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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Child's Age At Time of Travel". . . Nostalgic

You know that part of the Disney Cruise Line website where you get to "Find a Cruise" and after you select your destination, time of travel, length of cruise, departure port, ship, and then enter in details about the number of adults and children in your travel party along with "Child's Age At Time of Travel"?  Well, every time that drop down menu appears, it makes me think of all the cruises we have experienced as a family and how time is running out for us to experience more with the boy considered a "child."  The next time we sail, the boy will be 13!  Yikes--only a few more ages on that darn drop down menu left until he is considered an adult!

The first time we sailed the boy was 4.  We already had one trip to Walt Disney World under our belts and had actually booked the cruise first to celebrate the husband's 40th birthday.  Once we knew we were going on a Disney Cruise it only made sense to take a trip to Walt Disney World first.  (Don't you just love Disney logic!)

For our second Disney Cruise, the boy was 5 1/2.  We sailed on the Disney Magic out of L.A. and it was our first seven night voyage.  We bought photos from Shutter's this trip AND booked our next cruise while on board--correcting two things we had regretted from our first cruise.

Disney Cruise number 3 was over New Year's and the boy had just turned 7.  It was another great week on board the Disney Magic.  We rebooked on board for our next sailing!  While there was a Pirate Night, the fireworks were saved for New Year's Eve and there were many new and interesting characters out for New Year's.  We spend the first day of the new year at Castaway Cay!

Our 4th Disney Cruise was onboard the Disney Dream!  It was our first 5 night sailing, our first "double dip" cruise with two stops at Castaway Cay, and the first time we combined a cruise with a visit to Walt Disney World.  The boy was 8 1/2.  We parasailed on Castaway Cay and kissed some sea lions at Blue Lagoon while in Nassau.  Oh, and we rebooked our next cruise while onboard!

Cruise number 5 was also on the Disney Dream--over Christmas!  The boy had just turned 10.  He was picked, okay he lobbied to be picked, to be the Holiday Prince of the Sea and got to usher in the holidays in a ceremony in the Lobby Atrium.  This was the first time we stayed on board while the ship was in port.  We spent three days at Walt Disney World after we disembarked the ship.  And, we booked our next cruise while sailing!

Which brings us to Disney Cruise number 6 and our most recent sailing.  The boy was 11 1/2 and enjoyed the tween club--Edge--immensely.  This was our first time sailing on the Disney Fantasy and our first time going to Jamaica.  We also combined this trip with a week at Walt Disney World and a day at Universal Orlando.  And, yes, we booked our next cruise while on board!

We have had so many great memories as a family on Disney Cruise Line vacations in seven years.  And, the time has flown by!  See what I mean about the time running out?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our Champagne Brunch at Remy on the Disney Fantasy

The husband and I decided when making plans for our 6th Disney Cruise that we would celebrate our anniversary with a champagne brunch at Remy, an adult only restaurant on Deck 12 of the Disney Fantasy.  Remy is named after the Chef in Ratatouille, a Pixar/Disney animated movie released in 2007.  The cuisine at Remy is just as French inspired as the cuisine in the movie.

We were able to make a brunch reservation during our on-line check in at the same time we reserved port adventures and registered the boy for the kids club.  The champagne brunch is available on "at sea" days.  Our 7-night itinerary included two at sea days and we make our brunch reservation for the second at sea day.

The day prior to our brunch reservation, we received a reminder/invitation in our stateroom.  It indicated the dress code for the occasion along with a reminder of the time.
We arrived in plenty of time for our reservation and were taken into the wine room with the rest of folks who also had the same time for their reservation.  We met Arnaud and Scott--pictured above-- and were given the first of our six courses--Jamon Iberico which is cured ham from Spain/Portugal--along with a glass of Taittinger champagne.
While enjoying our first course, we were informed about the restaurant and the wines.  This is when we were also offered the "upsale" of the additional champagne pairings, also know as the champagnes experience that was an additional charge per person.  The brunch itself is $50 per person and the additional champagnes experience was $25 per person for 3 glasses of champagne paired with various courses.  We declined.

