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Updates and NEW COUNTDOWN!!!

So all has been quiet of late in the Crazy Pug life, no proper blog updates apart from reviews for a while, the reason being – My laptop died 😦 All my photos and videos from our honeymoon trip and past trips are on there so I have no pictures or anything to do any food reviews or make any sort of interesting content.

I’m finally having all my files taken off this week so that means – NEW BLOGS!

Not only that we have a little trip booked, exciting stuff.

It’s not Orlando, we’re saving that one for a few years to be able to do a longer trip, but we are going to Disneyland Paris over the summer so we can experience The Lion King and Jungle Festival.

I’ve never really been to Paris for any of the special events they have on, I was there twice over the 25th Anniversary celebrations but never to one of the festivals that they have so I’m really looking forward to this one.

There’s a few things I’ve read about it so I sort of know what to expect in terms of the incredible shows that are planned. And those are what I’m most excited to experience. There is one Lion King show and also one based on Jungle Book so I’m really looking forward to seeing what they are like.

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There’s not a great deal of info coming out at the moment as to what other things will be happening, I know there is some sort of Lion King dining experience at Hakuna Matata – which has never been open on my previous visits. It came up as an add-on when I booked my package but I can’t seem to find anything about that online at the moment. It was about £80 from what I can recall so it was quite expensive. I think it gave priority seating for the shows as well as the dining.

I’ll be doing a lot of planning in the coming weeks as this trip we are going with friends who have a 4 year old so this trip is going to be quite different to previous ones.

I’ll be pre-booking dining over the phone so when the time comes I will let you know how that went and I’m already sorting a bit of an itinerary – although with the times for the festival offerings not being available yet that could all change.

What I can tell you is we’re on site at Sequoia Lodge – my favourite hotel in Disneyland Paris – we’re flying over this time and we have the half board dining plan.

I will be taking my own mobility scooter as Disneyland Paris don’t have them to hire so I will be going through the process of booking that onto the plane and also seeing how the Magical Shuttle is booked with it – as you’re not able to book it as part of your package if you have access requirements you have to book it direct. Something that isn’t made clear when you book online, I only found this out when I called to ask about how to book the scooter in.

I’ve also recently got my hands on a VERY handy little Orlando planning guide so I’ll be doing a little review on that shortly too.

 

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Food Review – Cinderellas Royal Table

Cinderellas Royal Table is one of the hardest places to get a reservation for at WDW.

Knowing this it was one of the first places I booked when we got to our 180 day booking time and it was the place Amelia was most looking forward to eating in.

What little princess wouldn’t relish the chance to eat with the Princesses INSIDE the castle?

I think it’s location has a lot to do with the fact its so hard to get so we were really excited when we got one and it was somewhere I was very much looking forward to trying out.

For those that don’t know Cinderellas Royal Table is inside the castle in the middle of Magic Kingdom. When it was originally designed it was to be part of Walts quarters and was earmarked to be a conference room. Being told that made the whole place seem even more special.

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You check in at the podium by the entrance to the restaurant which is at the back of castle. There is ample ‘parking’ for pushchairs/wheelchairs.

Once you’ve checked in you’re taken into the lobby area and this is where you meet Cinderella. The whole place is actually beautiful, high ceilings, stained glass windows and it really IS a castle.

There is a photopass photographer here and Cinderella was wonderful. I’ve said before I do struggle with meeting the Princesses I always find it hard to talk to them. I prefer the characters who don’t talk, however Cinderella was brilliant. She was so good with Amelia and she loved it.

You’re then taken upstairs to the dining area. There is a lift for those less mobile among us!

The actual dining area is STUNNING! However it is a LOT smaller than I imagined which explains why it is such a hard place to get a reservation at. We were sat on a table in the middle of the room I would have loved to have a window seat and look out across the park but maybe next time.

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It was quite loud and seemed busy inside, there were no empty tables for long and they do feel quite close together. This isn’t by any means a relaxing meal I don’t think. But that may have been due to where our table was, I think in a window would have felt less busy.

When you sit down each ‘princess’ is given a wand and a ‘wishing star’ and for the boys? A sword, Paul was very happy with his as you can see in the photos below. They’re great keepsakes to have. There was some kind of announcement with what you do with your wishing star but it was loud as I said and we couldn’t really hear what was being said over the general hustle and bustle which was a shame.

Our servers were brilliant which you would expect from a signature restaurant. The princesses all come out to an announcement and a shortened version of their story and work their way around the tables. We met Jasmine, Snow White, Ariel and Aurora.

This is the first of my reviews that hasn’t been a buffet so this time I get to show some proper food pictures and no doubt make myself hungry in the process!

We had 3 courses here. I’ve had a look at the current menu and some of the stuff we had isn’t on it anymore so I think the menu can be seasonal.

For our starters or ‘Appetisers of the Court’, Paul went for the soup which he thinks was french onion and he said it was delicious. I had an asparagus salad which was actually raw asparagus which I wasn’t a fan of. I did like the rest of the salad though and the dressing was so nice.  Amelia had cheese and grapes.

For our entrees (mains as we call them here) both me and Paul went for the beef and Amelia had the chicken from the kids menu.

