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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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Disney Parks Tag – Something different for me!

I’m used to just giving travel tips and reviews so after seeing a post from one of my fellow #disneybloggers the other day I thought I’d give this a go, a bit of fun before my next restaurant review (which is Cinderellas Royal Table)

Lovely Beth did this on her blog the other day, you can check hers out here and check out the rest of her blog too, it’s very good.

We both saw this for the first time when one of our favourite Disney Vloggers Adam Hattan did it on his channel, you can see his here

So here we go, 10 questions about the Disney Parks and my experiences in them 🙂 Well the ones I’ve been to anyway, I’m yet to visit LA, Tokyo, Shanghai or Hong Kong so just Paris and Orlando for me at the moment.

1) WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU VISITED A DISNEY PARK?

The first park I visited was Disneyland Paris when it was called EuroDisney and that was the year it opened in 1992! I was 13 and in all honesty I don’t remember a lot about it.

I wasn’t actually into Disney then – I know it’s hard to believe – I don’t recall meeting any characters at all either, which is odd being as it’s the main thing I do now!

My Dad was a coach driver back then and he was doing a trip over so I got to go.

What I do remember is it was REALLY busy, I remember going on Star Tours (me and my Dad loved Star Wars) and buying a Star Tours baseball cap that I loved (and subsequently lost) and going on Phantom Manor (which for years I’d talk about but had NO idea where it was) and also Captain EO, the Michael Jackson ‘ride’ other than that it’s all a bit of a blur!

It’s a shame that I don’t have pictures at all but I was never that much of a camera person back then and lets not forget no such thing as a phone that took photos!

2) WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY PARK?

EPCOT!!

No hesitation there. I just love it.

On my first visit to WDW I wasn’t that much of a fan but I think the older I’ve got the more I appreciate how wonderful it is and its the place I always look forward to going back to the most.

I love that I can travel all over the world pretty much, trying different food and looking in all the different shops. I love all the little hidden places for photos, doing the Passports and meeting all the characters as you walk through the showcase.

 

Plus you can have so much fun trying on all the native hats as you go round…

 

I really like the different elements you can explore in Future World and how it constantly changes. The Sea pavilion is just amazing and all the interactive stuff when you exit the rides is great.

Club Cool is another place I like and the shopping in Epcot is the best on site in my opinion.

And who can forget Spaceship Earth, my favourite of the Disney Park ‘Icons’ and I never tire of looking at it.

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3) WHAT IS YOUR HAPPIEST SINGLE MOMENT IN A DISNEY PARK?

ALL my moments in the park are happy but one that really stands out for me is from my 2015 trip.

Dopey is my favourite character and up until my last 3 trips he was always about meeting in the parks. Now he’s rare and you can only see him with the other dwarves at the Halloween and Christmas parties. Which is gutting 😦

For one reason or another I wasn’t really feeling the magic on that trip and we were spending the day in Magic Kingdom. Literally JUST as I walked in, who should walk past me but Dopey! He was doing a random meet with Snow White, I just managed to get in the queue and I was the last one in it.

I was so happy to meet him I actually cried!

There’s me a grown woman, actually looking like a mental with my Snow White skirt and my big Dopey autograph book crying like a baby!

He had to wipe my tears away! The shame!

But from that moment on the magic was back!

 

4) WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY PARKS PURCHASE?

OOH thats a tough one!

Probably these guys!! I love them. Cogsworth is the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought in a Disney Park and he was so worth it! All I need now is a Mrs Potts to complete the collection. (Chip was in the Dishwasher!)

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5) WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY ATTRACTION?

I can’t actually narrow this down to 1! It’s impossible!

However for Disneyland Paris it’s easy. Crush’s Coaster is the best ride there without a doubt. It’s completely deceiving when you see it cos it doesn’t look fantastically fast but it is. As much as I love seeing kids enjoying themselves at Disney it never fails to make me chuckle when you see kids crying on it as it’s not the kids ride they expected it to be! It’s a must do on every DLRP trip.

WDW is much much harder! I have a few.

Without a doubt the most visually incredible and immersive ride experience currently at WDW is of course Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdoms Pandora. I literally cannot put into words how incredible this ride is. Every little detail is just incredible and you really do feel like you’re flying over Pandora. I’ve talked about it in my blogs about my trips but when you’re on a VR ride and you have to cover your eyes to avoid one of the things that scares you the most, even though you KNOW it’s not real, shows you how real it does look! If this is the technology of a few years ago I cannot wait to see what they do with the Star Wars stuff which will be so much more advanced!

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Space Mountain is ALWAYS the first ride I go on on a day at Magic Kingdom. It’s actually the first roller coaster I ever went on and I still love it now. I think it’s a nostalgia thing it reminds me of one of my favourite ever trips with my best mate in 2002. We always do it multiple times on our trips and it’s now one of Amelias favourites as well 🙂

The last one and another one I’ve lost count on the amount of times I do every trip is Expedition Everest. Another of Amelias favourites as well. It’s just a great ride with amazing views of the park and I swear it gets faster every time I go on it!

6) WHAT CHARACTER DO YOU HAVE TO MEET?

ALL OF THEM!! For me Disney is all about the characters so I have to meet all of them. If I had to make a choice though and could only meet one and seeing as Dopey isnt an option it’s gotta be DONALD DUCK! He’s just brilliant. I always come away smiling when I’ve seen him!

Having said that I do love meeting Winnie the Pooh, mostly cos he’s so cuddly and it’s like you’re having a cuddle with a real teddy 🙂

7) IF YOU COULD BUILD AN ATTRACTION BASED ON YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIE WHAT WOULD IT BE?

These questions are so much harder than I thought! My favourite movie already has quite a lot in the parks. (It’s Beauty and the Beast if you were wondering) but I do have a few ideas of movies that are completely under represented and would be great to see.

Tangled is one. Yes we have the Tangled toilets but there’s so much you could do with that movie. some kind of kids coaster zooming on Rapunzels hair down the tower or a boat ride with the lanterns. Even a restaurant based on the Snuggly Duckling.

