California Grill Brunch Review

Charcutterie at California GrillBunch at Disney’s California Grill was on my wish list of new things to do. On a recent trip I had the opportunity to book reservations, so I knew I had to try it.

Dinner at California Grill is one of my favorites. Since I had such a good experience having brunch at Narcoosee’s – I figured this one had to be equally as good.

When we arrived, there was an entire section of the bar with mimosas waiting. Little did we know that these were bottomless and soon found out that our waiter would be bringing us new ones before the first one was done.

Mimosa at California Grill

There was a bloody mary bar available for an additional cost if that was your choice of drink. While they looked delicious, we decided to stick with our mimosas.

Bloody Mary Bar at California Grill Brunch

Bloody Mary Bar

We reviewed the menu to make our entree selections.  My sister Becky selected the Chef’s Frittata and I chose the Grilled Hanger Steak.

Once our entrée order was placed, we were able to visit the self-serve stations. There was real variety of things to choose from.

Becky’s self-serve selections

I’m not a fan of seafood, so I tasted everything that I thought I might like. The food was good, really flavorful and visually appealing.

California Grill Self Serve Plate

My first plate from the self-serve options

When our entrees arrived, I was regretting having the second helping of bread and mimosas, but I powered through. My steak was delicious, cooked exactly as I had asked with no pink in it.

Grilled Hanger Steak at California Grill

Grilled Hanger Steak – Two Eggs-Any Style, Chimichurri, Marble Potato Hash, Charred Red Onion

Becky enjoyed her frittata and said the potatoes were exceptional.

Frittata at California Grill

Frittata – Three Lake Meadow Farms Eggs, Heirloom Tomatoes, Roasted Poblanos, Chorizo, creamy Goat Cheese, and Marble Potato Hash

We took a small break before ordering tea and waited for our dessert plate to come. If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’m a huge fan of dessert – but I have to admit, I was underwhelmed.

Brunch Dessert at California Grill

The plate didn’t look as yummy as the dinner dessert does. While I tasted everything on the plate, there was nothing that made me say “wow, I need to have that again”.

When the bill arrived our total for brunch was $165 USD including our Tables in Wonderland discount.

Since I’m a gal who is all about dessert, Narcoosee’s was my favorite of the two, based solely on the desserts.  I think on my next trip I’ll save California Grill for dinner so that I can enjoy the Chocolate Pudding Cake.

Check out the video below for a walk through of Brunch at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

 

Have you tried brunch at California Grill?  Leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought!

 

Caring For Giants Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Caring for Giants Disney's Animal KingdomCaring for Giants is a tour offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom giving you a closer look at the elephants.  The cost of the tour is in addition to your park admission, but read below why I think it’s a great value!

My sister Becky is a huge fan of the elephants. Over the years she has tried multiple times on Kilimanjaro Safaris to capture the perfect picture of a baby elephant to no avail. We haven’t figured out if we are moving through the area too quickly or her photography skills are the issue (I think it’s the latter), but it’s been a challenge! When she heard about this tour, we had to try it. It might be the only way for her to capture the elusive photo of a baby elephant.

We arrived at Animal Kingdom and checked in next to Kilimanjaro Safaris. We were warned that there was no bathroom breaks on this tour, so best to visit the facilities before we left.Stella Baby Elephant Animal KingdomThere were 8 of us on the tour and we boarded a bus back stage to take us to the viewing area. The driver gave us a lot of information about how the animals are protected and the fencing around the enclosures backstage. We were amazed to see fencing that wasn’t related to the savannah and the explanation made sense – the fencing is to keep the native Florida Wildlife out of the savanna.

When we arrived at the viewing area we realized that we were on the other side of Kilimanjaro Safaris and could see the attraction vehicles passing in the distance. The first cast member told us about how they care for the elephants and some of the rituals they have with them.Elephants Caring for Giants

The second cast member that spoke to us was a cultural representative from Zimbabwe. While she had only been working there for 3 weeks, she did a fantastic job of telling us about the research being done by the Disney Conservation Fund.   She shared details about one of the projects where they found a solution that allows farmers to protect their farms without harming the elephants. It was fascinating; I could have listened to her for hours.Caring for Giants Elephant

Aside from the great information from the cast members, we got some fantastic views of the elephants! We were told that the views really depend on the elephants; they are free to roam around and may not stand in the ideal spot for your photos.   This is important to recognize that Disney allows them the freedom to do as they please. We were lucky to have so many come around, it was the first tour of the morning and they tend to be more active.

Caring for Giants Stella

My sister with baby Stella in the background.

Caring for Giants was worth every penny of the $30 we paid for it. We spent an hour with some fascinating cast members and of course – the elephants. We loved the tour so much that we’ll be adding this as a regular ‘must do’ on our trips. Not only did my sister get a picture of a baby elephant, she got one WITH a baby elephant!

 

 

 

FastPass Crackdown – Cheaters Will Be Cheaters

7DMT Magic KingdomFastPass+ at Walt Disney World is a free service that allows you to effectively schedule up to 3 attractions in advance to avoid the long standby lines. If you stay at a Disney resort, you can make your selections 60 days in advance of your trip, if you’re staying offsite it’s 30 days.

FastPass+ was always a fair system, free to everyone with a valid park admission. Unlike those “other guys” who offer a paid service to skip the lines, Disney has a limit to how many FastPasses are available per hour for each attraction. At the other parks, if you have paid for this service you can skip the line on the same attraction all day if you would like. Imagine that – 100 people all skipping the line multiple times on the Hulk. How long do you think that standby line will be? For those who don’t pay, it can be a substantially longer wait than it had to be. Your ability to experience the attractions is directly tied to how much you were willing to pay.

At Walt Disney World, everyone had a fair shot at a FastPass for the big attractions – that was until a loophole was found.

MDE FPIt has been reported that people were using the in park kiosks to book FastPasses with expired tickets or tickets that were not used to enter the park. They were ‘borrowing’ annual passes to book extra FastPasses and taking away the availability from other guests. This ‘fair system’ was being abused by those who thought they were entitled to a better experience than everyone else – until Disney found out.

Disney has begun to crack down on these scams and are enforcing a validation process. Cast Members who are working in the FastPass line will be able to see if the guest used a valid ticket to enter the park that day. If they didn’t, they will be sent to the standby line.

Disney is reportedly locking the My Disney Experience accounts of those who book a FastPass without a ticket being used to enter the park.

Magic BandI think it’s great that Disney is addressing the issue and cracking down on this. How long before they start cracking down on all the fake resort and dining reservations?  Time will tell!

 

 

Toy Story Faces For Your Apple Watch

Woody Pixar Apple WatchApple’s Worldwide Developer Conference had some great news for Disney and Pixar fans!

There was plenty of great stuff at the conference, you can see it all here. but it’s the Pixar stuff that I think is the most exciting!

Apple announced that as part of the features of the watchOS 4 this fall, they would be creating several new watch faces in featuring Toy Story characters!

Woody, Jessie and Buzz Lightyear were shown with full animation displaying their own personal behaviors.

 

If you have an iWatch like I do – it will be great to rotate out the Mickey Mouse face once in a while and mix it up with some other great characters.

iMac Pro Pixar Lamp

I love the partnership between Disney and Apple and would love to see more collaboration. Maybe the reference to the Pixar lamp in the iMac Pro ad is a hint of what’s in store?

Do you have an Apple Watch?  Are you excited about these new faces?

 

 

Avatar Flight of Passage Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Pandora Flight of PassageAvatar Flight of Passage was an attraction that I was determined I had to try. The reviews said that it was not good for those with motion sickness and it could be intense, but I had to experience it at least once. Since I had the opportunity to visit during a preview before the official opening, I went straight over to Flight of Passage and there was no wait. I stood for a second, took a deep breath and thought, “I guess I’m doing this!”

Here are my thoughts on the new Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It’s an overview of my experience with some information you should know before you go, but without too many spoilers!

The queue was impressive – but long

The outdoor portion of the queue for Flight of Passage is gorgeous. You’re walking slightly up hill and have a perfect view of the floating mountains. There will be some great pictures and selfies taken from this line!

Once you leave the outdoor area, you enter in to something that looks like a cave. You will be happier in here since there is air conditioning and shade from the Florida sun. As the cave transitions in to the building, you’re able to see paintings, a bioluminescent mining area and of course – a real Avatar. I had seen the Avatar on many different online videos, but I didn’t appreciate the size or details of it until I had seen it in person.

 

 

While I didn’t have a wait for Flight of Passage, it struck me as I was walking through this queue how long it took me to get to the end. It seemed like quite a long walk with the capacity to hold VERY long lines.

The claustrophobia

Nearing the end of the line, you enter the first of 2 pre-shows. The first room is where you are matched to your Avatar. It is primarily a video with some special effects, but the room felt a bit small to me. I was glad I was the last one in and had some space behind me. We were in there a few minutes when we moved on to the next briefing – the vehicle seating system is explained and you get your 3D glasses.

The vehicle

I don’t like feeling ‘trapped’ anywhere and this was my biggest fear for this vehicle. I am the person who sits at the end of the row in a movie theatre to avoid feeling like I can’t get out. Knowing that things would come and encapsulate on this attraction had me very nervous. I straddled the vehicle like a bicycle and leaned forward towards the support in front of me. I chose to leave a little bit of space between the support and myself and prepared myself for the various restraints that were coming. As the restraints were activated, I heard the man beside me gasp a little. The man had leaned so far forward that the restraint at his back was way too restrictive and a cast member had to come and adjust it.   I was happy with the amount of space I had and didn’t feel closed in with the back restraint at all. Maybe it’s because I had my legs out in front of me as opposed to at the side, but I didn’t even feel the ones on my legs at all. I did notice that this might be quite restrictive and uncomfortable though for my Pooh-sized friends. There is a test vehicle outside of the attraction for you to try before waiting in line.

 

The flight

Once the ride started I was in awe. Disney has created an attraction where I really FELT like I was flying on the back of a Banshee. It wasn’t just the sights, sounds and smells, but when my Banshee took a break on a branch of a tree, I could FEEL it breathing underneath me. The scenery is breathtaking and colorful, it seemed so real! There is no comparison in my mind to Soarin or Star Tours – this attraction made me forget that I was sitting on an attraction vehicle with 3D goggles on. I was transported, and I flew on a Banshee.

 

The motion sickness

Pandora 2I feel sick on Star Tours and have never made it back on Mission Space since it opened; I was worried about Flight of Passage. I went first thing in the morning, took some motion sickness pills and didn’t eat anything before the ride. There were a few moments where the Banshee took some sharp turns and some drastic drops where I had to close my eyes. Closing my eyes for a second or two really helped, especially when were flying through some tight spaces. I do think the cool breeze on my face helped me avoid overheating that happens when I’m nauseous. I really didn’t feel sick at all, I suspect that might have had something to do with the pills I took.

 

The 4 things you need to know:

  1. The queue has been designed to hold lines of up to 4 hours inside. The wait will be long.
  2. There is a lot of walking for the queue as well as upon exiting. Be prepared for inclines and stairs, especially if you have trouble walking.
  3. There are moments that those who are prone to motion sickness or claustrophobia will struggle, but they are short lived.
  4. Love or hate Avatar the movie (I didn’t love it), this attraction is among the best on Disney property and you should experience it once. I know I will be back to try it again.

 

My only criticism, and it’s a big one

Winnie the PoohSurprisingly, this attraction is not friendly to certain body types or guests with mobility issues. Given that this is new, I would have thought that Disney would have invested in making sure that more people could experience it – not less. One of the things that I don’t like about that ‘other park’ is that they have attractions that are not suitable for my Pooh-sized friends. I have always maintained that having the test vehicles out in front of their attractions is both humiliating and degrading to those who want to try them before lining up. Couldn’t they put them around the corner out of plain view of the masses of people? Who wants to try a vehicle in front of a bunch of people to see if you’re too fluffy to fit? I have always thought that was a big difference between Disney and the other guys, until Disney did the same thing with Flight of Passage. I think it’s terrible that a good portion of the population wasn’t accounted for when designing this attraction. I only hope that Disney makes the necessary adjustments to the attraction to accommodate more people, and once again set itself apart from the other parks.

If you want to see a good video of the queue – check out this video from our friends at Pure Magic Vacations!

 

 

Have you experienced Flight of Passage? What did you think?

 

Disney Fantasy Mechanical Issues

May 172017 I set sail on a 3 night Disney Cruise on the Fantasy. The Fantasy had just been in dry dock and I was looking forward to all of the enhancements they had made. It was the only Disney ship I hadn’t sailed on, so I was excited.

The voyage was great, all of the things you would expect from Disney Cruise Line (more on that later), but the last night we hit a bit of a snag.  Something broke on the ship.

We were sitting at the late seating for dinner on the last night when one of my tablemates said they felt a big shudder. We weren’t sure what it was, but continued to enjoy our dinner.

On the last night of the cruise, you leave your luggage outside of your stateroom before 10:30 so that the crew can take it off the ship for you. Some people hold on to their bags because they’ve got early flights to catch and want to make sure they can walk off the ship at 7am with their bags. Since we were spending another week at Walt Disney World, we weren’t in a rush and put ours out. Then we headed to O’Gills pub to meet some friends for a drink.

We were enjoying the live entertainment and some good conversation when Commodore Tom made the announcement – trouble in paradise! He let us know that there was a mechanical problem – we were going to be delayed getting in to port the next morning. He didn’t provide many details except to say that we would arrive at approximately 10am with the earliest time to disembark being 11.   Anyone who had flights before 1pm needed to change them.

While I didn’t have to worry about flights, I had friends on board that did. One spent an hour on hold with Delta trying to get her flight changed. Thankfully she managed to get it done without a fee for an 8pm departure from Orlando the next day. It was a big relief for her; she didn’t have to worry if we were delayed further.

Other people weren’t so lucky. I spoke to people who spent $800 to change their flights due to the delay. Without insurance, they are out of pocket for these costs unless they had insurance. Not something they expected to have to spend after getting their onboard ship charge bills!  

The next announcement came at 8am saying that no one would be off the ship until 12:30. We were chugging along; you could see how slow we were sailing just by looking at the water.

 

Another friend had a 2pm flight and was originally a little worried that it was cutting it close, now had to change them. She called Westjet and they had no later flights to put her on.   She had to book a night at Walt Disney World and fly out the next day.

When we finally made it close to land – there were tugboats along side of the ship. It was hard to tell from the decks, but it looked like they were pushing or pulling us at different points throughout the last stages of our arrival.

 

 

I decided to wait on the ship and let the masses leave. We had a nice lunch and took our time. I felt terrible for those who were rushing to catch flights – I can only imagine how stressful it would have been, especially those with little ones.

What Disney did right:

  • Made alternate flight arrangements for those who booked their airfare with Disney Cruise Line
  • Handed out calling cards to those who booked their flights on their own. This allowed them to call their airlines for free from their Cabanas Disney Fantasystateroom to make alternate arrangements
  • Offered an additional 50MB of data free to those who needed to get online to arrange their travel plans.
  • They added additional events and activities while we were waiting to dock. This included a showing of Beauty and the Beast in the theatre and a character dance party on Deck 11. Entertainment was a great distraction.
  • They served lunch. They opened up Cabanas, the ice cream station and the burger/sandwich windows on Deck 11. People who are hungry can be cranky – this helped alleviate that!

What Disney could have done better:

  • The communication was sparse on what the actual problem was. There was a sense of panic from some of the guests about what ‘mechanical issues’ meant and some conversations referenced the Carnival Cruise that was stuck at sea with no power. I didn’t worry that we would end up like that because we had power, it just seemed like we were short on engine power.
  • After dry dock you expect some issues. There were reported issues with Air Conditioning and toilets in the staterooms. Disney accommodated by moving people to other rooms where required, but that was an inconvenience on only a 3 night sailing.

With everything considered, I think Disney handled the situation very well. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a flight to catch that I thought it went well. After reading some of the boards and comments, I know there are plenty of people who won’t agree with me. I can’t think of what more they could have done, they made the very best of a bad situation.

For those who were boarding the Fantasy, they received emails asking them to delay their arrival to the port. Reports say they were told they would get a $25 per person stateroom credit to pay for their lunch while they waited. Their itinerary was changed and it was almost 11:30 PM before they left the dock. I can’t imagine what it felt like when they arrived full of anticipation for their cruise, only to experience delays. I’m sure Disney was going out of their way to make sure they were happy, but it’s still something that no one wants to have happen.

I think my big lesson from this is that I won’t book those early afternoon flights to go home after a cruise.  Make sure you’re flying in the day before – and you’re not trying to catch a noon flight on the day you leave.

Were you on the Fantasy or boarding? What was your experience?

 

Laundry At Walt Disney World

Laundry room at Bay Lake Tower Walt Disney WorldDoes anyone WANT do laundry at Walt Disney World?

No, but sometimes it’s necessary.

During a trip last year there were a few ‘mishaps’ where I needed to change outfits a few times one day. It might have been chocolate icing from my cupcake, mustard from my burger or my Pina Colava (okay, it was all 3), but they ended up on my clothes. I knew I needed to do laundry.

I gathered up all of the dirty clothes and headed to the laundry room at Bay Lake Tower where I was staying. I purchased my soap from the machine for $1 each with my credit card. So far so good.

I loaded up two machines (might as well wash all of the dirty clothes we had), then I saw the sign.

Laundry Instructions Disney

Disney laundry is high tech!

Using the website laundryview.com/Disneyworld I was able to view the progress of my washing. I could set up an alert to let me know when it was done, or I could just keep checking online. No need to sit in the room or remember what time I put the load in. My vacation brain does not let me monitor time well and this was exactly what I needed.

Doing laundry was a great excuse to have some down time outside of the parks and enjoy the pool or resort.  I chose to enjoy my balcony with an afternoon cocktail and relax in the sun.

Laundry View Website WDW

About 40 minutes later, I checked the status and the laundry was ready to move to the dryer. I could see online that there were 4 dryers available for use before I went back to the laundry room. I purchased my dryer sheets from the machine, turned on a couple of dryers and had another little break.

Laundry Machine Disney

Before I knew it, the site was saying the dryers were done. Within 20 minutes I had folded the clothes, brought them back to the room and put them away. I felt relieved, now I didn’t have to worry about any ‘spills’ during future meals. Doesn’t that happen to everyone? Put on a white shirt and immediately spill ketchup on it? Happens to me ALL THE TIME, especially on vacation.

While I dreaded the thought of laundry while on vacation, it turned out to be a relaxing afternoon that we now plan for almost every trip. If I know I’m going to do laundry on vacation, I don’t pack extra clothes for the inevitable spills. I save valuable space in my suitcase for all of the stuff I buy, and I’m guaranteed a couple of hours at my resort, sitting in the sun with a drink in my hand.  Somehow doing laundry at Disney isn’t as painful as it is at home!

Do you do laundry on your Disney vacation?

 

Where To Buy Disney Bags, Wallets and Backpacks in Canada

Loungefly-Tinkerbell-ToteBeing in Canada, it’s expensive to buy quality Disney bags, wallets and backpacks.   Our Disney stores don’t have much ‘adult’ inventory aside from some T-shirts, so we are left with ordering online. Between the exchange rate on the US Dollar, shipping fees and duty, I struggle to justify my online purchases – until now.

 

1923 Main Street is exactly what Canadians have been looking for. It’s an online store that was founded by Mike Belobradic in 2013. Paying homage to the year that the Disney Company was founded (1923) and the reference to Main Street in the store name, you know that Mike has a real passion for all things Disney!

1923 Main Street offers a variety of products that include Super Heroes, Star Wars and Harry Potter, but my favorite collection is the Disney products of course!

Here’s a few of my favorite things on the site:

This Tinkerbell wallet is too cute – and there is a matching tote!

Loungefly-Tinkerbell-Wallet

Who wouldn’t love this mini backpack with Mrs. Potts, Lumiere and Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast?

Beauty-Beast-Mini-Backpack-Danielle-Nicole

Sometimes on vacation my make up is packed in a zip lock bag (don’t judge!), but WOW – this Gus cosmetic bag is just TOO awesome to pass up. Yes, the zip lock is going to be retired!!

Cinderella-Gus-Cosmetic-Bag-Danielle-Nicole

There are so many great things that are on the site that my biggest challenge now is what to buy first? There are always new products being added, which will provide variety – but also updates to my birthday wish list!

Being an online only store, 1923 Main Street does not have the large overheads that a physical shop would have and those savings are reflected in the prices. I’ve done the comparisons and it really is the most affordable way to get your hands on the Loungefly or Danielle Nicole lines in Canada.

Mike is driven to ensure that his customers are satisfied with their purchases and interaction with his company. He is proudly shipping to Canada as well as the United States.

Check out all of the great merchandise available at www.1923MainStreet.com

Fuel Rod at Walt Disney World

Phone charger DisneyOne of my biggest challenges at Walt Disney World has always been keeping my electronics charged. Taking videos and photos, posting on social media, my Iphone and camera would barely make it to lunch time.

There are places in the Walt Disney World parks that you can charge your devices. For example, over near the Tangled washrooms in the Magic Kingdom are some very cute little tree stumps with ports to charge your phone.

