Try the Grey Stuff, It’s Delicious…and FREE!

A seriously YUMMY reason to visit Walt Disney World this fall: FREE DINING!

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Enjoy a FREE Quick Service Dining Plan at select Value Resort Hotels or FREE Disney Dining Plan at select Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa Resort Hotels beginning this August! Here are the delicious details:

  • Book a non-discounted 6-night/7-day stay at a select Disney Resort
  • Magic Your Way Package must include tickets with either Park Hopper or Water Park Fun & More option
  • Book now through July 10th, 2015
  • Valid for the following dates:
    • August 28 – October 2, 2015
    • October 25 – October 31, 2015
    • November 8 – November 19, 2015
    • December 15 – December 21, 2015

-1We LOVE eating at Walt Disney World…especially character meals!! Chef Mickey’s is definitely one of our all-time favorites.

If you’re interested in savoring this special offer you can book online HERE. You can also call (407) 827-7181 to book by phone. Bon Appétit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yo Ho Let’s Go! Are You Ready for a Pirate Play Date?

I received free products in order to host a #DisneyKids Jake and the Neverland Pirates Preschool Play Date. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Written By: Marci Smith

Ahoy maties! Thar be adventure ahead!

When I received the email invitation to host a #DisneyKids Jake and the Neverland Pirates Preschool Play Date, I was so excited! I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but my family and I LOVE all things Disney. My kids are big fans of Disney Junior and they were more than willing to help me plan a pirate play date for them and their friends. This is the tale of our adventure.

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Getting a #DisneyKids Package in the Mail is Awesome:

Our big party box arrived swiftly and held so many treasures for our play date! It was quite the task keeping the kids away from the package of goodies until the party date arrived, especially with so much in there! We received:

  • A TON of Jake and the Neverland Pirates Party Supplies: Themed plates, cups, napkins, party hats, tablecloth, and centerpieces just to name a few…
  • Great Munchies: Kellogg’s Super Mario Brothers fruit snacks, Clif Kids ZBAR Protein and Crunchmaster Grammy Snacks – all delicious!
  • Pirate Loot: What would a pirate play date be without treasure? The kids loved the Gold Doubloon Necklaces, Mini Spy Glasses, Eye Patches, and Bouncy Cannon Balls.
  • Disney Parks Planning DVDs and Luggage Tags: Great for the parents! If you’d like to get your very own planning DVD for FREE and learn more about planning a Disney Vacation, fill out THIS FORM.
  • Cool Extras: An awesome MegaBloks Hot Wheels set, Kinetic Sand and Sandbox, Mickey Mouse Chore Charts, coloring pages, themed games, and balloons. So much fun!

The Plan; or lack thereof:

I’m a planner. I love lists and organization. My gatherings are usually planned out in detail months in advance. Unfortunately, the past two months have been INSANE in the Smith household. I’m sure many of you can empathize; kids, school, home, pets, work; the list just goes on and on and ON. I even designed and printed super cute invitations that I just never found the time to mail!! Sad, isn’t it?

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Then, when I finally set the date, invited guests, and had our plan in motion…Elsa went crazy. Our small town was covered in nearly a foot of snow and it had to be postponed. While the kids loved it, I panicked. Most of our guests would be away for the holiday weekend and Sunday was the last day I could host this play date. Thankfully, I was able to pull it together and our guests had a great time! It was far from smooth sailing, but what would a pirate adventure be without some waves?

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The Event:

I enlisted the help of my 8-year-old daughter and got to work. She set up a super cute table where all the guests could visit and snack while I made up an area for Pirate dress-up. My son has a Skull Rock play set and Bucky Pirate Ship with a LOT of Peter Pan and Jake toy figures. The kids all loved dressing as pirates and playing with the toys from the show. They especially loved our Pirate Treasure Maps. During our last trip to Walt Disney World we played an interactive game in Magic Kingdom called ‘A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas.’ We were given a map that led us around Adventureland in search of treasure that Captain Jack Sparrow was trying to find. Once you found the clues and treasure you could continue the game with a new map or be on your way. We played 3 of 5 games and both the kids really enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend trying it out during your next trip!

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Three of the older kids really had fun putting together the Mega Bloks Hot Wheels car. Although the box said ages 5 and up the two 8-year-olds in the bunch enjoyed this the most. One activity that all the kids loved regardless of their age was the Kinetic Sand. I buried some of the pirate treasure in it and let them go nuts! I think we were all really surprised by the consistency. The sand was very soft, squishy, and moist but not messy at all. It did not stick to our hands or other surfaces and was very easy to clean up. I’m sure I’ll be buying more of it for my kids!

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Our play date was scheduled from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. This is prime snack time in toddler world. We made sure to have some fun and healthy things to munch on. Some highlights were the Gold Doubloon Chocolate Cupcakes (fun), multigrain tortilla chips with salsa and fresh fruit with Crunchmaster Grammy Crisps (healthy).

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I added the Clif Kids ZBARS Protein, Super Mario Brothers fruit snacks and some other goodies into the kids treat bags. My daughter has loved Clif bars for a while now and was ecstatic when she saw them in our play date box. In hindsight, I should have just let her eat them then because unfortunately they were out of date by the time we had our party. Of course I didn’t realize it until after it was over and everyone had gone home. To all of my guests, I’m sorry! I blame Captain Hook!

In the end, our Jake and the Neverland Pirates Preschool Play Date was a success! The kids had fun, the snacks were delicious, and it’s always great to spend time with friends and talk Disney. I’m so glad to have been selected as a host and look forward to my next #DisneySide party!

MouseQuest would like to thank BSM Media, Mom Select, Disney Parks, and products sponsored by MegaBloks, Clif Kids and Kellogg’s for all of our amazing party snacks and supplies!