We were taking photos throughout the brunch and after we took a photo of Arnaud and Scott, one of the wait staff offered to take a photo of us.  This started a round of photography with the other guests doing the same.

Course 1--Jamon Iberico with Taittinger Champagne

Soon we were seated at our table which featured a great view of the ocean.  The menu also featured a happy message telling us to eat right!

We were served a bread and salt just prior to our next course.
I tried to take a picture of each course beside the menu to help me remember what we were eating.  This is the vegetable Risotto and was very good.
The lobster, caviar, mango dish came next and was quite yummy.  The husband was eating one of the greens in the photo below.

This dish was the Sea Bass, Egg, and Thai course.  The husband has his fork ready to go!  And you can see by the photos that we were drinking water.  When I ordered water, I was given several choices--sparkling, bottled, etc.  I just wanted plain ice water.  It was served iceless, of course.

The Berkshire Pork, Cannellini Beam course came next, and again, was delicious.

The dessert course, Paris Brest was last and featured pastries filled with mouse along with a scoop of an ice cream served on a plate.  The husband and I decided we needed to eat the ice cream first before it melted as it was being served on a plate rather than in a bowl.
We were also served a trio of sweet treats, just in case the Paris Brest wasn't enough.
The chef did come out and check on us at some point during the meal.  What we missed was the opportunity to have him sign our menu.  Next time!
And, a meal at Remy wouldn't be complete without finding the mouse himself who is hiding in a light fixture but holding his spoon!  If you can't seem to find him, be sure to ask.  The Cast Members will happily point him out.

Our impressions--based on the fact that I had to take pictures of the dishes along with the menu indicates that the husband and I are not "foodies" and are as easily satisfied with less sophisticated offerings.  Having said that, we did enjoy the brunch.  The Cast Members were friendly and helpful.  The meal itself was relaxing and we didn't feel rushed but we didn't feel like we waited either.  And, while some of the food is not what we eat every day, we tried each course and enjoyed each bite!  We were also okay with the group presentation at the beginning of the brunch.  It was kind of fun to have and one couple who was there, we bumped into later in the day and we were referred to as their "Remy friends."

What we didn't appreciate was the "upsell" of the champagnes experience.  Between the two of us, it would have been an additional $50 for six glasses of champagne and we are much too. . . too practical.  And, even without the champagne we had a great time and enjoyed each other's company.

Would we do this again?  Maybe.  I'm not going to rule it out, but I'm also not putting dining at Remy into the "must do" category for our next Disney Cruise.

Oh, and were was the boy while we dined at Remy? He was at the Edge, the club for tweens ages 11-14.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What We Did Right With Fastpass+

Maybe you’ve done it. . . the summing up of what you did right during a day at Walt Disney World.  Turning to your traveling party while riding the bus back to your resort at the end of a long day of park touring to recap what went well or highlight the day or pointing out the best parts of a trip blow by blow at the airport or while flying home.  The husband and I have done this so many times that we now turn to each other mid-moment to indicate that we have/had done something right.  Here are few things that went well with our use of Fastpass +:
·         We pre-selected our 3 per day Fastpass +’s at the 60 day window prior to our trip.  Yes, we knew which park we were going to be in on each day of our trip.  Now, I did revise them at least once, okay, twice before we actually set food in Orlando.  Selecting and changing Fastpass+’s was easy when using MyDisneyExperience.
We had an incredible spot for parade and fireworks viewing!