When I’m in the parks though, I prefer to be able to charge ‘on the go’ and not be stuck sitting in one place to top up my battery life. The answer to this is the Fuel Rod.

The Fuel Rod is $30 USD and available at many locations throughout the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.

Fuel Rod DisneyInside of the Fuel Rod package you will find:

  • One fully charged portable battery
  • One 6” USB to micro-USB cable (for most Android devices)
  • One Apple 30-pin to USB cable (for iPhone and iPad generations 1-4)
  • One Apple Lightning to USB cable (for iPhone generations 5+)

Phone Charged DisneyHaving that first one fully charged enables you to charge your phone immediately. When I purchased mine, it charged my iPhone 6 plus fully from 15% battery.
The best part of the Fuel Rod is the swap. After charging my phone, I located a Fuel Rod kiosk in the parks and swapped my depleted battery for a fully charged one for free! I inserted the battery in to the kiosk and it spit out a new one in seconds.

After my trip I have charged my Fuel Rod multiple times using the included cables so that I can always have a spare battery source with me wherever I go.

Have you purchased a Fuel Rod?  Did you love it?

 

Disney’s Beaches and Cream Review

Pixie Dust Fan Kitchen SinkTucked away behind the spectacular pool at Disney’s Beach Club resort is Beaches and Cream Soda Shop.

This very small location is home to the very big dessert – the Kitchen Sink. While many people visit just for the ice cream, my travel companions and I decided to have lunch as well.

Beaches and Cream Milk ShakeWhen we arrived I was shocked at how small it was inside. I had walked past it before, but had never gone in. The tables were quite close together and we were seated at what I thought was a pretty small table for the 4 of us. Since we’re good friends, this wasn’t an issue, but it was a bit snug when our food came.
Ron started things off by ordering a milk shake while the rest had pop and water. The milkshake looked so good that we knew this was the place to be for anything ice cream related. He was pretty happy with it.

A couple of us had burgers while the other two had beef melts.   I have to say that for an Ice Cream/Soda Shop I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed my burger and fries. But let’s be serious, we were there for one mission, to defeat the kitchen sink.

Beaches and Cream Patty Melt Beaches and Cream Burger

Being a Disney ‘foodie’ who loves desserts, I had researched this dessert many times. I had seen the pictures and videos and figured that the 4 of us could handle it.

Maybe it was because we were sitting at a little table, but I could not believe how big this sink was! It was overflowing with ice cream, cake, whipped cream, sprinkles, and chocolate, even Oreo cookies!   The spoon that they gave us to scoop it out to our plates was huge and when you dove in, you weren’t sure what goodness you find in it.

Beaches and Cream Kitchen Sink.

We dug in, and we gave it our best effort, but in the end – the kitchen sink beat us. We just couldn’t do it, we probably all ate more than we should have, but we couldn’t finish it.  It really doesn’t look so appetizing at the end.

Kitchen Sink After

After that we took a leisurely stroll back to our room at the Beach Club to relax and let our tummies settle. I think we all agreed that Beaches and Cream was a new favorite for when we’re in the mood for ice cream.

Would I try it again? Absolutely!  Would I assume that we could finish it? Not a chance! I think next time I go I’ll have more realistic expectations of how much ice cream 4 people can consume!

 

 

When Disney Decorating Takes Over Your Home

Disney SignI know that most people don’t have to mention their décor when they have guests over. They don’t say, “just to let you know, my house is decorated with a mid-century modern style” as part of the invitation. So why do I tell people before I invite them over that my house is Disney decorated?  I try to avoid the “I can’t believe how much Disney stuff you have” conversation with those who just don’t get it.

It started out in my 20’s when I had my first place. I had a few mugs, maybe a poster or two and some bedding. I was happy to have my own space to decorate just the way I wanted. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, but I loved every piece I had. Most of my stuff was hand me downs from my parent’s house, or cheap trinkets that I could afford at the time.

With maturity and a decent job, my collection has grown. It’s a far cry from what it used to be and includes some more ‘collectible’ items vs. the mugs and toothbrush holder I had.  Disney decorating has become another addiction!

Disney Collectibles

Now my house is overrun with Disney stuff, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Every piece of cutlery or dishes I own has Mickey ears. From serving plates to my kettle, it’s all Mickey.

Disney Kitchen

All artwork on my walls has some reference to Walt, Mickey or a Disney attraction or film.

Disney Art

Behind my front door you will find a photo of me as a ghost along with a sign that welcomes foolish mortals. The bathrooms have a little more subtle touch. I have Mickey hands that hold all of my towels and soaps. The alarm clock in my bedroom is Mickey colors, but it’s Donald Duck singing that wakes me up in the morning!

Disney Bathroom

Can you have too much Disney in your house? I don’t think so, I think I need more! There’s a great store in Disney Springs that is perfect for home décor.   When you’re there, check out D-Living, you won’t want to miss it.

Is your home Disney themed? Leave us a comment below!

 

First Disney Cruise Mistakes To Avoid

Disney Dream DeckPlanning your first Disney cruise can be exciting and stressful at the same time. There are so many options, categories, rules and regulations – what if I chose the wrong thing? Am I going to ruin my vacation?

Some mistakes are minor, while others CAN ruin your Disney cruise vacation.

 

Here are 5 big mistakes that almost every first time Disney cruiser makes

  1. They Don’t Understand The Stateroom Categories

I don’t care how much you google it, you don’t know what it’s like to sleep in a tuna can unless you’ve done it. Do you know what it’s like to wake up and wonder if you’re at sea or docked? Do you love your family enough to hug them as you walk to the bathroom because there’s nowhere else to go?

I have stayed in a variety of staterooms on Disney Cruise Line from an inside cabin to a 1 bedroom suite and they range from “pretty small” to “I can fit a piano in here”. Each one had it’s own pros and cons, especially when working with a budget. How much is a split bathroom worth for an inside cabin?  What about when you have 3 women getting ready for dinner? Trust me, it’s worth every penny!

Depending on the number of people in your stateroom, your budget and your need for personal space – these ALL have to be factors in your decision making. If you’ve spent all this money on a vacation, you want to make sure you enjoy it.

 

  1. Not Considering The Stateroom Location

You might not think this is a big deal, I mean how different is it to stay at the back of the ship? There is a reason the staterooms are different prices depending on location. Did you know that you can feel the motion of the ship more in certain locations? What about the dance bar – do you want to have your room right next to it or under it? Location is definitely something to consider.

 

  1. Underestimating The Amount Of Activities On Board

I have heard people plan a cruise primarily for the itinerary – what ports of call they are going to see and considered the ship as just a means of transportation. They didn’t realize how many things they would want to experience on board and hadn’t planned time to enjoy them all. From Character meetings to movie premiers, the kids were too tired after their full days on land to partake in the festivities the cruise had to offer.

 

  1. Flying In The Morning Of Your Cruise

This is a BIG one, and any good travel agent will tell you, you MUST plan to arrive the day before! Freak storms, problems with the plane or being bumped from your flight – they are all things that will cause you to miss your ship. Make no mistake, cruises wait for no one…

 

  1. What Documentation Do I Need?

I see this question a lot on Facebook – can I just use a driver’s license? Do I need a passport? That all depends on where you’re sailing from and to. While the well-meaning people in the Facebook group will give you all sorts of advice, do you really want to trust Dan from Iowa that you just need photo ID? I mean, the worst thing that can happen is you aren’t allowed to board the ship and forfeit the price of your cruise.  Don’t trust random people on the internet to advise you on these things.

 

A Disney cruise is one of the greatest getaways for adults, families and solo travellers. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t enjoy their cruise when they planned it properly.   When you’re ready to book, find a reputable Disney travel agent that can help you with the specific needs for your family.  You can modify the questions I have listed here to help you find the right travel agent to help you.

 

 

 

 

Paddlefish Appetizer Review at Disney Springs

Disney Springs PaddlefishWe were very lucky when we arrived at Paddlefish at Disney Springs, it was early afternoon and they had seating available for us. I was stunned at the inside and how beautiful it was. The views from the dining room we were seated in were gorgeous. We had a great view of the water and Saratoga Springs in the background.
When we sat down at our table and looked at the menu, I had a feeling we might be there for a while! Drinks were ordered (including the Captain Handsome) and we started the debate about what to eat.

When looking at the appetizers, we struggled. There was too much ‘goodness’ that we couldn’t decide what to have. What appetizers would we skip to make sure we had room for the main course? The answer was simple really, let’s just have appetizers! The waitress came and askedPaddlefish Restaurant Appetizers if we had decided on an appetizer, we said “no, we can’t… so we’ll just have to try them all”.

When the food came to the table, I couldn’t help but start to wonder if I might like seafood after all? The beef skewers and fried green tomatoes were supposed to be what I would eat, but everything looked so good!!

We took our time savoring the flavors of all of the dishes, they were all delicious!

The beef skewers were tender and full of flavor, the pickled onions were a nice pairing with them.

Paddlefish Captain HandsomeWhile I didn’t have the crab cake, my dining companions raved about it! They said the amount of crab in it was surprising. The fried green tomato that came with the crab cake was thicker than the ones that came as the stand-alone appetizer. The batter on the tomatoes was the right amount of crispy and didn’t dilute the flavor of the tomato.

Calamari isn’t my thing, but judging from the “oh wow” and “this is delicious” coming from the table, the calamari was a hit.

The lobster corn dogs were another favorite of the table. The sweet chili aioli was the perfect dip to go with them and added just a little kick.

The biggest surprise was the crab fries. While these fries had crab on them, I had to try. The crab was so big and easy enough to see that I could pick around it. My dining companions assured me that the crab was delicious, but I was in love with the fries and the louie dressing! Salted to perfection and still crispy after sitting under all of that crab, these fries will not disappoint.

Sadly, there was no room for dessert (and I always have room for dessert!). The portions were so big and the food so filling that the four of us couldn’t manage another bite. We had dinner reservations at Homecoming, and we didn’t want to spoil that either.

I should point out that Paddlefish would be a great place to go in the evenings. We took a tour of the deck and bar upstairs, I can only imagine how awesome it is in the evening. Don’t forget to check out the bathrooms as well – I loved how they had all of the different types of knots on the walls.

Would I go back to Paddlefish? Absolutely. Would my seafood loving companions recommend the actual seafood? There was a big resounding YES from all of them!

 

Castaway Cay Cabana Rental

Cabana Guest Sign

When sailing with Disney Cruise Line, I like to make sure my itineraries are such that I get to visit Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. I have rented a cabana at Serenity Bay a few times, and I have to say… it’s spectacular.

Here are 5 reasons you should consider renting one:

  1. Fridge

Each cabana comes equipped with a mini fridge. Inside you will find pop, water and fruit – all included in the rental. Also inside are some cold towels that are wonderful for patting down your face to cool off in the hot sun. Bags of chips are also included, just not in the fridge.

  1. Safe

Having a safe nearby just makes everything easier. While it’s never been a problem on the beach for me, it was nice to have somewhere to lock up my cameras, stateroom key and ID while I was in the water.

  1. Cabana Host

A cabana host that is only a ‘buzz’ away is awesome! There’s a button on the wall, if you need the fridge restocked or a lift to lunch – justpush the button. If you need some alcoholic beverages from the bar, they’ll bring you those too! These guys are great and work really hard, we make sure to tip them at the end of the day.

  1. Shade & Sunscreen

There are plenty of umbrellas on the beach, but having your own little ‘hut’ with comfy chairs is a great place to get out of the sun. It’s also some welcome shelter if there is an afternoon shower. With the cabana you also get a selection of sunscreen included – make sure you put it on!

  1. Toys

Rafts and floats are included along with a hammock next to your cabana. I must admit, the hammock was more difficult to get in to than I thought!

Renting a cabana at Castaway Cay has been a luxury we have splurged on a few times. We love the convenience and all of the things I’ve listed above, but I won’t be renting one on my next cruise. There is only one reason not to rent a cabana and that’s price. At $549 on the family beach and $399 on the adult beach, it’s a little too much to splurge when it’s just my sister and I. I can think of some other goodies to buy in the shops on board where that $400 could go a long way!

If you’re looking for ways to splurge, concierge may be for you!

Check out our video below for a tour.  Would you rent one of these?

 

Yak & Yeti Dinner Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Yak & Yeti Animal KingdomIf you have read my blogs before, you know that I’m a bit of a picky eater who loves desserts. As I get older, I find that I’m a little more adventurous with the restaurants I will try, which is of great delight to my travel companions.   After eating at the Coral Reef in Epcot and having to order the seafood pasta without the seafood, I realized that there is always something on the menu for me anywhere at Walt Disney World.

This time the adventure led us to the Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom.   We would normally grab lunch at the Flametree BBQ and be gone before dinner, this time we were staying late to see the Rivers of Light. We made dinner reservations at the Yak & Yeti and I was looking forward to trying a new place.

Yak & Yeti InteriorWhen we arrived I realized that I had walked past this restaurant every visit and never paid much attention to it, little did I know how gorgeous it was inside.

The restaurant holds the story of Arjun, a rich merchant who has fallen on hard times and has turned his home in to the Yak & Yeti hotel. The artifacts that are displayed throughout are ones that Arjun collected during his travels of Southeast Asia.   There is more to the story that you can read when you arrive, but the last line “It is a place to immerse yourself in a culture that is mysterious, exotic and exciting” describes it perfectly.

Yak and Yeti Dining RoomDining at Walt Disney World can sometimes be as much about the surroundings as it is the food itself. We enjoyed looking at the artifacts and taking in the surroundings, we were hopeful the food was just as good. We reviewed the menu and made our choices.

 

Becky and Lorraine both ordered the Malaysian Seafood Curry. They both raved about this dish and couldn’t believe how much seafood there was. I can tell you there was about 5 minutes when they both kept “finding” seafood in it even when they thought they couldn’t eat
another bite.Yak and Yeti Seafood Curry
Ron had the Kalbi Steak & Coconut Shrimp. He said that it was delicious and even loved the wasabi mashed potatoes and the vegetables.Yak and Yeti Steak and Shrimp

My choice for dinner was the Korean BBQ Ribs. While I’m normally not a big fan of ribs (I don’t like to bite meat off of a bone), I thought I’d give it a try and I wasn’t disappointed. The meat was so tender that I could use my knife and fork; the meat literally fell off of the bone. The serving was so big that I could share some of it with the others and they all agreed it was amazing.

Yak and Yeti Ribs

When the dessert menu came, we didn’t think any of us could eat another bite. Then I saw it – the Chocolate Pudding Cake with raspberry sauce. I had to try it, it sounded like a chocolate lovers dream – and it was! Yes, it was really rich, but if you like chocolate like I do, you don’t want to pass this up.

 

The Yak & Yeti was a great choice for dinner that night, and will be a dining reservation we will make again!

Have you eaten at the Yak & Yeti? What did you think?

 

 

Disney’s Express Transportation Option

Disney Express TransportationI am a big believer in the Park Hopper option on your Walt Disney World tickets. Having the flexibility to visit more than one park in a day can really enhance your Disney vacation. I like to park hop to catch a show or have a dining reservation without being ‘tied’ to one park for the whole day. We can enjoy the morning Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom and still be able to catch Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios at night.

 

For those of us who like to park hop, there is a new service designed just for us.

 

Here are 5 reasons I loved Disney’s Express Transportation option:

1.  Backstage Access

The bus stops in each of the 4 parks are inside of the park, backstage. Once on board the bus, you are treated to a view behind the scenes while you exit/enter the parks. No photos allowed though, but you can enjoy the view. For those of us who love all things ‘behind the scenes’ – this was a real treat.

 

2.  No security

With the bus dropping you off backstage at your desitnation – there is no need to go through security again! No need to get in line to have your bags searched again. Avoiding those security line-ups are a big plus for us.

 

3.  Time savings

Without going through security and having a bus that goes directly from one park to the other, we saved a ton of time.   We left Epcot one evening and was in the Magic Kingdom in under 30 minutes. It was a great way to maximize our time that day!

 

4.  No crowds

It may have been just our luck, but it really wasn’t crowded at all. I think we used the bus 6 times during our visit and the most people (in addition to our party) was 4 people. There were a few trips where we had a bus to ourselves!

 

5.  Good value for the price

We opted for the 7 day pass and found that it was a good value for the time savings and convenience. We did a lot of park hopping and used the service to our advantage. I’m not sure that the single day ticket at $19 USD is worth it, but the 7 day at $29 USD definitely was.

 

Other things to know before you buy:

You can purchase your express transportation tickets while on property – you can’t purchase in advance.

Buses depart approximately every 30 minutes.

Express Transportation is available each day from 10:00 AM until park closing. Make sure you find out when the last bus is scheduled to your destination.

Check in locations:

Animal Kingdom ExpressMagic Kingdom park – next to the exit of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Disney’s Animal Kingdom park – next to the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – the courtyard in front of Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

Epcot – the east side of Spaceship Earth

For more information, see Disney’s official website here.

The only problem that we had with the Express Transportation was timing. With the last bus at ‘closing’ for the park, it made it difficult to enjoy the night time show at Hollywood Studios and catch the bus to Epcot for Illuminations. There were two nights where the last bus didn’t arrive when they said it would. Of course they were still testing the service and I expect they will work out some of these issues in time.

When we used this service outside of the last bus of the night, it worked like a charm. I will definitely be using this service again and I can’t wait to see what improvements they have made for next time.

Will you try the Express Transportation? Do you think it is worth the price?

 

11 Things You Need To Know To Be Friends With A Disney Addict

Carousel of ProgressI have been a Disney fan for as long as I can remember, it is who I am and my friends have accepted this about me.  While my ‘non-Disney’ friends don’t share my passion, they know what to expect from me because we have known each other for years.  For new people that come in to my life I have put together the top 10 things they need to know about becoming friends with a Disney addict.

  1. No matter what, I will always be wearing something Disney related.

It may be as subtle as an Alex & Ani bracelet or Mickey Mouse watch, or it may be something more obvious like my Disney Dooney bag or my Mickey tattoo.  If we are going somewhere in casual attire – you can safely assume that some kind of Disney t-shirt will be worn.  The only acceptable comment about any of this is “that is awesome”.

 

  1. If you visit my home, you will feel like you walked in to a place decorated by the imagineers at Disney.

Yes my cutlery is Mickey shaped, YES those are Mickey’s hands holding the soap in the bathroom and YES I will welcome you as a foolish mortal.  If you don’t know what something is, ask me!  I will be more than happy to explain the small piece of metal that is directly from Walt Disney’s train tracks in his backyard.  It may look like a scrap of metal to you – but it is one of my most prized possessions!  Unless you’re going to say “I love it!” – I don’t want to hear from you.

 

  1. I will manage to bring something “Disney” in to almost all of our conversations.

Somehow I will relate our inability to find a parking spot at the grocery store to how efficient the parking is at the Magic Kingdom.  I will tell you about the design, why the car doors don’t get ‘dinged’ and how they locate your car if you can’t remember where you parked.  It’s fascinating stuff – you should be listening!

 

  1. You can’t be embarrassed when we’re out in public and my phone rings.

When my phone bellows ‘Do not pull down on the safety bar please, I will lower it for you’, it makes me feel like I’m in the Haunted Mansion.  This is my ringtone, it makes me happy and I don’t care who hears it.  This also applies to the text notification from Star Tours and the email sound of Soarin – they are my little piece of ‘home’ and I love them.

 

  1. My news feed on Facebook will be 90% Disney stuff.

Yes, there will be the occasional family picture or a joke, but for the most part it’s all Disney.  When I’m on vacation – I’ll be posting even more and checking in at a bunch of attractions. You may not like it, but my Disney Facebook friends will love it!  Scroll by if it annoys you… but don’t tell me it did!

 

  1. When you get in my car, chances are you will hear Disney music.

If I’m driving – I’m in charge of the tunes… so sing along and let it go….

 

  1. Don’t ever send me ‘dirty’ Disney jokes.

Don’t send me comics about naked princesses or Goofy doing something gross… making fun of Disney is like making fun of my family.  There’s a line – don’t cross it.

 

  1. Don’t say to me “You’re going to Disney AGAIN?  You need to see the world!”

Yes.. I am going again, and it won’t be the last time.  Just an FYI – I’ve seen the world, I walk around it every time I go to Epcot.

 

  1. Asking “Isn’t Disney for kids?” is a completely unacceptable question,

Unless you want a 20-minute tirade from me and a full run down of what the Food & Wine festival is, don’t even go there.  Believe me, you’ll be sorry you asked.

 

  1. Don’t ask me how I afford it.

I don’t ask you how you pay for the car you drive, the food you eat or the clothes you wear.  I prioritize my Disney trips over other things that you may find important.  It’s my choice, my life, and none of your business.

 

  1. When you’re feeling down I will quote Walt Disney.

I will also send you text messages full of Disney emojis and gifs, and then tell you to watch a Disney movie.  All of these things make me happy and I will assume that they will do the same for you.

 

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re friends with one of us, but there are some great things that come with our friendship too! Aside from the fact that we believe in magic and know what makes us happy, it’s really easy to get us to start singing!  Just say to a Disney fanatic “there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow” and watch what happens!