If you’re looking for ideas to host a #DisneySide Celebration of your own, be sure to visit them on the web for amazing ideas!

I received free products in order to host a #DisneyKids Jake and the Neverland Pirates Preschool Play date. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Planning a September Trip to WDW

Written By: Corinne Leon

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With the exception of one December trip, my family has always visited Walt Disney World either during the super crowded Spring Break season or the super steamy Summer Break season. This year we were not able to go in the summer so we decided to try an early fall trip. I could not have been more excited! It would be a whole new “world” for us! Smaller crowds….Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party….Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival….. Eat to the Beat Concert Series…. There is nothing we love more than experiencing new things on a Disney trip!

Where To Stay

With less than 2 months to plan, I was in a bit of a panic! Normally, I like to plan our trips as far out as possible. Case and point, our two 2015 Disney trips are already in the works! How could I plan an awesome trip with such short notice??

Being DVC members, we have approximately enough points to stay for 2 weeks at Walt Disney World. We like to do “split stays”, meaning we usually stay at more than 1 or 2 different resorts, depending on the length of our trip. Since this trip would be just over a week long, we decided to spend the first few nights at a moderate resort and end our trip at a DVC resort.

I was able to find a good deal at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside with the Fall Room Discount, (although they told me on the phone that they were giving me the “Canadian resident” discount). I requested a room in the Alligator Bayou section of Riverside since we had never stayed there before. With all the parking issues I’d been hearing about Downtown Disney lately, I was especially pleased that we would have the option of taking either a bus or a boat there.

Following the same strategy, we booked a room at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (our home resort) for the end of our stay, to again avoid the parking at Downtown Disney. With the new walkway, we’re excited to be able to easily walk back and forth. Also, we have the bus and boat options here as well.

What To Do

A couple of really popular events that take place every fall are Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. I have wanted to attend both for many years but just never had the opportunity. Until now! And I was extra pleased to learn that both were starting earlier this year.

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I went ahead and purchased tickets for the Halloween party with our DVC discount. Woo hoo! September tickets are cheaper than October ones! As much as I know I’m going to love trick or treating around the Magic Kingdom, I think I’m looking forward to the Food & Wine Festival even more!

Just reading through some of the items being offered this year is making me super hungry! There’s a seared scallop dish being served in Scotland and, although I tried Ireland’s Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie from a food truck in Downtown Disney last March, I may just have to have that again! And I can’t very well ignore my homeland – some Cheddar Cheese Soup and Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon from Canada look too yummy to pass up. I’m pretty sure there’s a nice Prosecco or White Zinfandel with my name on it, too. My husband is most looking forward to trying some interesting beer flights.

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Advice, Recommendations, Tips, Please!

I would love to hear about any of your Food & Wine Festival recommendations, or any tips about how to navigate the Halloween Party. What are some of your favorite fall activities to do at Walt Disney World?

All in all, I know this trip is just going to fly by and we will once again start another countdown as soon as we get home. Just another day in the life of a Disney-loving family!

Relaxing on the High Seas

Written By: Amy Yacullo

When Anthony and I booked our honeymoon on the Disney Dream, we had absolutely no idea what to expect. Neither one of us had ever cruised before, so we wanted to do anything and everything we could in our short, 4-day Bahamian cruise. However, we were also on a tight budget and wanted to spend a lot of time together relaxing—after all, it was our honeymoon!!

For me, relaxation=spas and pampering. During the booking process, I took a peek at what the Senses Spa offered. When I checked out the “menu” I was shocked at the astronomical prices—$70 for a pedicure? Get real!! There was no way I was going to shell out that much for something I could get done at the mall for a fraction of the price—sure, this was a special occasion and yes, it was Disney cruise, but I knew I’d already have a great pedicure for my wedding. The costs of the massages were even higher, so I quickly put the idea of a honeymoon spa treatment out of my mind.

The day we arrived at the ship was a flurry of activity, from waking up and packing our bags, to getting on the bus and riding to Port Canaveral, to checking in and waiting to board, to lunch at Cabana’s, the Spa was merely a blip on the radar of my mind. I knew where it was, but I also knew how much it cost, so I stayed away (even though they offered a complimentary spa tour with possible giveaways). I didn’t want to tempt myself.

Our room was on Deck 7 at the front of the ship, so we frequently took the forward elevators up to Deck 11 to get to Cabanas or to enjoy the Quiet Pool (which meant we were walking by the spa every time). Shortly after the Sail Away party, Anthony and I were headed back to our room when I said, “Hey, let’s check out the spa since we’re walking past. I don’t intend on booking anything, but I’d just like to see it.” The textured pebble flooring outside the spa had caught my attention and after all, we didn’t know when we were going to be on another cruise, so I figured it was worth a peek.

We walked into Senses and were greeted warmly. The staff were anxious to give us a tour, so we decided “What the heck, let’s just do it, it’s free.” They started with the salon, which we weren’t too interested in (we’d both gotten our hair cut prior to the wedding, and there was no way I was going to book any mani/pedis this trip) and then moved on to the fitness center—anyone who knows me will tell you that there was no way in hell I was going to exercise on my honeymoon. We were getting antsy to leave when the spa attendant brought us to what turned out to be our favorite part of the cruise: the Rainforest Room.

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The most important aspect of the Rainforest Room is that there’s no one to give you treatments—it’s a completely self-guided experience, which is nice if you want spa relaxation without getting a massage or other treatment (or paying treatment prices!). My husband doesn’t like the idea of someone he doesn’t know touching him in the “intimate” way a massage necessitates, so the Rainforest Room was a great way for him to enjoy some much-needed relaxation. Occasionally you will see an attendant come in and refresh the towel stock or refill the flavored water that is provided, but other than that, you’re on your own.