I would love to see some more attractions around the world showcase and a Mary Poppins ride in the UK pavilion would be amazing.

I’m hoping that there will be some sort of Coco ride put in the Mexico Pavilion although I can imagine them re imagining the current Three Caballeros one and taking you on a colourful journey to the land of the dead.

8) WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY PARKS RESTURANT?

This is the easiest one for me to answer. SKIPPER CANTEEN!! I absolutely loved this place and it was because of a Vlog I saw Adam Hattan do that I booked it. You can see that here.

It seems to be one of those places that first timers by pass. It’s so underrated.

It was the best meal of our entire trip. It’s themed like the Jungle Cruise and your servers are skippers and the food was just unbelievable and healthy too. I still dream about that meal and it’s top of my list of places to eat in when we go back again.

In Disneyland Paris the best place to eat is by far the Agrabah Cafe. I discovered it a few years ago when I went with my friend who is Vegan and all the reviews said that was the place with the most choice for that. It’s another one I dream about and I’ve been 3 times now. It’s so so good. The themeing is wonderful, it really is like you’re in a Moroccon market and the buffet is HUGE. It’s all Moroccon things like Moussaka and lots of salad but the Tabbouleh is why I keep going back. Highly recommend it. Honestly book a late lunch and don’t eat breakfast!

9) DESCRIBE A SITUATION WHEN A CAST MEMBER WENT ABOVE AND BEYOND FOR YOU?

I’ve never come across a bad cast member at WDW. Everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has been exceptional so it’s so hard to pick a moment.

However when we first took Amelia a few years ago she was really tired (we’d been out all day but she insisted she wanted to stay and watch fireworks) she was hungry as well and we had a few tears. We left her sat at a table while we went to get some food in Pinocchio’s resturant and when I came back there she was BIG smile on her face blue frozen slushy with a Mickey Straw in her hand. A lovely cast member called Ariel (wonder how I remember that name 3 years on) had seen she was upset and thought she would cheer her up 🙂

I love chatting to the cast members when I get the chance to, while you’re waiting for rides and stuff. I’m one of those annoying guests who like to quiz them all about their jobs! :p

10) PLAN YOUR DREAM DISNEY HOLIDAY. INCLUDE YOUR PERFECT RESORT, RESTAURANT, PARK AND SHOW.

It has to be WDW although I do REALLY want to stay in the Disneyland Hotel in Paris. (I’m 40 next year and hopefully if all goes to plan that’s a good enough excuse to splash out and stay there)

Resort wise at WDW, I’d love to stay in the Polynesian. It’s just gorgeous and I could get to Epcot on the monorail pretty quick from there 🙂

Restaurant I’d pick Skipper Canteen obviously but for somewhere I haven’t eaten that I want to maybe Coral Reef in Epcot.

The park is obviously going to be Epcot, it’s my favourite and I could quite happily spend every day of my holiday there.

Show. Fantasmic. It’s wonderful. It’s my favourite of the evening shows in the Disney parks and just combines everything that I love about the shows of Disney. Music, fireworks, awesome effects and of course CHARACTERS!! I cry every time I watch it!

So there you have it, my Disney Parks Tag, I hope you enjoyed a different sort of blog from me and gives you a little insight into my Disney favourites and why I love it so much.

I’d love to hear some of your answers 🙂

 

 

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.

 

Days 9 and 10 – Staying at Disney for Hurricane Irma

I love visiting Orlando in September, the weather is perfect and it’s not quite as busy. Not to mention Food and Wine and the Halloween stuff (just don’t mention Halloween Horror Nights, I’m still not forgiven for booking too early for those..). BUT it is hurricane season so you do always run the risk of there being one. I’ve been lucky on previous trips to either miss them or just have to deal with a bit of rain most days. But this time, we were slap bang in the middle of it and saw first hand how it affects people in Orlando and what Disney do for their guests while all this is happening.

There won’t be a lot of pictures in this blog there’s not a lot to photo when you’re just in your room…I’ll try and keep it short but informative for those of you who are worried about what being there for something like this is like.

We were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter which is the smallest of the Moderate resorts and they did a fantastic job in the run up to Irma keeping us updated daily with memos left on our beds by housekeeping explaining what was happening. Obviously this changed constantly as weather is really unpredictable. The last update was we had a curfew in place from 7pm last night until 6pm the day after Irma. The hurricane was due to hit in the early hours so during the day apart from it being windy and colder than normal that was all we had to deal with.

The hotel was amazing and it’s a testament to how safe Disney is as a location that a lot of people who were evacuated were in our hotel along with some locals who had decided to decamp to Disney as they knew it was ‘the safest place to be’.  The Floridian Mayor had insisted that all hotels open up to people with pets as so many in real danger from Irma wouldn’t leave them and just stay at home putting more of the emergency services at risk. We had dogs in our hotel, I know it’s a bit of a controversial subject, but personally I loved having them around. They didn’t cause any problems, I heard no barking, all dogs were on leads and there was no mess.  It just made me miss mine more. I found it quite homely having a load of dogs I could pet 🙂

All the cast members were great and again after speaking to a few it turns out Disney had asked weeks ago for volunteers to work for this, whether it be in the hotels or as part of the clean up crew. Apparently Disney were overrun by people offering to help out. Shows again the extra measures Cast Members go to for their jobs.

The pools were drained and closed so we didn’t have that to do however there was more than enough to keep the kids amused. Arts and Crafts in the lobby area, music and dancing and the arcade on free play as well. By far the best thing was having characters in the lobby, they took part in the arts and crafts and dancing with the kids. We had Chip and Dale, Pluto and my favourite Donald Duck. I had a great time just watching him dancing to Michael Jackson, who knew he had some moves!! Something you’ll see in an upcoming vlog.. I would even say that was one of the highlights of my trip!

Staying at Port Orleans does give you access to both of the resorts there, ours and the much larger Riverside. Being as both were open for food we took a little wander over along the riverside to just have a little change of scenery.  There is more choice foodwise over that side and it’s where you can see Yee Haw Bob (sadly not while we were there though), we tried the Jambalaya which was so nice and had a look around their much bigger gift shop.