 

5 Things That Irritate Me About Disney

WDW CarouselWith so many people posting things about Disney every day, it is hard to know what’s legitimate.  I have found articles, blogs and web pages who claim they are ‘Disney Experts’ with inside information that is completely unreliable.

Here are my top 5 irritants about Disney spam:

1.  Random blogs who post they have the best ‘tips’ for first timers, with incorrect information

It’s amazing to me how many people post blogs offering advice on a Walt Disney World vacation and then give information that is just plain wrong.  I recently had a friend forward a blog to me asking if she should purchase the ‘front of the line fastpass option’.   She said she was more than willing to pay the extra money toalways skip the lines instead of the fastpass option I had told her about. The answer was quite simple – I hadn’t told her about the option to purchase the ‘deluxe fastpass’ to skip the lines because Disney doesn’t have one!

2.  ‘Win a Free Trip to Disney’

This one is really annoying and very easy to fall for.  There are a ton of ‘fake’ Disney Facebook groups and pages offering free tickets, free trips and free merchandise.  I have stumbled on these when I see my friends ‘sharing the post for a chance to win’.  How do you know which pages are real? The real page will always have a blue check mark on it – meaning it’s verified.  Once you know what you’re looking for – these scammers are easier to spot than you think.

3.  Disney Facebook Groups

I know, this one is a touchy subject…(that I address in another blog). I belong to many of these groups too – but you have to know how important it is to take the information in there with a grain of salt. Some of these groups have thousands of people jumping at the chance to comment and advise you on your Disney vacation. Some posters really are knowledgeable and give good advice – but others have taken 1 trip to Disney and have crowned themselves “Disney Experts”.  Here are some of the comments I’ve seen that left me shaking my head:

  • Do you need reservations at Be Our Guest? Answer from a “Disney Expert” – “No, it’s a quick service at lunch – just walk in”
  • I know what I’m talking about… I’ve been going to WDW since 1968!  (Ummm.. Walt Disney World opened in 1971)
  • “Trust me, I’ve sailed on all 5 of the Disney ships and gratuities are included in the fare you see online” (They currently have 4 ships… and no – gratuities are not included!)
  • “Don’t worry – just put your selfie stick in your bag, they won’t know you have it” (I guess this expert has never gone through the back check?)
  • “If you yell ‘Andy’s home’ all of the Toy Story characters will lie still on the ground” (just an FYI – they do NOT do this)

4.  The crazy Disney rumor mill!

I admit – sometimes I get caught up in the excitement of the rumors.  I love to think about the ‘what ifs’ and hope that they are true. Sometimes it is fun to speculate what might be happening!  While most of them are harmless, sometimes I think they go a bit too far. There are social media/websites (who shall remain ‘anonymous’) that will create hype about things that can impact a guest trying to book a vacation.  They start they hype about ‘free dining months before anything comes out and it causes people to second guess their dates and decisions, waiting for that ‘amazing deal’ (that can be added to an existing booking in most cases). Last year social media created such a frenzy for free dining that people missed out on the room promotion (which was a really good one!) waiting for free dining.  When free dining was announced, it wasn’t the resorts they had hoped for and they had missed the room promotion which in some cases was cheaper!

5.  Canada vs. US

So much of the Disney community live in the US and most of the posts from them are specific to US travellers. Canadian travellers don’t always recognize that what is being posted does not apply to them. For example, some of the Disney promotions are available to Canadians long after they have expired them for US bookings.  Passport requirements always create confusion for Canadians after they have read info in a US posting about what they need on a cruise.  This is why it’s so important to find a Canadian Ear Marked travel agency that can advise you.

The moral of this story? Make sure you’re getting your Disney information from a reliable source.  If you read something online – take it with a grain of salt and verify it with a trusted professional.  Don’t be scammed, and don’t be fooled.

 

 

When The Deal May Be Too Good To Be True

Disney ParadeI’m scrolling through Facebook tonight and reading the random posts on various pages when I come across one that is posted to the official Walt Disney World page.  It’s a post from a couple that have allegedly been ‘scammed’ by a Disney Cast Member.

In their claim, they say they directly paid a Disney cast member $1900 to book a vacation for them.  The cast member told them that she got a promotion and could no longer help them and would request a refund for them.  After limited communication – they reached out to Disney to confirm the refund was coming and were told that the reservation was made – but was never paid for.  It was then clear to them that the cast member stole their money.

This couple have taken to social media to complain that Disney will not reimburse them for the money they allegedly gave to the cast member.

After reading the posts and the couple’s responses, there are a few things that bother me about this story:

  1. They clearly gave this person money because they believed they were getting some kind of deal – maybe a cast member discount?  Does that mean they knew the cast member personally?  Why else would they give the money directly to this person vs. through a travel agency or Disney itself?
  2. They paid them through pay pal – I don’t know about you, but I don’t pay large companies via pay pal.  I don’t shop at Best Buy, The Disney Store or Alamo and submit my payment that way.  If they asked for a pay pal payment – I’d be suspicious, but that’s just me.
  3. Disney isn’t accountable for what their cast members do when they’re not on the job.  If this cast member was ‘on the job’ – they wouldn’t be paying for their vacation through pay pal (see point above).  This is like asking McDonald’s to pay a bank that their employee robbed.  Would you ask a movie theatre to reimburse you for the bootlegged video you bought from their ticket taker?  I think not.

If this cast member really does work for Disney and was using that privilege to scam people – you can be sure that they won’t be working there for long.   That is what Disney will and should do to address the situation.

If in fact these people lost their money, I feel bad for them.  It’s a horrible thing to be robbed and $1,900 is a lot to lose – but how it that Disney’s fault?  There are many people on social media posting that Disney is supposed to be ‘all about customer service’ and they can’t believe they aren’t ‘making this right’ – but it isn’t Disney’s to fix.  This is a matter for the police and if they have all of the receipts and communications that they say they have, the police should be able to handle it quickly.

Too often people think they can force a company like Disney to pay for their mistakes by bashing them on social media, and they may just get what they want. While $1,900 is nothing to a company of this size, it speaks to the larger issue of guests believing that no matter what goes wrong “in the name of Disney” – that they will fix it.  This isn’t a culture that Disney should encourage, and I hope that they don’t give in.

Disney Emoji Blitz Makes Me Text More

Emoji BlitzI confess, I am shamefully addicted to playing games on my phone. It started with Candy Crush years ago and has carried on to many different Disney themed ones.  The problem is, I start playing a game and a few weeks in, I have lost interest in them.  That is until I found Disney’s Emoji Blitz.

I like to play these games on my phone or iPad when I just need to ‘zone out’ for a few minutes.  It’s a great way to focus on something that really doesn’t matter and take my mind off of everything else.

Disney’s Emoji Blitz is perfect.  It’s a matching game where you’re matching 3 or more characters in a row or column.   It features a wide range of Disney characters with plenty of opportunities to unlock new ones.   As you complete challenges – you’re rewarded with Disney Emojis you can download to your phone!Emoji Blitz Screen

My favorite Emojii that I have so far is probably Mickey with his sunglasses on.  As I get new ones, I’m always looking for someone to text so that I can send it.  This has become my new ‘happy face’ reply!

Some beginner tips to help you unlock more:Mickey Sunglasses

  • You can login to Disney Emoji using Facebook and compete with your friends for high scores.  Each time you surpass someone’s score there are rewards.
  • Aim for the bottom when you can – it creates a chain reaction at the top and you might get some matches you weren’t even targeting.
  • Don’t forget to go in and spin the prize wheel!
  • Pop the floating balloons at the end of a game for extra coins.
  • Use your emoji’s special power.  Some of them will give you power ups.

Ice Cream BarThere are in-app purchases available in the game.  Unlike so many other games, I haven’t had to purchase them to get farther.   Maybe it’s my continuous and consistent game play that keeps me stocked with coins and gems!

Download it today on iTunes or Google Play

Is That A Monkey At Epcot?

Epcot Spaceship Earth from the monorailJust when I thought I had seen it all, I see a video I can’t believe…

A Monkey.  In a diaper.  At Epcot.  

Really.

You can’t make this up.  If you don’t believe me, the video is below.

Disney’s official website says “At Walt Disney World theme parks and Resort hotels, a service animal is defined as any dog or miniature horse trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”

What was the conversation at the gate when they walked in with this animal?  What will we see next?  Snakes, frogs, mice?  What about a bearded dragon?

When is Disney going to say “NO” to some guests?  People are clearly pushing the envelope and taking advantage. This will eventually  spin out of control and Disney will have no choice but to start putting restrictions on the service animals in the park.  The only people that will suffer are those who really need their service animal with them.

What do you think?  Should Disney have prevented them from entering the park?

5 Things I Learned This Year

Once Upon A TimeIt’s December 31st and I have spent most of the day cleaning.  My Mum always said that if your house was dirty at midnight – it would be dirty all year.  It’s funny how those things never leave you.

As I was cleaning, I was thinking about the year that has passed and realized that I learned some valuable lessons along the way.   I decided to take a break and jot them down.

Here are 5 of my ‘ah-ha’ moments from this year

1.  My full time job is not my life

It’s taken me a long time to figure this one out, but my corporate job is just a job.  Witnessing the layoffs of talented individuals I realized that no matter how good we are – we are all replaceable, and some day they will replace me.  I take pride in my work and love the people I work with, but my life exists outside of that office.   My job isn’t who I am and it isn’t a measure of my success as an individual.  I no longer live to work there; I work there to live. 

2.  Google can make you more independent

What do you do when your washing machine breaks and you live alone?  Or what about when you need to replace your shower head or fix the leaking toilet?   I discovered this year – you Google it!  Everything you ever needed to know about repairs, home renovations, plumbing and electrical – it’s all there with great videos to walk you through it!  I have fixed so many things by myself this year, all with my laptop propped up next to me while watching step-by-step videos!  It really felt good to be able to do these things myself.  Want to know what else Google did for me?  It helped me find the snow removal company so I don’t have to shovel my driveway… Yes – Google is MY friend!

3.  Technology can save me valuable time

Almost 90% of shopping that I did was online.  Penguin Pick Up and Loblaws Click & Collect saved me so much time this year!  We even have an app at work that I can order my Tim Horton’s tea ahead of time so it’s ready when I get to the counter!   Syncing my phone to my car allows me to listen to podcasts on my drives or call my friends for a catch up.  I don’t go to the bank anymore, I do it all on my app and have not waited in 1 single bank line all year!  Embracing technology more thank before has really paid off.

4.  Money is made to be spent and I need to treat myself

I made some different choices this year.  I didn’t invest in the painting I need done in my house, or fixing the big dent I put on my car, I took that money and splurged a little on myself.  I cruised concierge on the Disney Dream, I upgraded to business class on a couple of flights and I paid to have someone ELSE shovel my driveway.  While I’m sure my sister is reading this thinking “YAY – she’ll splurge on a cabana again at Castaway Cay or buy that house in Florida” – I need to remind her that I’m only going to splurge on what I can afford to!

5.  You can be scared, but you need to try anyway

Launching my website was scary, what if people didn’t like it?  What if it was a flop?  What if I wasn’t good at it?  Too many WHAT IFs!  I spent so many years being afraid of what people would think, and truth be told – I was afraid to fail.  This year I decided it was time to throw caution to the wind and take a chance.  It was the best decision I made all year.  Have I failed?  Yes – I have had many ‘failures’ in this adventure, but I have learned from every single one of them.  Were some people mean?  Yes – the Internet has trolls, but it is also full wonderful people who have encouraged and supported me along the way.  For that, I will always be grateful.

Now, I’d better get back to cleaning… I can’t risk a dirty house all year!

Thank you for following, I hope my site brought some Pixie Dust in to your days.  I have enjoyed every minute of connecting with you all.

Wishing you all a magical new year!

All the best,

Pixie Dust Fan

 

Contempo Cafe Review – Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Contempo Cafe Contemporary Resort
The Contemporary Resort is one of my favorites, the atmosphere, the location, the theming, the restaraunts – everything is just perfect.

One of the hidden gems that doesn’t seem to get much credit though is the quick service!  Everyone is so busy trying to get reservations at Chef Mickey or California Grill that they overlook the fact that the Contempo Café is a great quick service option!

Here are my top 3 reasons I love the Contempo Café:

  1. Location

Being in the Contemporary resort you are on the monorail line.  It’s a great place to stop in on your way in or out of the Magic Kingdom.  Sometimes in the afternoon during the hustle and bustle, we jump on the monorail or walk over for a quick snack.

  1. The View

Contemporary Resort Mary Blair MuralWho doesn’t want to sit and watch monorails go by?  I could sit there for hours watching them come and go.  The other benefit is to stare in awe at the 90 foot mural that is a tribute to the Grand Canyon.  The mural was created by Disney legend Mary Blair who was also responsible for many different creative projects including It’s a Small World.   Legend has it that Mary Blair put a 5 legged goat in the mural because nothing is perfect.  See if you can spot it!  It took me years to find it!

  1. The Food!

The ordering system is fairly quick at the Contempo Café.  You select your desserts, bottled drinks and premade salads and take them with you to the counter.  You order your meal and are given a small pager to put on your table (or a big A shaped thing if they run out of the pagers).   When your food is ready, it is brought to your table.  The seating area is always clean with cast members tidying up as people leave.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, we have always been happy with the food here.  It’s reasonably priced, decent variety and quite yummy!    We have done both dine in and take out and never been disappointed.  They have great desserts and adult beverages (beer and wine) if you fancied.

It’s a terrific spot to cool down and relax a little outside of the parks.  You can check out the menu here for a full list of what’s available.

Have you eaten at the Contempo Cafe?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

Smoking at Walt Disney World

WDW SmokingBefore we begin, I have to confess – I am a smoker.   Hold on to your pitchforks before you start with the lectures of how bad and disgusting it is – I’ve heard it, and I assure you – I know it.  I am well aware that it is detrimental to my health and how gross it is.  I’m an intelligent woman in my (dare I say it) mid 40’s who has heard it all.  Am I proud that I have not been able to quit?  No, I wish I could, and I still hope someday I will.  But that is a whole other blog.

For those of you who are heading to Walt Disney World for the first time, you need to be aware of the 2 important rules about smoking.

All resort rooms are non-smoking, including your balcony.  There are designated areas at each resort.

All of the parks and Disney Springs have designated smoking areas.   You cannot smoke outside of these areas.  They can be difficult to find and change frequently, check the Disney app for locations.

If you have not selected your resort yet – it’s wise to look at the maps online to see how many smoking areas there are and were they are located.  The majority of resorts that I have stayed at have been relatively convenient to reach a smoking area, with the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

It makes sense to me that there wouldn’t be smoking areas near the animals, but I didn’t realize how FAR I would have to walk, essentially to the parking lot.  I don’t know if it was just my luck that the room was at the end of a very long hall, but it felt like I needed to wake up an extra 45 minutes early in the morning just to walk to the smoking area!  At the end of a long day in the parks, it felt like miles….

In the parks, it’s a whole other story.  While Epcot seems to be the most “smoker friendly” park, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are not.  Essentially, they just don’t have enough smoking areas.

There – I said it.  Now, let me explain.

I remember the days when you could walk down Main Street with a cigarette in your hand.  It wasn’t a good idea as it was too easy on a crowded day to have a child come close to the end of your cigarette in their excitement.  It made perfect sense to me when they banned smoking except in the designated smoking areas for this very reason.

I was happy to go to the designated areas back then.  There were a few sprinkled throughout the park and they were never crowded.  Not because there were no other smokers, but because there were quite a few areas!  Normally there was only ever 2 or 3 people in each one, so there wasn’t a big cloud of smoke hanging over them.  They were out of the way, yet easy enough to find.  Those were the good ol’ days.

Fast forward to now – and the smoking areas are VERY limited.  In the Magic Kingdom there are only 2 left on opposite sides of the park.  What does that mean?  30 people in this ‘out of the way’ smoking area at a time, and the big cloud of smoke is above it, around it, and wafting every way it can.   It’s so crowded that people are standing on the walkway and not really “IN” the smoking area because they can’t fit.

Let me stop here to say, I would never smoke outside of one of these areas.  It is my choice to smoke and I respect the other guests at the park.  I have noticed over the last couple of years a significant increase in guests smoking outside of the designated areas and I have to wonder what changed?   I don’t think the smoking population has increased – but the available places to smoke have substantially decreased.

Is the lack of availability a good reason to break the rules?  Let me clearly say NO.  I would never condone any of the reasons people smoke outside of the designated areas.  I am merely pointing out that with the limited areas, we seem to have created another problem.

I have heard the comments that they should ban smoking all together in Disney parks, but that isn’t the answer.  I am a Disney fanatic who happens to be a smoker and should be able to enjoy my vacation as much as anyone else – as long as I am respectful of others.  There is also the financial impact to the attendance to consider.  There are many countries where being a smoker is the norm, Disney would not want to alienate these visitors by banning smoking.

I understand that people have allergies, asthma, and host of things that are impacted by second hand smoke which is why I am in favor of designated areas so that people with these conditions do not have to be in them.  The smoking areas need to be easily avoidable for these people.  Now I only wish I could avoid the overpowering perfume of some guests that give me a severe headache – but again, that’s a whole other blog too.

What is the answer in my opinion?  More smoking areas.  Before you start with your outrage, let me tell you what I believe needs to happen.

1  The smoking areas should be more ‘out of the way’.

I don’t mean ‘impossible to find’.  They need to be in locations that are not walkways.  I’m never happy sitting in a walkway where guests have to walk through the smoking area to get where they’re going.  They need to have a choice to walk through or not – and the one on the walkway to Tomorrowland doesn’t give them a choice.

2  There should be more of them.

You need to have more – to have less people in them to make them less of a ‘polluted air zone’.   When you cram 30 smokers in 1 area, it’s much more  toxic and noticeable to those people in the vicinity.  Overcrowding also causes the smokers to spread out – outside of the designated area.

3  They need to be easy to find.

I know the app has the map – but they can’t be so well hidden that a first time visitor can’t find them.  Put them in the background and have a little sign or something that ‘points this way’ so that no one is wandering for 20 minutes trying to find one

4  Smoking outside of the areas must be strictly enforced.

Many cast members don’t enforce this rule because they don’t want a confrontation with the guest when they tell them they have to walk to the other side of the park.  If they were a little more convenient it might be easier to approach them.

So there you have it, my view on the smoking at Disney debate.   I’m sure many of  you will disagree – but some will see my point.   It’s a very passionate debate and I’m anxious to hear your comments!

Walt Disney was a smoker himself, who died of lung cancer.

Walt Disney Smoking

 

Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming at Disney Springs Review

Art Smith Homecoming Disney SpringsI am not a “foodie” who follows cooking shows.  I have a hard enough time not stuffing my face while sitting on my couch, so why would I watch an hour long show that makes everything look so delicious?  If you ask me, that’s a temptation that I can’t handle!

When my family suggested that we visit Chef Art Smith’s restaurant at Disney Springs, I had no idea who he was.  Of course they knew who he was because two of them are addicted to cooking shows and are the type of people who get excited about a new kitchen appliance.  I was worried that it would be some ‘fancy food’ – but they assured me that it was famous for fried chicken.

We arrived at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming for our reservation.  I really liked the way the interior was laid out; it was very inviting and open.  The details and theming were impressive, you really felt like you were in someone’s home in the south with the screened in front porch.

Everyone was enjoying themselves and the atmosphere when my sister took out her phone and started snapping pictures of some man. Art Smith I couldn’t figure out what she was doing, until this man came to the table and I realized that this was THE Chef Art Smith.  He was a lovely man who chatted with us and posed for pictures.  Let’s just say a few people at our table were very excited to get to meet him!

The menu arrived and I was delighted – can you say fried chicken??   I wish that we had ordered a full variety on the menu to give you an idea – but we all got the chicken.

The kids had chicken fingers and fries from the kids menu.  It was a hearty helping, and they loved it!

All 4 adults had to get the Fried Chicken and Doughnuts.  It’s 2 pieces of fried chicken with house made doughnuts and a side.  We mixed it up a little and each got a different side.

1 had Mac and Cheese

1 had cheddar cheese biscuits

1 had mashed potatoes

And 1 had fries (that’s me)

Well, what can I say… as a fried chicken lover, it was incredible!!  I love chicken, but I normally don’t like the bones. I cut right down the middle of my chicken breast and there was no bone!   The chicken was so moist and the seasoning was perfect.  We took turns tasting each other’s side dishes so that we could compare, but we were all happy with our own selections.

My favorite side dish had to be the Mac and Cheese.  While I really enjoyed the fries (I love all kinds of fries) – the Mac and Cheese was delicious!  It would be a little much if I were going dancing after dinner, but if you’re taking a leisurely stroll around Disney Springs – it gives you a chance to work off all that goodness!

Art Smith Rum CakeDid we have room for dessert?  No… did we order one?  Yes… to share!

The kids got ice cream and doughnuts and the adults got the Shine Cake.  I’m not a big fan of cakes that aren’t drenched in icing – but my family who love Rum Cake definitely loved this one!

