Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March notes about Aulani and the Ko Olina Resort

The opening of Disney's Aulani A Resort and Spa in Ko Olina on Oahu is just about six months from opening. Here are some notes and thoughts about what's happening from my last trip out to the resort.

I take TheBus, Oahu's public bus system, out to the site to take update pics. I called their customer service to see if/when they would have bus service go into the resort. The representative told me that the Ko Olina resort will not allow buses onto property as they are private property. She didn't know if they would maybe do like the military bases and allow buses through the property for limited hours. With the worker demand and the expectations of the restaurants, hopefully an agreement will be worked out between TheBus and Ko Olina before the resort opens. Let me reiterate another post that I did about transportation, DO NOT use TheBus to get to Aulani from the airport due to the distance to walk in and having to cross Farrington Highway!

Queen Anne's Revenge in Hawaii by coconut wireless
My last trip a friend who lives there took me around on a golf cart and pointed out parts of the resort to me. The first stop was the Ko Olina Marina which is next to the Barbers Point harbor, a place where a Disney cruise ship could dock if a terminal building is built. Disney filmed Pirates of the Carribbean 4 here in 2010. Blackbeard's ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge is docked at the marina for the foreseeable future. This would be similar to Disney's island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay, where the Flying Dutchman from the earlier movies is moored and visitors can see it for picture taking.

Currently there are a couple of chapels on the property for weddings. About twenty five weddings per week happen within the Ko Olina grounds. Disney will be entering the wedding market. Disney had room models for prospective buyers set up near the beach. They have been removed to make way for what will be the wedding area overlooking the shoreline. The view will be beautiful.

With the removal of the models, prospective buyers will now go into the actual buildings to take tours. I was going to take a tour and contacted one of the friendly cast members to set it up with her. She was going to be off and unfortunately wasn't able to get the tour scheduled before she left. While she didn't have access to the scheduling system she did multiple e-mail follow ups away from the kiosk to try to make it happen. Thank you for the effort. She gets Disney customer service. I will try again in the future.

For those that want to golf while visiting Aulani, the Ko Olina Golf Club club house is a very short walk from the resort. It's basically right across the street off to the right slightly from the front of the property at the corner of Aliinui and Kamoana. By the club house is a workout facility and tennis courts for the Ko Olina residents. I forgot to ask if Disney Vacation Club owners will have access to these facilities.

Hawaii Railway passing thru by coconut wireless
The day that I went the Hawaii Railway Society had one of their trains going through the resort. I heard horns and didn't think it was the train but then the engine came into view. I was very excited to see this as:
  1. I haven't ridden the train or seen the train in person before today.
  2. They usually don't run the trains on a weekday when I go out for my visits.
  3. I had a blog post about using this train for the opening of Aulani.
I really hope my idea gets traction.

The Marriott next door is getting ready for competition. The last time I was out the Pro Bowl was in town and I couldn't get into the Ihilani to take pictures. This time, the couple of floors I went to, could not have been in use. There were large rolls of new carpet on the top floor blocking access around the elevator bay. On another floor, the the elevator bay wasn't blocked but they had rolls on other parts of the floor. On that same floor, the window was completely covered with dirt making any pictures I took unusable. I'm sure if there were people occupying that floor the window would have been a LOT cleaner!

I talked to some of the merchants at Ko Olina Crossing, the couple of stores across the street from the resort. They are very excited for the opening.

When going by the front of the resort I had to walk in a part of the street. They had put up barriers to help protect pedestrians as the construction walls were pushed right out to the street. In the break of the wall you can see the porte-cochère taking more shape than in the past visits. There are a lot of plants and trees that have been put in place to allow them time to take root and fill out before opening day.

In the back of the resort, the regular pathway was blocked off. It too had a temporary walkway in place as about twenty feet from the normal walk way was taken up. My assumption would be that they are doing grading and other landscaping to make a bit of a smoother transition between the main property and the Koloha lagoon.

The DVC Cast Members now have a full blown kiosk on the beach. In the past they have had signs and an umbrella. It's not as fancy as what is at Ala Moana Shopping Center, but it looks much better than what was there before.

For hiring, there have been many more posts put up on the web site. Many of the regular hourly positions are now listed. I've been seeing a number of twitters and Facebook posting where people have said they have been hired or have moved beyond the initial screening. I'm sure that Lianne Maeda and Katie Mock are very busy right now!

One of my facebook buddies has informed me that there will be military rates and a kamaaina rate for residents. When I heard the discount percent I was very surprised. It's a good one! To take advantage of these rates, contact Lindsey and let her know that Joel sent you! In a similar vein, I wonder if non guests would be able to buy a single day admission to Waikalohe Valley. At the Walt Disney World's Yacht and Beach Club's Stormalong Bay they use room keys and other control methods to keep other resort guests from pool hopping. I wonder what they will do for the Valley since it's located right new door to a public beach.

Lastly, as I was being shown the resort via golf cart, I was being told that the resort itself is looking at a number of changes. This would include rebranding itself and its logo (they currently use a lady bug) as well as physical changes. Most of the physical changes would be improvements to the sidewalks and walk ways including walkway lighting.

Special thanks to my friend for the tour of Ko Olina and information about the resort. It was a fun morning!

To see the latest collection of construction update pictures, go here