You’ll get a complimentary robe every time you go to the spa and put it in the laundry before you leave. You have to turn in your room key to get the robe and the key fob that unlocks the Rainforest Room door; I like that because it means I don’t have to worry about losing my room key while I’m trying to relax. The only things you need to bring with you are a pair of flip-flops, a bathing suit, and (if you wish) a book. There are lockers available, but they are shared with the fitness area, so they can fill up quickly depending on where you go. There are also showers in the locker room with lovely complimentary shampoo, conditioner, and body wash that are completely different than the ones offered in-room and are absolutely amazing.

When you first enter, you walk into one three rooms that encompass the Rainforest Room. There’s calming music and a lovely water feature right when you walk in, which promotes a sense of calm right off the bat. On the right, there is a beverage station with flavored water (lemon and cucumber, which are both very delicious and very refreshing) and a large selection of teas and some extra towels. If you look up at the ceiling, you’ll notice that the tiles have clouds printed on them to make it look like you’re gazing at uninterrupted sky.

To the left are four different themed showers, each with their own light effects, sounds, and scents (which aren’t overpowering; I actually haven’t ever noticed a scent coming out of any of them). Each shower has three water cycle types (things like “Caribbean Storm” and “Siberian Night”) with varying temperatures of water—I personally found most of them to be too cold, but that’s a personal preference.

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Past the showers are 3 different kinds of saunas: a Hamam (Turkish steam bath with beautiful marble walls and benches and lovely aromatherapy), a Caldarium (your standard steam room) and a Laconium (dry sauna) with a window looking out to sea. My favorite is the Hamam—it’s the perfect mixture of warm steam and heat; it isn’t suffocating and dry, but it doesn’t make you soaking wet either. I recommend bringing an extra towel into the Hamam to sit on, as the marble seats and floor get very, very hot.

Through another set of doors is the lounge room. This room as 10 lounge chairs with a lovely view of the ocean (through another set of glass doors). They’re made of ceramic tiles, so you can’t adjust them, but they are gently heated and all feature a book light and a view of the ocean. I’ve never used one, but I’ve seen plenty of happy customers (including a sleeper or two).

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Through a final set of doors is the last large room—the hot tub room. Each hot tub fits 2 people and both of them look out to sea. The room has a few open (but barred) windows, so you can hear the ocean and seagulls—the first time I went in there, I thought it was a soundtrack being played over speakers, and then I realized that it was real! I love that the windows are open to the sea, which allows for a light breeze to come through the room. There are signs in the area that ask that you keep your soaks to a 15 minute max to allow other spa-goers the chance to enjoy, but we’ve never encountered any other guests waiting for their turn—although Goofy did visit us one day (all dressed up in his coat and tails) and tried to get in the hot tub with us!

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The cost for all of this bliss? $16 a day. They also offer a length of cruise pass—I don’t know what the individual price is, but for couples it was $99 (for a 4 day cruise). There’s also a “deluxe” package available that includes your choice of scented scrub to use in the Hamam, but we’ve never purchased it; I believe it’s $120 for couples (again, I don’t know the individual price). I would recommend that you go to the Senses Spa and ask about pricing, because as with everything else in life, it’s always subject to change.

The best part is that you can pay for as many days as you want—only want to go on your sea day? That’s totally fine! Want to go every day of your cruise? You can do that too!!

We have never experienced a problem with over-crowding –I’m not sure if there are only a limited amount of passes available per day or if people just don’t know about it (either way, I’m not complaining!). The Rainforest Room is open during Spa hours, so you can go early in the morning, later in the day, or in the evening if you want; you can even pop in and out at your leisure throughout the day.

For $16 a day, there is absolutely no question in my mind that the Rainforest Room is worth every penny. There is nothing like having a quiet area away from all the action to relax, rewind, and rejuvenate. Plus, it’s one of the only places my husband will truly relax—he doesn’t like the idea of a stranger massaging him, so the Rainforest Room allows him to unwind and spend time relaxing with only his thoughts and me—you can’t argue with that! We now budget for the experience every time we plan a Disney cruise and so far, it’s been one of the best uses of our time and money.

If you’re looking for that “one more thing” on your Disney cruise that will push it from “great” to “amazing,” I definitely encourage you to consider the Rainforest Room—once you walk through those doors, I can almost guarantee that you’ll never want to leave.

Seven Tips to runDisney

Written By: Patty Holliday

If you stick around my blog for a while you’ll quickly learn that I love racing at Disney.

Castles? Check.

Characters? Check.

Costumes? Check.

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What’s not to love, right?

I’ve put together a few tips for readers interested in running their first race at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.

  1. Pick your distance. The runDisney events cover distances for all levels of runners.   There are 5ks (3.1 miles), 10Ks (6.2 miles), Half Marathons (13.1 miles) and even a Full Marathon (26.2 miles). All of the races will include running through one or more of the Disney parks. They even offer options for the kids from a diaper dash to a mile fun run! Every mile is indeed magical!
  1. Realize that ALL runDisney races sell out- and sell out fast! Your first training “run” will be a sprint to the registration website. In recent years the popularity of runDisney means that races will sell out in minutes. It’s important to be familiar with the runDisney registration schedule by following along with rundisney.com or @rundisney on Twitter.

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  1. Running Disney is NOT cheap. The races, the resorts, the food, the park tickets (no, they are not included in race registration!) will quickly add up to an expensive racecation. I’d suggest budgeting and planning in advance so your pixie dusted trip doesn’t come as a shock to the ol’ Disney Visa!
  1. There are pace requirements. Since the Disney Parks will need to open up to non-running guests at normal business operating hours, the roads and parks must be cleared of runners.   A generous 16 minute mile pace must be kept in order to remain on the course. Any runner falling behind that pace will be removed from the course at certain points referred to as “sweep” points.3

To help runners out, pacers carrying balloons, known as the Balloon Ladies, will be a visual cue as to when you are in danger of being swept. If you see them pass you, you are in danger of being removed from the course.

