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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dining at Coral Reef in EPCOT

Most guests at EPCOT think of World Showcase when they consider the variety of dining opportunities that are available.  But even before World Showcase, there’s an excellent restaurant almost hidden from view in Future World, specifically in the Living Seas Pavilion and that is Coral Reef.

We dined at Coral Reef on our very first visit to Walt Disney World and have dined there repeatedly.  We had an ADR for Coral Reef during our trip in July.

The first goal is to find Coral Reef.  Getting to the Living Seas with Nemo and Friends is the easy part.  Just look for the pelicans!

Then, instead of going into the Pavilion using the Nemo and Friends entrance, turn right and go around the building.  You will see the sign and entrance for Coral Reef.

As soon as you see the doors, you will know you have entered a new world;  the world under the sea.

The check in counter is to the left.  Restrooms to the right.  Look up and see the shell inspired light fixtures.

When your party is called, you will be taken into the large dining room that is on levels—think stadium.  The lowest level is next to the aquarium and has aquarium side seating.  We’ve eaten next to the aquarium three times, including our most recent trip.

The levels go up to the back ensuring that each table and the guests at the tables have a great view of the “show” during their meal.  And, what a show it is!  Sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, etc.  Ask the server for a sheet that helps guests identify the variety of marine life that will be swimming by you as you dine.

The menu offers a variety of seafood, salad, and pasta selections.  The boy’s favorite is the lobster bisque.  He calls it lobster soup.  The bread that is brought to your table is also very good.  Coral Reef is a pricier restaurant and makes for a great bargain if you are using the Dining Plan—as it is only 1 table service credit.

And, even though Coral Reef is a more expensive restaurant, the atmosphere is still very casual and children are welcome.  As guests oh and ah about the marine life, it can be noisy.  Not boisterous, but noisy.

We enjoy dining at Coral Reef for lunch, as our EPCOT touring plan typically has us on that side of Future World at that time of day.  Coral Reef serves both lunch and dinner.

On a hot, sunny day, the cool, dim, undersea ambiance of Coral Reef can be a great respite from park touring.  We leave nourished and refreshed and ready to take on the rest of our day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Starting to Get Excited!

We’re about 140 days away from Spring Break and we’ve got a Walt Disney World trip in the works.  Our plans started as a 4 night cruise on the Dream, then we realized that for the same amount of money we could spend a week at the World, so we changed our plans. 

At the 180 day out mark, we made our reservation along with dining ADR’s for our week.  The only thing we didn’t have secure yet was our transportation to and from Orlando.

For anyone who knows me, not having this nailed down 6 months before our trip, was a bit anxiety producing.  This detail is typically handled first and I was having a difficult time getting excited about a trip that wasn’t fully planned yet.

Then, we were able to purchase reasonably priced direct fights—click here to read more.  Okay, feeling better.

It hit me last night. . . we’re going back to Walt Disney World!  Our dining ADR’s were made prior to Disney recently changing its policy about securing a credit card and charging guests a $10 per person no show fee when not arriving for Advance Dining Reservations.

We have a Fantasmic Dining package reserved at Mama Melrose, giving us an incredible meal along with reserved seating for Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios.  We are trying out Cape May Café for the first time with ADR’s for both breakfast and dinner.  We’re going back to Garden Grill at EPCOT, as we haven’t been there since our very first trip when we ate there on Thanksgiving Day.  We’re trying Les Chefs de France again and hoping to catch Remy this time.  Of course, ‘Ohana’s is on our itinerary.  We are heading back to Biergarten in Germany and Rose & Crown in United Kingdom—this time hoping for a lagoon side table to view Illuminations at EPCOT.  T-Rex Café at Downtown Disney has a lunch reserved for us, too.  We had Nine Dragons booked for our last day, but our flight schedule needs us to return back on Saturday instead of Sunday, so we canceled our Nine Dragons ADR.  Next time!

With all that fantastic dining ahead of us, the only disappointing thing for the boy was no Teppan Edo.  You would think he would be disappointed about not dining at Chef Mickey’s or Crystal Palace, but no, it was Teppan Edo he was going to miss!  I guess that is what 8, soon to be 9 trips to the World will do to you as a discerning diner!

