Just back from a four day/three night stay at Sequoia Lodge Golden Forest. Chose GF as it was only a little dearer and ended up to be well worth it. My last couple of trips to SL it had felt like a woodland-themed Travelodge but GF felt like a proper Disney hotel. The toiletries had Mickey ears, we got conditioner (which they wouldn't even give my mum on request last time), big towels, Nespresso machine, safe, fridge, a good hairdryer in the cupboard as well as a not-so-great one on the wall... The breakfast spread was much better and great to be able to go when we wanted. Made good use of the drinks, taking away a lot between 12 and 10 to give us drinks for the park. Also ate lots of the afternoon tea food. I've no idea what a lot of the savoury things were (pretty looking little canapes), but they were mostly nice. Check in was quick and easy, as was check out, and didn't need to go somewhere separate to store our luggage. Magical.
As for the parks... our weather was a bit patchy (I've only been in summer before) but we were prepared for it. It rained most of Saturday and poured most of Sunday. Despite that, the parks were absolutely packed. I've never seen them so busy and my last two trips have been weekends in July and August. Some of that might have been due to the various ride closures making the rest of the park seem busier, but it was really quite miserable at times. In Studios park we were often looking at queues of 90 mins + not only on Ratatouille and Crush, which can be expected, but on Tower and Rocknroller too. Tower was a 120 minute queue a lot of the weekend. I had never seen them open the seating area above Restaurant en Coulisse on previous trips but it was open and FULL on Sunday. On Saturday afternoon we queued for half an hour for It's A Small World because compared to other queues at that time, it seemed reasonable. We also had a shambles situation on Saturday where we used Fastpasses on Tower of Terror and still waited an hour to get on. There seemed to be some sort of problem with the ride, and staff didn't seem to know what they were doing. We were a bit fascinated by it because usually things are handled pretty slickly and this definitely wasn't.
The Crush single rider queue was working very well, so we got on it with a half hour wait quite a few times. I'd always had to wait much longer than that on previous trips.
The queues for food were crazy too. I still feel they ought to make the pause gourmande info clearer, because so many people don't read the small print and it holds up the queues so much. We'd booked restaurants for evening meals as we were on Half Board Plus, and all those were great. Although we had to queue at Cafe Mickeys for a while to get in for our 9pm booking... Did Remy's and Silver Spur too. Would recommend all. My vegetarian friend had very limited food choices everywhere, which is something it would be good to see Disney do better at...
The park was looking great, as were the rides, and there were lots of characters out - usually in certain spots but mostly without big queues and there were a fair few unusual ones, like Timon and Rabbit. Obviously quite a few bits blocked off for construction work but didn't steal from the magic. Disney Dreams and the Star Wars night time show were great. Shame they put them on back to back so no one can do both... but as they have to close Tower early to prep for the Star Wars show it makes sense that they want it as late as possible. Looks like they're setting up well for the 25th anniversary and would love to go back when it's all finished.
The crowd numbers, though, really bothered us. It makes no sense that it would be that busy at this time of year with terrible weather. We became kinda convinced we were part of some sort of experiment... Like they'd given out loads of free tickets so they could test out how the parks/staff/rides coped under large numbers. And like they were maybe even faking problems with rides to see how the staff could manage them under that pressure. There definitely a few newbies being trained and a strange amount of staff appearing at rides in the wrong uniform (mostly Tower staff at Rocknroller and vice versa). We got an amazingly cheap deal on our holiday package, so maybe even they just did too many amazing deals.
We had an amazing time, but I'd be very, very hesitant to go back 'off season' again given the experience of significantly bigger queues.