I think it’s safe to say that I would recommend Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming at Disney Springs.  The question is, will I get the chicken and doughnuts again when I go back?  Okay – that’s really not a question worth asking, the question is – fries again or Mac and Cheese!

Let us know if you’re dined at Chef Art Smith’s and what you thought!

Art Smith Chicken and Fries Art Smith Mac and Cheese Art Smith Chicken and Buscuits Art Smith Kids Meal Art Smith Chicken and Mashed Potato

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons Destination D Was Better Than I Imagined


I have always wanted to attend a D23 (official Disney fan club) event, but the dates never seemed to line up with my vacations.  I finally managed to arrange a trip so that I could attend #DestinationD this year.  I was excited about the guest speakers, exclusive merchandise and announcements that would be part of this fun filled weekend, I knew that it would be magical and it did not disappoint!

After I got home, I realized that there was something amazing that I got out of the event that wasn’t even on the itinerary  – spending time with Disney friends.

When you share a weekend with people who have the same level of passion for Disney that you do – there is so much to appreciate!

Here are the top 5 things that I loved about spending time with my Disney friends

  1.  No one asked me why I love Disney

When I tell people in my everyday life that I’m going to Disney they ask:

“How old are your kids?”

“AGAIN?  Weren’t you just there?”

“Don’t you want to go somewhere different?”

Being surrounded by other fans like me, no one was asking those questions!

  1.  I never felt the need to ‘defend’ anything about Disney

You know how it’s totally acceptable for you to criticize your family but no one else can?  It’s because you know that you love them regardless of the complaints.  That’s exactly how I felt chatting with these friends.  We could have an honest conversation about changes happening at Walt Disney World that we don’t like, yet no one felt the need to defend them.  Why?  Because we are all part of the same family who love Disney regardless of the flaws we see.

  1.  Different perspectives

We all experience our Disney vacations very differently.  Some Disney friends are park warriors who will arrive at rope drop and keep going until 2am.  Others like to spend days at the resorts and Disney Springs without ever setting foot inside of a park on a visit.   Then there are those who love Pin Trading and spend their time making sure that they get that illusive pin to add to their collection.  When you get all of these people together, you get very different perspectives and opinions on things that you might have missed, overlooked or hadn’t experienced in a long time.

  1.  They knew who the really important people were

When telling my friends from ‘real life’ about this event, the only name that everyone knew was James Cameron.   I tried to explain to them the thrill of listening to Joe Rohde and Marty Sklar – but they didn’t ‘get’ what the fuss was about.   It was maddening trying to explain what a fantastic experience it was to listen to these Disney legends.

  1.  No one made fun of my ‘star struck’ moment

I have been a fan of www.AllEars.net forever.  I have always admired how Deb Wills created the site and a career doing what she loves.  AllEars MeetingI have followed her journey and always appreciate her strength, passion and determination.  She represents herself with class and honesty, and is a leader I respect in the Disney community.

We registered for the event at Disney’s Contemporary Resort on the Friday afternoon.  As we were gathering our loot bags, Deb Wills was chatting with some of my new Disney friends.  They knew how much it would mean to us to meet Deb and called us over for an introduction.  Not only did she talk to us for a while, she let us take a picture with her!  All I kept thinking was ‘be cool – don’t look too excited’, but it was a total fan girl moment!

The next day, my sister and I were coming off of the monorail when we saw Deb again.  We didn’t want to bother her so we were just going to walk by when she said “hey, I know you two!”.   We cheerfully said hello and told her to have a great evening.  When we walked away, we were like two teenagers who had been invited to the cool table at lunch!  We just kept saying to each other “OMG – Deb Wills remembered US!”

To all of the wonderful people I spent the weekend with, thank you.   Thanks for sharing my star struck moments, my excitement about buying a shirt that said “Imagineering” or not judging me when I cried a little during the tribute to If You Had Wings.   You are all very special people and I look forward to many years of friendship, adventure and Disney!

Destination D Gang

Let us know in the comments what YOU appreciate about your Disney friends!

 

 

Be Our Guest Breakfast Review – Worth The Price?

Be Our Guest Magic KingdomI love Be Our Guest restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, I think it’s one of the best themed places on property.  It really does make you feel like you’re right inside the movie and that at any moment, Belle and the Beast could take a twirl right there in the ballroom.

But what about the food?  It is a restaurant after all…

I have done dinner and lunch many times and always enjoyed the food, today was my second time doing breakfast and I have to say, I was very underwhelmed.

We were handed our menu outside and we debated what we would order.  My sister and I both decided that we were fairly hungry and got the same thing – the Feast a la Gaston.  It was scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken sausage, roasted potatoes and fresh fruit.  A similar offering to what I had at the Contempo Café the day before.   It came with a drink, but to my surprise the cast member said they did not offer bottled water – so we settled on a milk and a hot tea.  (The menu online says they have water – but this cast member said they didn’t).

The total cost was $51.12 USD for the two of us.  We were okay with that, we knew it was going to be a good breakfast so it was worth the splurge.

We took our seats in the dining room and waited for our breakfast to arrive.   Thanks to our Magic Bands – the cast member would find
us wherever we sat and bring our meals.  There are 3 distinct dining rooms to choose from, the Grand Ballroom, the West Wing and the Castle Gallery.  We have eaten in the first two multiple times so we choose the Castle Gallery for breakfast.
When our meal arrived, we were a little ‘underwhelmed’ by the presentation.  It was a rather large plate for the food that was on it.  The eggs were well cooked (which is good since I don’t like runny eggs), but the bacon was a little
lightly done for my liking.  I have never had chicken sausage before – and I can safely say I won’t again, I really didn’t care for that.  The potatoes were potatoes – nothing spectacular, but okay.

I like pastries generally, but this pastry dish didn’t blow me away.  There was a croissant, apple danish, a couple of mini muffins and a chocolate croissant.  We tasted each one for research purposes of course, but definitely weren’t fighting over them.

At the end of our breakfast we both agreed – we wouldn’t be doing breakfast again.  Maybe the food at lunch and dinner is so good that our expectations were too high?  Don’t get me wrong, we love the atmosphere of dining at Be Our Guest and ANY meal is a good opportunity to see inside this incredible theming in the Magic Kingdom.    If you were going for the food, I would recommend lunch or dinner and skip breakfast reservation.

 

3 Reasons To Get An Owner’s Locker At Walt Disney World

Owners LockerTravelling to Walt Disney World as often as my sister and I do, it always bothered me that I kept lugging the same stuff back and forth.  Every trip I would pack the same things to take with me, things that were just used in Disney.  Eventually I just stopped taking them OUT of my suitcase when I got home so I didn’t have to put them back in for the next trip.  Then my sister found the incredible Purple Box.  If you’re a frequent traveller to the Orlando area, you might want to check this out.

So what is this mysterious Purple Box?  It’s a storage container (20” x 22” x 13”) that keeps all of the things we don’t want to bring home, but will need on our next vacation.  Our Owner’s Locker is stored in a secure, climate controlled facility until one of us returns to Walt Disney World.  When we are ready to visit again, we go online and give them the details for our arrival and our locker is waiting for us at bell services when we get there.  It’s that simple.

Our Owner’s Locker provides a convenience that I never anticipated.  I was originally against this idea of paying to store shampoo, but my sister insisted and got one.  Over the years, our storage needs have evolved, but there are 3 major reasons why I now love our Owner’s Locker.

1.  Tea is important to me.

It sounds silly, but I can’t function without a really good cup of tea in the morning.  I don’t like having to go to the food court when I wake up and I need at least one cup of tea before I do anything.  The coffee makers in the rooms might be good for coffee, but they don’t boil water for tea.  In our locker we have a big box of Red Rose tea bags, an electric kettle and sugar.  We order a fresh carton of milk each trip from Garden Grocer and voila – I can enjoy a perfect cup of tea in my jammies each morning.  While I’m happy to have my kettle, I know others who store crock-pots, Brita water jugs, and French press coffee pots!

2.  Saying I’m overweight at the airport isn’t fun.

Sunscreen, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, sandals, running shoes, walking shoes, the list goes on!  All of these things can be pretty heavy and take up valuable room in your suitcase.  The ‘travel size’ toiletries seem to be more expensive so we buy the bigger ones and leave them there for next time.  We leave extra shoes, rain ponchos and hats that we know we won’t need at home.  No need to worry about our suitcases having enough room or being overweight!  Somehow we always have more stuff coming home than we did going there, hmmm – too many souvenirs?  Nah…there is no such thing!

3.  When we don’t finish stuff…

Sometimes we like to sit on the balcony or in the room and have a nightcap, we currently have half a bottle of vodka in our locker that we picked up at the duty free on the way down.  We buy the mix (or get it at the food court) and can enjoy a mixed drink (or two) in our room.  At the end of the week sometimes there is beer, wine or bottles of water left over that we can save for next time.  Okay… truth time – there was only 1 time that we didn’t drink all of the bottles of Rosa Regale we bought ….

Over the years I have come to realize that my sister was right (don’t tell her I said that) and the Owner’s Locker has become a necessity for us.  The convenience is something I didn’t expect and it has saved us money in baggage fees through the airlines.  The service has been stellar and they host informal meetings at Epcot every week so that you can stop by and meet the team.   While we haven’t managed to make it to one of these yet, I’m planning to stop by on my next trip to check it out!

 

 

Riu Antillas Aruba – 9 Reasons To Visit

ArubaI did it!  I went on a vacation that was not Disney!  Yes, I have been known to venture to Scotland to visit family, but otherwise – it’s Disney destinations only!  This year I had a very special friend who wanted to travel to Aruba to celebrate her birthday with her husband, myself and another friend.  We decided on the Riu Antillas in Aruba and were very excited about a week of sun, drinks, good company and fun.

 

So how was it?  It was a good week – I enjoyed the company and my friend enjoyed her birthday!  Would I recommend the Riu?  It depends on what you’re looking for.

 

Here’s 9 reasons you should check it out, and 3 reasons you you might want to stay elsewhere.

 

1.  The Beach

 

aruba chairsYou can’t deny that the beaches are gorgeous in Aruba and the one in front of the Riu is no exception!  Yes, the wind is a little rough when you’re on the beach and you get sprayed with sand, but the birthday girl thought it was so relaxing to float in the water.

 

 

 

2.  The Pool

 

riu antillas pool fo...We spent our days at the ‘bigger’ pool.  The water was refreshing and the fountains were a great way to cool off when you didn’t want to go all the way in.  Sometimes the wind was enough to create a little ‘spray’ of the water around the pool that kept you nice and cool.

 

 

3.  The Activities

 

They had a bunch of stuff going on in the pool during the day.  You could participate if you wanted or stay at the other end of the pool and relax.  There was a lot of participation by the guests and the staff made sure everyone was having fun.

 

4.  The Staff

 

The staff at this resort was incredible.  The bar staff around the pool were attentive and the activity staff made sure everyone was having fun!  Somehow they even talked my friend in to bingo, water aerobics (complete with the beer in her hand) and volleyball.   They were always coming to check on us and joked around with everyone.  They definitely were the best part of the resort.

 

5.  The Food

 

We had talked about trying to get in to all of the a la carte restaurants on the resort before we went.  Surprisingly, after the first night at the buffet we were so happy with our meals that we ate there every night after!  We had such delicious meals – and now I’m wishing I had taken pictures of them!  The desserts were delicious too, they had something for everyone.

 

6.  The In Room Fridge And Bar

 

Riu Antillas Bar

 

I drink a LOT of water, especially when it’s hot – so it’s no surprise that I was very thankful for the bottles of water in the fridge!  The bar was stocked with liquor and the fridge had beer, pop and water.  When we ran out of anything, we made a call and within 15 minutes we were completely restocked.

 

 

7.  The Wi-Fi

 

There was Wi-Fi all over the resort, including the beach!  Each room was entitled to have 4 devices connected to the free Wi-Fi.  Upon check in you’re given a user name and password for your room and while you get kicked off it periodically – when you were connected, it worked really well.

 

8.  The Store

 

We all needed to buy the large insulated mugs because the drinks weren’t big enough and got warm very quickly.  The little store in the resort had mugs, towel clips (that everyone needs because of the wind), sun tan lotion, muscle cream and cold medicine.  Maybe we didn’t need a lot – but when we did need something, it seemed that this little store had it.   It’s the small things that make a difference!

 

9.  Night Time

 

There were a variety of things to do in the evenings to suit everyone.  The lobby bar or the beach bar, the shows or the coffee house (which had a good cup of tea!), the club or casino, you could be as active or relaxed as you wanted.  The Casino was fun, but I had to leave after I lost 3 times as much as I intended, inside 10 minutes!  I think my favorite was a sax player that was belting out the tunes down by the beach one night – he was very talented.

 

Lots of great reasons to visit this resort, but there are 3 reasons I would think twice about going back:

 

1.  The Rooms

 

Riu Antillas RoomThe rooms and the building itself are VERY dated.  While normally I’m not fussed with that kind of stuff and had read about it on Trip Advisor, the beds were beyond terrible.  I shared a room with my friend and BOTH of our beds were horrible.  After 2 nights in the beds were both applying muscle relaxing creams to our backs.  By the 5th day we went in to town in search of a pharmacy that sold a muscle relaxant like Robaxacet.  Just an FYI – drug stores in Aruba don’t sell drugs… you need to find a Pharmacy – and they don’t sell Robaxacet.

 

2.  The Front Desk Staff

 

Every member of staff we interacted with was fantastic, with the exception of the front desk.  We had keys that didn’t work consistently and when I had to sign in to work on my laptop – I was told that I couldn’t connect an additional device.  I am the first to be understanding about rules, procedures and technical issues – but the communication from the front desk was a bit rude, I kind of felt like I was bothering them when I asked for them to recode my key so I could get in to my room.

 

3.  The Lizards And The Shade

 

riu antillas poolGetting some shade by the pool was a bit challenging if you weren’t an early bird.  Lots of people saving chairs with their towels pretty early in the morning.  We quickly learned that we had to be down there about 8am if we wanted to snag a decent spot so that we didn’t get burnt.  Even SPF 60 wasn’t going to prevent me getting burnt unless I had cover.

 

 

 

lizzard jpg

 

I spent the day moving my chair to try and make sure I wasn’t sitting directly in the sun.  We liked to sit around the back near the grass – but that also brought these guys… they freaked me out, but my friends and others by the pool loved them.

 

 

 

We all had a great time and the week was full of great company, entertainment, sun, drinks and good food.   The only challenge was that I came home with an infection in my eyes.  My friends were all fine, but I started having issues the day before we left.  Coincidence?  Or is this the universe telling me that Disney vacations are the only kind I should take?  Hmmm… makes me think!

 

I’m going on vacation, and it’s NOT a Disney destination

Aruba VacationYes, you read that right… Pixie Dust Fan is NOT going to Disney.  No Walt Disney World, no Disneyland or Disney cruise – I’m not even going to Aulani again.  I’ll be boarding a plane and heading to Aruba.  So why would I spend a week of my vacation outside of a Disney property?  The truth is, some of my friends aren’t ‘Disney people’.

For those of us who are Disney obsessed, it’s hard to remember that not everyone else is.  I’m sure we all have those people in our lives – you know, the ones who politely listen to you ramble on about a construction update of Star Wars Land, or the dates being released for refurbishments?  They are the ones who are mildly embarrassed at the mall when your phone rings and a booming voice says “Do not pull down on the safety bar please, I will lower it for you”.  I love my friends, they have accepted that my Disney obsession is who I am, but they definitely don’t share it.

With my friend Paula’s birthday approaching we thought that it deserved a week-long celebration.  There will be 4 of us on this trip to visit the Riu Antillas, an adult only resort in Aruba.  The reviews on Trip Advisor are great and I think a week in the sun, lounging by the pool is just what we all need.   These guys are great travel companions and we always have a good time together.

I am excited, but it is a little bizarre for me when I start thinking about what to pack!  My Disney trip suitcase basically packs itself now since I do it so often.  This trip is different though, I don’t need comfortable shoes for walking all over the parks, I think I need bathing suits and something to wear to dinner?  It’s been years since I’ve done an all-inclusive vacation and the thought of spending a week in a bathing suit has me a little anxious.  Hmmm, I have 7 days – think I can lose this excess weight by then?

The only thing I know for sure that I’ll need is sunscreen.  With my fair skin I am packing SPF 75.  A few years ago when we went away I spent the week under an umbrella and still managed to get burnt just walking to the bar (maybe I made that trip too many times?).  I just hope that there’s plenty of shade for me at this resort!

While it isn’t a Disney vacation, I know it’s going to be a fantastic celebration.  I will have my Disney music, games (I’m addicted to Disney Emoji), and books on my Ipad to keep me ‘connected’ to the magic.  With the wifi at the resort, I’ll be on social media keeping up to date and watching a few live streams to get my ‘fix’.

It may not be WDW, but it will be a week with good friends, no work, relaxation and sunshine.

What more could you ask for?

Leave us a comment about YOUR favorite non-Disney vacation spot!

 

Disney Parks Live Streaming – 4 Reasons I Love It

Main Street Electrical Parade

Disney’s Electrical Parade

The #DisneyParksLIVE streams have been such a welcome addition to Disney’s social media presence.  Here’s my top 4 things I’m loving about it!

  1. I get to sit on my couch on a Sunday night and watch the Main Street Electrical Parade!  How cool is it that instead of thinking about my dreaded work week ahead, I get to sit here and watch my favorite parade!
  2. I get to tweet and chat with other Disney fans on Twitter.  It was so much fun during the Star Wars Fireworks live stream that I could connect with Disney fans all over the world, and a few from Toronto too!
  3. I have the chance to see some things live, as they happen!  I was at work the day of Princess Elena’s Royal Welcome at the Magic Kingdom but I got to watch via my phone on a break!
  4. I feel like I’m still experiencing some magic – even though I’m at home.  If I can’t be there, at least I can escape for a few minutes and feel like I have a front row seat!

Visit their YouTube Channel for some past events and keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog for future ones!

How much fun are you having with the live streams?  Have you watched them all?  Comment below and let us know what you think!

 

6 Questions To Ask Your Disney Travel Agent

Port Orleans Resort Royal RoomLast night I was invited to a wonderful pizza party with a bunch of other Disney fanatics. The pizza was home made (it was SO good) and I’m thinking I’ll never be able to eat a frozen pizza again! We had a great time talking all about Disney and sharing our experiences, tips and favorite things. What happens when you get a bunch of self-proclaimed Disney experts together? We learn a LOT from each other! The discussion came up about Disney Travel Agents because many of the people at the table were agents. We have all read the horror stories online about a person who booked their vacation with someone who wasn’t a Disney professional. In fact, I read a story the other week about someone standing at the front gates of the Magic Kingdom with her “Universal” ticket wondering why they wouldn’t let her in. She thought that “Universal ticket” was literally ‘universal’. This might be an extreme example of misinformation – but you get the idea. I started thinking this morning about how someone would determine who is a well-versed Disney travel agent. What questions could you ask to make sure they know what they’re doing before you book with them? It would be hard to come up with those questions if you’ve never been, so I’ve done it for you. Here are the 6 questions you should ask before handing over a deposit.

  1. When was the last time you visited Walt Disney World?

Walt Disney World is probably the most complicated of the Disney destinations. You need to arrange fastpasses and dining, there are 4 parks to consider, nighttime shows and transportation options – there is a lot that can impact your stress level on vacation. If your agent hasn’t been to Walt Disney World in 5 years, how will they know what options are best for your family? Reading online doesn’t put things in to context and sometimes they are completely misinformed opinions. You have to experience the crowds at the Magic Kingdom fireworks in order to tell you a good spot to watch them from!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

  1. Do you get the dining plan, memory maker, or hopper pass when you go?

These are valuable insights that only someone who visits the park can give you. If your agent tells you that their family gets the dining plan because it’s a good value for the character meals her son likes, you’re more informed about the best use of those dining credits! You also know that they have experienced the character meals and can tell you which ones they love.

Art of Animation Resort

  1. How big is your team and are they all Disney focused?

Having someone that is part of an agency that is Disney focused will ensure that you have back up in the event your agent is sick or is on vacation when you have a question. It also means they have a wealth of knowledge to tap in to if they don’t have personal experience on the subject you need. For example – one agent on the team may have a child with allergies that can share that first hand knowledge about the process of eating at a buffet with allergies. If they are a good team, they’re sharing all that good stuff with each other regularly.

  1. How much is your service and what is included?

This is a tricky one as some agencies will not charge a fee – but won’t help with dining or fastpasses. They give you the link and instructions to My Disney Experience and say “good luck”. Other agencies will do all of that for you, but they charge a fee for that service. Most reputable agencies will NOT charge you for their service (they get paid from Disney) and the prices are exactly the same as if you booked it yourself. If you book direct with Disney – there isn’t a discount, they just keep the commission they would have paid to the agent you used. The other part of the service to be cautious about is the “promo people” who tell you that if Disney releases a promo that they will absolutely get it for you! What they don’t tell you is that the space can be limited and sometimes not available for the resort you have booked. A good agency will monitor the promotions for you and apply it to your reservation if you qualify. If your reservation isn’t eligible because the resort is not included, they will work with you to see if you’d like an alternate one. Beware of false promises!