The beef came with seasonal veg and garlic mash and was so tender. It was lovely. It looks small but it was a perfect sized portion for us.

Amelias chicken however was not good. It was really dry and she really didn’t enjoy it. The server was great though and did offer her something else but she ended up having Pauls and he ate some of the chicken. I would say avoid the chicken if you can.

The best part of the meal was without a doubt the dessert – was there ever any doubt coming from a pudding family.

The desserts we had off the menu was ‘The Clock Strikes Twelve’ a chocolate mousse with choc ganache and it was sooooo good!! I loved how it came out with the chocolate clock face pointing to 12, this is the little Disney touches that I love. Amelia went for the build your own cupcake dessert from the kids menu, complete with mickey shaped sprinkles and a little carriage in cocoa.

We also ordered the Cinderella Slipper dessert. This isn’t on the regular menu. It costs an extra $15 and isn’t included in the dining plan. You have to book this no less than 48 hours before your reservation via email wdw.crt.special.events@disney.com. I would recommend doing this as soon as you have confirmed your reservation.

This was the highlight of the meal for Amelia and it was really tasty, I’m not normally a fan of American chocolate but the shoe was really nice, the mousse cake is the same as what you have with the other dessert we had.

This is not a cheap meal, it’s a premium restaurant and you obviously pay more for the location.  Had we not been on the plan this would have cost us over $200!! For 3 people!!

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This is included in the Disney Dining Plan and it takes up 2 of your table service credits.

Although I did really enjoy this and I’m glad I did it, its one off the bucket list, I’m not sure as I would have had we not been on the Dining Plan.

I wouldn’t say I’d rush to eat dinner here again, I’m curious to try the breakfast, getting an early reservation before park opening and a window seat looking over a deserted Magic Kingdom would be idyllic.

Its definitely a must if you have little princesses but for me once was enough 🙂

Food Review – Ohana

If you’ve been following my blog then you’ll know that most of the dining we did on this honeymoon trip was character dining. There are a few exceptions but for the most part it is all characters! That is why we had the dining plan after all!

Ohana is one of those places that people rave about and sometimes the trouble with that is that they talk it up so much that you can’t help but be a bit disappointed when you experience it.

Ohana has a lot to live up to.

Again we booked for breakfast as this is the only time it is a character dine and its the best friends breakfast with Lilo and Stitch. I LOVE Stitch, I have such fond memories of a past trip not long after the movie came out when I visited with a friend. We were the oldest most excited people in the queue to meet him and it was one of the best interactions I’ve ever had. He rummaged through our bags, kept stealing our cameras and at one point took our passports and ran off with them. So yeah, I have a bit of a soft spot for Stitch. Plus I’d never met Lilo and the idea of that is just too much!

One of this big draws of this for me was it being in the Polynesian. I literally will never in my life be able to afford to stay there so it was a good excuse to go and have a nosy at it. Plus it is right near Magic Kingdom.

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Don’t forget as well if you do book a breakfast at a hotel you can leave your car there for the day as well rather than use the park parking. I don’t recall if there was a charge (we had free parking as we were staying on site anyway) but for the disabled drivers among you we had free valet parking as there didn’t seem to be any dedicated disabled parking at the hotel.

The Poly is stunning! It’s all Hawaiian themed with lots of colourful flowers all over like you’re walking into a luau.  The entrance lobby was breathtaking. All high ceilings and just very very luxurious.  Maybe one day Disney will be kind enough to upgrade me and let me stay there!

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Ohana is up on the second floor I think it was of the hotel and unlike Tusker where all the characters come to you at your table you actually get to meet Stitch before you go in and there is a photopass photographer there as well which is awesome.

We got to spend quite a while with Stitch, we had an early reservation and there wasn’t anyone else behind us so that was great.

Ohana is all you can eat but it isn’t a buffet. Food here is served ‘family style’ so it comes all together in a big skillet and you help yourself. But before you get that you have some of the famous pineapple breakfast bread and fruit on the table. This was so tasty, I would have been happy to just have a tonne of that to be honest! I must find a recipe!

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We had scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, sausages, biscuits (my fave), bacon and waffles.  As I said it all comes out together but they are really accommodating if you have allergies. I have an egg allergy so they bought ours out with the eggs separate for me which was great. All the places in Disney are fabulous with any allergy as I’ve said before.

The food was good, not amazing (except the pineapple bread). I wasn’t keen on the sausages but then sausages that aren’t patties in America do tend to be a bit rank. The biscuits were a little dry but the bacon was tasty and apparently the eggs were good.

We got through 2 plates of food and they would have bought us more if we’d asked!! The best bit though was the waffles, Disney is known for the Mickey waffles but here you get Stitch ones, I was most excited by these!!

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Character interaction here was fab, we met Lilo (so exciting), Pluto and Mickey here.

Amelia was also given maracas (which she’d been eyeing up as soon as we walked in and she saw them on the side) and the kids all got taken up to do a little parade around the restaurant with the characters. I love the little touches like that, just another thing that adds to the magic! Plus the kids really enjoy it.

We were lucky that it was quiet when we arrived as it meant we had a window table. The Poly is on Seven Seas Lagoon so it’s a stones throw from Magic Kingdom. We had a perfect view of the park from our seat and when the fog cleared we could see the castle, I may have got a little emotional!