  1. The medals are GORGEOUS. Enough said.4
  1. The runDisney community is welcoming, encouraging, and supportive. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life through races at Disney! Get involved in Facebook or Twitter discussions and you will find a world of Disney fanatics that speak your language!
  1. Have FUN. These races are not known as serious PR events. You certainly CAN get a PR at a runDisney race as the courses are generally flat and fast. But it doesn’t often happen.   Why? They tend to be pretty crowded AND offer lots of distractions. Can you really pass up your chance to take a picture with this handsome guy on the course?5

I hope this helps you plan your next runDisney event. If you have any more questions feel free to share them in comments and maybe we will cover them on an upcoming podcast!

Patty Holliday is a 40-year-old mother runner, married to a (mostly) perfect guy. Learning to love running one step at a time. It’s not working. But runDisney helps.   She is a work at home mom and blogs at My No-Guilt Life.

Villains: Unleashed – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Written By: Marci Smith

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It’s date night. If you have kids, you know how it goes…you’ve finally secured a sitter, you’re extremely excited to be getting out of the house for some fun and adult conversation, but as giddy as you are you still feel a twinge of guilt as you drive away. August 23rd was our night. We had purchased tickets to the Villains: Unleashed event months earlier and had been looking forward to it for a while. I had searched for the perfect outfit and after two hours of primping, I was ready to go; Disney Bounding as Yzma. A hard-ticket event without the kids!! We hadn’t been to one since the Pirate and Princess Party was still going on and I had visions of low crowds, shaking hands with rare villains and wandering around with a Hades Hotdog in one hand and a Maleficent cupcake in the other. The disappointment that followed was quite a tough pill to swallow after feeling so excited for so long. The worst part was that the event could have been amazing if it had been handled differently. So, here are our thoughts…the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Villains: Unleashed.

The Good:

1. An abundance of evil: 50 Notorious Villains: Although we didn’t get to do any of the Meet & Greets, the amount and variety of villains was amazing. I couldn’t believe how many rare bad guys were around that night! I was super excited to see villains like Bowler Hat Guy, Constantine and Shan Yu. It’s a shame we didn’t get to meet any of them.

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2. Oogie Boogie’s Freaky Funhouse Show:  This show was completely unexpected and very entertaining. I went in fully expecting a selection of villains to be singing and dancing to songs from their animated feature films. What we experienced was completely different. The show featured three extreme acts including sword swallowing, crossbow stunts and fire eating. I know this show has been one of the controversial topics of discussion surrounding the Villains event. For the record, I LOVED it. I thought it was perfect for a more adult oriented evening at the Studios. In the future, I’d love for Disney to do something like this again and just have an additional show that is more appropriate for children.IMG_6918

3. Club Evil: The only reason the entire evening wasn’t a total wash was Club Evil at the Hollywood Brown Derby. The entire venue was transformed into a villain themed speakeasy with specialty food, drink and live entertainment. The cabaret singer, “Torchella” was great, and I absolutely LOVED that she was singing Broadway tunes!! This was definitely the highlight of our date night. I really enjoyed the décor, the food and especially the wandering villains who came by. IMG_6924I was able to interact with some of them and even get a couple of photos! If Disney does another Villains event like this, I really hope Club Evil returns.

4. Villainy in the Sky Fireworks: When it comes to fireworks, I thought I had seen it all. This show was absolutely amazing. I literally stood there with my chin on the pavement because I couldn’t believe how incredible these fireworks were. Despite the high crowds, we were able to get a viewing spot near the American Idol Experience. Just awesome!!

The Bad:

1. Too Many People:  The event was oversold, no question. Crowds were massive and it was really difficult to maneuver around. Our family usually chooses to visit Walt Disney World during the off-season, because we don’t enjoy shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, and I certainly didn’t expect that at a hard ticket event.

2. Hours of Waiting: Large crowds mean long lines, but these lines were extremely long. Guests were waiting hours to meet villains. Lines for specialty drinks and food were very long as well. I waited almoIMG_6882st an hour for one drink (it wasn’t worth it). When I visit a theme park during the summer, I expect to wait in line. When I pay almost as much as a full day park ticket for a 5-hour hard-ticket event I don’t expect higher crowds than during the day. The high wait times really prohibited us from doing things we wanted to do. Instead of waiting hours to meet two or three villains at the most, we chose to skip the Meet & Greets, open attractions and complimentary face painting in order to experience Club Evil and see the Oogie Boogie show. There was just no possible way to do even half of what was offered in the amount of time we had. A huge disappointment.

3. Specialty Item Shortage: We arrived right around 8:00pm, which was when the event officially began. Shortly afterward guests were complaining that the special event guides had already run out. Event merchandise and special foods soon followed: running out hours before the event was finished. I really don’t understand what went wrong here. Why not have at least enough for each person who purchased a ticket? Very frustrating, to say the least.

IMG_68804. Early Meet & Greet Closures: Due to the high crowds and popularity of the rare villains, the Character Greeting Experiences had to be shut down very early on. Constantine was the first, with the line shutting down less than two hours into the event. Other villains quickly followed, leaving guests without even the option to wait for hours if they wanted to.

The Ugly:

Angry guests. Apparently, we were not the only ones who were more than a little disappointed with this event. There were long lines throughout the night and the line for Guest Services was no exception. It was very evident that Disney recognized pretty quickly what a fiasco this was. Cast Members were offering complimentary tickets to any of the theme parks, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party without argument. Many guests also received straight refunds for their tickets in spite of Disney’s non-refundable ticket policy. I really have to give them credit for trying their best to rectify the situation in any way they could after they saw what a disaster this was.