Epcot Monorail

  1. Is your agency an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner?  If you’re in Ontario – are you TICO certified?

Being an Authorized agency means that Disney has entrusted them to represent their brand. They must abide by the Disney regulations and not comment on or participate in the crazy rumors about promotions or announcements until they are officially released. Being a registered TICO agency means that they have governance around their bookings and protection for you as a consumer when booking your vacation plans. You can check out the website for more information on why this is important to you.

Polynesian Bungalow Bedroom

  1. The last (and most important) thing you should ask your agent before booking with them is “why do you do it?”

This is such an important question, and you should listen carefully to the answer.   A real Disney fan will want you to go and love it as much as they do. That’s the thing about us ‘Disney people’, we get so excited when someone comes back from vacation and says they understand our love for Disney. It’s hard to explain, but it’s almost like we have this club that we want everyone to join because it’s a happy place to be. When you find an agent that is a real Disney fan, you can be sure they’re invested in making sure you have a magical vacation so you can join the club!

If you’re looking to plan your vacation – contact Pure Magic Vacations in Canada – they will answer all of these questions and more!

Do you have a great question you think I missed that you should ask your Disney Travel Agent? Let me know in the comments below!

 

5 Common Questions Cast Members Are Frequently Asked

Cast Member QuestionsWhile the concierge desk at your resort and front desk agents are very helpful and I encourage you to go to them with your questions, sometimes you can wait in a very long line to get a simple answer – “what time is the 3pm parade?” (Yes, that is a real question that I have been asked). Thanks to the My Disney Experience App, you can now make dining reservations, fast passes, view your Photo Pass pictures, and get more information on your smart phone. Why wait in more lines when you can find the answers for yourself?

Here are 5 of the most commonly asked questions that you can actually find the answers to without waiting in line:

  1. What time is the 3pm parade at the Magic Kingdom?

The 3pm parade is actually called Festival of Fantasy and it takes place at, you guessed it, 3pm every day. However, pick up a times guide at the park entrance to ensure that it is taking place that day.   You will also want to take note in the guide of where the parade starts in the park. For example – if the parade starts in Frontierland at 3pm – it won’t reach Main Street until 10 or 15 minutes later and vice versa.

  1. How late is the food court open?

Most resorts have their Quick Service dining areas open until midnight. Instead of waiting in line at the Front Desk to ask this question, pop into the dining area and ask any of the Cast Members walking around; that is their area of expertise after all.

  1. What characters can I meet at (insert park name here)?

Thanks to the new My Disney Experience App, you can look up all characters and their appearance times depending on the park you are going to.

  1. Do I have to wear my MagicBand all the time?

Use you common sense. Of course no one is going to monitor to ensure the band is on your wrist 24 hours of every day of your vacation, but it is your room key and in most cases, your park passes, dining plan, and even credit card. If it is not on your wrist there is always the chance of it falling out of a bag, becoming unclipped from your belt loop, or otherwise risk being misplaced. It is designed to be easily accessible and since it is on your wrist, you can see that it is with you at all times.

  1. When is it going to stop raining? (Yes, this is also a real question).

While we as Cast Members are good friends with Mickey and Minnie, we aren’t with Mother Nature. When you ask a Front Desk Agent or Concierge this question, they will simply go to the Weather Network and find some sort of radar to give you an approximate answer. This is something you can most definitely research on your own

Once again, I encourage you to ask Cast Members questions and seek assistance when you need it. But there are many resources available to you, like the My Disney Experience App which are incredibly helpful; take advantage of them 🙂

 

*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl.

Follow Darci on Twitter: @dmartindalee

 

7 Ways To Bring More Pixie Dust In To Your Days

ImaginationI’m sitting at my desk at my ‘unmagical’ job counting the minutes until 5 pm.  I’m frustrated and irritated, people are just getting under my skin and I know that I’m ‘in a mood’.  You know that feeling?  It’s just overwhelming and you can almost feel the tension under your skin.  I hate this feeling… I need an escape from here, and I don’t mean at the end of the day.

Lunch time rolls around and I realize I need to do something to get me out of this head space and get me through the next 5 hours!  That’s when I select some of my favorite Disney ‘escape’ activities that I can do at work to make me feel better.

1. I plug in my ear phones and tune in to my favorite Disney music.

Recently I’ve found 8tracks radio on my phone and I’m in love.  I can listen to all sorts of Disney music including the background sounds from the parks.  They have playlists with the attractions as well!  Right now I’m listening to the background music from Tomorrowland as I write this.

 

2.  I sign in to Twitter and Instagram on my phone and follow along with others who are in the parks right now!

The live pictures really make me feel like I’m there with them.  While this activity does make me jealous – it’s still fun to see what’s going on in near real time.

 

3.  Periscope – this one is a little new to me.

I have to be honest, I don’t really know how to use it!  BUT – I have managed to stumble across some live videos from people in the parks.  If I’m totally honest, it’s because I see the link on Twitter and click it, that’s how I get there!

 

4.  Watch YouTube

I think on my next vacation I want to make sure I’m taking videos inside of the attractions!  I love ‘riding’ an attraction on YouTube in the middle of the day when I need a fix.  My favorites are Soarin, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain and Spaceship Earth.  When I’m feeling a little silly, I ‘ride’ Journey in to Imagination – Figment ALWAYS makes me laugh!  Who wants an upside down bubble bath?   Of course I also re-watch my own YouTube videos of Castaway Cay, Fireworks and the Kiss Goodnight.  I have a small collection now, but hope to grow my channel soon.

 

5.  Read some Disney Inspired Blogs!

I read a lot of the other Disney blogs out there because I find it so interesting to read one person’s perspective or review of an experience.  Sometimes we have written about a similar topic with vastly different views, but that’s what I like – seeing things through someone else’s eyes.

 

6.  Log in to Facebook.

I like scrolling through different Facebook Groups as well to see what people are chatting about.  I’m a bit of a ‘lurker’ in a lot of these groups, but I’m starting to come out of my shell and get engaged a little more.   The great thing is that you don’t have to comment in order to get some great information.  There are some groups online that I avoid (that’s a different blog post), but there are quite a few that I really like.  I think these groups are managed well, they’re not trying to sell me anything and they really do provide a great place for Disney fans to hang out.

These are my favorite 3 Facebook Groups (in no particular order)

You May Be a Canadian Disney Addict If… – “A place where everything Disney meets the Great White North”.  This group has lots of fun things for Canadians as well as Disney Addicts from all over the globe!  Conversations are light, family friendly and fun!

Walt Disney World Made Easy for Everyone – This group is for sharing your favorite tips on how to make Disney easy, comfortable, fun and just plain wonderful!  If you have any extra challenges (anything – like traveling with children, health challenges, etc.) you can ask questions or share your own tips!  It’s terrific information sharing!

A Secret group of Disney’s magical theme park Cast Members & Guests –  This group was founded by Christopher Martin as a way to meet cast members and learn about Disney news.  Christopher travels the globe and shares his passion for all things Disney with the members of the group.  His adventures are exciting to follow!  The group has a ton of Disney information and tips and plenty of people contributing their personal experiences. 

 

7.  Contact my travel agent and plan my next Disney adventure!!

What things do you do to bring Pixie Dust to your day?  Comment below and let us know!

 

Disney’s Polynesian Resort Bungalows – 3 Reasons I Want To Stay In One

Poly Bungalow Living Room
I had the opportunity to tour one of the bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Resort on my last visit.  Being like everyone else, I had drooled over the pictures online and wanted to see them in person.  I wondered if they were as nice as they appeared online and knew that the only way to tell was to walk inside one.

After my tour, I had 3 reasons that I really want to stay in one of the bungalows, and 1 reason why I don’t!

1.  The bungalows are big.

2 bedrooms, a pull down couch and two trundle beds – you can sleep 8 people in one of these.  Would I?  No – I think that might be a little bit crowded.  I think our family would be comfortable with 6 of us in there.

2.  The view is incredible!

Being on the Seven Seas Lagoon facing the Magic Kingdom – you don’t get a better view than that.  There are speakers on the deck so that you can play the music to go with the fireworks you’ll watch from your private plunge pool at night!  Okay – the plunge pool is pretty small, but they couldn’t really have made it any bigger or they would have used up too much of the deck.  How about those chairs?  Yes – I could spend an afternoon relaxing there!

3.  The décor

The decor in the bungalows is a throw back to the original Polynesian Resort décor, especially in the living room.  I love that they incorporated the history of the resort, but still kept them modern with all of the bells and whistles. The kitchen looks like a place I would like to cook in – but of course you probably wouldn’t do much cooking on vacation.  The dining room table though is the perfect place to eat your Ohana’s dinner that you order from room service!

So if these are so great – why don’t I want to stay in one??  The answer is simple – price.  These bungalows are the height of luxury at around $3,000 USD per night.  This is not something I can see myself splurging on anytime in the near future.  It’s always fun to dream though, you never know what will happen.  Maybe one day I’ll be sipping a cocktail on that deck, watching the fireworks and thinking saying “remember when I said I would never stay in one of these?”.

Check out the pictures – would you pay to stay there?

Polynesian Bungalow Deck Chairs Polynesian Bungalow Lounge Chairs Polynesian Bungalow Hanging Chairs Polynesian Bungalow Water Parade Bed Polynesian Bungalow Kitchen Polynesian Bungalow Bathroom TV Polynesian Bungalow Bedroom Polynesian Bungalow Bedroom 2 Polynesian Bungalow At Night

 

 

 

 

 

What to do when your Disney vacation is less than magical

Art of Animation Resort ScarDisney is an incredible company that gives a large amount of freedom and empowerment to their Cast Members. All Cast go through extensive training (especially Front Desk, Concierge, and Guest Relations) and Disney therefore trusts that their Cast Members will use their judgement when making decisions as to how to ensure that families have the most out of their Disney vacations. That being said, sometimes things do happen that can be rather less than magical. When this happens, there are a few ways to deal with the situation.

  1. At the parks – go to Guest Relations as soon as possible and let them know what has occurred. Becoming irate with the Cast Member at the attraction or dining area will not accomplish anything. It will only cause a scene and take the magic out of other people’s day, including the cast member who most likely did not do something personal to you. Guest Relations will be able to understand what occurred, possibly explain to you how or why it occurred (each situation varies), and may even compensate you for your negative experience.
  1. At the resort – if it is something regarding your room itself, call Housekeeping from your room phone. Even call the Front Desk, they can get Housekeeping or Maintenance in touch with you. Walking down to the front desk to most likely wait in a line, will only irritate you further and there is a slim chance that the Front Desk Agent that you speak with will be able to do something in that instant. If it is an issue with your reservation and the Front Desk Agent is not giving you the answers or information that you are looking for, ask to speak with a Leader (supervisor in Disney terms).

Regardless of who you speak with, please remember that these Cast Members are humans too. They are people who are highly trained and are doing everything in their power to assist you. No Cast Member intentionally sets out to ruin your vacation. Be patient and be kind. As the old saying goes, “you get more with honey than with vinegar”.

If a Cast Member does go out of their way to do something magical for you, ask to speak with their Leader and let them know. The 2 minutes you spend recognizing a Cast Member for their efforts can make their day, and even week. That little bit of kindness goes a long way.

*About the Author* – Darci is a former Cast Member who worked Front Desk at various resorts at Walt Disney World. She was a member of the Disney College Program which allows students to work all over Disney property – not only EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion. She now resides in Ontario and feeds her Disney passion by assisting family and friends with their Disney vacation planning, watching live streams of park shows, and even got engaged at the Magic Kingdom. Disney is and always will be a part of her life. She believes that you can take a girl out of Disney World, but you can’t take Disney World out of the girl. 

Follow Darci on Twitter:  @dmartindalee

 

 

Disney’s Polynesian Resort Villas Were Not What I Expected

Polynesian Resort Studio Bed
Going to Walt Disney World in the 70’s, my Mum had something against the Polynesian Resort.  She always said there were too many trees and that would attract the bugs – we had to stay at the Contemporary instead.

For years this notion of mosquitos and ants was stuck in my head, and I never had the desire to stay there.  It’s funny how those thoughts stay with you!  I knew it was a deluxe Disney resort, but it was just not appealing to me.

Now that I have a blog dedicated to all things Disney, I knew I had to book a few nights at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.  I couldn’t afford the bungalows, so I opted for a few nights at the villas.

When we arrived, we walked down to Moorea longhouse where our room would be.  It didn’t seem like a long walk, but it did feel a little Polynesian Resort Mooreafar at the end of a long day.  We didn’t take the opportunity to walk over from the Ticket and Transportation Centre – in fact I suspect that would have been a shorter walk for us!

Up to the second floor and in to our room.

The views were spectacular.  I couldn’t believe it, I was looking out over the Seven Seas Lagoon and could see the castle in the distance!  This meant that I could watch the fireworks from my bed – wow!

The part that was so impressive to me was the SIZE of the room!  I would have gladly stayed in this room with 4 adults and not felt crowded.  A full bathroom with a tub and shower plus a separate stand up shower, what a great idea for families when you’re all trying to get ready in the morning.

The sitting area was big enough and the couch was comfy.  I didn’t get a chance to try the pull out couch, but I did sleepOhana Room Service in the murphy bed and was pleasantly surprised.  I’m by no means a ‘light weight’ – but it suited me just fine and I had no issues.

I was really impressed with my stay at the Polynesian Resort villas, but I think the cherry on the cake was room service!  On our last night
we were pretty tired and decided to order room service for dinner.  What do you get when you order room service??  You can order from O’hana!  Yes… Ohana food brought right to your room where you can eat it in your pyjamas and avoid cutting off your ability to breathe when you’ve eaten too much.

It wasn’t long in my stay before I realized that the ‘bugs’ my Mum had worried about were not an issue.  In fact, I can say that I didn’t notice any.  Would I stay here again?  Absolutely!!

Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve stayed here!

 

Polynesian Villa Couch Polynesian Villa Trundle Bed Polynesian Villa TV Polynesian Villa Shower Polynesian Villa Art Polynesian Villa Balcony

Narcoossee’s Brunch Review

Narcoossees Brunch DessertNarcoossee’s is a fantastic dining spot at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort.  We had never eaten there so we decided it was time to check it out!

We opted to try brunch at Narcoossee’s rather than a dinner.  With me being a picky eater, the seafood dinner menu didn’t really appeal to me.  When we arrived, we were seated next to the window for a fantastic view!  Directly across the water was Disney’s Contemporary Resort and we could watch the monorails and boats.  It was a bit overcast that day – but it didn’t take away from the view!

We started with our Mimosas while we reviewed the menu, there was quite a selection!  The pastry basket arrived and we nibbled on the croissants, Danish, muffins and sticky buns.  How would we have room for a meal?

For appetizers I had the salad and my sister had the onion soup, both were tasty.  Becky loves the soup at Be Our Guest, but she said this was almost better!

We enjoyed the view and had another mimosa each while we waited for the main courses.  I had the steak and eggs while Becky had the Narcoossees Eggs BenedictLobster-Egg Benedict (she got her seafood after all!).

My steak was cooked to perfection.  I didn’t think I could eat that much, but it was too good to leave any on the plate.  The fries with Truffle Aioli were delicious – even paired with my scrambled eggs!  Becky thoroughly enjoyed her Lobster-Egg Benedict and said there was plenty of lobster and was so flavorful.  I don’t think either of us left much on the plate.

Of course this is the part of the meal where you think “I can’t believe I ate all that, we’re not eating again until tomorrow!” while you decide if you have a pair of shorts at the resort with an elastic waist … then the waiter comes with dessert!  That’s right – a full dessert plate placed in front of us.  It had a Valencia blood orange bar, triple chocolate cake, lemon blueberry timbale and a white chocolate Minnie Mouse.

We looked at each other, sighed, and then picked up our forks.  This dessert looked WAY too good to pass up, even if it meant we’d have to buy bigger shorts, we had to try them.  They were all good, I loved the chocolate the best.  We didn’t eat the Minnie as we thought that would have been gluttonous!

We paid $69 USD each for the brunch (which I would normally never do), but it was worth it.  There were plenty of choices for me and the food was incredible, I think we may do this again.  Next time though, we’re not eating dinner the night before!

Have you eaten at Narcoossee’s?  Did you enjoy it as much as we did?  Leave us a comment below!

Narcoossees Narcoossees InsideNarcoossees SaladNarcoossees SoupNarcoossees MimosaNarcoossees PastriesNarcoossees Steak and eggs

5 Reasons I love Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Contemporary Resort WalkwayDisney’s Contemporary Resort is one of the two original Walt Disney World resorts opening in 1971.    It was the first place we stayed at in 1974, so I guess it kind of feels like home to me.  Here are 5 things I love about this place.

  1.  Proximity to the Magic Kingdom

Not only can you see the fireworks from the Contemporary resort, but you can WALK to the magic kingdom!  It’s an amazing feeling at the end of the night, the fireworks end and swarms of people are leaving to get on a bus or monorail – you can avoid the crowd and just walk back to the resort.

  1.  Contempo Cafe

I don’t know what it is about the Contempo Cafe, but I love it.  Maybe it’s sitting in there watching the monorails go by, or hearing the kids at Chef Mickey’s having a fabulous time, but this quick service is one of my favorites.  My sister loves it too – especially the lobster sandwich you can get there!

  1.  The Monorail

Being on the monorail line is amazing.  Going to Magic Kingdom (if you don’t want to walk) or a quick ride over to the Polynesian for a Dole Whip is something we do quite frequently!  Where possible I prefer the monorail vs a bus – so getting to EPCOT is convenient too.

  1.  The stores

I love Bayview Gifts store in the Contemporary, it’s where I have bought Alex and Ani bracelets, t-shirts, luggage and bags.  They also sell the H2O products that we love!  The pins available at the Fantasia shop are extensive and there is some great stuff to customize your magic bands.  I must admit that there are multiple visits to these two stores each trip, even when we’re not staying at the Contemporary.

  1.  The rooms

The standard tower rooms at the Contemporary Resort are inviting, modern, and among the largest at Walt Disney World.  If you have a theme park view you can sit in your jammies and watch the fireworks at night right from your balcony!   It doesn’t get any better than that!

Disney's Contemporary Resort at night Fireworks from the ContemporaryContemporary Fantasia Store Contemporary Monorail

9 Annoying Things People Do At Walt Disney World

Annoying things guests do at Walt Disney WorldVisiting Walt Disney World for over 40 years, I’ve seen my share of foolishness on property.   On one visit I was so shocked at some of the things I saw and I had to write this public service announcement for those who may leave their brains at home while on vacation at Disney.

 

 

  1. Disney Cast Members are NOT your babysitters (unless you’ve left them in the kids club of course!)

During my recent visit I was at Bay Lake Tower in the lobby watching cast members trying to help a young girl that was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Apparently she was swimming in the pool and wanted to go back to her room. Her parents were in the room and had left her at the pool to find her own way back, but she couldn’t remember the room number… Ummmm really? Please don’t leave your young children unattended. Who do you think is watching them #WhatAreYouThinking??

  1. Keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times

Eating at Pinocchios we selected the window table overlooking It’s A Small World. Do you know how many people leave their children on the end of the boat with their hands in the water?? Do you know how many adults I saw doing the same thing?? In the 30 minutes we were sitting there, I was amazed at the foolishness. Safety is Disney’s top priority, but you can’t fix stupid people. #ThatsHowYouLoseAFinger

  1. Trying to make your child appear taller

Attractions like the Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and Everest have height restrictions. Why? Because it isn’t safe for if you are shorter than the required height. Don’t try to convince the cast member that your child is slouching or that they can meet the requirement if they stand on their tip toes, it’s just not smart. The cast members are not letting you on because it isn’t safe – listen to them! #NotTheTimeToArgue

  1. No flash pictures

Okay – this one just irks me. They ask you not to use your flash in the dark rides as it can ruin the magic, and for stage shows it’s a safety issue for the performers. If you don’t know how to turn off your flash on the huge iPad you’re holding up then ask someone. Also, if you’re on the Haunted Mansion and you’re texting someone – all I can see is the light from your screen! You are not the only guest on this attraction and you’re irritating the rest of us. #Selfish

  1. Cutting the line

Seriously – how old are you? Where is your sense of civility? Lines are expected at the parks, if you’re not prepared to wait your turn – don’t visit. It’s really simple. We’re all there for the same reason and pushing, shoving, cutting the line is just going to aggravate everyone and possibly start a verbal exchange of unpleasantries. #GrowUp

  1. Yelling at Cast Members

The Cast Members at Walt Disney World are the best in the business. Sure there are some bad apples, but overall they offer first-class customer service. Seeing a guest berate a cast member for silly things like the length of a line, the price of a meal or their inability to make it stop raining is insane. Disney Cast Members don’t really have a magic wand that can bring out the sun and make you less of a jerk.   #DontBeAnIdiot

  1. Trying to get something by security

They search everyone’s bags and send random people through metal detectors at the parks, but did you know they have undercover security as well? I will say no more about them as I don’t want to give away any of their methods, but if you manage to make it through bag check without your flask of vodka being detected under your shirt – don’t be surprised if some random stranger approaches you later and ejects you from the park.   They are everywhere! #YoureNotSmarterThanThem

 

  1. Waiting in line for 10 minutes without deciding what you want

It’s busy, you’re standing in line at the quick service for 10 minutes waiting your turn. You finally get up to the cast member to order and you haven’t decided what you want! Really? What were you doing for the last 10 minutes? This happened to me at Sprinkles at Disney Springs, and I was not amused. #UseYourTimeWiesely

 

  1. Feeding the wildlife

When you feed any wildlife – you make them lose their natural instinct to be afraid of humans. This one always bothered me especially since my sister has a horrible fear of birds. We were always aware of the people feeding them because it made them comfortable to swoop in and grab a fry out of your hand.   I watched adults let their little children feed the ducks their french fries and wondered what would happen when the duck bit the child – who would be to blame? Given the recent tragedy of the young boy who was drowned by an alligator, experts have suggested the alligator was probably fed by people at some point. I’m not saying the people who fed the alligators could have predicted this tragic event – but maybe if they had used some common sense, things would have been different. If you want to feed animals, visit a petting Zoo, Disney parks are not the place for it. #CommonSenseIsntCommon

 

Walt Disney World really is the place where an adult can be a kid again… Just remember to use your common sense and be courteous to others while you’re there and you will have a magical time!