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We did this on the morning of our first trip this visit to Magic Kingdom so sitting there looking at the castle and eating breakfast really did make it a magical start to the day so for that I would recommend it 🙂

Price wise this is the same as the other Breakfast Buffets $35 per adult and $15 for a child plus tips.

This is worth 1 of your table service credits if you’re on the dining plan.

 

Food Review – Tusker House

 

Being a bit of a fan of Donald Duck this was one of the first meals I booked for our trip. I’d heard a lot of great things about it so this is definitely one of the places I was most looking forward to eating in.

Tusker House is a character buffet and you can find it in Animal Kingdom. It’s in Africa and isn’t far from the Kilimanjaro Safari. It’s actually a great location and doesn’t take too long to walk to from the entrance.

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For those of you who haven’t done a character dine before it doesn’t mean that the characters eat with you. You’re seated and all the characters will come to your table. They work on rotation so don’t worry if you see one leaving as you sit down they take regular breaks and cast members will make sure you see all of them 🙂

We chose to do this for breakfast and it was the first place we ate in on our trip.

My top tip for getting Breakfast reservations is to try and get the earliest one you can. The earlier the better. If you have one you’ll be able to get into the park early, even if it’s not officially open.  We couldn’t get a really early one for this sadly so it was about 9:30am.

When you get into Africa look for the signs that say Tusker House Check in. The CM there will take your information and then there is a small waiting area to sit in while you wait for your server to come and get you.

There is plenty of space for wheelchairs and ample ‘parking’ for ECVs and strollers outside the restaurant if you can transfer.

 

Visually it is a beautiful space, it makes you feel like you’re outside and its very large and light and airy.

Our server was wonderful and the restaurant itself was pretty quiet.

Tusker House being in Africa does have a bit of an African inspired menu. I didn’t see a great deal of that over breakfast (although there was some kind of curry there, beef bobitie I think it was called) so if you’re worried about there not being anything you’d eat or put off by that type of food , don’t worry all the regular breakfast items you’d expect from a buffet are here.

Next trip we plan on doing lunch or dinner here so we can experience some different types of cuisine.

The signature drink here was Jungle Juice and that was lovely, like a tropical fruit juice and was in plentiful supply.  I could have drunk that all day.

One thing I’d heard a lot about here is the Banana Bread and that was so nice, I had seconds and thirds of that I seem to remember. All the regular other things were here biscuits, bacon, and the all important Mickey Waffles.

It is all you can eat so you’re not rushed at all and can go up to the ample buffet as many times as you like.

And now the reason we booked this in the first place! The Characters. Donald is your host for this so you meet him – in his cute safari outfit as well as Mickey, Daisy and Goofy.

Interactions weren’t the best ones I’ve experienced at Disney but it was awesome. I like doing stuff like this and meeting the characters in their different outfits 🙂

The restaurants don’t have photopass photographers in them so you do have to take your own so there’s not as many here as I would have liked – I was too busy eating!

All in all I really enjoyed Tusker House, it was a great start to the holiday. Food and service were good as well.  As I said there isn’t anything too adventurous on the breakfast menu so if you have fussy ones and want to eat here I would recommend doing it for breakfast.  Looking at the menu for other times might be a bit of a challenge.

Price wise it’s the same as most of the character buffets in the parks it’s about $35 for an adult and $15 for a child. Plus the tip.

This is included in the dining plan and will use up 1 of your table service credits.

Disney Dining Plan – What’s it all about?

Before I go into details about this dining plan business I will mention – in case you’d not noticed in previous blogs or don’t follow me on Twitter – I LOVE food. Literally cannot get enough especially when I’m in Orlando. My whole trips tend to be planned around where we, well I say we, me mostly, want to eat and when I can get reservations for.  So having the dining plan and the ability to eat wherever I wanted on site without having to worry about the cost was just, to quote Rapunzel, ‘The best thing ever…’

What is the dining plan?

For those that don’t know. The Disney Dining plan is something that is exclusive to guests staying in the Disney hotels who book a Hotel and park ticket package and that can be direct with Disney or through any of the agents who sell it.  You cannot purchase this unless you have the room and the tickets booked together.

There are 3 levels of Dining Plan, the quick service, the Dining Plan and the Deluxe Dining plan.

It is calculated on the number of NIGHTS you have in a hotel not the number of days so do be aware if you have a 13 night stay but 14 days in resort then you only have the amount of credits for 13 nights.  Although they don’t expire until midnight on your last day.

The Quick Service plan gives you 2 quick service (or counter service, basically anywhere where you aren’t waited on) meals per night plus 1 drink (which can now be alcohol) with the meal, 2 snacks per night and a resort refillable mug for the entirety of your stay.

The Disney Dining plan is 1 quick service and 1 table service (each with a drink as above) plus the snacks and mug.

The Deluxe Plan gives you 3 meals (which can be counter or table service) and a drink, the snacks and the mug.

These show up as ‘credits’ on your account – something you can now see on My Disney Experience – it wasn’t available when we went.

You don’t have to use these per day, you are free to use these as and when you like during your trip. But once you’ve used them that’s it.