Food in our resort during this time was limited. There was pre packaged meals of sandwiches etc and just Pizza or Meatballs and Pasta. Both of which we had – there’s not a lot to do really apart from eat when you’ve seen the crafts and the characters.

Disney did kindly put Disney Movies on a loop on the channels in our rooms so we did spend the day going back to watch a movie and then off to get more food. Being as we knew we would have to be in our rooms for around 12 hours (much better than the ‘up to 48’ it was originally) we tried to stay out as long as possible. I remember watching Little Mermaid, Big Hero 6 and Brave a good few times.

Not once during this whole time did any of us feel worried, scared or anxious. Watching the news and weather channels on TV the way things were worded made it sound a lot worse for us than it seemed to be. We were lucky where we were obviously it hit worse on the coast and it was devastating for many but Disney is quite rightly a safe place to be.

There was never any loss of electric or water – largely due to Disney having their own supplies of this – and I think the reason so many decamp there.

During the curfew we literally just ate and watched TV, not a lot else you can do. We bought playing cards and colouring stuff but we slept through most of the hurricane. We did get woken up a few times during the night and peered out to see incredibly high winds and a lot of rain, trees were blowing over but apart from that we didn’t see much, it was dark though…

Next morning once the curfew was lifted we did venture out to see what damage had been done and it was mostly just trees and a few signs had been blown off. As I said we were lucky. The rooms were secure and having the TV on did cover over most of the noise of the wind and rain. Had we lost power then it might have been a different situation.

Obviously the pool was still closed and not too many people were about but we went to get food and by the time we’d come back to the room and watched a movie the second trip to get out we were met with a very different resort. It was like nothing had happened, all the debris was cleared away and apart from seeing workmen about fixing signs etc you wouldn’t have known anything had happened.

Curfew was lifted for the area early evening so we headed out to get some food. It was clear once we’d got off Disney property how much damage had been done locally. Literally as soon as we were off site we saw traffic lights out and a lot of flooding, some of the big store signs along the 192 were ruined, blown down or ripped and we could see a lot of places without power.

Not many places were open, social media was so helpful for this, we ended up at Golden Corral near Kissimmee which had queues around the whole building we waited nearly 90 minutes to get in and eat, when we came out the queue was twice as long so we were lucky.

Parks reopen tomorrow so we’re looking forward to Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween party which thankfully is still happening.

All in all we were lucky that we were onsite for Irma, I think if we’d been in a villa we wouldn’t have had it so easy.  It’s not put me off coming in Hurricane season again, we were well looked after. Floridians in general are really friendly so if you do normally do Villa holidays neighbours will be  more than happy to help you out if the situation arose. All hotels would have some kind of policy in place but it would only be resorts on Disney where you’re not likely to lose power.

If you’re worried about booking and the impact that it may have on your holiday I really wouldn’t, missing 2 days in the parks did mean we missed some stuff but most of that could have been done earlier on in the holiday if I’d planned it right. We were upset to miss some of it and having to spend so much time together stuck in a relatively small room might drive some families mad and fray some tempers but luckily we don’t annoy each other too much! I think we panicked when we originally thought we would be stuck for 48 hours and spent far too much on supplies we didn’t need to have so in hindsight maybe we should have waited a little longer to get stuff.

Generally during Hurricane Season you will get rain pretty much every day. However unlike here the weather channels will tell you what time that will be and they’re for the most part incredibly accurate, its usually just a shower and over as quick as it starts. I love it when it rains, people empty the parks and it ends up so quiet, always a bonus. Don’t let it put you off booking!!

I’m glad this all happened towards the end of our trip and it wasn’t something that stopped us actually getting here and it does mean that if it happens to affect us again we’ll know what to expect and family at home might not be as worried as they were this time.

Not too long for us left now which is sad and I imagine we will still have some bad weather to deal with but tomorrow we eat in one of the places I’ve been most looking forward to – Skipper Canteen…

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 7 – A Deserted Wizarding World, preparing for Irma and meeting a Polar Bear

Today is the main reason we decided to stay at Hard Rock Hotel.

Staying on site gives you the early entry and both parts of the Wizarding World open an hour early for hotel guests. 8am in our case at this time of year. We got up early, checked out and walked to Universal Studios. Literally a 5 minute walk if that! No need to get on a bus, train, monorail or boat.

Nothing else bar Starbucks and a few places to eat were open and we were a little disappointed to learn that Gringotts didn’t actually open until the park did. That being said there is so much to look at in Diagon Alley and we had so much fun looking about and being able to have pictures without loads of people in the background. Paul even pretended he knew what Harry Potter was all about and had a go at being a wizard!

Anyone who’s been here knows how immersive it is and it does really feel like you’re entering the wizarding world. Even with the ride closed the hour we had before opening wasn’t anywhere near enough time to explore it all in peace!

We spent a lot of time doing spells and wondering around the shops and into Ollivanders to see how the wand chooses the wizard. One of the little extra things I really wanted to do that I’d kept quiet from Amelia was visit the money exchange where you can change up your dollars (a minimum of $10) to wizarding money with the help of one of the gringotts goblins. Fully interactive of course.

The money can only be spent in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade or of course makes a relatively cheap souvenir. We kept ours.  We did video our experience in the money exchange as well as most of the trip so when I can get my head round editing I’ll put all that up as well.

Food in Diagon Alley, well snacks, are magical too. We had the obligatory Butterbeer which comes frozen or normal, and is every bit as delicious as I remember but a little too sweet for some people. We had Earl Grey and Lavender Ice Cream which was lovely but in typical Orlando style even one scoop was far too big! Amelia was sensible and went for a no melt ice cream from the sweet shop. It looked fabulous but was essentially just a pot of frosting, very good frosting but frosting all the same.  Pumpkin spice is one of my favourite things in Orlando so we went for a Pumpkin Pasty which was ok and we also bought a cauldron cake – we skipped breakfast so we were all a bit hungry!

I really enjoyed just wandering around and to be honest I could have quite happily walked around all day. But we needed to get as much done as possible as we needed to find a Walmart to stock up on rations for when Irma hit.