 

 

 

Sprinkles Cupcakes at Disney Springs

Sprinkles Cupcakes Disney SpringsI’ve written many blogs about my favorite sweet treats at Walt Disney World, yes I’m a sugar addict!  I love cupcakes and was very disappointed about my favorite being removed from the Cheshire Café.  Even though there are many different cupcakes available at Walt Disney World, I was intrigued to find out about a new cupcake shop at Disney Springs.

My first view of Sprinkles was a little negative – I was not impressed with the line up outside of the store where I had to wait in 100-degree heat to get inside to order.   I studied the menu while I waited, but I knew what I wanted – the Salted Caramel.  My sister was opting for the key lime and we were anxious to try them.   When we finally made it inside (after a good 20 minutes in line) the customer at the register was still debating was flavor she wanted!   After 20 minutes in line, she got to the counter and proceeded to have a 10 minute conversation asking for input from the staff about what she should order!  I was losing my patience, but decided I had waited this long I may as well get them as I would never come back to get more.

I ordered our cupcakes and had them boxed up because we were just too hot and cranky.  We took them back to our resort (Saratoga Springs) and put them in the fridge for later.

Sprinkles Chocolate CupcakeWhen we finally got around to eating our cupcakes, I couldn’t believe it – they were delicious!!  It was the perfect mixture of sweetness with a hint of salt in the icing and the cake was moist and light.  This was honestly one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten!

A couple of days later I found myself back in line at Sprinkles, I just had to have another.  This time we were smart and got 2 each to take back to the resort.  There is no doubt that this will be a ‘must visit’ on my Disney vacations going forward, but hopefully the lines will be shorter next time. Now if only I could figure out how to bring some cupcakes home to Toronto without ruining them….

Have you tried Sprinkles?  What did you think?

Cupcake ATM Sprinkles Selection

Morimoto and the Picky Eater

Morimoto Disney SpringsBeing that my family is from Scotland, I grew up on a healthy diet of meat and potatoes.   Dinner at my house was roast beef and chips, fish and chips, mince and potatoes, steak pie and mashed potatoes – you get the idea, it’s not a meal without potatoes.  I was the picky eater in the family, but my sister Becky has always been much more adventurous with food and really wanted to try Morimoto.  I figured if I didn’t like it, I could always grab a burger somewhere after.

We decided to go for lunch and when we arrived were one of the first in the restaurant.  It is gorgeous inside and the high ceilings and chandeliers were breathtaking.  When we were seated and handed our menus I knew we would have to try a couple of the appetizers – after all, if you’re going to dine here, you may as well get the full experience!

Morimoto RibsWe ordered the ribs and chicken wings for appetizers and I think they set our expectations REALLY high.  The ribs were amazing; I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like it.  I normally don’t eat ribs (I don’t like to have to pick meat off of a bone), but I could eat these with just a fork.  The meat literally fell off of the bone; it was spiced perfectly and was full of flavor.  The seasoning on the chicken wings was subtle and they were nice and crispy – just the way we like them!  We were anxious to get our entrees because we knew they would be delicious!

I ordered the chicken and noodles while Becky had the Shrimp Pad Tai.  My chicken was a little overcooked and chewy, but the noodles were awesome.  They almost knocked my top noodles from O’hana out of their spot!  Becky said there was tons of shrimp in hers and it was the best tofu she had ever tasted.  All in all, we were pretty happy with our meals.

For dessert I had to have the churro with chocolate sauce.  They brought me a package of chocolate sauce and I have to be honest, I Morimoto Churrowasn’t sure what I was supposed to do?  Do I drizzle it on top?  Eat it with a knife and fork?  Or do I put the chocolate sauce on my plate and hold the churro with my fingers and dip it in?  I even asked the waitress (who thought I was nuts) and then told me she’d seen people eat it all different ways.  I opted for using my fingers, why not?  The churros were nice and warm and a really good sweet option for the end of my meal.

Becky opted for the Chocolate Cream and Crunch dessert that the waitress recommended.  The waitress was right, and she loved it and said the gelato was amazing.

Overall we were happy with our lunch at Morimoto.  There were things on the menu that I could eat, and Becky was happy she got to experience it.  We talked about visiting Morimoto again, but next time we will focus on the appetizers and order more ribs!

Morimoto Main Course Morimoto Main Course Chicken Inside Morimoto Inside Morimoto Disney Springs Morimoto Table Morimoto Menu

Grocery Delivery For Your Disney Vacation

Groceries for DisneySo you’re heading to Walt Disney World and thinking about how much spending money you’ll need each day for incidentals.  For me – my biggest cost is my bottles of water.  Really, the ‘healthiest’ thing I do is drink plenty of water – I always have a bottle of it with me and when it’s hot out – I drink a ton!  First thing in the morning I drink a full bottle and at $3 each at the resort, it adds up quickly.   How can I save a little money when I’m at the resort and have a fridge full of it?  The answer is simple – Garden Grocer!

Garden Grocer is a full grocery store near Walt Disney World that will deliver your groceries to your resort!  It’s a great way to stock up on some of the things you’ll need – without having to rent a car or jump in a cab to go get it.  You can order juice, bread, snacks, chips, beer/wine and cases of water!  I always place an order before my trip and it’s waiting for me at bell services when I arrive.  They even keep the refrigerated items cold for me!

My typical shopping order when travelling with children includes cases of water, juice, milk, bagels, bananas, cheese slices, chips, granola bars & beer.  Yes, beer – the grown ups enjoy an adult beverage after the kids have gone to bed!

There are some restrictions with minimum orders (currently $40) and there is a delivery charge – but based on my bottled water savings, I’m still coming out WAY ahead by having cases delivered that I can fill our fridge with.  If there’s an item you need that isn’t on the website – no problem, just fill in the special request form and they will let you know what they can get for you.  It’s that simple.  If you order in advance, they also have additional savings based on how far ahead you order it!

Check out the website and order your necessities today!

My Disney Bubble And The News

When people ask me why I love visiting Walt Disney World I start listing my laundry list of reasons.  One of the reasons I always quote is “the outside world doesn’t exist, you get to escape from all of the negativity in the world”.  Arriving in Orlando yesterday I was looking forward to that escape, but late last night the unthinkable happened – a mass shooting in Orlando.

Normally we don’t watch the news on vacation and I ignore the ‘news’ posts on Facebook because I really just don’t want to let that negativity in to the Disney ‘bubble’ – but this time, I have to let it in.

It started with some emails, texts and messages from friends and family that knew we were in Orlando.  My sister and I don’t go to clubs and were actually in bed at 10pm last night, but the messages started coming asking us “did you hear what happened?”.   They were all concerned and telling us to ‘be safe’ because no one really knows why it happened and that’s what creates the panic.

I started thinking about my ‘Disney Bubble’ and how sad it is that the ‘outside world’ has finally crept in.  There will be heightened security in all of the parks, and we will experience that when we go to Animal Kingdom this evening.   It’s necessary for Disney to take extra precautions; safety is top of their list when it comes to the guest experience, but how sad it is that they have to.

So many political discussions going on, and I choose to ignore them.  There will be a time and place for those discussions, but it isn’t right now.  I will not quote the name of the person responsible or make reference to any specifics, glorifying these cowardly acts is not something I will contribute to.

Right now we should be mourning the loss of so many lives, hugging our loved ones and sharing our support for the families who are forever changed.  My thoughts and prayers are with them all.

I have another week left of my vacation in my happy place.  For the first time in a long time I won’t be able to ‘ignore the outside world’.  It will be difficult not to think about the tragedy and the hours of investigations that lie ahead as people try to make sense of something so senseless.

For now, I will try to look at the world the way I did as a child when I knew there were more good people in the world than bad.

“Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children’s approach to life. . .They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought—sometimes it isn’t much, either.”

-Walt Disney

 

D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs

D-Luxe Burger and FriesIt was an eventful day for us, up at 3 to get ready for our flight to Orlando.  We arrived at Saratoga Springs around noon and relaxed for a bit before heading to Disney Springs.  We weren’t sure what we were going to have for dinner, but we were starving so we knew it had to be something ‘hearty’.

We made our way over to D-Luxe Burger in Disney Springs after hearing how big the burgers were.  We figured that the appetites we had, we would have no problem with the giant burgers.

I ordered the Classic Cheeseburger with Fries and my Sister Becky ordered the Southern Classic Burger with fries.  We paid with our dining plan and waited for our buzzer to go off.

The good news is that at 4:30 on a Saturday there wasn’t a big line.  There were seats available, but they were all outside.  We selected our table and waited.

When the food was ready (fairly quickly I might add) I picked up the bags and headed to our table.  I then realized they had forgot my D-Luxe Southern Classic Burgerbottle of water – no biggie – I went back and they gave me one.

We opened the burgers and were shocked at the size – they were HUGE!  The fries came with dipping sauce and we both preferred the chipotle mayo vs. the buffalo blue cheese.

We both started eating, the first bite was good – but there was a LOT of grease.  If you knew me, you would know that I love greasy food – but this was a little over the top.  The second bite brought more grease and it was downhill from there.

The fries were okay, mainly because of the dipping sauce.  They were good, just nothing special.

I’m normally someone who loves ANYTHING when I’m really hungry – but this time it didn’t work.   We both left two thirds of our burgers and fries and decided this would NOT be on our list of ‘must do’ places at Disney Springs.Red Velvet Burger Macaron

The bright side was the Red Velvet Burger Macaron that we got for dessert.  My brain was a little confused by this sweetness that looked like a burger – but my taste buds really enjoyed the sweet delight.  Okay – so maybe I’d go back to D-Luxe for one of those!

Yes I’m suffering from DVE

Disney Vacation EnvyI’m at my unmagical job, it’s Friday, the weather looks great for the weekend – and it’s almost time to go home!  I’m listening to music from the Disney parks on my iPhone, I’m singing away in my head as people walk by, I’m feeling pretty good.

I decide to take a break and sign in to Facebook, my source for the important things that are happening in my world.   I get excited about the posts in the Disney groups about new things happening and the merchandise that’s being released.

I keep scrolling, and then I see them – TONS of pictures, check ins, status updates…. I have a bunch of friends at Walt Disney World right now, and some are sailing on the Dream this weekend.  I start going through their posts and pictures.  The food looks good at Morimoto, Ohana dinner – yes please, a check-in at the Mine Train and another for Soarin?  I almost feel like I’m experiencing it with them!  YAY!!  Disney fun!!

Soarin Sign

Then, suddenly… the discomfort and confusion – what am I feeling?  I’m happy for them and excited to follow their adventures, but what is this that I’m feeling???  I contemplate for a while and then it hits me… I have DVE – Disney Vacation Envy.

In case you weren’t aware – DVE is a real condition.  It’s a wave of confusing emotions where you feel happy for your friends, but sad for yourself – sad that you’re not there with them.  You do what you can to fight these feelings of jealousy, but they’re there, right below the surface.  While you do the customary ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ on their posts, you’re fighting the urge to just close Facebook and ignore it, but you NEED to see what they’re going to do next!  The inner conflict begins – do you have your next vacation already booked?  Or should you book a quick getaway to get your next fix?  Can you afford it?   Does it matter?  It’s an addiction, and if you can relate, you may need help.

Epcot Spaceship Earth from the monorail

If you’re suffering from DVE it’s important to know that you’re not alone.   We all feel it, but we rarely talk about it.  There’s no shame in suffering from DVE, it’s the struggle that all members of the Disney community face when they’re active on social media.  We all deal with it differently, but the cure is the same… book another trip to Disney.

Cinderella Step Sisters

So the next time you’re resembling the jealous step-sister and suffering from DVE, like the post and move on.  Then check your count down app to see how long it is until YOU are the person with the posts and check ins that will give the rest of us Disney Vacation Envy!

Follow us on Facebook for our updates!

 

I love Disney but…

I love DisneyDisney – I love you… BUT

What the heck are you doing these days?

First, I have to make it clear – I am a Disney fanatic to my core.  Walt Disney World is my happy place and always has been.  Somehow I’ve always had a hard time criticizing any decisions because I felt like I was being disloyal, but I don’t think I can be silent any longer.

There have been many decisions recently that have left me scratching my head and thinking “WTH Disney?”  I get that it’s a business, and they have to make money to provide a good investment to the shareholders (myself included), but at what cost?  Why does it feel like they’re nickel and diming me all of a sudden?  Why do I feel like it’s an airline now where I’ve paid for a ticket but need to add on options like seat selection and baggage fees to calculate the real cost?  I’m feeling a little irritated with Disney and I don’t like it.

I buy an annual pass for Walt Disney World so the ticket prices didn’t really have an impact on me personally this year, but how complicated can you make it Disney?  Different prices for 1 day at Magic Kingdom vs. Epcot, and with the new ‘demand pricing’ the time of year you’re travelling will get you a different price of admission as well.  Why does it have to be so complicated?

Special events and tickets seem to be getting more and more prevalent.  It used to be that I would say, “I know it seems expensive, but just think of everything that’s included!”  Now I’m saying “think of everything that’s included – but they also have all of these other things you can pay extra for if you want a premium experience”.  So for a first timer – do they think they’re not getting the full Disney experience if they don’t pay for an event like the Disney After Hours?  And what’s with the price increase for Halloween and Christmas party tickets?  Want to meet a rare villain with little lines?  There’s a special party for that too.

Saying to my friends “the food is cheaper than you would pay for at Canada’s Wonderland” – but guess what?  Prices have gone up there too!  A bottle of water increased that too from $2.75 to $3.  I know it’s only a quarter, but when you’re buying 10 a day (I drink a lot of water) – it adds up!

I realize that Disney is still a fantastic value, and it is still the happiest place in the world for me.  If I didn’t go so often, I wouldn’t even notice these little things.  For guests who are visiting for the first time – they’re probably in line with their preconceived notions of what a Disney vacation would cost anyway.

Maybe I’m irritated because it was always a point of distinction for me that Universal charged extra for their version of the fastpass but at Disney it was available to everyone with the price of admission.  With all of these add-ons that they have, it seems like Disney have found a way to cater to those with deep pockets to get their own version of ‘front of the line’ access, making me feel like I’m missing something if I don’t buy them all.  I know I’m technically not missing anything, but still, if only my pockets were that deep…

C’mon Disney, it’s time to rethink your new strategy and get back to doing what you do best, create magic for everyone.

“When they come here they’re coming because of an integrity that we’ve established over the years. And they drive hundreds of miles. I feel a responsibility to the public.”  – Walt Disney

 

Rescheduling a Walt Disney World Vacation

Rescheduling a Disney VacationFive weeks ago I had a very small medical procedure that was supposed to take about 2 weeks to heal completely.  3 infections later – I’m nowhere near the finish line.  I was scheduled to go to Walt Disney World today, but on Wednesday of this week we made the decision to reschedule for June to give me time to heal.  I hadn’t bought insurance, so it was going to be expensive – but my health is more important than the loss of money.

Some people said to me “it’s not like you won’t be going again, or you weren’t just there!” and I get it – I travel to Walt Disney World multiple times per year, but I was so excited about this trip!  We had all of our dining reservations that we wanted and even had planned to stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – one of the very few I have not stayed in yet!   We had even purchased tickets to Disney’s After Hours and upgraded our flights to business class so that I wouldn’t be uncomfortable on the plane (both are non refundable).  The disappointment set in – I had just backed out of the perfectly planned Disney vacation.

Thursday was a bit of a mess as it sank in that we would have to try and ‘re-plan’ the perfect vacation without the benefit of months to do so.  We booked the week at Saratoga Springs and started looking for cancellations at the resorts we really wanted to try.  It might mean moving rooms a few times – but that’s okay, we’ve done that before and it’s a smooth process.

I felt horribly guilty that I had ‘ruined’ my sister’s vacation – even though she was so understanding about it.  I told her I would do whatever she wanted when we went in June to try and make it up to her, I would even try some of the restaurants that were for a more adventurous palate than mine because I know she would like them.  Morimoto is on the agenda!

Two days later and I have to say, I’m excited about our new trip!  While we are checking daily for cancellations for dining – we did manage to snag an Ohana’s dinner, a Be Our Guest breakfast and Toy Story & 7 Dwarfs fastpasses!  All in 2 days!  It pays to keep looking for sure.

Soarin’ has been closed for refurbishment for a while which is a big disappointment since it’s one of our favorites.  Guess what?  It’s reopening June 17th and we got a fastpass!  This was a bonus of delaying our trip, and has shown me that maybe things will work out for the best after all.

This has been a trying time for me, but I have learned a lot through this experience.

  1. Insurance might be useful!  I’m normally don’t buy cancellation insurance myself, and I’m not sure if it would have covered my scenario – but for the $1k I lost by rescheduling in flights and event tickets, it might have been worth it!  
  2. Medical procedures may or may not go as planned – and planning a Disney vacation within 5 weeks of one might have been overly optimistic.  Apparently I’m not invincible and cannot will myself to get better faster by using my Mum’s motto of  ‘it’s mind over matter’
  3. Having a family to support you through these challenges is priceless
  4. You CAN book a Disney vacation 5 weeks in advance and STILL get some awesome dining reservations and fastpasses!

Planning my Disney vacations are always fun – and now I get to do it twice.  Now it’s back to My Disney Experience to see if there are any more cancellations I can grab!

 

Disney Dollars Discontinued

Disney CurrencyIt’s true…  Disney Dollars are no more.

Lots of changes these days at Disney, some are wonderful (Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land) but some just leave me a little sad, purely for nostalgia.

Disney Dollars have been around since the late 80’s as a form of currency in the Disney Parks. I loved giving some Disney Dollars to kids that I knew were going to be visiting Walt Disney World so that they could buy themselves something special on their trip.  It was something unique that was nicer than giving a gift card or real cash.

With people using more digital means to pay for things in the parks like gift cards and Magic Bands, I can understand the dwindling interest in the Disney Dollars.   With all things like this that Disney discontinues, I would expect to see a bunch on ebay shortly!

 

 

To Drive Or Not To Drive, That Is The Question

Driving To DisneyI have been travelling to Orlando for vacations for as long as I can remember.  As a child, we would all pile in to our old station wagon and begin the 3-day trek to Walt Disney World from Toronto.   It wasn’t technically a 3-day drive, my Dad just refused to drive in the dark so we would always stop at a motel in the afternoon.  We had some great times playing in the pool and relaxing for the night.

In those days, seatbelts and car safety weren’t a big deal.  I had a ‘bed’ in the back of the car made out of blankets and pillows so that I could nap whenever I needed.  They kept me entertained not with iPads and phones – but with endless games of I spy and sing-a-longs.  I was a McDonald’s junkie at the time – and their biggest challenge was making sure that I didn’t see the golden arches on the highway or I’d cry until they stopped.  Do you know how many McDonalds there were on that trip?  They had their hands full distracting me!

As an adult, we have driven to Disney plenty of times without taking 3 days.  We’d drive in the dark and maybe stop overnight if we were getting tired – depending on how many drivers we had.  It always seemed like a good idea to save us some money and avoid paying for airfare or a car rental in Orlando.

Years ago on one of my first Disney Cruises, we were on board when a hurricane came through.  We were safe and the Captain kept us out at sea and away from the storm.  It was an eventful cruise, we had to sail to Texas to get some fuel and then got an additional 2 nights out at sea because it wasn’t safe to bring us back, but that’s another story for another day!

Once the storm had passed they determined that Port Canaveral wasn’t safe for us to dock at.  They took us to Miami and bused us back to Port Canaveral.  I was supposed to fly home – but of course I had missed my flight, so I piled in to the minivan with my family who were driving home.  It was a bit of a tight squeeze – but we made it work.