So for example for us for the duration of our trip we had 14 table service credits each, 14 quick service and 28 snack ones. We were spending a few days off site so on those days obviously we weren’t eating in Disney. That made it easy for us to have a few days when we had 2 sit down meals or to go to a restaurant that uses up 2 of your credits instead of one.

The great thing about the dining plan is that you can use your table service credits for character dining which is why I wanted it.

Resort Refillable Mugs

The mugs you get are great keepsakes but you can only use these in your resort and other Disney hotels/resorts, these cannot be used in the parks. It’s not just soft drinks although there is so much choice with the coca cola freestyle machines. There is also hot drinks (the Hot Chocolate was lovely) as well as tea and coffee and many other bits. Not alcohol though. Every time you use the freestyle machine it will tell you when the mug will expire.

You get the mugs either in the restaurants or shops in your resort. There are several different colours to choose from but the images on them are the same.

We did go to use it on our last day and it wouldn’t work but the cast members fixed it for us.

Where can you use it?

I’ve already gone into detail about HOW to book the dining in my Step by Step Disney Dining Booking 

But how do you know which ones you can use your dining plan for?

My Disney Experience is great for that it will actually tell you when you look at a restaurant if you can use the plan.  You can see below it states under the prices ‘Some Dining Plans Accepted’

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If you’re looking at a place that does accept he plans it will also tell you how many credits from your plan a meal will take. If you click on where it says they’re accepted it opens a window to tell you.

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You can also choose to only look at the places it’s accepted on the search bar.

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There is a LOT of choice.

This is what I love about it. Being as your meals are essentially already paid for (minus tips which I will go into in a bit) and you have all this choice it does in effect force you to eat in some of the nicer restaurants. Although these are places you might not have chosen had you been actually paying for a meal, I felt it forced me to eat ‘properly’ rather than just snack and have the usual ‘easy’ meal of something with chips. It encouraged me to be a bit more adventurous.

I liked the fact that we knew we could eat properly and it not make a dent in the money we’d taken to spend. It does take the stress out of it. And it did mean I could do all the character dining I’d wanted to do 🙂 For that alone the Dining Plan is worth it!

I’ve got the Quick Service plan is it all fast food?

The fact that ‘quick service’ means fast food or burgers and chips and nothing else is a common misconception at Disney. ‘Quick’ does not mean rubbish. Especially not here. Disney has such a wide range of food and although obviously there are places you can get your burgers and Hot Dogs (Caseys Corner in Magic Kingdom does great hot dogs) there is so much more to it.

Take Sunshine Seasons in Epcot for example. This is a ‘quick service’ and look at the choice you have!

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Epcot in particular is great for quick service as each of the countries in the World Showcase has somewhere you can eat so you will find the largest variety there.

This is also a great place to use your snack credits.

This was a quick service from Harambe Market in Animal Kingdom

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These are flatbreads with beans and they were delicious and HUGE! So get the idea of it all being ‘rubbish’ out of your heads! Its not true. Disney caters for everyone and there is also a great choice for anyone with specific diets be it due to an allergy or just lifestyle choice. Vegan and Veggies are definitely catered for here.

What can I use snack credits for?

The snack credits are great although I challenge you to actually use them all!! We used most of ours on Pretzels and Mickey shaped treats! With the ones we had left at the end of our trip going on bags of sweets from Goofys Candy Co and Rice Crispie treats for friends at home.

Most cakes/muffins, ice creams, popcorn and drinks (as long as they’re not in their souvenir tubs/cups) are included. You can even use them in Starbucks for a much needed shot of caffeine when you’ve been up since 6 for extra magic hours!

The famous Dole Whip is included as is the Night Blossom drink in Pandora.

All the items below were snack credit items!

 

How do I know where I can use it?

Obviously looking on your My Disney app will show you where you can use your plan. But it is easy to see going round the park as everywhere you can use it you will see this sign. If you look at the menu from the snack cart during the Food and Wine festival, each one of the things you can have has this logo next to it.

Do I have to tip?

Anyone who’s been to Orlando before or done a little bit of research will know that it’s customary to tip your servers.

With the exception of a few (Cinderellas Royal Table being one of them I seem to remember) tips are NOT included with the dining plan so you do need to tip your server. 18-20% of the bill is what is recommended.

If you are a party of 6 or more this will automatically be added so bear that in mind when you’re using the plan so you’re not surprised to be given some sort of bill at the end of your meal.

When you make your reservation for your meal your confirmation will tell you if its included or not.

You do need to budget for it but it still works out a LOT less than what you would be paying if you didn’t have the plan.

Using the plan for Food Festivals

Something I struggled to find out about before I went was how these credits can be used during the food festivals at Epcot. (Flower and Garden, Food and Wine, Festival of the Arts)

I’d had conflicting answers on everything that I asked so having used it I can now safely say that having the dining plan during any of these makes it even more worthwhile!!

We were there for Food and Wine (which as you can imagine I LOVED) and being as we mostly had table service meals we had so many snack credits and quick service credits that we weren’t really planning on using so much. This was amazing for the days we visited Epcot.

All the items you can see with the dining plan logo next to it are items you can use 1 snack credit for.

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They aren’t the smallest of items either, this is America after all. We had both of the items on the chocolate menu (we’re a pudding family).