We had a quick stop off at The Night Bus and a chat with Stan and the shrunken heads before we took a little walk over to the other side of the park to see a show I’d been dying to watch for a while.

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That didn’t happen straightaway however as Paul nearly had some sort of fit after The Blues Brothers were walking along. He loves the Blues Brothers and we were planning on making sure we caught their show but we ended up seeing an earlier one. Paul even got involved in it, again to be seen in an upcoming vlog!

The Blues Brothers show is one of those must sees, everyone knows all the songs and it’s so entertaining and funny. Lots of audience participation and the performers are really really good 🙂

Jaws the ride may now be a distant memory but you can’t visit Universal Studios without finding the famous shark himself and inspecting the inside of his mouth.

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We did try and go to Richter Burger for lunch which does some of the best burgers but sadly it was closed.

The park was very quiet today, eerily so, due I would imagine to the upcoming storm. Most of the people in the parks were on holiday, I think most locals were out getting supplies.

If you’re planning a trip to Universal or have been before and are looking for something different to do, make a spot in your itinerary for the Horror Make Up Show. It’s not something I was overly interested in on previous trips just thinking it would be like some of the animation classes you used to get at Disney which although I enjoyed it wasn’t something I would rush to do again. I actually saw a vlog on it a few months after we booked and I laughed so hard! So we decided to give it a go 🙂 Plus it’s inside and it’s been raining on and off quite heavily all day.

It’s a live stage show with 2 fantastically funny hosts who show a few techniques for horror make up and blood and then show clips of the movies that they’re used on. And the movies the hosts have worked on. An unsuspecting audience member – sadly not one of us – gets roped in to be made up as well.

There are screens in the theatre – which isn’t that big – so any tricks they show you are shown close up on those 🙂

It’s a great way to spend half an hour, you won’t be disappointed and honestly it’s one of the funniest shows I’ve seen 🙂

Plus you can have your throat cut by the hosts after if you want to…

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One thing I only found out about recently were the impromptu ‘dance parties’ involving the floats from the Superstar parade. We were lucky on coming out of the show to stumble upon a Despicable Me one. Amelia got picked to be a Minion which she loved and you can have a dance with all the characters to the music from the film. I was just really excited that you can meet the girls!

These are really good fun and kids love it!

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It turns out we were in a great location for meeting characters here, after the dance party we spotted Popeye, Beetlejuice, Scooby Doo and The Simpsons. Some with photographers so we could take advantage of the photopass.

Shaggy and Scooby are always fun to meet. Other places where you can use the photopass are with the meets with Transformers, Minions and Shrek.

I finally got to do the Transformers ride which I wasn’t all that impressed with. The ride tech is brilliant and the special effects are really good but it’s not really that much different to Spider-Man, it’s just the story is about Transformers instead. I prefer Spider-Man.

The Despicable Me ride is one I always enjoy, I love the films and the Minions do make me laugh. Best bit of the ride though is undoubtedly when you exit to a dance floor where you can dance with the Minions 🙂

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After a quick? stop in Walmart and $200 of groceries later – we were told we could be in our rooms for 48 hours so we needed enough to last – we went back to Port Orleans, without getting lost for a quick dip in the pool.

I really enjoyed the pool at Port Orleans, it’s a great size and has a slide. There’s always activities for the kids as well, at an extra cost though.

There is also a bar that does some brilliant cocktails and an adults only Jacuzzi which we most definitely made the most of.

We decided to spend the evening in Disney Springs. The beauty of staying at Port Orleans is that you can get to Disney Springs on a boat which was fun. They run quite late into the evening as well it’s a less crowded more fun way to get about than the buses.

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We had a reservation at T-Rex where I really wanted to try the famed Cottontini 🙂

It’s basically a martini poured over candy floss (or cotton candy as they call it). I went for the apple one and I loved it. If you don’t like sweet things you won’t like it. The Candy Floss dissolves as you pour the drink over it. I ended up having 2 and another fruity cocktail as well. You get to keep the cocktail shaker when you order as well so you get a little reminder.

Food wise we really enjoyed T Rex, I’d read a lot of bad reviews about it but honestly apart from it being loud, it is dinosaur themed and comes from the same people who do Rainforest Café so you do expect a certain amount of ‘background’ noise from all the things that go on. I don’t remember exactly what happens in T-Rex I think it’s supposed to mimic the demise of the dinosaurs but there are animatronics all over the place and it’s a great fun place to eat with kids.

After the cocktails we had a rather tipsy wander around the Springs. I love the shops in Disney Springs so much grown up Disney merchandise from homeware and clothes to artwork, I never buy a lot but I just like to look.

One of the things I was super excited about was meeting the Coca Cola Polar bear. I’d watched some videos of him on YouTube and he really made me laugh so finding him was one of the things on my bucket list for this trip. He was brilliant, such a fun character meet and all the photos – in fact all the photo ops in Disney Springs – are included with memory maker. We loved him that much we went back twice.

We also had more cocktails on the rooftop bar at Coca Cola Store. You can have them with all the different coke products you can try in Epcot at Club Cool, I wasn’t brave enough to try the Beverley one so I went for something raspberry flavoured although all I could taste was the alcohol. Don’t forget if you are over 21 and old enough to drink in Orlando you will need to prove it so make sure you have ID with you.

The rooftop bar is lovely, it gives you great views over the Springs, the shop was great as well. It wasn’t there last time I visited so I was excited to have a look 🙂

Feeling ever so slightly tipsy we went back to the boat to go back, tomorrow is the last day the parks are open before Irma hits so we’re off for breakfast with Winnie the Pooh…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days 6 – Staying at Hard Rock Hotel, Volcano Bay and more Universal

Breakfast this morning was finally at Waffle House after I didn’t get lost and found one! You can always rely on Waffle House for cheap good food and lots of it. Service is always great and the servers do make it a fun place to eat. Plus they have the tastiest and biggest hash browns. We did notice these seem to be everywhere on the 192 and not so prominent when you get to I-Drive so if you fancy trying one of their delicious breakfasts then head towards Kissimmee you’re bound to come across one!

