Friday, June 17, 2011

June Aulani update

Here is a link to the complete set of pictures that I took today

Only a little more than two months before the resort opens. It's getting exiting. More and more on Twitter and Facebook about people in the different stages of the hiring process.

For this update I was planning on taking the tour to try to gather interior pics as the resort nears completion. I had received the information needed in order to book a tour. I had a date in mind but needed to double check before committing. When I stopped at the Ala Moana kiosk their systems were down. Apparently they were down for a while. I asked to confirm for the next morning and was informed of the system issue and it wouldn't be possible to set it up. I asked about calling someone else and was told that the office closed at 5:30pm. I would have figured if the main kiosk at the largest shopping center in the state of Hawaii was having system problems that the call center would have remained open to support the kiosk. No such luck. More on this later.

Shaggy Mickey and Duffy Bear
Now if you take the tour at one of the mainland theme parks they would give you extra fast pass tickets as a thank you for your time. Here in Hawaii, they are offering either a plush Mickey Mouse that is a bit "shaggy" or the other option? A Duffy the Disney bear. For those of you who don't know, Duffy is a stuffed bear made by Minnie for Mickey to keep him company on his travels. The furry guy was imported to the US from Tokyo DisneySea where Duffy is a headliner there as part of the kawai (cute) culture of Japan. They are crazy for Duffy in Japan bringing him along to the park, giving him his own seat and taking pictures with him everywhere. When new costumes for Duffy are released people will line up...ah, why get into the craze details. Just know that at Tokyo DisneySea people go nuts for Duffy and there is a lot more to the craze than just the stuffed bear and his outfits. So, since Disney is making a large marketing effort into the Japanese market, it would make sense that they would use Duffy as a reward for checking out Aulani. With the emphasis on the Japanese market, I asked if Duffy would be at the resort vacationing with Mickey and Minnie and if Duffy's companion, Shellie May would be there too. My contact didn't know.

One amenity that I found out for guests at Aulani is in regards to their internet access. Yes, it will be wireless! Hallelujah! After my last trip to Walt Disney World I wrote a letter. I was in a room where they provided wired access tethering me to the wall and their table and chair. For a 15 minute session, that would have been fine, but for sitting for hours to do a blog report or anything longer than 15 minutes, the chair was very uncomfortable. Afterward some fellow techie Disney fans clued me into bringing my own wireless router and how to set it up for usage. Hassles to carry, but better for working. Luckily the people at Aulani will not have to deal with those issues.

Guests at the Marriott Ihlani next door should thank Disney. Ihilani has been the home to the NFL Pro Bowl players for a few years now. Disney is going to be major competition for Marriott. It was just announced in USA Today this week that the Ihilani has completed an $18 million dollar renovation. They are also offering some specials who are staying three or more nights per the article. Note Disney, they are offering free internet!!

Heading out to the resort for this update was a very rare experience. At the stop I had several other people exit the bus with me and we all crossed Farrington Highway to head into Ko Olina. I was very surprised. It's usually just me or one other person every once in a while. To have a small group and walk to the main entrance in single file must have looked a little strange to any passersby zooming along to head into town.

Empty Clean water feature
The entrance to Ko Olina has a water feature on the right with the resort signage. For the past several times I've headed in, it's been empty but loaded with garbage and mushy stuff lining the bottom. Today it was cleaned out and had several special markings. I'm thinking that it will be operational next month when I venture in for my update.

I did a little different routine today for viewing the resort. After hitting the comfort station I did a clock wise walk of the resort when I've been doing counter clockwise all the other times. Noticed lots of smaller changes. The parking structure had a roadway with a gate installed. I saw bamboo planted around the resort. The main driveway entrance was paved with a stone like pattern where last month was preparing for a cement pour. The wall was moved back and I could walk on the sidewalk along the front of the property without having to walk in a special walkway constructed in the roadway. On the Diamond Head side of the resort some of the construction wall was removed and what appears to be the regular fencing wall was exposed. I could get a view without having to peer over the high construction wall.

Entrance getting ready for pour
Paved Entrance
Construction wall vs new fence
New Fence

The biggest changes were happening at the lagoon. My friend who lives in Ko Olina gave me a heads up but I didn't understand what she meant by construction traffic was crazy. Once I got there I viewed heavy construction equipment on the beach. Along the sides of the lagoon there were several locations where there was erosion resulting in little cliffs or edges. There were piles of sand, some pumped in from the lagoon itself that is being used to level out and create nice slopes for beach goers. You could already see in one area how badly the fix was needed once it was done!

Beach Reconstruction
Sand Piles
Smoothing the slope
Edge to be repaired

Due to the construction, I wasn't able to get to my regular spots to get shots showing some the the work in the Waikalohe Valley and other structures.

Along the Waianae side there were several spots where the construction wall was removed and I could get direct views into the site. It was nice not having to view up and over or back away from the wall in order to take some pictures.

Laniwai construction
Once inside Ihilani, I took more pictures that showed more construction where Laniwai is going. There was stone work going on to give the walls lava rock appearances. Lots of construction workers and tons of different trucks with vendor names on them going in and out. In the front entrance area there were very few construction workers roaming or working in the area.

Driveway fixture
There was one detail that I am a little confused at to what it is. It's in the driveway leading up to Makaala. I look at it and think street lamp, but it doesn't look like it could have light bulbs. It does look a bit like kukui nuts that have been skewered. Kukui nuts are also called Candle Nuts because they have an oil that can be burned. I'm wondering if this is what they are supposed to represent and are actually torches that line the driveway. If you know, could you let me know. Mahalo!

One area where I have been disappointed is the detailed information available. There is one cast member that any question I ask them the response is "I don't know." I've talked to this individual before and they know that I'm not buying. They are pleasant, but I get the feeling from this individual between responses, lack of effort to find answers or curiosity of the questions or even small talk and banter they come across as cold and uncaring. A couple other Cast Members are interesting to watch. They don't want to answer questions, they keep pushing me to take a tour of the facility, but they forget that even if I take the tour, information is going to change. I was originally told that there were not be a bus from the airport to Aulani. Now two different reps give different answers and when I asked if they are sure the answer was to take the tour. Even though I was looking at taking the tour, I still feel awkward and that it seems wrong since I know up front that I won't be buying. When I went back to the Ala Moana kiosk after taking the update photos the computers were still down!

Each time I've been going out over the past six months for update photos, I've stopped across the street at Two Scoops to pick up a quick bite. It's a small shop that serves hot dogs, BLTs and ice cream. Flavors for ice cream include Coco Mac, Hawaiian Mud Pie and Cotton Candy plus some traditional flavors like strawberry and vanilla. Check them out when you visit!

In any case, the Aulani Resort and Spa is really shaping up and I watch and see details filling in. The plants, lettering, the moving and removing of walls, the lack of workers in one area but heavy in another...all this with a little over 70 days to opening (at least as I write this). When all the walls come down the place is going to be amazing both with the resort and the lagoon. If you are interested in making a kamaaina or military discount booking contact Lindsey and let her know that Joel sent you!

In case you're wondering, I am not receiving income from mentioning anyone or anything in my postings. I am completely independent although a huge Disney fan. If you would like to support these postings and the updates I've been posting, at the top of the blog there is a PayPal Donate button. As an added bonus, in Hawaii we just celebrated Kamehameha Day. Part of the celebration is draping the Kamehameha Statue with giant lei. If you would like to see what putting a 30 foot lei on a statue is like, check out my video on YouTube.

Here is a link to the complete set of pictures that I took today