This was the torte…

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If, like us, you have quick service credits to use up you can also use these at the booths. This worked perfectly for us as 1 quick service credit transfers to 3 snack ones. With 3 in our party this was brilliant. We could all pick one thing from each of the menus and use one of our quick service credits to pay for it. We all then got to try so much. My only regret is booking table service meals at Epcot while this was on. In hindsight I shouldn’t have done this, there is so much you can eat during the festival you don’t need to have a meal that day!

These are just some of the things we tried.

Is it worth it?

This is the million dollar question and it’s impossible to answer for everybody.  For us yes, this was absolutely worth it and although we did book our trip when the plan was free we did pay to upgrade it and I don’t think I’ll visit Disney ever again without it.

I loved having the ability like I said to eat wherever and not have to worry about the cost, to try places I might not have gone to if I was paying out of pocket and also knowing it was paid for already I was a bit more adventurous with what I ate and tried a lot of new things. I didn’t eat one thing I didn’t love during this trip.

The beauty of this is that there is a plan for everybody. Not massive eaters? Go for the quick service, there’s still plenty of choice for you and you have all your snacks if you do feel a bit peckish.

Want to do the character dining and make sure you have a proper sit down meal and like being waited on? Go for the dining plan.

Want to eat in some of the signature restaurants and the dinner shows like Hoop De Do? Then go for the deluxe! (You can do these on the normal dining plan too but they do take up 2 of your table service credits)

Have a look at the menus on the My Disney, all the prices are listed there for you. That will really show you how much money having a plan will save you. Although I do warn you it will make you hungry and you will want to eat everywhere.

All the food places I mentioned in my daily blogs at Disney were covered by the plan and I’ll be doing full reviews of each of them as well so you’ll know a bit more about each of them.

Personally for me I would recommend it. Especially if you’re at the parks during any of the festivals at Epcot and if you’re booking at a time when it’s offered free take it! It adds to the magic of your trip, eating at Disney is an amazing experience.

Last Day :( – Last visit to Epcot and lunch at Garden Grill

I’ve been dreading this day. I always find the first week of my holiday goes at a steady speed as soon as you get halfway the days just fly by 😦 There is still so much we want to see and do and I’m sad we don’t have time to do it this trip. There will be another one but that’s not the point!

We checked out and left our luggage with concierge so we had room for the ECV in the car and also got them to print out what we still had left on our Dining Plan. (Going to Epcot we knew we’d use snack credits…)

Epcot is my favourite park so it’s kind of fitting that this is where we spend our last day.

I was determined to do Journey into your Imagination. Paul hadn’t done it and I knew he’d find the song irritating so it had to be done. I do love this. Amelia liked the interactive bit when you come out but sadly we didn’t have a lot of time to take it all in.

We did a little bit of eating, knowing we had a late(ish) lunch booked and we found the chocolate stand that we’d looked for on the last visit. We loved everything. There was an amazing item which was hot inside but frozen with dry ice, when you smash it it’s all gooey inside. I have that on video. But the rest of it was amazing.  We are a pudding family!

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Food and wine is amazing! I know I’ve already said that but I loved it. It’s a shame we missed the live music stuff because of Irma but it’s a foodies dream. I think we’ll book for the same time of year for subsequent trips. When the dining plan is free it’s so worth booking at this time, you can really utilise it. Even if you’re paying for it, I think it’ll be worth more when this is on. (I’m going to do a new blog on the Dining now that I’ve used it)

We didn’t do many rides today because of time, Nemo was closed 😦 But we did go on Spaceship Earth again and Frozen cos we loved that.  And we tried on a lot of hats…

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Lunch was at Garden Grill with Chip and Dale. I’d read some really good things about this so was looking forward to it. Problem was we weren’t that hungry 😦 I need to make sure I ONLY book breakfasts in Epcot in future..

Garden Grill is in the Lands Pavillion and it rotates, very slowly though so you won’t feel sick, so whilst you’re eating you can see parts of the ‘Living with the Land’ Exhibit which is cool. Chip and Dale are your hosts for this so you meet them, Mickey and Pluto. I thought they would all be in Farmer costumes but it was just Mickey.

 

Food here is served ‘family style’ which I’m still not a fan of but it was tasty and as much of it as possible is actually grown at Epcot which is pretty cool. The characters were great here we really enjoyed it.  I was just excited that the plates were set out in a hidden mickey when we sat down… simple things..

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We decided to head off after our food so we could use the last of our snack credits in the hotel shop and make our way to the airport. I’m actually not going to put the last pictures we took of the day up, I do NOT look happy in them. I really didn’t want to go home 😦

We had such a good time on this trip. Disney is great for a Honeymoon, I love it anyway but it makes it even more magical when you’re celebrating something.

I’ll be doing full blogs on all the character dines (and normal places) we ate on this trip, about the resorts we stayed in and of course the dining plan.  I have a tonne of video footage to edit together as well to give you some visuals on all of those things as well as hiring an ECV and what it’s like getting about in one – including how well they fit in the back of a car.

Writing these do keep the trip ‘alive’ a bit longer but they also make me want to book again. And for the first time in a while I don’t actually have a trip booked. But for now, that’s the end of this trip for us 😦 So off we head to get on the plane and head home to the dogs!

