Monday, October 17, 2016

Disney Fantasy: 7 Night Western Caribbean: Boarding

Sailing Away
   Day one, also known as Sail Away Day.  The port is filled with excited, as well as confused, kids and adults. What line do I get in? Where do I go first? How do I know it is my turn to board?  CALM DOWN!  There are cast members all around to help guide you on your journey.
  First, no matter how you arrive at port, there are people waiting to assist you with luggage.  These folks will take all of your checked bags to the ship and all you have to worry about is what you are carrying on. MAKE SURE that you have your passports or travel documents with you and not in the checked luggage. This would make getting through security much quicker and easier. Speaking of security, that's where you head next.  Usually there are several lines open to make this quick and painless. It is somewhat like airport security but you get to keep your shoes on ;).
   Now, up the escalators! Wow, the room is packed! Head over to the desk and find a cast member to get you checked in.  All members of your party will need to be with you to get photos and key to the world cards.  This is also where you will be assigned your boarding group number.  After you are checked in, you can sign the younger kiddos up for the youth activities. There are TVs playing various Disney shows or movies, Disney music is playing on the loud speaker, characters to meet and bathrooms are available if needed too. When I looked around, I saw lots of excited people playing on their phones to get in their last moment of wi-fi.
   Listen closely for your boarding number to be called and that's when you line up.  As you enter the ship, there are usually a couple of lines.  There is one with a photo op and one to go straight in. This decision is totally up to you, but there will be many more photo opportunities throughout the week.  Once you are at the entrance, a cast member will ask your family name and you will be royally welcomed onto the ship into the gorgeous Fantasy lobby! Choosing what to do next is up to you. If you are boarding before 1:30PM, chances are your room won't be ready. You can do a ship tour, set up activities at customer service, don your bathing suit and hit the Aquaduck or grab some lunch at Cabanas buffet and wait for the Sail Away Party with your closest friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 Epcot's Food and Wine Review and Tips

This past week I got to enjoy one of the best things that go on in Epcot each year. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. This is one of my favorite times to go to Epcot. I am a foodie. I love food and I love trying new and exciting things.

 If you're not sure what the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is, it is where you get to eat small portioned items from each country and then many from around the world. Small items cost 3-9 dollars each and most alcoholic drinks cost 4-12 dollars. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is included in your ticket to Epcot. As you walk around the world showcase and into Future World, you will see small buildings serving small plates and drinks.

 This year's festival did not disappoint. We chose to go on opening day, which we have never done but had the chance to do this year. The crowds were really low, even around 3 pm. We didn't have more than a 5 minute wait for anything. 

 The weather was brutal. it got to 100 degrees that day and it was hot. However, we braved through it and still had the best time.

 When you enter be on the lookout for the Food & Wine Festival Passport. That will show you what each booth is serving. A cool new feature this year is instead of the usual stamps your used to get, (you used to have to take the book up to each booth and get a stamp if you wanted) this yearbthey included some cool stickers so you can add them yourself. Saves on time and makes the lines a bit shorter. I think that was a great idea.

 This year we wanted to try some new things that we had not tried yet, so we just chose to focus on those items; but some of the past years' items were too yummy to pass up. Each year the menu changes a bit, but usually they tend to keep people's favorite dishes.

 First on our list was Craft Beers. This is a must do for some really unique beers and some cool food. We had the Piggy Wings; you got 2 small "wings", these were amazing! We also had to get a drink to wash it down, so we tried the Shipyard Midnight Snack Milk Stout. This is something we had never even heard of, let alone tried, so we got that. I never had a beer that tasted like you were eating, well, drinking an Oreo cookie! That was an strange yet amazing beer. Even better was knowing the place that makes it is local to me, so I can have it whenever I want now!

 Next item we had was from Australia. Now this is something we have had, but it's just too good not to re-try: the Grilled Lamb Chop with mint pesto and potato crunchies. This is one of the best meat items they have. This is my husband's favorite.

 Then we were off to New Zealand, to try the Seared Venison with Wild mushroom marsala sauce and Kumara dumpling. My husband loves his deer and said it was awesome!

 On to my favorite booth of the day: the Farm Fresh booth. They have comfort food! My favorite! We got the Loaded mac n' cheese with Nueske's pepper bacon, cheddar cheese, peppers and green onions and the Chicken and dumplings stewed chicken with mushrooms and spinach. I believe these were the two best items I had all day. I could have eaten a few more, but I had more food items to go so I didn't want to stuff myself. This booth served a nice helping of food.The items were amazing.