The only way we can accomplish our dining plans is with the Park Hopper option added to our tickets, as we have many ADR’s at EPCOT, but don’t plan spending each day at EPCOT.  For example, the evening we dine at Garden Grill, which is in the Land Pavilion at EPCOT, we will be at Magic Kingdom during the day.  I sure wish Garden Grill would go back to serving lunch, as by dinner time on the days we tour EPCOT, we are well into World Showcase, and I don’t want to double back to Future World for dinner.  That’s why it works great to eat at Coral Reef for lunch on our EPCOT days, but we are not dining there this trip.

We add the Basic Dining Plan to our tickets which allows for a table service credit per person per night of our stay.  We can use the table service credits in any increments and sometimes use 2 per person in one day depending on our dining schedule.  We are staying 7 nights, but made 9 ADR’s for table service meals.  This means we will be paying out of pocket for 2 table service meals.  One will be breakfast at Cape May Café, as breakfast is typically the least expensive table service meal of the day.  The second will be our meal at T-Rex Café, as T-Rex does not accept the Disney Dining Plan even though guests can reserve T-Rex using the Disney Dining Reservation System—a subtle yet important distinction. 

With each trip, planning gets a little easier.  When are we going?  Where do we stay?  Which days will we be at each park?  Dining determined based on where we are each day and whether or not we add Park Hopper to our ticket and reserved at the 180 mark.  Yes, we decide where and when we want to eat six months ahead of our trip.

We also plan in a break day (if we are staying a week) and day to go back and revisit favorites or catch something we missed at a park.  This “catch up” day historically has been Hollywood Studios during the day and EPCOT for the late afternoon and evening—coming in the International Gateway after taking the boat launch between the parks. 

Okay, I’m starting to get excited.  Especially since our plans are more secure and the number of days keeps getting lower!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our Disney Traditions

It’s been almost five years since our first trip to Walt Disney World.  8 trips later, we still love it and look forward to each returning trip.

Having visited so many times, we have a few traditions, no different than any other family who vacations at a similar spot each year.

Here are some of our Disney Vacation Traditions:
  • We bring home, okay, I bring home the soaps and shampoos from our resort.  We use one bottle and bar while we are there, but each day I return to our room, I scoop up the newest delivery and stash it away so that housekeeping will be sure to replenish our supply the next day.  I use a gallon size plastic bag to bring it all home with me in our checked luggage.  Every time I use it, the smell takes me back to the most magical place on earth.

  • We wear matching shirts.  Enough said, but if you want to read more—click here.
  • We try at least one new restaurant or dining opportunity on each trip. 
  • We add the Dining Plan to our tickets, which means our meals are already paid for.  I think this has to do with a traumatic experience when a friend and I traveled to Florida for Spring Break when we were in high school (she is going to read this and laugh out loud.  Do you hear her laughing?), we didn’t handle our funds the best and by the last day we had less than $2 between us.  It was enough for a muffin and glass of water at the airport—we shared them both!  We were hungry when we got off that airplane.  Anyway, having the dining plan means I don’t have to worry if there is enough money to cover the cost of food during our trip.  Gives me peace of mind.

  • We use every form of Disney transportation—boats, busses, monorails, and trains when we are there.  I love letting Disney get me from place to place.
  • We get to parks at rope drop—when the park opens.  We have the first 3-4 things mapped out and figure out the rest as we go, leaving plenty of room for magic!

  • We never leave EPCOT without enjoying Spaceship Earth or visiting the train garden in the Germany Pavilion.

  • We collect character autographs and photos.  Sometimes meeting the characters is like seeing an old friend.
  • We use Fastpass to the best of our ability.

  • We capture a fireworks photo on our Photopass account.
  • We thoroughly enjoy riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Toy Story Mania, and Tomorrowland Transit Authority.
  • We totally unplug from the outside world and immerse ourselves in Disney magic.  No computer, newspaper, or even TV news, unless it is the weather.  Our re-entry into the real world, which begins the moment we get to the airport, can be quite shocking, even painful!

  • We play!
  • We strike up conversations with other guests and Cast Members.
  • We admire Disney pins, but for different reasons—the husband wants to trade, the boy tries to round out his Stitch pin collection, and I pick out a pin that will symbolize and be a memoir for our trip to add to my lanyard.
  • We bring home a souvenir of something we could use every day to remind us of Disney magic. . . like an ice cream scoop.  We also bring home a piece of art and a Christmas tree ornament.
  • We make room to add traditions, like the boy learning how to trade Vinylmation during our last trip—click here to read more.