 

I’d heard lots of good things about Hard Rock so we were both really looking forward to staying here. Mostly because of the early entry to the parks and the unlimited Express Passes that come with a room booking 🙂

We checked in about 9ish and were lucky as our room was actually ready for us. The smell of this hotel is unbelievable! I did ask if you can buy it but you can’t, they are missing a trick with that one! Because you get the early park entry with your room you can actually check in as early as 7am on the day of your stay to make use of it. Your room might not be ready but you can leave your bags somewhere safe.

We had a quick look at the room and got changed to head to Volcano Bay for a swim. The rooms are big and spacious and we loved the music channels as well. You can even make your own playlist that you can download to remind you of your trip.

My favourite thing about the room was this, it had me in fits – no-one else found it quite so funny..

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The good thing about staying on Universal is that all the parks are really close and we got on a bus from our hotel to Volcano Bay. It gave us a chance to see some of the other hotels on property as well. It was quick and there is no way to walk there from Hard Rock.

We didn’t actually take any pictures really in Volcano Bay just a few as we went it. It’s a great park. The Tapu Tapu worked great, its given to you as you go in and each of the rides have machines where you can scan it to put you in a virtual queue for that ride. We were lucky it was pretty quiet. Paul and Amelia managed to get on a few slides. The ‘Oh No’ was her favourite. It was a slide which ends 6ft above the pool giving you a free fall drop to the water.

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Volcano Bay has 2 lazy rivers, if you want to chill out and relax make sure you enter the right one. TeAwa The Fearless river is anything but relaxing. It’s like white water rafting in a rubber ring, its so much fun but kind of impossible to get off! The wave surges come at just the wrong time and kept shooting me past the exit, I think we went round 4 times and it’s not a short river!

Disabled Access here is really good, there was an entrance for me on the rivers with hoists to put you in and out of the water, most of the slides had lifts to get you up to them so if you are in a wheelchair you can still experience a lot of the park which is great.

The Volcano is stunning when you see it, and the wave pool in front of it is perfect to just chill out and soak up the sun. Do not forget your sun cream, we were there for a few hours and I ended up with red legs!

We went back to the hotel for a few hours to ease our sunburn and just as we sat down we had a knock at the door and some Champagne and Chocolates delivered as a Honeymoon gift from the hotel which was lovely, we were chuffed with that 🙂 Made light work of the bottle and went off to Universal Studios a little bit tipsy…

 

The Express Passes you get with your room booking are fab. It’s actually your room key that acts as your pass so buying a lanyard is a great idea, it’s a good way to carry them around 🙂

We were straight on every ride we wanted to do. Jimmy Fallon is amazing. We were obviously aware of his show and who he is but you don’t need to to enjoy it. The pre show is fabulous with a barbershop quartet like he has on the show singing some modern classics for you, I really enjoyed that. It’s worth queueing for just for them. And it does keep you entertained while you wait. The ride itself is another 3D/4D ride simulator of which there are quite a few at Universal. The general idea of these is pretty similar yet they are all unique in their own way. This one takes you on a race through New York City taking in all the sights like the Empire State and Statue of Liberty before ending up back in the Tonight show studio.

Amelia had been going on and on and on and on about Rip Ride Rockit since our last trip, it was another one we had tears about with her being so little. Having the Express pass meant she could go on as many times as she liked and I lost count at 5, seeing this little gem after she’d been on it made my day!

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We managed to get on Simpsons, which still makes me feel sick, Men in Black and The Mummy before our day was cut short because of the weather.

I mentioned the photopass in my last blog which we managed to get a good deal on and we did use it as much as we could. It’s nowhere near as good as the Disney one and there isn’t really any photographers about much it’s mostly just on rides and character meets you can use it. There isn’t a lot of those at all. With all the photo opportunities all over Universal and particularly in Wizarding World I think Universal would benefit from having more photographers dotted about. That being said we did take advantage of it today with ET and SpongeBob 🙂

Dinner today was in Mels Diner which I wasn’t overly impressed with if I’m honest. I’d eaten there before and I remembered having jukeboxes on the table but I’m sure it used to be table service. Food was ok, not brilliant and it was quite expensive.

We spent the evening chilling out with cocktails by the pool and sitting in the hot-tub not an entirely bad way to spend the evening. Universal doesn’t have the evening shows like Disney does so the parks do close earlier. You do have Citywalk to explore but being as we only had one night in the hotel we did want to make use of the pool and have a quiet and early night. We need to be awake enough to take full advantage of early entry for Diagon Alley!!

Tomorrow we get the chance to visit Diagon Alley without all the crowds!

Disneymoon Blog – Day 1 – Animal Kingdom, Armidillos and Oh Getting lost…

I was up at 4am this morning, unpacking and writing yesterdays blog and went off for a little adventure around the resort while everyone else was asleep being a good wife and getting drinks for when Paul and Amelia woke up.

Port Orleans is such a nice resort as I said yesterday, it has such a relaxed atmosphere and because it is a small resort it’s not crowded which is brilliant. (I’ll do a proper in full review of the resort and the room when I get home)

We had an 8:20 reservation for Tusker House this morning with EMH at Animal Kingdom from 8am. We got there just after 8am and it was packed. Labour Day weekend and obviously Pandora I think were the reasons for that. In all my visits I’ve never seen so many people running towards a park at that time of the morning. As we made our way to Tusker and passed Pandora that crowd did thin out. A Lot.

Tusker House is fab!! It’s a large restaurant so even though it seats a lot of people it doesnt feel too crowded. It’s worth remembering for those of you who aren’t staying on site that if you do have a dining reservation before the park opens that is a really good way to get in the parks. Although you won’t be able to get on anything until it does open for rides like Flight of Passage it would mean you can get in line early.

Food at Tusker is standard for a Breakfast Buffet although it does have a bit of an African twist with things like corned beef hash and curry for you to try. I have a sweet tooth and would highly recommend trying the Banana Bread pudding which was lovely. As is the specialty drink ‘Jungle Juice’ which they give you when you get to your table. I could drink that all day.  I don’t know what was in it but it was lovely and fruity.