In the end, our date night wasn’t what we hoped it would be. However, what we DID get to experience was amazing. I can only imagine how great this could have been if the event hadn’t been oversold. If the villains are unleashed again sometime in the future, I hope we get the opportunity to attend. I’m confident that Disney will fix what went wrong and present something new and better than we’d ever expect.

Grand Floridian DVC: A Review

Written By – Marge Gerwels

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When I was given the task of writing an article about my favorite Disney Vacation Club® resort, my initial thought was “I can only choose one?” The Disney Vacation Club® (DVC) resorts that we have visited have all been a wonderful experience, however my most favorite is Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa has been around since 1988, and was originally called Grand Floridian Beach Resort but changed its name to Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in 1997. The resort was designed to resemble the Victorian Era resorts built along Florida’s east coast during the late 1800’s. The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, CA inspired the red gabled roofs and white exterior of the resort. Last fall, the doors opened to the much-anticipated DVC addition to the resort and guests flocked to be one of the first to catch a glimpse of the new DVC villas.

This past February, I was able to convince my husband to stay at the new DVC villas. It has always been a dream of mine to stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, but to be honest, it’s pricey, and with our growing family, it was really never an option. So, I was extremely excited to hear the news that Disney Vacation Club® was expanding to include my dream resort and I was thrilled when all of my….ahem…”discussing” paid off as I convinced my husband that we should spend the points and stay there during our Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend trip.

So what’s it like? It’s big, and beautiful, and offers the same great accommodations and service you expect with a Disney Vacation Club® resort. DVC guests check in at the main desk located in the lobby of the resort’s main building. I have walked into that lobby many, many times and I am still mesmerized by the majestic features found through out the main building. The new building that is host the DVC villas is located on the south end of the resort property and is separated from the main building by the pool area. Since we had to walk past it to get to our villa, the pool area was the first thing we noticed and holy cow was it incredible! The pool itself is nice and has a water slide, but the main attraction to this area is Alice’s Splash Zone. This shallow splash pad has two little slides, sprinklers, buckets, and the main attraction—the Mad Hatter’s Hat. This gigantic hat fills with water at the top of the play area. When the hat is full it tips, dumping its contents on, sometimes unsuspecting, visitors. We must have stood there for 20 minutes just watching that hat fill and dump on the waders below. When we finally did tear ourselves away from the “show”, we were just a short walk from the entrance to the DVC building.

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The lobby of the DVC building definitely pales in comparison to the lobby of the resort’s main building, but it is still beautiful. The best part of the lobby is most certainly the penguin fountain located right in the center. I loved that fountain. It was the first thing we would see before we would exit the resort for our Disney day and it is the last thing we would see before turning in at night. The penguins depicted in the fountain are the penguin characters from the movie Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins has always been one of my favorite Disney Characters (I think because she had the ULTIMATE handbag), so seeing that fountain everyday really made my visit a little more magical.

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Since we have a big family, we reserved a 2-bedrrom villa. I had figured that the interior of our villa would be similar other DVC resorts at which we have stayed. However, upon opening the door to our villa every single one of us let out an audible “wow”. The door opens to a good-sized foyer and leads guests to the two-bed bedroom on the left, to the master bath on the right and into the kitchen area straight ahead. The foyer was spacious and it was big enough to park both our strollers and be the designated “shoe dump” area for seven people and it still had enough room for us to walk through easily! The kitchen was modern and spacious and had booth seating around the kitchen table. The kitchen contains just about all of the common items and appliances you would find at home-toaster, coffee pot, dishes, pots and pans…etc. The layout of the kitchen/living area is open and very bright. The kitchen opens into the living room where guests will not only find traditional furnishings but also a cabinet door that contains a secret hideaway bed. The villa is decorated tastefully and has several “Mary Poppins” themed items—which I loved, of course.

IMG_5859We had a lake view villa so the sliding doors led to the balcony that overlooks Bay Lake. The balcony stretches the entire length of the villa and each bedroom has a sliding glass door that opened out to the balcony. It was a beautiful place to watch the sunrise, the Electrical Water Pageant, or just to look out across Bay Lake.

The bedrooms in the villa were similar to other DVC resorts. The master bedroom had a king sized bed where as the second bedroom had two queen beds. Each bedroom was decent sized and had plenty of room to store all of our things—no easy feat with 7 people. The big “wow” elements, at least for our family, was the claw foot tub in the master bath and the TV’s inside the mirrors of the bathroom. Yes, IMG_5860TV’s–IN THE BATHROOM! –not that my kids need, yet another reason, to take more time in the bathroom. The TV’s are located in the corner of the mirror so it was easy to still brush your teeth or put on make up utilizing the mirror while the TV was on. It was really one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The second bathroom, on the second bedroom side of the villa, actually contained a shower and a shower/tub combo. This was extremely convenient when trying to get everyone bathed.

So the villas were great, getting to the pool area is a breeze, and the DVC building is just a short walk away (if you cut through the pool area) from resort’s restaurants and shopping. The one drawback that we found with the DVC villas is the walk to get to transportation. In order to get on the Monorail or any of the resort busses, you do need to walk back to the main building. It isn’t a terribly long walk, but can seem like one for little feet at the end of a long day. The walkway between the main building and the DVC villas is covered, which is a plus, so if it’s raining, which happens quite a bit in Florida, you do not have to make a mad dash between raindrops. You can also take a water taxi to Disney’s Magic Kingdom or to Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Boat travel is always a hit with my gang so we used that mode of transportation quite a bit.

DVC guests can take advantage of the many amenities Disney’s Grand Florida Resort and Spa has to offer. From fishing and boat rentals to private cabanas and spa appointments there is something for everyone. They even have a campfire marshmallow roast at dusk and nightly movies on the beach. If you have yet to experience a movie on the beach, I highly recommend it. It’s a unique experience, lounging on a beach chair, watching a Disney movie. It’s one of those things that you would probably never do at home and should most definitely take advantage of while on vacation.