I hope that if I were to make this same list 5 years from now, many of our traditions will have carried on.  The most important tradition is that we keep having marvelous adventures as a family.  It just so happens that we have those adventures at Walt Disney World.

What are your Disney traditions?

Author's Note:  While I was writing this post, the husband and the boy were away from home so I texted the husband to ask what he thought our Disney traditions were.  He added to my list and also had many of the same things I had already included.  Our Disney traditions are truly family traditions.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Benefits of the Fantasmic Dining Package at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Fantasmic! is the night time spectacular held regularly at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The schedule for Fantasmic! performances changes periodically, so if you are inclined to take in this 25 minute show of land, water, and fire features, check the Times Guide for specifics. (Click here to read about Fantasmic!)

Guests wishing to have a reserved seat in the Fantasmic! Amphitheater, can take advantage of a special dining opportunity known as the Fantasmic Dining Package.  We have done this twice and have a third time reserved for our upcoming trip.

Here’s how it works:
  • Make an ADR for the Fantasmic Dining Package at one of the 3 restaurants featuring the package at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on a night when Fantasmic is being performed.
  • The 3 restaurants are Hollywood Brown Derby, Hollywood and Vine, and Mama Melrose. 
  • Hollywood Brown Derby and Mama Melrose offer the Fantasmic Dining Package for both lunch and dinner ADR’s.  Hollywood and Vine offer only dinner time ADR’s for the package, as they have character dining for breakfast and lunch.
  • At the end of your meal, pick up your Reserved Seating Pass from your server.
  • Head down Sunset Blvd. 30-45 minutes before the first showing of the evening, if there is more than one Fantasmic! performance that night, and turn right just before the Beauty and the Beast stage/theater.
  • A Cast Member will be waiting.  They will check your pass and you will get to make the long and lonely walk through the “back door” so to speak of the Amphitheater. See video below:

  • Find a seat in the reserved section.
  • If you want a snack, be sure to have your reserved seating pass with you, as you won’t be allowed back into the reserved section without it.
  • Enjoy the show.
  • Use the main entrance to exit, as the way you came in will now be closed—this is especially important when thinking about strollers, etc.

You can make the Fantasmic Dining Package work to your advantage by knowing that there is a specific charge for the package.  The Walt Disney World web-site lists it at $60 per person, and it very well could be, unless you having the Disney Dining Plan.

We use one of our table service credits to purchase the Fantasmic Dining Package, and it works to our advantage, as normally, an appetizer isn’t included with the Dining Plan.  But, if we use the Dining Plan to eat at Mama Melrose with the Fantasmic Dining Package, we get an appetizer with our meal—as it comes with the package.  Get it?

If you are using the Dining Plan, and eat at Hollywood Brown Derby for your Fantasmic Dining Package, it will cost you 2 table service credits.

Hollywood and Vine, being that it is a buffet style restaurant, offers the Fantasmic Dining Package for 1 table service credit on the Dining Plan.

We have now done both Hollywood and Vine and Mama Melrose for the Fantasmic Dining Package.  You most likely won’t see us at Hollywood Brown Derby for this, as it would take 2 table service credits, but I won’t count it out forever.  Out of the two that we have tried, our favorite was Mama Melrose and we have it reserved for our next trip.

So, for what it might cost for the meal itself, guests get a meal and reserved seating to Fantasmic!  In my book, it is a bargain.  It is even more of a bargain when using the Disney Dining Plan, which we add to our tickets each trip, saving us 20% or more off the cost of eating.  (And, we’ve gotten the dining plan for free on 5 of our 8 trips!)

As the video below demonstrates, the Amphitheater hold thousands of people.  For me, the reserved seating that the Fantasmic Dining Package provides gives me peace of mind knowing I’m not going to have to battle the crowds.

Enjoy the show!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Time to Take a Train Ride to the "North Pole"--A Great Holiday Tradition!

Tickets for Midwest Central Railroad’s North Pole Express went on sale last week.  Guests wishing to ride to the “North Pole” can mail in their ticket reservation and payment until October 28, 2011.  Phone reservations will begin Nov. 1, and usually sell out within one week.

