ($6.99) and Bagel Chips ($1.29) as munchies to go with our drinks. The cheese platter had several kinds of cheeses, grapes and carrot sticks. Keep in mind that even though you are at a value resort, the prices are far from value! Beers are $4.50, glasses of wine begin at $6.75, Johnnie Walker Black and soda is $4.00, and a Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks is $8.50! Interestingly, these were the exact prices that we found at the River Roost Lounge at Port Orleans - Riverside. Bartender Dolly was efficient, fun to talk with, and she kept the bar squeaky clean. (Be sure to tell her Deb said hello!)

Pop Century's shopping area is huge and filled with all kinds of Disney merchandise. One of the highlights is the Mr. Potato Head section (which originated at Downtown Disney) where, for one price, you can fill a box with Mr. Potato Head parts. This area always seemed to be crowded. Walt Disney World t-shirts, sweatshirts, glasses, Disney character mugs, racks and racks of pins, a scrapbooking area, and Pop Century logo merchandise is all available here. There is also a small section with newspapers, sundries and film. If you purchase items in the theme parks and opt for Resort Delivery, this is where you will pick up your merchandise once it's delivered.

That wraps up this portion of my Pop Century report. Stay tuned for Part II, which addresses transportation (parking and buses), the rooms and my special tips for your stay at Pop Century!

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READERS WRITE
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As you'll see in some of the reports ALL EARS*?* readers have filed, the resort still has some opening kinks to work out.

*Linda N. *advised us, "The kiddy movie area is VERY much out of the way and if you are in line you are NOT able to see your children. I did not like the idea of sending my kids out of my sight while I was checking in so they sat on one of the benches."

*Michelle M*. found long lines: "We arrived late Friday night, about 11 p.m., and had to stand in line for over an hour for check-in. I also had to wait for close to a half hour to pick up my Candlelight Processional Package tickets. At peak times, the food court seating was at capacity with long lines at the different food areas and at the check-out."

About the food court, *Sharon *told us, "The food is average (what I expected), but was good for occasional meals. The kids liked the french fries and chicken nuggets."

*Kim* writes, "During Christmas Week the 'early' park would open at 7:00 a.m., so you would need to catch a bus by 6:30 a.m. with the increased crowds. Unfortunately, even though the food court opened at 6:00 a.m., only one line was actually open, so your choice for breakfast was waffles (not Mickey heads - very disappointing), and cereal."

But *Mandy* shares her recommendations: "The desserts were superb, the Mom's TV Dinners were amazing, and everything tasted great. My breakfast recommendations are a Pop Waffle or the Bagel Breakfast Sandwich (egg, sausage and cheese). For lunch, I'd probably recommend the chicken strips or pizza, as there were not many lunch offerings to choose from. But for dinner the Mom's TV Dinner must be tried. It changes almost every night, so there is a new one to try all the time."

For more reader comments on their trips, visit: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=19&cat=3

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POP TRIVIA AND MORE!
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Want some fun facts and trivia about Pop Century?

How many bowling pins are in the '50s area?

What's the name of the child on the Play-Doh can?

What was the height of the real Rubik's Cube and how tall are the ones at Pop Century?

The Peace of Pizza trucks resemble what?

For the answers visit: http://allears.net/acc/faq_pop.htm

For photos of the resort, visit: http://allears.net/acc/g_pop.htm

For menus, visit: http://allears.net/menu/menu_popb.htm - Breakfast
and
http://allears.net/menu/menu_popct.htm - Dinner



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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.