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Day 12 Wild Florida, Minnies Seasonal Dine and some park hopping!

 

Today was the thing Paul was most looking forward and we headed down to Kenansville to Wild Florida. It’s not just an airboat ride but also has a wildlife park where you can see Gators and Sloths and other animals native to Florida.  I was excited for the sloths and we were planning on upgrading when we got there to do a Sloth encounter.

It’s a 40 minute drive from Disney and considering we have no sat nav and relied on the directions on the website we did really well at not getting lost. Although some of the places you drive through do make you think you’ve gone the totally wrong way!

Due to Irma sadly none of the wildlife park was open as it was all flooded but the airboats were still running – the entry to the wildlife park is included in the price of the airboat.  The swamp land we went over we were told was probably double the area it usually was and as we were going round our captain was pointing out areas that aren’t normally underwater!

I’ll be honest I was a bit dubious about doing this, I’m a little scared of boats especially these types of ones, they just look like they’re going to topple over at any moment! That water is filled with gators I didn’t fancy ending up in there!!

This wasn’t our boat but this is what they look like, like a bit of tin with some seats on!

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In the end I actually really enjoyed doing this. It’s loud so you’re given headphones to wear and it was quite relaxing skimming over the water and so quiet and peaceful (except for the noise of the boat).

Our skipper was great, he was full of information and kept stopping when he saw signs of gators being around. The best thing about this experience though was helping to rescue a little baby Armadillo. Armadillos are not made for the water and with their scaly backs they do look a bit like a gator when you’re coming up close. That’s what our skipper was expecting when he pulled up to it. Sadly this little baby was in a bit of distress so our skipper pulled him out the water and we had to find some, very scarce, dry land to set him free.  After he had this little thing in his hands Paul realised there was actually nowhere for him to put it and he obviously couldn’t hold it while driving, Paul being the animal rescuer that he is (we’ve had all sorts of birds and ducks bought home) piped up slightly TOO excitedly ‘Would you like me to hold it?’ thus giving him a hero moment and the highlight of his whole trip!!

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Thankfully we did find some dry land to set him free on and carried on looking for Gators. We did find some in the end which I do have on video. It’s a great way to see them in their natural environment and I think a must do if you to Florida.

The gift shop was really good as well, and quite cheap and there were some baby gators in tanks that you can see, it’s just a shame we couldn’t see the Sloths, but there is always next time…IMG_8797

Wild Florida was really good value as well I think it was £20 each and that includes the airboat and the park. So pretty good really 🙂 We booked the earliest boat we could so we had the rest of the day to do other stuff.

We headed back over to Disney had a quick change of clothes and went off to get all the ‘wedding’ pictures I wanted. My work colleagues were nice enough to get me and Paul bride and groom ears as a wedding present so I was determined to get some nice pictures at all the ‘landmarks’ in Disney with these ears on. Paul and Amelia weren’t quite so keen!!

I also really wanted to see Fantasmic! as we hadn’t yet so we started at Hollywood Studios, about 12ish and it was super hot today. Amelia and Paul wanted to go on Rock n Roller Coaster, I spied Donald as soon as we got in so I waited for him while they went on that 🙂

We managed quite a few characters meets today including Olaf who was wonderful. The Star Wars ones are amazing though. Both me and Amelia love Star Wars, Paul, well he had no idea who any of these people/animals/aliens were we meeting. BB-8 was cute but really tiny, Kylo Ren was incredibly intimidating! but the best one was Chewy, I had no idea he ‘talked’ but I was so excited that he did!!

This is why I love the photopass, you get to have all of the photos that are taken rather than just having to choose some, which are usually the posed ones. The picture below captures the moment that Chewy ‘spoke’ to Amelia perfectly!!

We sadly missed the opportunity to meet Moana but her meet had turned into a Guardians of the Galaxy one so we got to meet Baby Groot, another one little miss loved!

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We had a booking for Minnies Seasonal Dine at Hollywood and Vine, obviously this was Halloween themed. I’d heard some mixed reviews about this one so wasn’t really sure what to expect, it’s another where you meet the host, in this case Minnie, before you eat and the other characters come to the table. I’ve just noticed putting this together that the photos of that aren’t on our memory maker 😦

The food was good with some Halloween themed dishes, meaning pumpkin flavoured, we had some incredible pumpkin soup. And the Halloween desserts were so cute.

The weather got pretty bad while we were in here and we came out to find that Fantasmic had been cancelled for the evening. There was evening EMH at Magic Kingdom so we decided to head over there once the rain had cleared. Meet some more characters and get the wedding pictures there.

 

I’m not the biggest fan of meeting the princesses but it’s always fun meeting Rapunzel. No queues this time of night either 🙂

We managed to get a really good spot right in front of the castle for Happily Ever After – I cried obviously – and we had a really good quick service meal from Caseys Corner. One of my favourites in Disney, the hot dogs are amazing and portions massive.

We did a few rides and spent some of our left over snack credits before heading out of Magic Kingdom for the last time this trip, always a sad moment 😦 But we did an amazing shot with a relatively quiet main street behind us!