We met 4 Characters, Donald obviously, Daisy, Goofy and Mickey.  I do love the character dining it’s a great way to meet the more popular ones without having to be in a line for ages.

Bellys full we headed off to get my DAS sorted on our Magic Bands which was as usual quick and easy from Guest Services.  Then off we went to visit Pandora. We had a fast pass for River Journey and it was pretty quiet which we found a little odd. Turned out none of the rides were running. We did have a little look around and Amelia was fascinated by the big plant that lights up when you touch it. I have to say from that little bit that we saw I was completely gobsmacked. It is stunning!! The theming, the ambience the whole lot of it is breathtaking.  I knew it was going to be incredible after seeing all the vlogs and pictures but honestly none of those do it justice at all. IMG_8114

With Pandora having issues we decided to head up to Kilimanjaro Safaris – I was a bit lame today with taking photos and mostly videoed instead so look out for those when we get home. We saw loads of animals on the safari including a baby elephant which was absolutely the cutest thing we saw all day.

We bumped into Tarzan on our travels which was fab as I’d not met him before 🙂 I managed to embarass myself a little by tripping on my feet and very nearly grabbing his bum…

Off to Everest after that Amelia’s favourite, And a lot faster than I remember it being last time!! Then a quick visit to the river rapids which was lovely in the heat as it was incredibly muggy and hot yesterday.

Disability access for all the rides is so easy – I will go into all that a lot more when I get home – I know it’s something that is really important to know when you go somewhere like Disney.

We went back to Pandora for lunch and off to Satu’li Canteen one of the places I’d been most looking forward to eating in. Again the ambience is breathtaking in there!! Food was amazing, I recommend the beef but not with the grains which basically taste like plain brown rice, Paul went for the sweet potato hash which was lovely so that would be my choice for next time.

No pudding though cos we were full, instead we went and got a Night Blossom from Pongo Pongo. Which tastes like a twister in a glass 🙂

Using my DAS we got a return time for Flight of Passage – a wait of 4 HOURS – and then went back to the hotel for a bit of time in the pool. And we managed to get back without getting lost!!

Bad news when we got back literally just as we got to the pool they closed it due to lightning so instead we went in the arcade which was so much fun.

Back to Animal Kingdom after refilling our resort mugs for the journey, it was chucking it down so it was nice walking in that everyone else was heading in the opposite direction.

Straight to River Journey as they let us keep the fast pass to use at any time as well as giving us an extra for something else too.

Just like Pandora itself River Journey is just stunning!! There is so much to look at as you go round. It really takes your breath away with the sounds smells and noises you hear as you travel slowly around. I decided not to take pictures on this on my first time round just so I could fully concentrate on what was going on and take it all in. Then off we went to Flight of Passage. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do this ride being that the restraints hold your feet forward and also come up to fasten you at your back – 2 things that for me with my condition looked like they would be a little problematic. So I ducked out 😦 Paul and Amelia went on it though and when they came off Paul explained everything to me about the ride vehicle and we decided that I would be able to go on so we decided to go back again another day, instead a lovely cast member who I’d been chatting to while I was waiting actually took us back round so we could all go on again then.

Flight of Passage there are literally no words to describe how amazing it is!! It uses similar technology to Soarin but much more state of the art. Not only do you see all the places you’re flying over on your banshee you smell them as well.  It’s that realistic that you almost forget that you’re on a ride and you do really feel a little worried you might fall off of things might hit you as you fly at them – I had to stop myself putting my hand up to shield myself from some of it!! Because of the incredibly realistic effects it is really really intense. I have strange fears and big waves/tidal waves and things like that do scare me there is a bit where you fly towards a huge wave and I think you fly through it as it crashed over you but I shut my eyes for that so I could be wrong!! 🙂

It was dark when we got off so we were lucky enough to see Pandora at night with everything lit up. It’s beautiful!! You MUST go here at night and see how all the plants and walkways light up in the dark, if there is any place throughout Disney that showcases the talent of the imagineers this is it!! How they come up with the ideas to make these things so real I will never know!!

We did Dinosaur which is probably one of the fastest rides I’ve ever been on, I don’t remember it being that quick – maybe we’re just getting old and things seem a bit faster than they used to be – I was knackered getting off that you get thrown around that much!!

Then last fastpass of the day was Everest about half hour before park closing 🙂 In the Dark with an AMAZING view of the park all lit up!! Highly recommened doing that at night 🙂

Wandering out of the park we saw a little Armadillo which was highly entertaining for all the Brits around us!!

Then we left. To come back to the hotel which we found with no trouble earlier!! Took us an hour again in the dark!! Theme of this holiday is definitely getting lost in Disney!! I’m beginning to regret not getting a decent map or renting a sat nav!!

Off to Islands of Adventure today and Blue Man tonight, I wonder if we’ll get lost coming home.. stay tuned I shall update you tomorrow!!

Planning Your Trip – Where to Start – Dining Plans

One of my most favourite things about Orlando is the food, I literally dream about it!! Seriously! A lot of the planning for our upcoming trip is choosing what places we want to eat in – the places we loved the most last time (Longhorns) and the places we couldn’t get a reservation in (Be Our Guest).

All the parks have some sort of Dining plan you can purchase, whether it be the Disney dining plan or one of the all day dining packages at some of the other parks.  Whether they are worthwhile for you is all about personal preference and of course how much you eat!!! Today I’ll cover Disney (as there’s loads to cover) and I’ll do the other parks in another post.

There are also some really fun dining experiences in all the parks as well but I’ll cover those and character dining in another blog 🙂 As well as the dining events such as Epcot food and wine and Magical Dining Month.

This trip we booked when the Disney Dining plan was being offered free – which is worth doing I think if you can. I haven’t had the plan before at WDW but I did have it on a recent trip to Disney Paris and from what I can gather the idea of it and the way that it works is pretty similar. Having on that trip was brilliant and it did allow us to eat in some of the fancier resturants without it costing us the earth.  Of course we could have just had quick service meals for a little less but when you like good food it’s well worth having.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking into how the plan works and some of the dining packages available  to those staying off site and in the other parks so hopefully this should give you a little more information on the Disney one and see if it’s worth it for you.