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Some people have commented that the overall atmosphere of the resort is “stuffy”. I did not find that to be true at all. I think some may get that impression simply due to the fact that the resort is designed to mimic the Victorian style resorts in which the elite used to vacation in back in the late 1800’s. Perhaps the Victorian design may give some folk the impression that this resort, too, is for the “elite”, but that is simply not the case. We found the resort to be relaxing and comfortable and the service outstanding. We absolutely LOVED staying at the Disney Vacation Club® Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. We would most certainly stay there again, although since the number of DVC points needed for a stay is quite high, I am sure I will still have to do a little nagging…I mean…discussing…with my husband. ☺ But for now, I am most certainly glad we were able to enjoy the villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. It was an incredible experience.

Frozen Summer Fun at Hollywood Studios – With AND Without the Premium Package

Written By: Marci Smith

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My family and I recently had the opportunity to visit Hollywood Studios during the Frozen Summer events and we had a great time! We were able to experience both the premium package and a day on our own. These are our observations:

Obtaining Tickets For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Musical Celebration:

With Premium: We checked in for the Premium Package near Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner around 9:45am. During the check in process we were able to choose tickets to any of the sing-along shows we wanted. We chose to attend one of the later shows and take the afternoon away from the crowds and heat. It was really nice not to have to stress about the possibility of not getting tickets or have to run to the back of the park to get them. We signed up for Jedi Training in the time we would have spent getting tickets.

Without Premium: Tickets to the Frozen sing-along are available on a first-come, first-served basis on the Streets of America. We went shortly after park opening and were given our choice of shows throughout the day. We decided to try an earlier show this time, and asked for tickets to the 1:30 sing-along. There was no line for the tickets, and the whole process was a breeze!

Viewing the Welcome Procession:

With Premium: Upon returning to our original check-in point near Min & Bill’s at 10:30am, we were escorted to a large area that was to the left of the Sorcerer’s Hat. There was plenty of room to stand and walk around with a special area in the front sectioned off for children and 1 parent. We were also able to get as many Mickey Bars, Frozen Lemonades, Bottled Waters and Sodas as we wanted! I sat with the kids towards the back of the sectioned area and still had a good view. However, some of the guests at the rope decided to stand up and block the view for everyone else. If you do get the premium package, I recommend either getting to the front of the rope or asking a Cast Member to enforce the seating arrangement. We basically missed the entire procession, but could still see what was going on at the stage. I did notice that once the official welcome is finished, Anna and Elsa exit to the left and the entire procession heads down past American Idol near Jedi Training. I hurried over to the left side of the stage and had a perfect view of Anna and Elsa leaving in their sleigh!

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Without Premium: About 30 minutes before the Welcome Procession we headed to Hollywood Boulevard to secure our spot. Nearly all of the viewing areas close to the Sorcerer’s Hat stage were taken, but we did find a lot of places to stand on the right side of the street. However, all of these spaces were in the sun, so I decided to stake out a spot near guest relations, right where the procession would begin. You can’t see the stage from there, but even up to 15 minutes before the procession there were still a few good places to stand. Once it began, we had a great view. If you’re concerned about missing the short exchange that happens onstage after the procession, just follow right behind the parade as they walk up Hollywood Boulevard and you won’t even have to fight the crowds!

Here is a video clip from our view of the procession without the Premium Package:

For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Musical Celebration Experience:

With Premium: We arrived at the Premium Package line about 10 minutes before show time and were immediately escorted into the theater. The first three or four rows are reserved just for package guests, so we had amazing seats right in the center of the third row. There was no wait to get in and we loved our seats.

Our view of the Sing-Along with the Premium Package:

Without Premium:
Upon arriving 30 minutes before the show the entire setup of where exactly to go is very confusing. There were three different lines and it wasn’t immediately clear which one to use. When we did figure out where we were supposed to line up, it was very crowded and extremely slow-moving. We went through a few switchbacks and finally made it into the theater a little after 1:30pm. They had not started the show, but waited until everyone with a ticket was in and seated. We were sent up to the very top of the bleachers in the back. Although we were far away, we had a great view of the entire stage. The kids really loved the sing-along but were a little disappointed that Elsa’s ‘snow’ didn’t reach up to where we were sitting.

Our view of the Sing-Along without the Premium Package:

Frozen Fireworks Dessert Party (Premium): The dessert party was definitely the highlight of the entire day. We entered at the same location as we had earlier that morning; only the reserved area was larger and went all the way up to the Sorcerer’s Hat stage. Tables were placed around the area for guests to grab some yummy treats and enjoy the live music. The selection was really large and included some wonderfully themed treats such as Anna and Elsa mini cupcakes, Olaf on a stick, glittery key lime tarts and a selection of fun drinks like Troll Juice. I was pleasantly surprised to see two themed alcoholic beverages included as well. Other options included more ice cream bars, sodas, bottled waters, and what would a Frozen themed party be without chocolate fondue? It was wonderful to have room to walk around and enjoy the drinks and desserts without worrying about losing your spot for the fireworks. Room to move around really saved the night for us. My kids normally go to bed early, and if we’d had to stay put until 9:45 they never would have made it. Many people also really enjoyed the dance party (I was not one of them), to which we had a front row seat. We had a nice view of the fireworks, but I think it would have been better a little further back from the stage area. All things considered, the dessert party was awesome and really finished the entire day with a bang (no pun intended).