We have been taking a ride on the North Pole Express for several years and we mailed in our reservations early last week.

While the North Pole Express usually runs the first two week-ends in December, this year, three train rides have been added for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, giving guests more opportunities to catch a train to the North Pole.

The North Pole Express is based on the story of The Polar Express, but for license and copyright reasons, is named The North Pole Express.  The basic idea is the same.

I was telling a mom of another train enthusiast just last week-end about this exciting and seasonal journey.  One thing that worries me is what we will do once the boy decides he is too big or too old and doesn’t want to go as the husband and I enjoy the experience almost as much as he does.  I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Do you have your ticket to ride?

Dining at Enchanted Garden on the Disney Dream

Just as on any cruise, dining on a Disney Cruise is all part of the wondrous adventure that is cruising.  On our 5 night cruise aboard the beautiful Disney Dream, we ate at the Enchanted Garden dining room twice—once for dinner and once for breakfast.

Guests aboard a Disney ship will rotate through three main dining rooms while their wait staff—server, assistant server, and head server rotate with them.  There are two ways guests are informed of their dining rotation—the first is when they receive their Key to the World Card, as the dining rotation will be a series of letters on the front of the card.  Ours was AERRA:  A for Animator’s Palate, E for Enchanted Garden, and R for Royal Palace.  You can see from the order of the letters the order in which we dined in the various dining rooms on board. 

The second way for guests to know their dining rotation is to look at the dining tickets in their stateroom on their first day on board.  The tickets indicate the dining rotation, time of dining, and table number.  Guests need to bring these tickets with them to dinner their first night on board.  After that first night, there is no need, as the table number will stay the same.  Know that the same table number will be located in various areas in each of the three main dining rooms.

We ate in the Enchanted Garden on our second night of our five night cruise.

The Enchanted Garden is located on Deck 2 aft.  Guests may use the mid-ship elevators or the stairs in the Lobby Atrium to make their way to the Enchanted Garden.  The bathrooms are located just outside the dining room entrance on both sides of the hallway—men’s on one side women’s on the other.  There are also Shutters kiosks located in the hallway so that guests can check their photos or manage their photo accounts.

When entering the Enchanted Garden, guests are transported to a garden scene inspired by the gardens of Versailles in France.  There are garden scenes on either side of the entrance way.  A fountain is the middle of the dining room.

While dining, the garden transforms from day to night.  We enjoyed watching the flower petals on the lights open and close.

The menu is described as market cuisine.  Click here to read the menu.

I had the Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower—with the Wasabi dressing (I couldn’t resist as Tow Mater has a great scene in Cars 2 with Wasabi dressing),  Baby Spinach Salad, and the Pan-Seared Sea Bass.  The husband had Lobster Ravioli, the Wedge salad, and Grilled NY Strip Steak.  I know I had the Banana’s Foster Sundae for dessert.  I don’t remember what the husband had.

What’s great is there is also a children’s menu combining kids’ favorites like chicken strips with some more daring fares such as the Lobster Ravioli.  The boy ate well (you can see the Lobster Ravioli on his face if you look closely at the photo at the beginning of this post), even trying our dishes, which he typically does, and he ordered the Banana’s Foster for dessert off the adult menu.  And, this type of ordering is okay on a Disney cruise.  If there was an appetizer on the adult menu that he wanted, such as Lobster Bisque which is one of his favorites, but it isn’t listed on the children’s menu, go ahead and order it anyway.  Again, it is okay to do this.

We dined at the Enchanted Garden the next morning, on our “at sea” day for breakfast.  The breakfast is buffet style offering traditional breakfast items, and we dined at a different table and got another perspective of the dining room.

Enchanted Garden is also open for lunch.  Check Navigators for specific days and times the Enchanted Garden is available for breakfast and lunch.

In terms of the 3 main dining rooms, Enchanted Garden would rank 2nd.  It wasn’t our favorite, but it wasn’t our least favorite either.  We enjoyed ourselves and the new atmosphere, as there is no Enchanted Garden on the Disney Magic or Disney Wonder, so this was a first for us.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cruise to Resort--Using Disney Transports

On our grand Summer 2011 family vacation, we let Disney transport us from the moment our plane touched down in Orlando.  We used Disney transports to get us from the Hyatt at Orlando International to Port Canaveral—click here to read more—and were transported on a lovely Disney Cruise Line bus, operated by Mears. 