The drive home was crazy.  The storm that we had managed to avoid on the cruise literally felt like it was following us all the way home!  We drove straight through and I remember thinking “I’ll never drive again” as we passed through the mountains in the pouring rain with the wind rocking the van.

Now, it’s years later – and the flight prices keep increasing.  With the dollar the way it is, my Disney vacation is going to cost more than I had originally intended.  My sister really wants to drive to save us the airfare, but I’m on the fence, what do I do?

Pros:

  • Driving saves money
  • We get to spend more concentrated ‘quality time’ trapped in the car for 40 hours (is that a pro?)
  • We will have our car so we can visit the outlet mall
  • We don’t have to worry about our luggage being overweight with all the stuff we buy

Cons:

  • It’s only 2 of us, how much will we save?  With only 2 drivers I would imagine we’ll have to stop overnight both ways, so I have to factor that in
  • It’s an extra 2 days of vacation time if we drive straight through that I could spend at the parks

Hmm…. Why does my pro list look so long by comparison?  I’m really looking to convince myself that it’s better to fly.  When I map it out with Google – it keeps taunting me with 2 routes that are 20 hours and a flight option that’s less than 3!

Okay – now let’s figure out the $’s in round numbers:

Flying – $500 per person + baggage fees = $1,100 CAD.  Add a car rental for another $300 since we really like to hit the outlet mall – we’ll say $1,500 CAD for the two of us.

Driving –

Gas – using a fuel economy site – is $220 USD round trip

Hotels – say $150 USD per night = $300 USD

Total is really with rounding $550 USD for both of us.  Add the exchange and it’s almost $710 CAD each.

So… $710 / 2 = $355 CAD  vs.  $1,500 / 2 = $750 CAD each.  So we’d each save $395.

Now the question is – is 2 days in the park worth $395 to me?  I can’t decide…. Of course I could use that money to buy a new Dooney purse.  Thankfully I have almost 3 weeks to make a decision!  What would you do?

Driving To Disney

 

Disney’s Free Dining, it’s a debacle every year

California GrillThere are thousands of Disney fan sites on the Internet, Pixie Dust Fan included.  Many are very reputable sites that offer accurate information and advice for planning your Disney vacation.  Sadly – not all sites are created equal and sometimes it’s hard for a new Disney fan to tell the difference.

 

Over the years I have watched some of these sites grow and gain a following and at least once a year they start the whole ‘free dining’ hype.   They post rumors and ‘insider details’ about a potential free dining promotion that is going to be announced.  Every April my Twitter and Facebook feeds explode with this ‘free dining is coming’ posts, including ones that show dates for next year!   Some of these sites get it right and must have an inside track, but others are just plain wrong.  They start the frenzy and modify the details as they go and create such chaos that the rest of us are left shaking our heads!

 

There are some things you should know about Free Dining that these less  responsible sites won’t tell you:

 

1  Free dining has quite a few restrictions

 

The resort you wanted may not be available, or you have to upgrade to a better room category or add water park options to your tickets.  Availability for the promos are generally limited and in the last year it looks like Disney is restricting them further to move people away from expecting free dining.

 

2  Not all restrictions are created equal

 

Did you know that some Disney promos are targeted to particular visitors?  That’s right – the UK visitors usually get a slightly better promo with much more advanced notice, I assume because they have to travel farther.  Canadians also get longer booking windows sometimes, even after the offer has expired for US residents.

 

3  Good luck getting dining reservations

 

Cape May

Cape May at Disney’s Beach Club Resort

People want to make sure if they get their free dining promo that they’re able to use it!  I really can’t blame them; I would want to do it as well.  The problem is that when it’s just a rumor, many people will start booking dining reservations ‘in case’.  That means they’re booking weeks of reservations to cover potential dates and availability.   Since most of these don’t need to be cancelled until 24 hours in advance – they have tied up many reservations for months that you and I might like to have!

 

4  A GOOD travel agent will cringe when they see these rumors

 

 – There is very limited availability on those first few days because other agencies have put holds on packages based on the frenzy of inquiries they generated with the rumors.  Some of these reservations will inevitably be cancelled a few days later and free up the inventory for other guests.  It’s safe to say the good agencies spend the next few days pulling their hair out.

 

 – They are going to sit on the phone for HOURS trying to get their clients the ‘free dining’ deal when the website crashes.  This will be the better part of their day (some years I have heard of 9 hour wait times!) where they will continue to rotate and recharge cordless phones. 

 

 – Disney doesn’t like its travel partners to engage in these rumors until it’s officially announced.  That means the reputable travel agencies are at a substantial disadvantage while trying to adhere to their ethical responsibilities to Disney.

 

 – They will frantically have to call all of their clients who are travelling during the dates once it’s announced to find out if they want to switch resorts, rooms or add ticket options if it means getting free dining.  

 

5  Free Dining isn’t always the best deal!

 

Bread Pudding Ohana

Bread Pudding at Ohana

Many times the room discount has been a better value.  If a room discount is 30% – was the dining plan worth 30% of your room rate?   For many people it has been much cheaper to add the dining plan to the room promotion.   It can be confusing when you hear the words ‘free dining’ – but trust me, it’s worth pricing out the difference!

 

I will never understand why Disney doesn’t reprimand these sites for starting these rumors and leaking information.  It causes confusion, stress, and in some cases a pretty bad guest experience when their expectations aren’t met.  For me, it ties up valuable dining reservations when I’m struggling to get one for California Grill for my trip!  C’mon Disney – it’s time to flex your muscles and get these sites to stop the madness!

 

So, the next time you see the “I heard free dining is coming” pop up in your news feed, don’t panic, you haven’t missed the boat.  Review it when it’s officially announced and see if it’s a good deal for you when you consider the resorts and ticket options.  If you’re working with a reputable travel agent, they’ll provide you with the best options.  Give them a few days (or a week) to get it all sorted when the availability opens up from cancelled ‘fake’ reservations.

 

California Grill View

The view from California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Whatever you do – please don’t book a bunch of fake dining reservations!  Remember that you may be forcing me to call the California Grill every day while I’m on vacation trying to find a cancellation 🙂

 

 

 

 

It’s about time! Disney’s FastPass+ is enhanced

Beginning on April 10th, Disney’s FastPass+ system is being enhanced (finally!) to make it much more flexible for us when we’re in the parks.

The two big changes:

1. We can now book fewer than 3 selections at a time.  This is great because sometimes I just want to book the 7 dwarfs mine train and don’t want to select my other two.  Once before I randomly selected the additional two and when we went to change those, we accidentally deleted the mine train!

2. We can now book a new fastpass when we’ve used our first 3 all via the app!  The app will allow you to book additional fastpasses one at a time.  For example, once you’ve used your first 3, you can book a 4th.  Once you’ve used the 4th you can book a 5th.  Depending on the timing of your fastpasses – you could be maximizing your time in the parks really efficiently!   This makes it so much easier than finding a kiosk to grab your next one.

I’m excited about these changes and updates.  I wonder if Disney will hold some of the fastpasses and release them later in the day to accommodate the number of people who will be booking them after they’ve used their first 3.  This would be a great way for them to control the crowd flow in the parks.

Is this something that will make your Walt Disney World vacation experience better?  Comment below and tell us what you think!

 

 

7 Reasons It’s Difficult Being A Canadian Disney Addict

Canadian Disney Addict

Thanks to the ever-growing social media networks I’m privileged to have so many “Disney Friends” online from all over the world.  I follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and I’m always so jealous of their ability to visit the parks so often.  It got me thinking – what’s the problem with being a Disney addict who lives in Canada?

 

1.  I can’t just decide to go for the weekend when they announce something ‘new’ at the parks that I’m dying to see.

Sure I could catch a flight and be there in 3 hours – but my budget won’t allow for how often I want to do that.

2.  Flights are not cheap.

I have a couple of options for flights – I can fly from Toronto and pay to park my car at the airport (maybe $100 for the week) or I can drive to Buffalo and get cheaper flights – but then I have over an hour drive home at the end of my trip.  I feel like I’ve won the lottery if I find flights for $350 from Toronto – tack on baggage fees and parking at the airport and I’m laughing that it’s under $500.

3.  Shopping at the Disney Store online costs us a fortune.

First it’s in US Dollars, then you add shipping and duty – even when they have sales it can become so expensive if you have a lot in your cart!  In case you didn’t know – we don’t qualify for the ‘free shipping’ promos they have.

4.  We don’t have Disney Visa!

Disney VisaI ask almost EVERY time I’m there when they’re going to launch this for Canadians.  Yes, there are perks and discounts that I would love, but if I’m telling the truth, I just want a Visa card with a castle or Darth Vader on it!

5.  We don’t get the Target discount cards.

I have seen so many people in the US buying Disney gift cards when they have a sale at a 5% discount – essentially saving 5% when they pay off their vacation using the cards.  They don’t sell these in Canada; I would have to drive across the border to buy them.

6.  Cool stuff that reminds us of the park isn’t available to ship to Canada or costs us an arm and a leg to ship it.

There are candles & scent machines that we love – they make our homes smell like Disney.  We have found a way around “do not ship to Canada” (though it adds to the price), but Shipllama works well and I now have a machine that makes my house smell like Bay Lake Tower.

7.  The dollar is killing us.

At the current rate of around $1.30 for one US Dollar – it costs us 30% more to shop, eat, stay and buy tickets for our favorite place.   We monitor the dollar and have US Dollar bank accounts so we can try and buy some when the price is better, but it hasn’t been ‘good’ in a while.

So for those of you who live close to the magic – I am jealous!  There are many wonderful things about being a Canadian, but being a Canadian Disney addict definitely has its challenges.   Are these challenges enough to deter us from visiting so often?  Not a chance, we will always find a way to make it work!  So the next time you meet a Canadian Disney addict in the parks you’ll know that we are a dedicated bunch who will do anything to get to Disney!

 

5 Reasons Why Merida Is The Princess Young Girls Should Know

MeridaI must confess that I’m addicted to bad TV.  I watch the mindless reality shows for entertainment and a glimpse in to the lives they lead.  The important thing is that I’m in my 40’s and I know the difference between ‘reality TV’ and ‘reality’.  How many young girls in their pre-teen years can see the difference?  Social media is a powerful tool, but for young girls everywhere it can be a window in to a world that is neither attainable nor healthy.

Watching the women in the media like the Kardashians & Miley Cyrus left me thinking – what can young girls today watch to see empowered, independent and strong women?  Maybe it’s time to look throught your DVD collection and find your copy of Brave.

When Brave first came out in 2012 I was excited to see it.  Given that my parents immigrated to Canada from Scotland before I was born, I thought it would be cool to see a Scottish Disney princess.   While Disney movies always have ‘lessons’ in them – I didn’t expect that this one would have such a profound message to share with young women everywhere.

Here are 5 reasons I think Merida is a princess that young girls today should know about:

1.  She is talented and different

She can shoot, climb and ride with the best of them and can rival any man in a challenge.  She isn’t the typical princess and owns her individuality despite the pressure to conform.

2.  She makes mistakes

Like all of us, Merida makes some hasty decisions that get her in to trouble.   Turning her mother in to a bear was kind of a big one!    The key was that Merida took responsibility for her mistake and cared for her mother while trying to fix it.  There was no quick fix, no hero to rescue her – she figured it out herself.

3.  She doesn’t give up

Faced with challenges, Merida does not give up.  Some may refer to it as being stubborn – but I think she shows us that if you believe strongly in something, you should never give up.  You may not have to face the likes of Mor’du – but a challenge is a challenge!

4.  She has no prince

Merida spends the entire plot teaching us why she is more than capable of running her kingdom without a man by her side. I’m not advocating against marriage or true love – but it’s important to teach young girls that they are complete without a prince charming.

5.  She’s Brave

Merida faced the challenge of deciding who she wanted to be.  She decided her own future when she ‘won her own hand’ in the archery challenge and proved that she was an individual with strength, determination and courage.  Who says a princess shouldn’t have a bow and arrow anyway?

The next time you settle in for a night of TV with your princess, consider sharing a story of true female empowerment.  Teach her that happiness, fulfillment and self-respect is worth more than growing up to have millions of twitter followers.

 

 

5 Things To Do When It Rains At Disney

You’ve saved your money, booked your trip and headed to the most magical place on earth.  You get up in the morning and get ready for a full day of adventure when you see the weather report – RAIN!  Oh no!  What to do?

1.  Grab a poncho and keep going.

If you haven’t thought to bring one from home, it’s okay – Disney sells them everywhere!   A little rain never hurt anyone, and most times it’s so hot that I’m happy for a little shower to cool off!

2.  Visit the indoor attractions

There are many indoor attractions at Walt Disney World that still operate during rain.   From the Pirates of the Caribbean at the Magic Kingdom to Star Tours at Hollywood studios – there’s always lots still operating!

3.  Check your My Disney Experience

When attractions are closed – often times they will notify you and give you the option for a different attraction.  You can also check the wait times for some of the nearby indoor attractions.

4.  Visit a resort or shop

If you’re at the Magic Kingdom, it’s a great time to head over to the Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian or Polynesian resort to check things out.  During a light rain shower it’s the perfect time to check out some of the resorts nearby.  If you feel like shopping, you know there’s a gift shop nearby!

5.  Sit tight

Grab a drink, and wait it out.  Florida rain showers are often quite short, even when they appear to be intense – they can pass over in minutes.  While watching all of the people scramble to leave the park, you can think about all you’re going to enjoy without the crowds when the showers are over!

 

 

Disney Cruise Concierge, is it worth the expense?

DCL Concierge Sun DeckI really believe that having 40 years of personal experience visiting Walt Disney World is one of the things that it important when giving advice on Disney vacations.  When it comes to Disney Cruise Line, I have had experience sailing in various categories of staterooms, but I hadn’t sailed concierge.  How could I tell people if concierge was worth it if I hadn’t tried it?  My mind was made up, I needed to sail concierge in a 1-bedroom suite on the Disney Dream – for research purposes.

My sister, our two friends and I left Walt Disney World after 8 days in the parks and drove down to Port Canaveral. Being concierge meant that we did not have a specific boarding time and we could check in at the concierge desk (where there was no line).   After checking in, we were able to relax in the lounge area in the terminal reserved for concierge guests.  Once the ship was cleared – we were led on board and up to the lounge on deck 12.

DCL Concierge In the concierge lounge we were treated to mimosas and some nibbly treats.  We met our 3 hosts who had a custom itinerary printed out for us that included our Palo brunch and Castaway Cabana reservations that were booked by the pre-arrival team. They told us about the 2 happy hours that were hosted each night in the lounge offering drinks (alcohol and non) as well as what kind of food and snacks were available throughout the day. We were told that if there was anything we needed, we only had to ask.

We enjoyed the conversations (and the mimosas) but were so excited to go and see our stateroom!  We left the lounge and were thrilled to see our stateroom was right across the hall which turned out to be super convenient for getting tea in the morning and bottles of water throughout the day.

I had toured the 1-bedroom suites twice while on travel agent trainings, but walking in to that room knowing it was mine for 4 nights was an incredible feeling!  When we opened the door there were gasps from all of us, I believe the word “wow” was used about 67 times in the next 10 minutes while we explored.DCL 1 Bedroom Living room

The suite was larger than I remembered (probably because there were only 4 of us instead of 15 travel agents in it) and I hadn’t realized there were 3 closets in that hallway.  There was a dining room, living room area, desk, bedroom and 2 full bathrooms.   The master bathroom was like something out of a magazine with a TV in the mirror, separate shower stall and a bathtub so large I could have practiced my backstroke!

We decided it was time to check out the concierge sun deck to see where we might spend our time if we ever left our room during the cruise!  We went back through the lounge to grab some bottled water and headed upstairs – that’s when the ‘wow’ word was used another 14 times!  There were sun loungers, comfy chairs, sunscreen and a hot tub – all for concierge guests only.  I knew we would be spending some quality time in this area!

Before the sail away party started I knew I was in trouble.  We had been on the ship for only a few hours and I had already decided that cruising concierge was worth the cost.  I spent the next 4 days enjoying all of the benefits of cruising concierge.  From the fabulous table locations in the dining rooms to the parting gift they left in our room, they really treated us like royalty.

Now that I’m home (and my Visa bill has come in!), I am able to look back with a more practical view to determine if I would do it again. In my opinion, sailing concierge is definitely worth it if you put a high value on convenience, luxury and service.  The Disney Cruise Line has exceptional service for everyone, but sailing concierge felt like it had some extra pixie dust for me.

If your budget allows for it, I would highly recommend it.   There is only one thing that I have to caution you on – once you sail concierge, you may not be able to sail any other way!

Check out our video review here:

Why I’ll Miss Dream Along With Mickey

Dream Along With MickeyI’ll admit – I wasn’t always a fan of the castle shows, until I saw Dream Along With Mickey.

The first time I saw this show I was in love with it.  It was such a great story and had some terrific characters, it also gave Donald Duck a bit of spotlight that he’s deserved for a while in my opinion!

The story revolved around Donald not believing in dreams and his friends were trying to convince him how powerful they could be. There were princesses and villains, happiness and adventure – all the things that make a great Disney story!

While it may sound a little sappy, this show always gave me goosebumps and hope.  When the entire crowd started chanting “Dreams come true”, you really felt like you were empowered to make your dreams come true.

Things are always changing at Walt Disney World, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new show Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire.  I’m sure it will dazzle and delight, but I must admit that I really will miss Dream Along With Mickey.

Mickey had a little speech to Donald at the end of the show that always moved me, I’ll leave you to ponder how powerful the message really is.

“By remembering about the power of dreams, you reminded us all that when we believe in ourselves, and our friends, and our family – why there’s nothing we can’t do!  When you find the dream inside your heart, anything is possible!”   –  Mickey Mouse

Share your memories from Dream Along With Mickey in the comments below!

 

Kingdom Keepers Book Review – Disney After Dark

Hi, I am a 63-year-old Disney fanatic.  A few years ago (more like eleven when the first book was released in 2005) I began reading this series.  Throughout the years I have read them as they were released.  A few days ago I decided to go back to the beginning and read them all again. (I think seeing Ridley Pearson at Walt Disney World inspired me).

Here are my thoughts on the first book, the third time around!

Book 1 – Disney After Dark

I enjoyed reading this book just as much as I did the two times that I read it.  The imagination and story line holds your interest so much that I found myself wanting to leave what I was doing and read another chapter, even though I knew the outcome.  I could close my eyes and see every part of the attraction that Ridley was describing from the dolls in It’s a Small World, the Pirates locked in a stale mate on a chessboard in the Pirates of the Caribbean, to the Utilidors and the trash building behind Thunder Mountain that we viewed on our Keys to the Kingdom tour.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet had the pleasure of reading it.  In fact I’ve asked Francine (Pixie Dust Fan) to consider reading it, as I know she would love it – being the Disney nut she is.

On to book 2, Disney at Dawn….can’t wait!

Becky is a guest blogger at Pixie Dust Fan who is also a Disney fanatic! 

5 Rookie Mistakes When Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation

Disney Rookie MistakesBeing an avid Disney fanatic who has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1974, I’m always hearing about people who booked their Disney trip by themselves or with a travel agent who doesn’t have much personal experience.  I’ve compiled a list of the most common 5 mistakes I’ve heard.

1.  Buying only a 2 day park pass.

There are 4 theme parks to visit!  Walt Disney world is roughly the size of Ottawa – there is no way you’re going to see it all in a couple of days.  Trying to cram everything in to 2 or even 3 days makes for very long days and stressful times, especially with little ones.

2.  They don’t buy a hopper pass

Yes… this is one that some disagree with – but I really believe that a hopper pass is worth it.   For example – Fantasmic is only happening on Monday and Wednesday the week you’re there – guess what days will be busiest at Hollywood Studios?  With the hopper pass you can enjoy another park during the day and then head over in time for the parade at night.

3.  They don’t stay on property

Yes, there are Deluxe Resorts on property that would cost you hundreds of dollars per night, but did you know they also have Value and Moderate categories of resorts?  These resorts are on Disney property, they are well themed, convenient and affordable!  That’s right – these resorts will give you all of the benefits of staying on property (including extra magic hours) but there is real savings in the transportation! Disney’s Magical Express will pick you up at the airport and take you to your resort and back again when the vacation is over.  The transportation all over the property is includes buses, monorails, boats and it’s all included, there is no need to rent a car!

4.  They don’t book fastpasses & dining reservations

If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World – how would you know what you want to see?  Fastpasses can really help you make the most out of your days in the parks and avoid some of the lines at the more popular attractions. Dining reservations?  If all your little one wants to do is meet the princesses – arrange to have a meal where they will come to your table to meet them!

5.  They over plan!

I know, that kind of contradicts what I said in point 4, but there’s something to be said for just enjoying the moment.  If you want to eat with the Princesses – then yes, you need a reservation.  However, planning all of your attractions in a strict itinerary takes all of the fun out of being there.  I’ve seen many families racing around the park to make sure they are ‘on schedule’ and it really takes away from all of the wonderful things they could experience if they took a moment to slow down!

A Walt Disney World vacation can be an amazing experience making memories you will treasure forever.  Knowing how to get the most out of your vacation will give you time to enjoy the magic!