Video Clip of the Dessert Party, Fireworks and Snow on Hollywood Boulevard:

“Coolest Summer Ever” Dance Party and Fireworks (Without Premium): The dance party runs each day from 5:30 to 9:30 and is unfortunately, unavoidable. The Ice Men of the North (or a re-themed Mulch, Sweat & Shears) were incredibly loud and obnoxious. I’m really surprised that an event that is mostly frequented by families with young kids (it IS an animated movie with princesses after all), would subject them to such loud music for 4 hours straight. I also feel that 9:45pm is WAY too late to expect kids to stay up for fireworks. When we had the premium package they were able to stay awake only because they could walk around and enjoy desserts. This particular night was very different. My kids and I were able to get a really good spot near the tip board in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard about an hour before the fireworks were to start. By 9:15, the kids were a mess. It was hot, very crowded and extremely loud. People kept piling in around us and we could barely move. There was no way we were going to be able to stay for the fireworks. Although it was really disappointing to leave without seeing them, we just couldn’t stay. If you have young kids who are used to going to bed early, I would suggest getting a good viewing spot at least an hour before and then have someone you’re with take the kids into the shops, get them a snack, take a walk, etc. Also, keep in mind that the days we came to see Frozen Summer Fun were two busy days in August. If you’re coming in September, you’ll definitely see lighter crowds than we did.

Visiting Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post & Frozen Funland:
You do not have to have the premium package to visit the Trading Post or the Frozen Funland, and you do not get anything extra here by having the package.

My best advice for visiting Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Frozen Funland is: Get there early! We visited both first thing in the morning and late in the day and the crowds were much higher the later it became. The Trading Post is filled with a huge selection of Frozen merchandise. If you’re still on the hunt for an Elsa dress this is the perfect place to get it! I was also able to snag one of the Limited Edition Olaf Magic Bands while we were here! Playing in the snow and ice-skating at Frozen Funland was amazing. The kids had so much fun and it’s a great way to get out of the heat for a while. At first when I heard about this, I was worried that we would be cold and even considered bringing some snow gear down from New York. We absolutely didn’t need it. It felt great to get out of the hot sun and into the cold. The highlight of Frozen Funland was definitely the professional ice skaters. Throughout the day they enter the ice and perform a short, comical routine that is just incredible!

So, the big question: Is the Premium Package worth the price?
The short answer: YES.

When I think about what we enjoyed for the money we spent and compare it to prices for the other dessert parties available, I definitely think it was worth it. That being said, with some planning, you can absolutely have an amazing time at Frozen Summer without the premium package. Just be sure to plan ahead, get there early, and let your kids take a break from the noise and crowds with one parent while the other gets a spot for the fireworks. Either way, you should absolutely experience Frozen Summer Fun while it’s still around. You’re sure to have a wonderful time with or without the Premium Package!

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If you’d like to book the Frozen Summer Premium Package on select dates in September (August is currently sold out) call (407) 939-1939.

Additional Dessert Party Prices (Current as of 08/14/14)

Wishes dessert party is $27.68/adult and $14.90/child

Illuminations sparkling dessert party is $49/adult and $29/child

Frozen Summer Premium Package: We paid $59/adult and $34/child for the Frozen Summer Premium Package. Now that the dates have been extended, the price has increased to $69 for adults and $39 for kids.

Important Facts About DCL

Written By – Dawn Gosdin

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‘First things first, I’m a realist’ is playing in my head as I begin with my #1 important fact about DCL~ If you’re 21 or older, you can bring alcohol onboard as long as it fits in your carry-on bag (cannot exceed 22x14x9.) You are NOT allowed to drink your alcohol in public areas onboard, so drink it up in your cabin. If you want to bring your own champagne or wine to the dining room, they’ll charge you a corking fee. ($20) Hubby & I were fully loaded, in more ways than one, lol!
You are not required to have a passport if you’re a U.S. citizen & traveling a closed loop cruise (cruises that begin and end at the same port in the U.S.) However it would be wise to have one. If for any reason you need to fly home from a foreign port, it’s required.

You don’t have to book your Port Excursions through Disney at a premium. You can book them on your own for half the price, research peeps! The positive aspect of booking a Disney port excursion is “peace of mind” in knowing that IF the Disney port adventure runs later than planned, Disney will wait for you or they’ll arrange travel to the next port at their expense.

Until recently I had no idea what a “Fish Extender” was. Peeps would talk about them all the time on Disney forums and I’d just pretended I knew what they were talking about. So here it goes folks, don’t be in the dark like I was. Each of the Disney Cruise Line staterooms has a small silver fish or seahorse to the right or left of the door. Usually, it’s for the ship’s correspondence with you during your cruise, but those participating in a fish extender exchange hang a bag or special holder to the “fish” to serve as a mailbox. If you want to participate, you sign up (with Disney forums, not with DCL), provide your information and stateroom number, and make little goodies for each person or each cabin. I unfortunately missed the cutoff date on our cruise because of my late booking, but snagged a great rate on my room instead. Woot!

DCL is NOT totally all inclusive~ NOPE, your cruise fare includes a lot, but you’ll pay extra for a host of amenities. Alternative restaurants like Palo & Remy, specialty coffees and alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, spa treatments and gratuities.

Disney Cruise Line has a “cash-free” system on board the ship. When you arrive at the DCL terminal you will present a credit card or if you don’t want to give them a CC, give them cash or you can use both for your purchases, gratuities (if not prepaid) spa treatments, etc. If you applied cash & a credit card towards your onboard purchases. They will use all cash before charging your cc. They do this in increments of $350, once you reach that amount, they’ll retrieve it from your onboard credit.

Alcoholic beverages aboard most ships including Disney Cruise Line automatically charge an 18% gratuity included in the price of the drink. Don’t double tip, unless you feel their service was “to infinity & beyond” or you just like to give your money away & if that’s the case, send it my way, lol.