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Tomorrow we go to Animal Kingdom for the last time 😦 I hate getting to this part I always feel sad…

Day 8 – Brunch with Pooh and more Disney Springs

 

Today was a strange day to be in the parks, with Irma due to hit tomorrow all the parks have announced they will be closed for it. Today I was expecting it to be busy with people getting a bit of magic before everything shuts down. Magic Kingdom today, like Universal yesterday was eerily quiet.

We had a dining reservation at 10:30 we got in just before it, this was main street…

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Crystal Palace was one of the dinings I was most looking forward too, I’d heard good things and was excited to try the famous breakfast lasagne. Plus there’s nothing better than getting a hug from Pooh, he’s like a big teddy bear who cuddles you back 🙂

Again it was quiet in here so I think we got more of an interaction than normal with the characters just strolling about and playing with the kids rather than just stopping for pictures and to sign. I booked at a time so we could try breakfast and still be there when the lunch buffet came out but we were all a bit stuffed so we didn’t get to try that as well.

 

Food here was really good one of the better buffets, and if you are doing breakfast you must have the lasagne, it’s like some sort of heavenly trifle with waffles, pancakes, bananas and all manner of good sweet breakfast stuff.

Weather wise today we did get caught in a few showers meaning we spent a bit of time looking in shops and spending our snack credits. I haven’t had nearly enough ‘Disney’ themed snacks so far so I had a Mickey marshmallow bar which I was most pleased with 🙂

These snacks are great ways to use your snack credits on a dining plan, the toffee or dessert apples are great too but to me they always look far too good to eat!

Trying to stay away from the dodgy weather we did a lot of indoor stuff today, Philharmagic, and a lot of character meets. Including my favourite Donaldo and Pauls Ariel in her grotto 🙂

We went to see the boss man today as well in his theatre and this is the Mickey that talks to you. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this one. There’s always a kid in front of us who is seeing a talking Mickey for the first time and their faces are always priceless. It’s a must do for anyone on a first trip and one to fastpass as it does get really busy.

Another first for me today was meeting iCan the robot in Tomorrowland, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve spotted him whilst on the Peoplemover only to get off and find he’s gone so this was a special moment 🙂 He’s really cool so keep an eye out for him when you’re there.

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I finally got to have my ‘balloon’ photo today as well, it’s one of the magic shots you can get with the Disney photographers, make sure you ask them when they’re taking them if they have any magic ones. It’s fun to see what they are when you check your memory maker ones after. I love this it’s one of my favourites from the whole trip…

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Dinner today was in Rainforest Café, not somewhere I generally like to eat. It’s too loud for me and after doing T-Rex as well I wasn’t that enamoured with doing this one. But the weather was getting more and more dodgy and it was the closest restaurant to where we got off the boat from our hotel therefore we didn’t have to walk too far in the wind 🙂

Amelia loved it here, they got our name wrong when we were asked for it, we were the ‘Buff’ family. I’ll take that!

Food is pretty similar to T-Rex being that it is owned by the same company, we enjoyed it food was good, service was good and we had a few cocktails.

We had a very quick wander around the Springs, the weather was getting worse and more windy and going on a boat for someone who is a little bit scared of them is bad enough but doing it in bad weather and the dark is just not fun so we headed back before it got too blowy and spent the evening watching Disney movies which were kindly put on our TVs for free for the duration of the hurricane.

We’re not sure what tomorrow holds to be honest, no parks are open so we will be confined to the hotel. Disney were great at keeping us informed as to what was going on so for the time being the hotel facilities – minus the pool – are all there to use, including the arcade on free play for the kids and Disney movies in room to keep us occupied. I guess if anything it gives us a chance to catch up on some much needed sleep!!

Day 5 – Hollywood Studios, ‘enjoying’ Rock n Roller coaster and BE OUR GUEST!

We had a bit of a lie in this morning and arrived at Hollywood Studios about 10 for our dining reservation at 1950s Prime Time Café, Pauls favourite from our last trip. It’s a really fun experience putting you in the home of 1950s America serving old favourites such as meatloaf and stuffed chops. The food is so good but make sure you eat your greens and beware of putting your elbows on the table!! You will be told off!!

 

After lunch we had a stroll around the park taking advantage of the memory maker.  There are some great photo opportunities here especially for Star Wars fans who I’m sure will love the chance to sit on a speeder 🙂 I would imagine with Galaxys Edge opening next year there will be so much more like this too 🙂

 

There is a lot of work going on at the park meaning it doesn’t seem like there is a lot to do currently. I was devastated that I missed the opportunity to do Great Movie Ride one more time it was sad seeing it closed 😦

Amelia was most excited about coming back to this park, being 2 years older this time and finally big enough for ‘an upside down ride’ she was beside herself with excitement for Rock n Roller Coaster. We had tears last trip as she was too small but this time she loved it!!

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For me once was more than enough and who’s idea was it to be in the back carriage where we all know its far faster than anywhere else? (Note the child chose to sit on her own, I was glad I was NOT getting on that coaster if I didn’t have a grown up with me). She would have ridden that all day if she could!