Obviously the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is something that is much talked about on blogs and the internet and there are some really good sites that explain it all in intricate detail. I’m going to attempt to do it a little more concisely then if you want a bit more info you can head over to Disney Food Blog and fill your heads with loads more info!!

DDP is only available to those staying on site at Disney and are only available when booking your hotel and tickets as a Disney package. There are 3 different ‘plans’ available and give you the following for each NIGHT that you stay in and on site resort.

Quick Service Dining Plan – 2 Quick Service (counter) meals, 2 snacks and a refillable resort mug (roughly £38 per adult per night and £16 per child (3-9))

Dining Plan – 1 Table Service, 1 Quick Service, 2 Snacks and refillable resort mug (roughly £54 per adult and £20 per child)

Deluxe Dining Plan – 3 Table Service or Quick Service meals, 2 snacks and refillable resort mug. (roughly £84 per adult and £30 per child)

To put it into perspective the average quick service meal (entree and drink) costs around $17, average table service $30, Buffet $30 and Character Dining $50.

My Disney Experience (MDE) has all the menus and prices listed, just choose your restaurant and click on view menu. That should give you a really good indication of whether or not you would actually eat enough food to warrant paying for the plan and help you decide on the places you really want to eat in – be careful though it will make you hungry!

This year Disney also trialed a one day dining plan called ‘Dine on the Go’ through Jan-Feb which is Quick Service only and only valid at a few restaurants in Magic Kingdom. There’s no word on if this will be extended but I would imagine it’s something that they will continue to do if it’s popular.

How does it work?

Your dining credits are loaded on to your Magic Band or ticket. When you go to your selected restaurant you tell the server how many of your credits you want to redeem. You will be given a receipt that will show you how many credits you have left. I would think that there would be something in MDE that would show as well but looking online I have found no information as to whether it does or not.  I’ll let you know after my trip.

Where can I use my dining plan?

If you’re looking on the MDE app at restaurants it will say if dining plans are accepted or not.

What is the difference between ‘counter service’ and ‘table service’?

Table service is where you would be sat down at a restaurant and your order taken by a server and bought to your table. Counter Service is what we expect from a fast food restaurant over here. You order your food and then take it yourself to the table.

I don’t want to just eat burgers all the time is there anything else?

It’s a common misconception that ‘quick service’ just means burgers.and hotdogs. There are some surprising things on offer at Disney in Quick Service locations.

Magic Kingdom – Be Our Guest has quick service for Breakfast and Lunch with some french inspired food, Columbia Harbour House has healthy salads and fish, and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn is mexican inspired with Fajitas and Tacos.

Hollywood Studios – ABC Commissary has club sandwiches and Mediterranean style salads,  Catalina Eddies has pizzas and salad.

Animal Kingdom – has loads of different food in keeping with the african/asian themeing of the park Flame Tree Barbeque – has BBQ meats, salads and ribs,  Harambe Market has curry, flatbreads and skewers.

Epcot unsurprisingly has the most choice with food and there are loads of quick service places in Epcot with some incredible looking menus Katsura Grill is Japanese with sushi and noodles, Kringlan Bakeri Og Cafe is in Norway with fresh sandwiches and meatballs and lots of cakes!, La Cantina De San Angel can be found in Mexico and serves all sorts of tacos, Lotus Blossom in China does a variety of rice and noodles, Sommerfest in Germany has different types of german sausage and strudel, Sunshine Seasons has the most choice and is very much like food courts in the mall with all different variety of  foods all under one (very big) roof. The one for me that is top of my list is Tangierine Cafe in Morrocco with wraps, hummus and taboleh.

Epcot is quite literally foodie heaven!!

What does a quick service credit get me?

It gets you an entree (main as we call it here) and a non alcoholic drink. It does not include dessert. That’s what your snack credits are for.

You can use a quick service credit to get 3 snacks as long as they’re all from the same participating place and purchased at the same time. This would be particularly useful during Epcots food and wine festival as some of the food stands will allow you to do this meaning you can quite literally eat your way around the world.

What does a Table Service credit get me?

An entree, dessert and a  non alcoholic drink at a table service restaurant. Or a buffet and drink at a buffet restaurant.

Can I have a starter (appetizer) instead of dessert?

Strictly speaking no, but it’s always worth an ask as I’ve had differing answers to this question.

What can I use my snack credits for?

Snack credits can be used for bottled water, juice and fountain sodas. Most bakery products and ice creams. Generally most things around $5 are covered by your snack credits at places that accept the dining plans. If in doubt ask a cast member. You can get the Mickey Ice Creams, Mickey Pretzels, Dole Whip, La Fous Brew (but not in a souvenir cup)…

Can I use my Dining Plan for character dining?

If you have the Dining Plan or the Deluxe dining plan you can use your table service credits for Character Dining.  Most character dining will use 1 of your credits with the exception of Cinderellas Royal Table which will take 2 of your credits.

Can I use 2 counter service credits and have table service?

No. You can only use the counter service for counter service food. You are unable to double up on them.

How do I find out how many credits each restaurant/meal costs?

The servers will tell you but I found a really interesting page on WDW Prep school that lists it all for you.

What if I want to use extra credits than my daily allowance?

The credits do not have be used by ‘day’. For example if you have the regular plan you don’t have to have 1 Quick, 1 table and use both your snack credits every single day. You just have however many days you’re there to use them all. Most Brits won’t spend all of their trip at Disney so the days you’re at other parks like Universal or days at the beach you won’t be using your dining credits.

So you could use 2 table service credits in a day if you wanted to. You could even use 3. You’ll still have enough to keep you fed for the rest of your trip.

I’ve got a refillable mug can I use that in the parks?

No. You can only use your refillable mugs to fill up in resort hotels not the parks.

What isn’t included?

Tips are not included with the dining plan and neither is alcohol.

Do I need to book?

Some of the more popular restaurants and character dining would require an advance dining reservation (ADR). These can get booked up really quick. You are able to book these 180 days before the day you wish to dine using your MDE app. Quick Service you do not need to book. These can get quite busy during peak times eat a big breakfast and have a late lunch or an early dinner to avoid the queues if you’re going for quick service.