We then used Disney transport to go from Port Canaveral to our Walt Disney World Resort.  We thought we would once again be transported in luxury on a Disney Cruise Line bus.  But that didn’t happen.  Here’s the story:

After disembarking the ship with Key to the World Cards, Passports, and Custom forms in hand, we headed down the escalator just after exiting the ship, to the big luggage room.  I quickly found a porter and told him our bags were in the “red Mickey” section.

Off we went to secure our bags.  Found them!  The porter loaded them on his oversized two-wheeled hand cart and we zig-zagged through the queue to customs.  It was great to visit with our porter. . . how many days do you work at the port?  How long is your day?  He said the crew of porters work every day any ship, for any cruise line, is in port.  He said they arrive quite early, say 4:00 am, and start taking bags off the ship so that when the first guests disembark between 7:00 and 7:30 am, the luggage is in the luggage room.

We made it through customs without any issues and them outside the port terminal.  I explained that we were headed to a Disney resort and it was confirmed by a code on our Key to the World Cards.

A Disney Cruise Line Cast Member then directed us to a white van.  Huh?  The beautiful Disney Cruise Line busses were loading right beside us.  There were already 4 guests in the van and we were next.  The porter and van driver quickly loaded our bags. 

Well, since I had anticipated riding in the Disney Cruise Line bus, which had a restroom, I had waited to use the bathroom until after we got through the disembarkation process.  Now, I was looking at an hour and a half ride without a bathroom.  Nope, not going to make it. 

The van driver directed me to a security guard.  I then had to go through the metal detectors at the entrance to the port terminal, up the stairs and use the restroom.  I was the only guest on that floor of the building!  I quickly made my way back down the stairs and to the van.  A Disney Cruise Line bus was already pulling away from the port terminal. 

By the time I returned to the van, it had been decided that I would ride in the front, next to the driver.  We would make the ride to Orlando stopping at 3 resorts—Pop Century to drop off two of our passengers, Caribbean Beach to drop off 2 more, and we would be the last stop at Port Orleans French Quarter.

Another issue. . . on the Disney Cruise Line bus, movies would be playing.  The boy would be somewhat entertained.  No movies on the van. He was able to entertain himself with his DS. I was three rows in front of him in our white van!

Not having expected this turn of events, I asked our driver how this happens.  He said that the van is typically there and fills up first, early, to get guests to the Walt Disney World Resorts.  He was surprised that the big bus filled up first and took off.  He told us that riders on the van had to be over 6 years old.  Okay, we met that requirement.

It ended up being a lovely drive/ride.  Our driver allowed me to take the following pictures from the front seat of the van. 

We saw parts of Orlando that we hadn’t seen before and possibly would not have seen from riding in the bus.  We made it to our stop, Port Orleans French Quarter before 10:00 am.

Disney continued to transport us using Disney Transportation to/from the parks—busses, boats, and monorails.

Disney’s Magical Express transported us from our resort to Orlando International for our return flight home.  Yeah, there’s a story with this one too, but I’ll save it for another time.

Disney does its best to transport guests in a safe, timely, and efficient manner which is another reason we keep coming back.  There’s no added cost of rental cars or car services when traveling to Disney.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Port Orleans French Quarter

8 trips to Walt Disney World equals 2 stays at Caribbean Beach Resort plus 5 stays at Port Orleans Riverside plus 1 stay at Port Orleans French Quarter.  During our most recent trip, we enjoyed a week’s stay at Port Orleans French Quarter.

Port Orleans French Quarter is a sister resort to Port Orleans Riverside.  They have separate check-ins, separate luggage service, etc.  They do share boat service to Downtown Disney and some bus service to various parks.  Guests staying at either resort can used the themed pools at both resorts.  We’ve done just that—swimming in Doubloon Lagoon at French Quarter while staying at Riverside.  That’s how we became more familiar with the resort in the first place.

So, after 5 successful stays at Riverside, why did we decide to give French Quarter a try?  Well, it was the call of the recently refurbished rooms at French Quarter that included queen sized beds.  Sounds a bit trifle I know, but it was enough to get us to try something new, and we were glad we did!