Have you made any of these mistakes?  We’d love to hear what tips you have, comment below!

 

Cheshire Café Walt Disney World – What’s On The Menu?

Cheshire Cafe Cupcake Walt Disney WorldI’m not always in agreement with everything the Disney Company does.  Sometimes they do things that leave me puzzled – this is one of them.

A couple of years ago I discovered something that was exactly what my sweet tooth had been looking for.  I have a love of sugar (which is evident by my growing waist line!) and I love cupcakes.  The cupcakes at Walt Disney World usually have a good heaping dollop of icing on top.  While these cupcakes are delicious, there was one in particular that really got the ratio of icing vs. cake right!  It was the ‘cake cup’ that was once served at the Cheshire Café in the Magic Kingdom.

I had the opportunity to try both the Cheshire Cupcake (vanilla) and the Mad Hatter Mocha one.   I am a huge fan of all things chocolate – the vanilla was surprisingly my favorite!  The first time I tried it, I was in heaven.  It was a lot of sugar – so my sister and I shared one on our subsequent visits.   It was now on my list of ‘must have’ snacks in the Magic Kingdom.

I’m not sure why – but the Cheshire café stopped selling these lovely treats.  I don’t know why they did – I can just tell you that I miss them!  I have to chalk this one up to a ‘Why Disney?  WHY?’ decision that I will never understand.  If someone in food services at Disney is reading this, can you bring them back?  Pretty please?  While I like Sprinkles – I don’t want to have to go to Disney Springs for a good cupcake smiley

 

 

 

 

Disney’s Haunted Mansion – I Didn’t Know About The Pearls!

Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion has been a family favorite for so many years.  It wasn’t always one of my favorites though, in fact – it terrified me! My very first visit that I can remember to the Haunted Mansion I think I was about 4 or 5 years old. I remember walking in to the stretching room and hearing an ominous voice tell me that there was “no turning back now”.  I was in my Dad’s arms clinging to him as tightly as I could.  I remember being so scared I was crying and my Dad whispered to me “It’s okay honey, it’s Disney, nothing bad is going to happen”.  The pictures started to grow and stretch and I cowered in to my Dad’s chest, terrified to open my eyes!  The next thing I knew we were in our Doom Buggy and I had stopped crying. We were slowly moving through the mansion and I started to believe what my Dad was telling me, there was no reason to be scared.  This began my love of the Haunted Mansion.

I have visited the Haunted Mansion hundreds of times since that first visit.  You might wonder what keeps me coming back and not getting bored – it’s the details! Disney are the masters at creating experiences that keep you coming back so that you can learn and experience details that you didn’t know were there.  I know that I haven’t discovered all of the secrets that the Mansion has to offer – but here are just a few examples of things that you might not notice – unless you’re looking for them!

  • The tombstones you pass on the way in pay tribute to the Imagineers that worked on the attraction
  • When they designed the effects for the ballroom the used mirrors – but the dancers now appear backwards because of it. If you look closely – the women are leading the men
  • If you’re walking past the Haunted Mansion at night – look up at the windows, you might see ‘someone’ walking by!
  • As you leave the ballroom and begin to move backward – it is intended to signify you falling out of the attic. The caretaker and his dog are lighting the way to the graveyard as the only living people in the mansion
  • As you stroll down memory lane with the bride and her husbands – notice that the bride appears to be gaining wealth with each marriage!  With each wedding scene she acquires an extra strand of pearls
  • As you leave the mansion – be sure to pay your respects to Mr Toad.  He sits in the very back of the pet cemetery to pay homage to the attraction that was closed at Walt Disney World.  The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh now sits in its place.

In July 2015 I happened to be at Walt Disney World by myself for a few days.  I was wandering the Magic Kingdom late one evening and had a great conversation with a Cast Member that told me the story of the additional strand of pearls on the bride as well as the fact that she seems to get more china each time she gets married.  I thanked her for all of the information and got in line – I had to validate what she said!  I was so excited to go through and see it all again with a new perspective and new details to find. As I walked in to that stretching room just after midnight, by myself, I couldn’t help but remember my very first time.  As I was reminded that there was “no turning back now”, I smiled and thought to myself “It’s okay Dad, it’s Disney, I can do this by myself now”.

 

What’s the 1 thing you should never do on vacation?

Sky ViewI recently had a friend who I saw on Facebook was in the Grand Canyon on a family vacation.  There were so many pictures of him, his wife and children having a fantastic time as they enjoyed their travels.  Their vacation was a great success and they headed home to Toronto after a week of rest and relaxation.  They were all ready to get back in to their day-to-day routines when they walked in to their house to find that someone had been there.  They had been robbed.

Social media has become a great way to connect with your friends and family to share your experiences and especially your pictures!  Many of us have ‘friends’ online who are not really friends, but maybe acquaintances or people we have actually never met but share similar interests.  Do you really know these people?

Turns out, my friend didn’t.  While he isn’t certain, it is a good assumption that whomever broke in to his house knew that he was on vacation with his whole family and that they wouldn’t come home any minute.  This was evident by the fact that they spent time in his house without worry, eating his food and drinking his beer – all while he was enjoying his vacation.

It’s sad that social media has become a tool for thieves to use to their advantage, but it’s the reality of the world we live in.   The next time you go on vacation, either post the pics when you get home, or post one of your home security system doing it’s job while you’re away!

About Pixie Dust Fan

Who Is Pixie Dust FanI have been a Disney fan for as long as I can remember.  My first trip to the Magic Kingdom was in 1974 when I was 3 years old.  At that time there was only the Magic Kingdom where I met Oscar Myer and one of my favorite attractions was “If You Had Wings”.  We always stayed at Disney’s Contemporary Resort where I got my Alice In Wonderland dress in the shop that is now the game room.

Over the years my addiction has grown and as an adult I started visiting multiple times per year.  My sister Becky is also a Disney addict and the person who talked my Dad in to visiting in 1974.  We share our obsession and travel together to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, sail on Disney Cruise Line and have even flown to Hawaii for the sole purpose of visiting Disney’s Aulani.

By day, I am a professional ‘number cruncher’ for a large telecommunications company in Toronto, Ontario. Casual Friday is my favorite day of the week because I get to sport my Disney attire (much to the dismay of my boss!).  My full time job is less than magical to say the least, but it gives me the income to pay for my Disney addiction.

I was telling a friend at work one day about how big the Disney community is and how there are people who have websites and blogs devoted to their love of Disney.  I told him how I really envy these people who share their passion with others and have Disney in their lives every single day.  He asked me “why couldn’t you do the same?”.  I started to give him all of the reasons I couldn’t, all of my insecurities came flooding in when he pointed to the plaque in my office that says “If you can dream it, you can do it”.  It was then that Pixie Dust Fan was born.

I am very lucky to have the support of my sister Becky, my family, friends, and the Disney community.  I am forever grateful to those who continue to encourage and inspire me to take this journey, you really are pure magic in my life.

Please join me in sharing this addiction proudly and bring some Pixie Dust in to your days.

8 Reasons Why You Should Visit Disneyland

DisneylandDisneyland in California is where it all began, it’s the only park that Walt Disney opened and dedicated himself.  It was a challenging opening with many issues on that day, but it has remained a constant site of magic in Anaheim since 1955. Given the 60th anniversary this year, I decided it was time to return to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure.

It was difficult not to compare Disneyland to Walt Disney World during my visit, and I worried that I would be doing that all week. The size difference was drastic, but I quickly realized that Disneyland had some amazing things that Walt Disney World does not.

Below are the top 8 reasons that I loved Disneyland!

1.  Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour

Walt Disney World (WDW) has the Keys to the Kingdom tour that I have done many times but this tour had something that WDW didn’t – Walt himself.  Throughout the tour there were many stops along the way where we stood in the park and listened through our earpieces to Walt’s own voice talking about the very place that we were standing in. As we listened to his dedication speech, there were quite a few misty eyes in the group and I found myself covered in goose bumps as we walked in his footsteps.  The tour was an additional cost to the park admission, but worth every penny.

2.  Oswald

Before there was Mickey – there was Oswald.   Oswald made his debut in 1927 as one of Walt’s first animated stars and he signed a contract with a distributor who brokered a deal with Universal.  During contract negotiations the following year, Walt discovered that he no longer owned the rights to Oswald.  It was on that train ride home that a devastated Walt Disney first drew Mickey Mouse.  In 2006 Disney regained the rights to Oswald and he now appears at Disneyland! The fact that this lucky rabbit came before Mickey felt like such a big piece of Disney history – I was thrilled to meet him and have my picture taken.

3.  Cars Land

What can I say? Cars Land was incredible! I love Be Our Guest restaurant at WDW because it makes you feel like you are right inside the movie – Cars Land has the same feeling on a grander scale!  Walking up Route 66 and approaching the Cadillac Range mountains while passing Flo’s Café – it doesn’t get any better!  Radiator Springs Racers was such an immersive experience; I don’t think it could have been any better!

4.  The Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland gets transformed for Halloween for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – it was ghoulishly fun to see the additions of these characters in to the already wonderful mansion.  The Hatbox Ghost who originally made a short appearance in the mansion in 1969 has materialized again and is one of the 999 happy haunts that live there. Remember though…there is room for 1,000 and they’re always looking for volunteers!

5.  Fantasmic

Fantasmic was a similar show to WDW, but it had some very different elements.  The first noticeable difference was that due to the size of Disneyland, I felt much closer to the show than I do at WDW since we usually sit near the back of the theatre for an easy exit.  At Disneyland they had Peter Pan instead of Pocahontas – that was awesome! It was a giant pirate ship with Peter, Wendy, Captain Hook, Smee and all the others fighting on top of the masts. I have to say – I was impressed!

6.  The Food!

The dining experiences at Disneyland were delicious!  We made reservations to eat at the Blue Bayou (inside the Pirates of the
Caribbean) as well as the Carthay Circle Restaurant in California Adventure – both were terrific experiences and the food was tasty. The rest of the week we dined on more quick service options with our favorites being the Corn Dog at the Corn Dog Castle and the Mac & Cheese at the Cozy Cone Motel. There was quite a variety of different quick service options throughout both parks that we were pleasantly surprised by how good they were!

7.  The Grand Californian

We stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in a standard view room. The hotel was gorgeous and had it’s own enterance to the California Adventure park for hotel guests only. The proximity to Downtown Disney as well as Disneyland being a short walk away were terrific for an afternoon break from the parks.  We did walk over to check out the Disneyland hotel that hosts Trader Sam’s Tiki Enchanted Tiki Bar as well – highly recommend stopping by for a drink here!

8.  World of Color

By far my favorite experience at Disney’s California Adventure was the World of Color show. Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse hosted a 22-minute show of lasers, lights and fountains that told the story of Walt Disney. The show paid tribute to Walt and his imagination while highlighting all of the magic that has since been created because him.  The World of Color allows younger generations to learn about Walt Disney and be inspired by his determination, dreams and imagination.

“I only hope we never lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse”

Walt Disney

Check out Cars Land!

If You Had Wings

Disney had a campaign a while ago called “When did it start for you?”.  The campaign had asked people when they first fell in love with the magic and became a Disney fan for life. I started thinking, going back through my fondest memories to pinpoint the time that I fell in love with it. I discovered that there were too many memories that I couldn’t narrow it down!  This is just one of them.

When I was young, there was at attraction at Walt Disney World called “If You Had Wings” that was sponsored by Eastern Airlines. The attraction was a slow moving vehicle that took you through a variety of ‘scenes’ showing you all of the things you could ‘see’ with them.  There was a man holding a fish that would grow as his wife took the picture, sunny beaches at the ocean, people diving from cliffs, and my favorite – the policeman directing the traffic of pelicans!  Looking back I guess you could say it was a little cheesy – the rolls of film being shown on screens as you passed by.  So why on earth was this a great memory for me?  It was an attraction I experienced so many times with my Dad.

Each time we would go to the Magic Kingdom, my Dad and I would ride this together.  We’d giggle at the silly scenes and point them out to each other like it was our first time riding it.  The specifics of our conversations?  I can’t remember… what I can remember is that feeling of joy to get those few minutes alone with my Dad on our favorite attraction.  The last scene of the attraction you would enter a huge tunnel of sorts and it would simulate an airplane taking off complete with the view of the runway and the seat moving along in time with the airplane.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin now sits where If You Had Wings once did.  They have repurposed the track and it is a new favorite for my family – being competitive to see who can get the highest score.

My Dad is gone now, and I miss him every day. When I’m in the Magic Kingdom as an adult, I think about our times there and wonder what he would think of the park if he could see it now.  Sometimes I feel like he’s there with me.  When we get to that final scene in Buzz when you enter that very same big ‘tunnel’ – I can remember the plane taking off with my Dad’s arm around me, and I experience that feeling of happiness all over again.

 

Disney Cruise Without Kids – 6 Reasons You Should Try It!

Disney Dream ShipMy sister and I travel to Walt Disney World a few times per year, we are Disney Fanatics who would go more often if we could. Our friends don’t always understand this addiction, but some have come to the parks with us to experience the magic.  There are so many adult things to do at Disney that they really enjoyed it, but cruising was another thing all together.  They had never cruised before and the thought of a ship full of kids didn’t seem to appeal to them. How could 4 adults enjoy themselves on a cruise that is meant for children?  I had to give them some of the adult highlights from my cruises!

1.  The Staterooms

These staterooms are larger than most I have seen on other cruise lines, but they also have a sense of elegance about them.   The split bathroom in most staterooms give you the ability for 2 people to get ready for dinner at the same time – something that is very valuable when you’re sharing a room!

2.  Dining

Palo Chocolate StrawberryThe dining experiences on a Disney Cruise are spectacular.  Going to a different dining room each night and having servers that stay with you for the duration of your cruise is awesome. I told them on the first night what a picky eater I am and got terrific recommendations catered to me each night that followed.  The servers did tell us that if we didn’t finish our bottle of wine at dinner that they would bring it the following night, but that was never necessary.   The specialty dining in Palo or Remy is a full indulgence not to be missed!

3.  The Adult Only Pool

DCL Dream Adult PoolThis pool is an oasis at sea!   With a hot tub and bar near by, this was by far my favorite place to be during the day.
It’s quiet, inviting and relaxing. The crew is fantastic at replenishing my drink whenever I need it.  I sit by the pool reading on my iPad – with my biggest exertion being to get up and get in to the pool when I need to cool down.

4.  The Spa

Senses is the ultimate relaxation!  From Spa treatments to salon services – there is plenty to choose from for an afternoon of pampering!  I haven’t had the opportunity yet to get the pampering – but I did try acupuncture on the ship after I pulled a muscle, they had me feeling great in no time. Next time I’m checking out the spa in more detail!

5.  The Bars and Lounges

There are so many adult only bars at night to explore that I missed the 687 pub on a ship I had sailed on 3 times!  My favorites on the Disney Dream are Skyline and Pink.  Skyline has a huge ‘window’ that changes every 15 minutes showing you the skyline of a different city, it really is spectacular. Pink is themed to look like the inside of a champagne bottle with bubbles everywhere.  Keep watch in some of the bubbles during your stay – you may just see a pink elephant appear!  There are comedy clubs, sports bars and dance clubs – something for everyone!

For some extra fun for adults, they often have mixology classes or champagne tasting in the afternoon!  These were a great value and a lot of fun.  We discovered Rosa Regale at one of these events and often have it at Walt Disney World when we visit.

6.  Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Bahamas) is home to Serenity Bay, the adult’s only part of the island.  It is the most relaxing and beautiful beach I have ever been to. The sand is soft, there are plenty of umbrellas for shade and the water is clear. Need a drink?  They have cast members walking the beach to take your order. Feel like snorkeling or bike riding? They have that too… there are plenty of activities if that’s what you enjoy!

Castaway Cay CabanaWe like to make the most of our day when visiting Castaway Cay and rent a private cabana on Serenity Bay, it’s our little piece of paradise. We have our own hammock and inner tubes, a fridge with cold water and pop, and a button to call our cabana host if we need anything.  It really is the ultimate day of bliss.

Whether you travel with children or not, Disney Cruise Line has something for everyone.  With all of the kids activities and clubs on board, parents can indulge in some of these adult activities while the children having a ball in their own clubs with the new friends they’ve met.

Once I had shared the highlights with my friends, the question was ‘when do we go?’  After a week at Walt Disney
World we will be on a 4-night cruise on the Disney Dream!  Maybe this time I’ll find the 687 pub and get to have a drink in there!

If you’re looking for luxury – check out our post about Disney Cruise Concierge!  This is the ultimate adult only Disney cruise!

Been there, done that – and you’re going to Disney again?

Rivers of LightSomeone asked me today “how can you be excited about another trip to Walt Disney World, isn’t it the same as it was the last time you were there?”.   They were implying that I had already ‘been there, done that’.  Yes – I was there 2 months ago, and multiple times last year – but no, it never gets boring.

The next question I hear is “haven’t you seen it all?” – and the simple answer is NO!  Walt Disney World is always changing so there is something ‘new’ to see or do every time I visit.

Here’s why I’m excited about my next trip!

  • I have stayed in almost all of the Walt Disney World resorts – with the exception of the All Stars, Disney’s Yacht Club and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  I have toured all of the resorts at length, but these ones have escaped my vacation plans.  I’m excited that I will be spending the first half of my week at the Polynesian! I’ve dined at this resort multiple times and can’t wait to wander over for a dole whip before bed!
  • The new show “Rivers of Light” debuts as Disney’s Animal Kingdom on April 22nd, I will get to experience this in May! I’m so excited as I love the night-time entertainment!  My only concern is how will I decide between Rivers of Light, Illuminations at Epcot, Star Wars fireworks & Fantasmic at Hollywood Stuidos and my all time favorites Wishes & the Main Street Electrical parade at Magic Kingdom?   I think I need more nights…
  • A waterfront brunch at Narcoosee’s is on the menu! We will be checking out the Sunday Brunch now being offered in this gorgeous setting.  We have never eaten here before – so this will be a real treat. I can’t wait to try it!
  • Skipper Canteen opened last year in the Magic Kingdom, but we always had such busy itineraries that we never had a chance to visit. This is something that we’re definitely making time for this trip!  We love the Jungle Cruise, dining on dishes called “Dr. Falls’ Signature Grilled Steak” or “Trader Sam’s Head-on Shrimp” will be too much fun!

The Frozen Ever After attraction at EPCOT and Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire at the Magic Kingdom still say ‘coming soon’ on the official site.  I suspect they won’t be there when I go in May… I guess that means I’ll have to plan another trip?  It’s a rough life, but someone’s gotta do it!

Walt once said ‘Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.’  I’m so glad this vision is carried on at Walt Disney World, I continue to be amazed and inspired each time I step on the Disney property and revitalize my own imagination.

 

Disney Facebook Groups – Some Aren’t So Magical After All

I don’t know about you, but Facebook is a part of my every day routine.  I love that I can sign in and see tidbits from people’s lives and connect with those that I don’t get to see often enough.  I have made some wonderful Facebook friends from the Disney community and follow along on their vacations getting ideas of things I might like to try the next time I visit.  I keep up to date on news and gossip and take each piece of information with a grain of salt until there is ‘official’ word.

Disney groups on Facebook have become a real source of entertainment for me.   I’m always amazed by how perfect strangers can get so angry with each other over silly stuff.  I have to admit that I read these posts, but I rarely comment.  Instead, I get out my popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show until an admin deletes it.

I belong to a lot of Disney ‘groups’ on Facebook, but there are a few that are managed by some real characters (pun intended!) that really bother me.   I’m not sure if it’s just my love of Disney that finds them offensive or just the manner in which the Admins conduct themselves that disturbs me.  I believe that any frequent visitor will have negative reviews or experiences in the parks, it’s expected.  We won’t like everything and should share those opinions in a manner that is useful and beneficial to the community and people who are thinking of visiting.

The main group that drives me crazy is one that was showcased on a local news station because the admin visits the parks so often.   I have watched this group grow as they flog T-shirts with copyrighted material and I often wonder why Disney hasn’t shut it down.   While the admin doesn’t work for Disney, he represents the ‘ultimate fan’ to some people online.  He posts about restaurants and some of his tummy issues after eating there (only he isn’t so delicate with his words).  He’s made videos ranting about guests suggesting that the majority of them don’t shower and has called them idiots and morons.   His representation of what is wrong with the parks is inflammatory and creates hostility in those that follow him.  His twitter feed is full of statements that at best can be seen as bullying, racist or very unkind remarks about others.

There are people who are researching for their first trip to Walt Disney World in this Facebook group.   After reading these rants and reviews, they are expecting a park full guests who push and run you over with their strollers and restaurants that make you sick!  C’mon Disney – people wear these shirts in your parks to let others know they follow this nonsense.

Yes, I know I could leave this group, but I think I stay because I want to be there to read if Disney ever tries to shut them down.  I’m sure it is irrelevant now anyway as I will probably be banned if they hear about this post.   It’s okay though – I’ll hang out on the page I respect, you know – the one that’s ‘all’ about ‘ears’  🙂

 

 

Pin It on Pinterest