Can I buy the plan just for a few days of my trip?

No you can’t. It has to be for the duration of your stay on the Disney resort. Also all members of the party have to have the same level of dining plan.

Hopefully that should have answered some of the questions surrounding the dining plan. I’ll be able to go into more detail and tell you all exactly how it works after my trip in September and I’ll no doubt have some restaurant recommendations for you as well.

It’s a personal preference with the dining plan though so it may not be for everybody. I think it’s a great idea but I do like to eat so for me and my family it’s worth it.

 

 

Planning Your Trip – Where to Start – Fastpasses

UPDATE – It would seem that some of the info I have is out of date. Fastpasses at Disney are now unlimited but you can still only book 3 in advance per person per day. These can be booked 30 days before each day of your visit when offsite.

Universal do include some of the Harry Potter rides with the Express Pass, however it doesn’t include Hogwarts Express, Gringotts and Forbidden Journey.

Current lists of what rides are included can be found on the official park websites

There is so much information on the internet about Fastpasses for all the parks and My Disney Experience (MDE) and as I’m told on a daily basis ‘it’s a bit of a minefield’ researching an Orlando holiday I thought I’d try and condense it all a little and give a bit of a guide to how it all works.

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My Disney Experience is for want of a better word – amazing! It’s a complete hive of information and will give you pretty much everything you need to be able to plan your days within the Disney parks and resorts.

How much do they cost?

Fastpasses are included free of charge with your Disney tickets.

So how do I start?

You need to either download the MDE app search your app store for ‘My Disney Experience’ it’ll have a Mickey Ears logo or you can do it online

You just set up an account much like you would a social media account with your email address and you’re away. If you’re visiting with a very large group I recommend setting up one account and giving the log in details to the others in the party.

If you have an on site booking you can input your booking number in ‘add reservation’ and all your details will come up.

If you’re off site, once you receive your park tickets you are able to ‘add tickets’ to the account. To do this you can either scan the QR code or type in the number on the back – you need to scratch off the silver panel to do that – it will NOT invalidate your tickets. You are able to assign tickets to certain members of the party. It’s worth either writing names or initials on the back of them so you know who’s is who’s if there is a large group as when it comes to getting in the parks fingerprints are taken so you need to be using the same ticket every day.

This is also where your Memory Maker photos will go (I’ll get into that on another post) so it’s easy to keep them all in one place.

How many fastpasses do I get?

You get 3, per person per day. These can be booked in advance and you’re able to book 1 more on the day.

How do I book?

When you log in you should see this:

mde

You are then able to choose a date and a park and select the rides you wish to book for, It will then give you the choice of times you can book. If there is more than one ticket connected to your account it will ask you who you want to book the passes for. You can choose all or some.

NB : You are able to book these 30 days before you go if you are staying off site and 60 if you are onsite. If you’re trying too soon – as I was – it will then tell you the date you can start booking them.

If you are able to book once you’ve selected your date/park this is what comes up to show the timings.

mdefastpass

Once you have picked your time you have an hour window from then to ride. All your fastpasses will show in your MDE account so with the free Wi-Fi in the parks you will be able to see day by day what your plans are.

Once you get to the ride at the right time you need to go to the fastpass queue and you scan your ticket (or Magicband) on the mickey and in you go.

disney-scan-band1

Its that easy!!

How do I choose which rides to fastpass?

The app for MDE has all the current wait times showing for all the ride and some of the character meetings. If it’s something you are able to fastpass it will show you. (Not all rides/experiences have fastpass enabled)

My advice is to download the app once your holiday is booked and dip in and out of it on different days and times. This will then show you which rides tend to continuously have long wait times, these are the ones you would need to fastpass. In some of the parks they catergorise the rides. Epcot is one of those. You are not able to book 3 fastpasses for the premium rides for example. So you wouldn’t be able to book Test Track, Soarin’ and Mission Space. All this information will come up when you go to book.

Some of the more popular character greetings you are able to fastpass – Mickey in Toontown Theatre for example always has a pretty long wait – unless you go straight there as soon as the park opens or during a parade – this is well worth booking a fast pass for! For those of you with Princesses of your own, meeting the likes of Cinderella, Belle and Anna and Elsa is a must whilst at Disney – these always have pretty long queues.

UNIVERSAL

Universal have their own version of fastpasses – called Express Passes. These are only available through Universal directly and allow you to enter the rides via a different queue. You are not able to book these rides in advance.

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How much do they cost?

The prices of these vary and are seasonal. There are also 2 types of them, Express Passes and Unlimited ones.

You can buy passes in advance from the official Universal Bookings UK site. You can buy 1 day 1 park passes or a 1 day-2 park pass which I think are much better value. You can easily do all of the rides in both parks in one day with an Express Pass, you can then visit again another day and not have to worry about getting on everything.

Alternatively you can buy the unlimited ones on the gate or from the UniversalOrlando.com website.  They are more expensive but they do include unlimited rides on all Express Pass enabled rides.

Do the include the Harry Potter rides?

No they don’t express passes do not include any of the rides within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Is there any other way to get Express Passes?

Yes there is. Select Universal hotels will include unlimited Express Passes as part of your room rate. If there is a family of 4 it actually can work out cheaper to do that rather than purchasing the express passes. For a one night stay you would be given 2 days of Express Passes, one for the day you check in and one for the day you check out.

All Universal hotels allow you to enter the park early giving you access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before the park opens to the public.

TOP TIP: If you don’t mind splitting up your group and going on rides alone most rides have a single rider queue which is another way to get on the rides a little quicker than the regular line.

SEAWORLD PARKS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Seaworld and Busch Gardens have their own versions of these as well called Quik Queue you are able to buy these in advance from any of the ticket resellers.

These work exactly the same way as Express Passes and vary in price according to season and also if you want unlimited or not.

These do work out cheaper to buy in advance before you go, although you can purchase on the gate and you are also able to purchase one time tickets for use on one particular ride.

You can get these free if you stay in any of the Seaworld Resort hotels.