French Quarter is, well, quaint.  There is a grid of “streets” or paths that run between the buildings.  The main building is in the center with the food court, shop, and arcade.  The playground, which was closed while we were there, is just behind the main building, along with the hot tub, laundry facilities, Doubloon Lagoon, and then the boat dock is last.  The guest buildings spread out on either side of this main or central area. There is one bus stop, located just outside the main building.

When we arrived about 10:00 am after disembarking from the Disney Dream, our room was ready, which came as a pleasant surprise to us as check-in is typically 3:00 pm., and an ever bigger surprise to luggage and bell services.

We made it to our room in building 6 on the third floor—yes, there were elevators.  We had a lovely water view room, which I was informed was an upgrade.

Our plans were to take a swim, do some laundry, have lunch, and head to a park.  We accomplished all of those things.

Upon arriving to our room, we were greeted with the mysterious ball cap hanging over the smoke/fire detector on the wall.  I called guest services, which directed me to housekeeping to inform them.  The ball cap stayed in the same location for our entire stay.  We left it there for the next set of guests.

We also had a bit of a misstep our first afternoon, as after showering—after our swim—I went to blow dry my hair with the in-room hairdryer, and within seconds sparks were flying and smoke was coming out of the hairdryer before it stopped completely.  Yes, I had blown up the hairdryer. 

While the husband called guest services for the second time that day, I went next door, as we had talked to our neighbors that day, too.  I had hairbrush in hand and asked if I could finish blow drying my hair and explained what happened.  They wondered where the smoke smell was coming from, and at least now they knew.  They were gracious and allowed me to finish drying my hair.  I thanked them.

Guest services said they would bring up a new hairdryer.  A new one was installed by the time we returned from the parks that evening.  But the ball cap, was still there!

We also noticed that our refrigerator wasn’t keeping things cool.  A 3rd call to guest services.  By the time we returned from the parks that evening, it had been fixed.  My philosophy—they can’t fix it if they don’t know about it!

The rest of our stay was uneventful, meaning we didn’t have to call for help anymore!  Our room was spiffed up daily with clean towels, sheets, and a restocking of the Disney supplies we love bringing home with us.

We learned that there are movies played in the garden between buildings on a giant inflatable screen on various nights.

We learned that lightning will stop the boats from taking guests to/from Riverside and Downtown Disney, even if it isn’t raining.  But, busses will run to Downtown Disney and if you want to eat at Boatwright’s at Riverside, the resort will send you via shuttle, which is a nice touch.

We learned that the food court is a bit slower at French Quarter than Riverside.  With fewer guests, they wait and make your order fresh.  I guess this is a good thing when you think about it, it just takes longer.  We dined at the food court twice, once for lunch and once for dinner.  Often, what we wanted was not there, like a child’s chocolate milk.  We then asked and were allowed to get the larger size for the same price as the child’s.  It pays to ask!  There were Legos to play with—which they no longer have at Riverside, and a TV—tuned to the Disney Channel—to watch.  The food court was decorated for Mardi Gras and had great things to look at.

We learned that luggage and bell services are completely separate.  Luggage services will hold/store your luggage.  But bell services will deliver and pick up.  I asked the difference, and it was about who gets tipped and who doesn’t.  I had never experienced such separateness of services when staying at any other resort.  I don’t know if it was because I didn’t need/use the services or just wasn’t paying that close of attention.

We were able to use the luggage service for our bags for the return flight.  Bell services retrieved the bags for us and took them to the airport check in counter at the resort.  The bags were weighed and tagged—good thing, as I had to adjust some things to even out the weight.  We paid the baggage fees right there, had our boarding passes printed, and when we arrived at the airport, we went straight to security and to the gate for our flight.  Loved this!   Usually our flights leave so early that this service isn’t available to us, as it begins at 8:00 am at the resort.

Let me sum up the pros and cons of staying at Port Orleans French Quarter:
  • Pro—one bus stop that is steps away from any guest building.  Convenient!
  • Pro—everything at the resort is nearby due to the smaller size.  Convenient!
  • Pro—queen sized beds.
  • Con—depending on the time of day and park, bus service may also pick up guests at Riverside, which may delay your arrival to a park.