Seasickness~ Over-the-counter medication like Dramamine or Bonine will help. If you are very prone to seasickness, ask your doctor before you leave home for the Transdermal patch, available by prescription. Alternative remedies include ginger capsules and acupressure wristbands, available at most pharmacies. I’m usually prone to motion sickness, but I’ve never been seasick on a cruise ship, just sailboats-and I was a wee bit intoxicated, UGH☹

Parking at the port can be expensive, you can choose to park at a local Park & Cruise parking lot for half the price, I’ve done this at Port Canaveral on previous cruises & I had a nice experience. If you prefer to park at the port, here are the prices: 3-night cruise $60, 4-night cruise $75, 5-night cruise $90, 7-night cruise $120. If you want preferred parking it’ll cost you $20.00 extra, we did this on our recent cruise~ it’s gated and conveniently located by the DCL entrance.

Let’s be real, sometimes we want private adult-time & wish our own children would magically disappear~ especially other peeps children (sorry, but true). I have great news; adult exclusive areas actually exist on Disney Cruise Line. Activities such as; nightclubs, dining, pools & entertainment, for guests 18 & older. I foresee R&R in your future, ahhh!

Words associated with Cruise Lines

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Embarkation~ board a ship or aircraft

Debarkation~ disembark a ship or aircraft.

Bow~ is the forward part of the hull of a ship or boat. Aka, the “pointy end” lol!

Port (referencing side of ship)~ the left-hand side of a vessel or aircraft, facing forward.

Forward~ toward the bow or front of a vessel or aircraft.

Starboard~ right-hand side of a ship or aircraft as one faces forward

Aft~ situated toward or at the stern or tail of a ship or boat.

Terminal~ a station with a public carrier, where passengers embark or disembark and where freight is received or discharged.

PORT~ city, town, or other place where ships load or unload.

DCL~ Disney Cruise Line

Midship~ area of the ship generally halfway between bow and stern along the length of the ship.

Muster Drill~ a safety drill run at the beginning of every cruise. Passengers are shown where to find their life vests, and where to assemble to prepare to enter their assigned lifeboats (muster station).

Tender~ a small boat used to get passengers ashore when a ship is at anchor instead of alongside a dock. Tenders are used regularly in islands with no dock facilities. Tenders often look like lifeboats.

Key to the World Card or Sail & Sign Card~ a magnetic stripe plastic card that works as your room key, boarding pass, identification card and onboard charge card during the cruise. For energy efficient ships like Disney Cruise Line, you also use to turn on lights in cabin.

Want more crazy articles from moi, don’t be afraid, visit my blog~ http://dawnsdorkydiary.com/ Have a magical day  *O*

We Fell in Love with Aulani

Written by – Liz Weimann

I am a planner. I make lists, schedules, and reservations. I take special care in making sure my girls have the “right” outfit for whatever we are doing that day. Vacations are my favorite things to plan. I love the detailed planning of a Disney World vacation. Let me tell you, when I got the chance to plan a family trip to Hawaii, I was in my element!

The first thing I did was get a book on Hawaii to make a list of all the things we would want to do and see. We had a list of restaurants that we might want to try. We made reservations. I put together a packet with our reservations and our schedules. I had everything ready to go. What I didn’t count on was the way our family would fall in love with Aulani – A Disney Resort & Spa.

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We arrived in Honolulu on Wednesday, May 21st. We had caught our first flight at 5:40am Atlanta time and we finally made it to Hawaii around 1:30pm Hawaii time which was not too far off our girls’ normal bedtime at home.  We were in our rental Jeep and off to Aulani by 3pm. I expected some meltdowns, but I think we were all caught up in the wonder of finally being in Hawaii that it didn’t matter that we were all tired. I checked in online before leaving home, so when we arrived at Aulani, we were greeted with glasses of fruit-infused water, leis, and our resort packet.

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Online check-in was great because we never had to go to the front desk. We were greeted outside the main door and escorted into the lobby while the Cast Member explained a few things about the resort lobby and the activities available.

Our room was ready upon arrival, so we headed up to our ocean view studio. I had contacted DVC Member Services prior to our trip to request an upper floor overlooking Waikelohe Valley, which is the main pool area. Both requests were fulfilled and we ended up with this fabulous view.

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One thing about Aulani is that there are only a few rooms that have full ocean views. These are all Grand Villas on the ends of each tower, but I think our view was just fine. We had no complaints.

Aulani is comprised of a central building with two towers leading off to each side. The lobby, the stores, the ‘Olelo Room and Makahiki restaurant are all located in the central building. ‘Ama ‘Ama, the community hall, and Auntie’s Beach House are located in the ‘Ewa Tower, while the Ulu Café is located in the Wai’Anae Tower. Our villa was in the Wai’Anae Tower.

The Waikelohe Valley has something for everyone. There are two pools, two water slides, a lazy river, and multiple hot tubs. We found three of them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more. A couple of them are hidden pretty well. The whole area has a lovely tropical feeling and there seemed to be plenty of chairs…sometimes they were harder to find than others and maybe not where we wanted to be exactly, but we were always able to find one or two chairs in the shade.

We didn’t experience the food as much as we could have. We attended the character breakfast at Makahiki and it was one of the best buffets and character experiences we’ve ever had at any Disney resort or park. The characters came around multiple times and there were plenty of activities that the kids could do with Auntie throughout the meal. We really enjoyed ourselves!

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As I think back on our trip, I realize that we never made it to the Dole Plantation or to Haunauma Bay. We hiked up Diamond Head, ate shave ice at Matsumoto on the North Shore, had Leonard’s famous malasadas, walked around Waikiki, drove to the windward side of the island to check things out, and enjoyed the luau at the Royal Hawaiian, so we did plenty on our 10-day trip, but the one thing that we did more than anything was spend time at Aulani. I realized that sometimes all the planning in the world doesn’t make for a great vacation, but dropping everything to sit back, relax, enjoy the breeze, and a shave ice is the best vacation ever!

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