 We had a Fastpass for Soarin' so we had to go back up the other way and decided to run over to the Chocolate studio to get the Liquid nitro chocolate almond truffle with warm whiskey. This is a nice cool touch to a warm day. It's amazing to watch them make this item with the CO2, and then they break it open for you. It's amazingly good. It's kind of like a melted candy bar, but its still holds it shape.

 After that we headed over to China to try a new drink this year. It was called the Happy Peach with Dekuyper peach liqueur and Meyers dark rum. This drink was perfect for a hot day. It is kind of sweet, and can sneak up on you. It was like you were drinking a fresh peach.

We then made a quick stop in Poland to get this thing everyone was talking about called a Frozen apple pie. I had heard so many people saying you have got to try this drink. The name of it is Szarlotka and it is Apple pie filling and Bison grass Vodka.This was pretty strong, but to have a drink that requires a spoon too is just special to me. The bottom of this drink had a layer of real apple pie filling, the drink was super cold and on top were these crumbs like you would find on an apple pie. It was one of the most amazing drinks I have ever had, and I was definitely feeling the buzz after that one.

 We ended the day off with a stop in Ireland and picked up a warm chocolate pudding with Irish cream liquor custard. This was the perfect ending to a perfect, yet hot day.

 So,what are some tips?

 Come hungry! You don't want to come to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival after having a big meal somewhere. There is plenty of food to make this your meal.

 The heavier crowds are always on the weekends. For shorter lines try and avoid going on the weekend if possible.

 Make sure you see the other events going on, like the eat to the beat concerts that take place in the evenings. Go to the seminars at the Festival Center and be sure the check out the other things going on. Some are free, some you have to pay for, but make sure to check them all out. They have classes, seminars, demonstrations, everything! There are also events at some of the resorts this year.

Set a budget. The small meals and drinks tend to add up at the end of the day, so my tip is to put that set amount of money on a food and wine gift card. They are these neat little cards that you can wear on your wrist,= and they are a nice little token/souvenir to bring him when you're finished. They can be activated with as little as $15.00 to start.

 My next tip would be to get to the showcase earlier in the day. The food booths open at 11am, by 4-5 pm they tend to get a little busier.

 Last tip would be if you're a Chase card holder take advantage of the Chase lounge. It's located in the upstairs of the American paviilion. They have free drinks from the Coke Freesyle machines and places to sit and cool off and has places to charge your electronics. 

Here are some of the Menus:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

UPDATED WDW Refurbishment Schedule

 WDW Refurbishment Schedule

Please remember that these dates may change

Magic Kingdom
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Aug. 8 – Nov. 18, 2016
  • Swiss Family Treehouse: Jul 6. – Sept. 24, 2016
  • Liberty Square Riverboat: Aug. 1 – 7, 2016
  • “It's A Small World”: Aug. 22 – Sept. 15, 2016
  • No current/upcoming closures for Epcot
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Pizza Planet: Jan. 19, 2016 – Late 2016
  • Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream: Jul. 16 – 19, 2016
  • Voyage of The Little Mermaid: Jul. 24 – 27, 2016
  • MuppetVision 3D: Aug. 15-22, 2016
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • DINOSAUR: Jul. 25 – Sept. 29, 2016
  • UPDATE: The dates of this refurbishment of Dinosaur at Disney's Animal Kingdom have been changed. The attraction is still closing next month on July 25th, but is now scheduled to reopen on October 17th.
WDW Water Parks
Blizzard Beach: Entire park: October 23, 2016 - December 25, 2016
Typhoon Lagoon: Entire park: December 25, 2016 - March 12, 2017

Disney Springs and Other WDW Areas
  • Planet Hollywood: Jan. 1, 2016 – Summer 2016
  • Fulton’s Crab House – Reopening as Paddlefish: Apr. 4 – Late Fall/Winter 2016
Walt Disney World Resorts
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel: June 2016 – Sept. 2016
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas – Soft Goods Rehab: Apr. 2 – Oct. 14, 2016
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – Martinique Pool: May 31 – Jul. 1, 2016
  • Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter – Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory: Jul. 11 – Fall 2016
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – General refurb: Oct. 2, 2015 – 2017
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – Hidden Springs leisure pool, resort beach, playground, and Recreation fire pit will be unavailable: Oct. 26, 2015 – 2017
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Inn – Flying Fish Refurbishment: Feb. 1 – Through Summer 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Q &A interview with Leonard Kinsey

 I have gotten the chance to interview one of my favorite authors and publisher Leonard Kinsey.