Onwards to Tower of Terror (for them not me) and even though Paul hates it he was subjected to it multiple times, in the end we were those parents we swore we’d never be at Disney, stood in the giftshop holding the bags while the kids go on the rides! I love this picture she looks so happy he doesn’t 🙂

Make sure you say hello to Stitch the Bellboy when you come out of the ride too 🙂

Hollywood Studios has one of my favourite shows on property so we had to go and watch Beauty and the Beast. Again. I love this show, it’s a shortened version of the musical with amazing performers and all the songs we all love, I always get a bit emosh watching this but it is a must see 🙂 Even more so today knowing where I’m off to eat at tonight!!

The Indiana Jones stunt show is a great way to spend an hour as well, although our show was cut a bit short due to the weather we did still get to see some incredible stunts and an insiders view on how some of the big stunts in the blockbusters we love to watch are achieved 🙂 It’s great for the younger audiences who are always wowed by the gunshots and the near miss accidents in this show!

After a brief stop at our resort for a nap – not me I might add – far too excited, we headed for Magic Kingdom ready for our dinner reservation at Be Our Guest.

Out of all our reservations for this trip this was the one I was most excited about and it really did live up to my expectations. I’ll do a full review of the food etc in a future blog but I think this is a must do. The restaurant is beautiful the theming is incredible, I *may* have cried when I walked in. We were seated in the Ballroom and I was so impressed with the ‘magic’ windows making it look like it was snowing inside.

The food was great the desserts even better, we all had the grey stuff, it was delicious 🙂 Although it’s something put on top of puddings and not just a mousse itself which is what I was expecting.

Then of course you can meet the Beast which is the big draw of having an evening meal here. It’s the only place and time you can meet him. I *may* have cried!!

It’s such a magical experience being in Beasts castle, it is actually like being in the film. Definitely one of the highlights of this trip…

Tomorrow we’re off to Universal to spend a night in the Hard Rock Hotel…

 

 

 

 

Day 4 – Epcot Food and Wine, Akershaus and Biergarten

Today was a day for eating and the food and wine is something I’ve been so looking forward to. In hindsight booking 2 table service meals for a day when we’re essentially eating our way around the world was not a good move!

We started with breakfast with the princesses at Akershaus, we booked it for before the park opened and walking into Epcot with hardly any people about was amazing! It was so quiet I just wish we’d got there a little earlier (we got lost. again.) so I could soak it in a little more.

Akershaus is Norweigan food so lots of fish for breakfast and pastries. You meet princesses here and meet with Belle before you sit down. We had Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora visit us.

 

Food was ok, the restaurant was beautiful. It’s a nice (much cheaper) option than Cinderellas Royal Table. Amelia loved it although I don’t think eating a whole plate of salmon for breakfast was one of her best ideas.

We managed to meet Anna and Elsa after breakfast and get on Frozen all before 9:30! (Little tip, although the showcase doesn’t open until 10am, Frozen does open when the rest of the park does so you can go on that from 9am)

Frozen is wonderful, we ended up riding it 3 times! The technology they use is so good!

There is an awful lot going on during Food and Wine including having some artists around and we were lucky enough to meet the wonderful Larry Dotson and purchased a few of his prints which are beautiful. I always love looking in the Disney art shops when I’m in Disney, I always want so much stuff for the house but we just don’t have the space for everything.  It just goes to show that the Disney merchandise isn’t just for kids!

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We rode Soarin’ Around The World for the first time which is so much better than the original one, I always really liked Soarin so it’s nice to see it a little bit differently.

There was 2 new character meets at Epcot that we were all really looking forward to, well I say all of us, mostly me! And I was super excited as you can see….

Baymax is AWESOME! We were really lucky that there were literally no queues for anything, we were in and out of meeting Baymax and Joy and Sadness in about 30 minutes.

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Character meets out of the way and breakfast fully digested off to do what Epcot is made for and eat!!

I absolutely LOVED food and wine! Our plan was to try and eat something savoury and sweet from each of the booths as we walked round but it quickly became apparent that we are a pudding family (which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows us) and we mostly ate puddings!!

One thing that was really awesome is that if you are on the dining plan you can use your snack credits to purchase items at the booths. They don’t publicise it but that’s what we did. I knew you could use a quick service for 3 snacks from the same vendor but everywhere I looked said no to using snack credits.  It’s a great reason to get the dining plan I think it worked so well for us, we ate loads of stuff!!

The Creme Brulee in France was our favourite sweet and the meatball from New Zealand our savoury.

Epcot is definitely my favourite park, I just love walking around, there’s loads of cool places to take photos and the shops in all the pavilions are so much fun to look around – and great for kids to spend their holiday pennies in as they do have some really cool things at a fraction of the price you would pay to buy anything with Disney on it 🙂

We had dinner in Biergarten so we missed Illuminations. This was one of the places I was looking forward to eating in it looks really cool online but I have to say I don’t think I’d chose to eat there again. The entertainment was fabulous that part of it I really liked but we were not overly impressed with the food. There wasn’t a great deal of choice. It’s also incredibly loud in there so it is hard to have a conversation with whoever you’re with when you’re in there. It’s good for kids, they can have a dance to the band who play, Amelia really liked it but for us we weren’t blown away.

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We managed to get back to our resort without getting lost tonight – tomorrow we go to BE OUR GUEST and I am so excited!!