Port Orleans French Quarter is reserved for our next Walt Disney World stay!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Favorite Time of Day on a Disney Cruise

It’s been 3 months since my last Disney Cruise.  I find myself day dreaming about our wonderful Disney vacation.

In addition to EVERYTHING else on the ship, in the ports, and at Castaway Cay, there’s a part of each day on board that I find is my favorite.  It’s the time of day, late in the afternoon, almost on the cusp of evening.  It’s the time just before the main dinner seating.

You see, at that time of day, the ship’s energy changes from one of relaxed and tropical, to a more upbeat fun and energetic vibe.  Guests are getting ready for the evening’s activities and tend to gather in the Lobby Atrium on Deck 3 to greet characters, pose for photos, and wait for dinner.

Check out the video:

Another part of what makes this time of day my favorite, is that the ship is typically sailing by this point.  I love to see the sea whip past with white tipped waves out of the big round port holes on Deck 3.  I love to feel the slight rocking of the boat as it hits open sea when we head to dinner.  I like to watch out of the window at dinner—if I can see out a window—a watch the land fade into the horizon.

This time of day is my favorite also because I know a great meal awaits me.  The menu choices will dazzle me and I will get to delight in various tastes and smells.  I will also get to visit with our table mates and share the day’s adventures.

After spending most of the day together as a family, I also know that after the boy finished eating, he will head to the kids club and the husband and I will finish our meals at a more leisurely pace.  And, the husband and I will have time to ourselves before retrieving the boy from the club to catch a show as a family.

We often stroll deck 4 and take in the sunset, or browse the shops, or scout out the adult lounges. . . whatever we feel like doing before rejoining with the boy.  The time apart is healthy and we all look forward to it.

No matter your favorite time of day, there will be something to enjoy and amuse you and your family on a Disney Cruise.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's October! Disney Cruise Line Announces 2013 Itineraries for Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy!

Disney Cruise Line released 2013 itineraries for the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy.  Click here for specific dates.

Looks as if the Disney Fantasy, which comes into operation March 31, 2012, will be alternating 7 night Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises throughout the rest of 2012 and all of 2013 without missing a beat.  The Disney Fantasy will operate out of Port Canaveral.

The Disney Dream will offer 3, 4, and 5 night sailings to Nassau and Castaway Cay for 2012 and then only 3 and 4 night sailings for 2013.

This means, we are scheduled to sail on the next to last 5 night sailing of the Disney Dream on Dec. 23, 2012.  There is only one more 5 night sailing after that on Dec. 28.  The 5 night sailings offer guests a “double dip” at Castaway Cay, and as far as I knew, were quite popular.  So, what happened?  I have no idea, but I’m sure there’s some Disney logic behind the decision.  I’m just glad we had an opportunity to sail on one “double dip” and will get a chance to do it again.

Guests wishing to take advantage of a 5 night itinerary had better hurry!  Time is running out!

The itineraries for the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have yet to be released for 2013.  Speculation abounds. . .

Will the Disney Magic head back to Europe again?  Or, will it sail longer itineraries to South America?

With the Disney Wonder to be based out of Los Angeles, actually San Pedro, for the next few years and the drying up of the Mexican Riviera market, what will be in store for this Disney ship?  Guests on the Mexican Riviera itineraries have been blessed or plagued—depending on your perspective, with double stops in Cabo San Lucas, rather than dropping anchor in Mazatlan—stating cultural/political unrest as the reason for skipping that port.  (Click here to read about our stop in Mazatlan on our Mexican Riviera Disney Cruise Line voyage.)

The Wonder has been making trips to Alaska, yet those are only seasonal voyages.  The Wonder is set to make one sailing to Hawaii in 2012, as is the Disney Magic.  Will the Disney Wonder travel further into the South Pacific or as far as Asia? 

Disney Cruise Line guests will have to wait and see what is on the horizon for at least two of the ships in the fleet.  In addition to the speculation as to the itineraries, there’s speculation as to when the itineraries for the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic will be announced.  2013 may also be the year when extensive renovations are made to the 14 and 15 year old ships, adding features now found on the Disney Dream and soon to be found on the Disney Fantasy by scheduling extensive “dry dock” time.

Guests are welcome to reserve their 2013 Disney Cruise!  Bon Voyage!