You may have heard of him, One of the most famous books he has written is 'The Dark Side of Disney'.selling over 40,000 copies, Kind of a "how to" book for more adventurous people who want to enjoy Disney just as much as the kids do. He has also written books such as Our Kingdom of Dust, and Habst and the Disney Saboteurs to name a few. Leonard is also a publisher for Bamboo Forest. We discussed many topics, so let's go!

Where are you from?

 I was born and raised in Clearwater Florida and spent my teenage years in Disney, We got to go there monthly, It became my second home.

When did you start writing?

 Its kind of funny, I actually entered a contest for a small story during a school book fair, where you would only win a few books or so, but I entered my story in and I won. From there I just kept writing, I took English classes and Writing in College,and just kept writing.

What advise do you have for future writers out there?

Just write, whenever you can, I had many many stories that were just stupid, but you can't let that stop you. Not everything you write is going to be a masterpiece, or a book. Just keep writing, and love your subject.

What books have influenced you along the way?

Writing style wise I would have to say The Catcher in the Rye. Others would have to be The Great Gatsby and American Psycho.

The Dark Side of Disney kind of has a cult following doesn't it?

Yes, it does. Some loved it, others hated it. I have gotten hate mail, and people who just loved the book.

What are some of the positive things that came from the writing of your books?

The positives out weigh the negatives. I have made so many friends and fans, and have gotten to work with the likes of people like Rolly Crump (who actually got to work with Walt Disney himself), and Jeff Heimbach, I have also gotten the chance to get into Club 33 in Disneyland.

What are some of the negatives that have come from writing your books?

I have gotten hate mail, I have be threatened from people who want to do harm to me, That wasn't the best feeling. Lots of twitter comments of people calling me names.

What made you write The Dark Side of Disney?

I was sick of all these books showing what families and couples and people with kids showed, I wanted to show that no matter how many times you go to Disney you can still have as much fun as the kids do, just in a different way.

How has your life changed since writing these books?

I have a more enriched, fuller life, I get to meet so many new people, It has given me a creative outlet, It has given me a small following, to me its been rewarding,and its like now I feel that I am leaving a legacy, something for me to leave behind.

 Do you have any regrets in writing the books? 

The Dark Side of Disney. In some ways I feel we took it too far and have gotten people in trouble, Some cast members got fired and that bothers me to know that.

 Ok Leonard we have to know:

What is your favorite Disney park?
 If you asked me 3 or 4 years I would have said Epcot, however I have to say Disneyland now. When  I am in Disneyland it automatically brings me back to when I was a child, the nostalgia of it all, It is Walt's park, where Disney World has taken so much of that stuff out, its just not there anymore for me, sadly.

What is your favorite drink in Disney?

 I would have to say any of the German beers, I loved when they used to sell the yard of beer. Second favorite would have to be the Avocado Margarita. in Mexico.

Well Leonard do you have any new upcoming things you would like to talk about?

 Yes, I am publishing a Guide to every bar in Walt Disney World, That should be coming out in the next month or two.

I am also publishing the next Rolly Crump book, More Cute Stories Vol. 6. This one talks about Knott's Berry Farm.

If you are interested in any of the books mentioned please visit for further information.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Restaurants and Fireworks: Walt Disney World

   One of the best ways to end a magical night is eating at a great Disney restaurant and watching the sky light up with a wonderful fireworks display. Here are some ideas to make it relaxing and wonderful experience.

    There are many Disney restaurants where you can catch the fireworks and relax with no crowds. Magic Kingdom's "Wishes" and EPCOT's "Illuminations" have an awesome firework display and shouldn't be missed. Always check the times of the fireworks to plan your dining reservations. Times change according to season. I always recommend scheduling dining 45 minutes before the fireworks.

   One of the restaurants with a great view of the Magic Kingdom is O'hana at the Polynesian Resort. It has a direct view of the castle. When you're booking, mention you want the fireworks viewing table. If you can't get a reservation, best place to watch the show is on the beach. O'hana is a casual dining establishment known for its spectacular ambiance and incredible food.

