20 Years and some Disney Magic

This year was our 20-year anniversary. Now this is a significant date for me for a couple of reasons. First, I’m one of the only family members (that married) that hasn’t been divorced. Second, we spent the first 17 years of our marriage in student ministry. That means that while everyone else was on vacation or break, we weren’t. Summers and Winters are prime camp and retreat times.

Our first 17 anniversaries were spent with students at conferences or camps. To Amy’s credit – she never complained about that. So I absolutely wanted this 20-year marker be something very special. Since we honeymooned at Disney World, what better place to celebrate the anniversary?

We stayed at the Port Orleans: French Quarter Resort on the Disney property. I also got us reservations for dinner at the California Grill on top of the Contemporary Hotel – so I thought. You can see Magic Kingdom from there and the plan was to eat dessert, see the fireworks, have the romantic music playing…you get the picture.

As I’m getting ready to leave for Florida, I realize that I never got a confirmation email from Disney about the dinner reservation. I call and it’s not there. They don’t have any record of it at all. We’ve got the room at Port Orleans, just no dinner at the California Grill.

The lady was very nice – gave me a couple of other locations to see the fireworks – but I was pretty upset at myself.

We get off the plane in Orlando and I have a voicemail. It’s Guest Services at Disney. The lady that was helping me was calling me back but we missed each other. Her voicemail said she’d be out of the office until next week sometime.

Next day we get to Port Orleans and it is gorgeous. We got a touch of Mickey in the room and it felt like we were in New Orleans. The streets, the look and the beignets! Oh yeah.

I finally get dinner reservations at another restaurant. It wasn’t California Grill but it was still nice and we could head over to the Polynesian for the fireworks afterward. That’s when the craziness started. I get a phone call from Jennifer at the California Grill. She saw it was our anniversary and while she didn’t have a 9pm spot, she had an 8pm, would I be interested. I said – yes but it’s already 5ish now and we’ve got reservations that I’m not sure I can get out of this late. I really appreciate the effort and the thought. So I hang up.

My phone rings 10 minutes later. It’s Jennifer from the California Grill again. “Mr. English, this is your 20 year anniversary, right? I mean, you really need to have this dinner at the California Grill. So I’ve taken care of those other reservations for you. We are covering the fee for them. See you at 8, okay?”

Needless to say, I was floored. What kind of incredible service is that?

So what do you do to kill time at Disney before 8pm dinner reservations? You check out the other hotels on the monorail. Here are some pics…

We check in on the 2nd floor of the Contemporary Hotel for the California Grill. At check in, we’re told that they are running about 15 to 20 minutes behind on their reservations but to go on upstairs and enjoy the view and the lounge. We are escorted on the express elevator to the 15th floor. At the main reception desk upstairs, I notice the manager, his name is Gary. I asked him about Jennifer, she got off earlier in the night but I made sure he knew about what she did for us. He smiled and said — oh, that’s not all she arranged for you.

Instead of being 15 minutes behind, right at 8pm we were taken to our table. Not just any table but a small table for two located in a cozy corner with an incredible view of Cinderella’s Castle and all of Magic Kingdom. Our table was sprinkled with Mickey Confetti as well.

Bill would be our waiter for the evening. By the way – every staff that we ran into wished us a Happy Anniversary. Very nice touch. The view and the service were outstanding, the food was even better. Bill walked us through the menu. We did a Sushi starter platter. I ordered the Beef Filet, Amy took on the Pork Tenderloin.

I wouldn’t order the sushi platter again. The shrimp, tuna, and salmon were outstanding. So was the white nut shrimp roll. There was another fish on it that was good but the other rolls and mackerel were not to our liking. But it sure did look pretty.

The entrees were the best. The steak was probably the best I’ve ever eaten. All of the food was incredible.

We were really taking our time with the meal. We thought if we were slow enough, we could be finishing up dessert right as the fireworks started. The waiter had already cleared a couple of other tables in his section. We really shouldn’t have worried about it.

As he cleared our plates, he said ‘Alright guys, want you to take a little break. I’ll be back here in about 10 minutes with dessert menus that way you guys will be eating dessert while watching the fireworks! And only order one dessert. I’ve got something special for you.”

Here’s what he ended up bringing us along with free glasses of champagne to celebrate our anniversary. That is peppermint ice cream with a chocolate cake with a hot fudge cream middle. Bill also brought us a piece of chocolate mousse cake. Complete with the “Happy Anniversary” chocolate placards.

And the fireworks were incredible with the soundtrack from Magic Kingdom being piped into the restaurant. Overall, the BEST anniversary ever. What a great experience and I’m blown away by how the Disney staff just took care of us and once again used a little magic to make it happen!

Here are some more pics!


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