On a day when we were only going to be in the Magic Kingdom for dinner and evening festivities, we made the best use of Fastpass+ by selecting both rides AND the evening’s parade.  I wouldn’t do this on any other day—the bullets below will explain more, but having a Fastpass+ for a reserved spot to watch the parade was sweet AND since we stayed put for the castle light show and Wishes we also had incredible views of both of them, too!
·         We were able to get more Fastpass+’s after our original 3 were used for the day.  This worked particularly well at the Magic Kingdom and we ended up using 6 Fastpass+’s during the day.  Our original selections began at 9:00 am for a morning with extra Magic Hours—Anna & Elsa Meet and Greet, Peter’s Pan Flight, and Splash Mountain.  We were able to get Fastpass+ for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad shortly after riding Splash Mountain.  When our Big Thunder Fastpass+ was used, we got Space Mountain, and when that was used, we got Buzz Lightyear—all before 5:00 pm.   All other attractions--and there were many--we used the regular queue.
·         It is important to know that guests wishing to make and use more Fastpass+ selections after their original 3 selections have been used need to use an in park kiosk, not a mobile device.  So, we made sure that we knew where the closest Fastpass+ selection kiosk was based on our location in the park.  Park maps and Cast Members can be very helpful.  But note that we were given incorrect information about the Fastpass+ kiosk location at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
·         We mirrored our Fastpass+ selections with our past touring plans when using legacy Fastpass.  Since we have usually used legacy Fastpass at Soarin’ then we used a Fastpass+ for Soarin’ and rode Test Track using the stand-by queue—as we had done on previous trips.
·         We had written down our Fastpass+ selections.  Others have recorded theirs using screen shots or other mechanisms just in case there is a delay or inability to log into MyDisneyExperience.
·         We had unofficial communication that the hour window for Fastpass+ return is, in actuality, an hour and 20 minutes.  The return time goes live 5 minutes prior to designated time and will stay live for 15 minutes after the deadline for the return time window.  We were able to get the Mickey shape to turn green 2-3 minutes prior to the official Fastpass+ return time window as we typically arrived early.  We didn’t try the 15 minutes past the return time window.  If you have, let us know if it worked for you.
I know that guests’ experiences with Fastpass+ and MyDisneyExperience have varied.  Some love it and others do not, which is a similar division for how guests felt about the legacy Fastpass system.  For us, using Fastpass+ was a pleasurable experience and we look forward to doing it again.

My only hope, wish actually, is that eventually, guests will be able to make Fastpass+ selections for more than one park on one day.  When this happens, Park Hopper sales will definitely increase!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Random Thoughts and Thoughtful Questions!

Today’s post is dedicated to random thoughts and thoughtful questions!

Our Disney fan status is evident.  From the watch on my wrist to the lunchboxes both the husband and I take to work to the magnets and window decals on our vehicles it is easy for friends, colleagues, and even strangers to become aware of the Williams Family’s passion for all things Disney.  And, that means we/I get asked lots of questions.  Here are a few from just this week. . .

“How long did you have to wait to meet them?” pointing to the photo of us with Anna and Elsa.  My reply—less than three minutes.  The conversation goes on about how they had heard that the wait times to meet Anna and Elsa were very long.  Well, yes, they were, but now the Magic Kingdom has instituted a return time pass along with Fastpass+ reservations to meet the newest Disney royalty, so wait times are minimized.  But, when the return time passes and Fastpass +’s are all gone for the day, guests are out of luck.  Back to the question though, the photo being inquired about was actually taken on the Disney Fantasy and for that, we had a special ticket with a specific time.  Again, less than 3 minutes of a wait.

“When is your next vacation?”  Bite, twist, and scrunch the lips while painfully responding that I’m not sure.  The answer is more complicated.  I am sure of our next Disney cruise—December 2015 which is closer than you would think.  What I am not so sure about is whether we can swing a trip next summer.  And, if we can, Disneyland will be the plan.  My need for some Disney anticipation is clinging to our cruise plans.  When I consider no firm dates or plans for anything else, I get a bit sad.  Even last night I was searching airfare and found a very reasonable round trip flight to LAX for about $250 per person.  I didn’t pull the trigger. . . yet.

“Have you heard about that Mom’s Panel thing yet?”  Not yet.  When the calendar turned to October the twitter and internet world was all a flutter with expectations of notifications of those moving onto round 2 of the selection process.  If I were a predicting sort, I would predict news will come in the next few days.  We’ll see and I will definitely keep you posted.

“Can you help my brother plan his trip?”  Sure!  Here’s my number. . .  When the husband reads this he is going to ask where the commission is—with a smile of course.  My commission?  Knowing that a magical adventure is on the horizon for that family. 

I wonder what questions I’ll get next week!