Another restaurant is Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian. It also gives a great view of the castle. There is even a railing for outdoor viewing. Narcoossee's is an upscale, casual type of restaurant known for its seafood but they do have steak and other options as well. If you are not hungry and just want to break away from the parks a bit, you can get a good view from the docks.

Now, let's venture to the Contemporary Resort and check out other restaurants, California Grill and Chef Mickey's. Whether you want fine dining at the California Grill or character dining at Chef
Mickey's, it is a perfect view to watch "Wishes." If you can get a reservation there is also an observation deck with a great panoramic view of the Magic Kingdom.

Although these locations give you a scenic view of the Magic Kingdom there are locations within the park where you can grab some food and still catch the show. Crystal Palace, Casey's Corner, and Tomorrowland Terrace. However, I personally like being in the middle of the fireworks and watch them from Pinnochio's Village Haus in Fantasyland. The fireworks explode all around you and above your  head. However, you won't experience Wishes from the front of the castle. It is still an experience to see the sky light up all around you.

As many times as I have seen, "Wishes," I can never get enough of it.

Magic Kingdom isn't the only park with a night show. Now we will talk about EPCOT's "Illuminations."

Rose and Crown at the United Kingdom, known for their Fish and Chips, is one of the best viewing locations. Patio seating is available but can't be guaranteed.

If you don't feel like the park, Disney's Boardwalk has a great view from the bridge looking towards Spaceship Earth.  If you have the chance to stay at the resort, ask for the boardwalk view. It isn't guaranteed but if you are lucky, the fireworks are awesome.

"Wishes" - View from the balcony, 15th floor, Contemporary Resort 
"Wishes" - View from Fantasyland

"Illuminations" - View from a room at the Boardwalk Inn

"Illuminations" - View within EPCOT

Friday, March 11, 2016

Walt Before Mickey Review

You may have heard some buzz about a film called Walt Before Mickey back in August of 2015. Walt Before Mickey is a motion picture based on the book of the same title by Timothy Susanin with foreword by Diane Disney Miller. It is directed by Khoa Lee and stars Armando Gutierrez as Ub Iwerks, Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) as Roy Disney, Jodie Sweetin (Full House) as Charlotte Disney, and Thomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year) as Walt Disney.

Not only was I excited about the movie I was super excited to have the opportunity to attend the premiere at the AMC Downtown Disney (Now Disney Springs). We knew that it was going to be a great experience when before we even entered the building we ran into an actor from the movie and his family. His daughter was so proud to say that her daddy was in the movie. I wondered who else we may see that morning. My son and I took our seat in the theater and before we knew it the Director Khoa Lee, Thomas Ian Nicholas, and a few other actors were in front of us talking about how excited they were for us to see the movie and that they would be outside after it was complete to sign autographs and get some pictures.

For a Disney nut like myself I was so excited to see a movie that followed parts of Walt Disney’s life that rarely are discussed. Typically it is brushed upon that Walt Disney had a rough time starting out and that he faced diversity but an in depth look at that time in his life was something that I felt was missing. This motion picture does exactly that, it tells the story of Walt Disney up to the creation of the iconic Mickey Mouse. This, sometimes very depressing, look at Walt’s struggles doesn’t sugar coat anything when telling the story. It is difficult to watch at times because of the adverse situations that Walt Disney faced, but important life lessons can be learned with each.

My son and I were both captivated by the movie, and that is saying a lot when one of us was a 12 year-old boy with a very small attention span. After watching all of the credits we made our way out to the lobby where we were not only greeted by the Director and Thomas Ian Nicholas but also Armando Gutierrez (Ub Iwerks), and other actors from the movie. It seemed every time we turned around there was someone in front of us that we had just seen on the big screen. It was a very neat experience that I will not soon forget.

Since this is a review and I have shared my bias I will caution someone who is thinking about watching this film that there are few feel good moments for someone who cannot connect the success that is to come with what they are seeing on the screen. My wife said that it may have been one of the most depressing 110 minutes that she has seen in a long time. That being said, I think it is important for any huge Disney fan to see what kind of determination it took to bring everything we love today into being. I believe that it could be very important for anyone who has struggled in life to realize that things can turn up if you dig deep and keep on keeping on.  While it is largely a story of failure, it is also a story of success.  It is a story that needed to be told and I am glad that these filmmakers decided to share the story with us.