Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cape May Cafe

The Cape May Café is one of the most loved restaurants on Disney property according to many that have visited. Located in the Beach Club Resort, it is full of charm and character. That might be because it is one of the most popular character breakfasts at Walt Disney Resort. Character Breakfast by day and Clam Bake Buffet by night, this restaurant boasts the best of both worlds. The first thing to note is the beautiful resort that houses this remarkable restaurant. The Beach Club Resort is one of the deluxe resorts located by Epcot and is within walking distance to Epcot and right across the lagoon from the bustling Boardwalk area. The Cape May Café offers a wonderful assortment of great food both at breakfast and dinner. At the character breakfast buffet, there are many different delectable items to choose from. Everything from eggs, waffles, pancakes, fresh fruit and yummy baked goods are all offered while you enjoy your favorite characters meandering around looking for that special photo or autograph. Who can resist Donald coming up to that little boy or girl who is so anxiously waiting for that special hug all while enjoying the scrumptious delights on the buffet. It is a dream come true for any Disney fan! At night, when the characters have gone into the theme parks for the evening, the Cape May Café turns into a New England Clam Bake buffet. You can’t beat it! You can dine on everything from New England Clam Chowder, a wonderful salad bar, not to mention, crab legs, clams, mussels, chicken, ribs and a great dessert selection. The atmosphere in this restaurant is sea-side charming with a bit of laid-back beachiness. You can relax in this restaurant while enjoying great food. The best part….you can go back as many times as you want for more food. Didn’t get to fit the crab legs on your first plate….go back again for more. You can eat until you are stuffed and no one will care if you take one bite out of a yummy dessert just to try it. After your meal, you can simply walk outside and take in the beautiful sights of the Boardwalk area with all its happenings. You can also take a quick stroll toward Epcot through the International Gateway and enjoy a day or night in one of the many countries in World Showcase. The thing to remember is that the Cape May Café is not only a wonderful restaurant with charm and character, but it is centrally located to so much that it is a must-do restaurant experience. I highly recommend eating at the Cape May Café at any time of day. You will be glad you did!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wishes Nighttime Spectacular

2003 was my daughters’ first trip to Walt Disney World. Five out of the seven nights we were there, we watched Fantasy in the Sky, the lively fireworks spectacular duplicated at many of the Disney theme parks around the world. It was set to songs like, “The Second Star to the Right” and “It’s a Small World,” that made us feel sentimental, and “Davey Crocket, King of the Wild Frontier,” or “A Pirate’s Life for me” that brought out our adventurous sides. That show coined a familiar phrase in our family… “Every night should end in fireworks.” Upon our return 18 months later, we were initially disappointed to hear that Fantasy in the Sky had been replaced, after its amazing 32-year run. I don’t remember much about the first time I saw Wishes, other than being blown away, and not quite knowing where to look first. Hosted by Jiminy Cricket and The Blue Fairy, Wishes takes us on a journey through the wishes of many Disney characters including the infamous Disney Villains. The special effects play an important part in setting the mood and include lighting, projections on the castle, amazing sound, and of course, the sprinkling of pixie dust from Tinker Bell. When the lights dim and the haunting first single cords of the orchestra begin, everyone knows it’s time. It’s time to learn about our “wishes”. The poem “Starlight, Starbright” is put to music and sung by a young children’s choir. The fireworks dance to the music, and you realize that you are watching not just a show, but a story. The story is that of all Disney characters, of all of us and our wishes – wishes for love, wishes for adventure, and of course, magical wishes. It’s upbeat, it’s fun and it’s happy. But then, the villains must make an appearance, for they have wishes too. The special effects, music and fireworks make you feel their much darker and sinister wishes. But their plot to take over the show, and the castle is interrupted, and just like any classic Disney story, there is a happy ending. During a spectacular finale, we are reminded to always believe in our wishes, for they have the power to make all our dreams come true. A version of the Wishes theme song plays as you exit the park. Whether you choose to be part of the mass exodus of strollers, balloons, and dads with sleepy children on their shoulders; or if you choose to hang back and wait for the opportunity to meander down a less crowded Main Street, everyone feels the same way. You are right where you should be at that moment. You are happy, your kids are happy, and you’re so glad you took this trip. You achieved what Walt Disney himself wanted you to; you left the “world of today and entered the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” And maybe, just maybe, you too now believe that every night should end in fireworks.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How NOT to Break the Bank on Disney Souvenirs

Samantha Barnes

You will want to take home a few souvenirs to remember your trip to Disney World. Your kids want something around every corner. Goodness knows, Disney gives you a ton of opportunities to buy stuffed animals, pens, shirts, and much much more. With a little strategy, you can really save some cash! So, here are a few tips:

Autographs - Kids love character autographs which only require an autograph book and a fat marker or pen (easier for the characters to hold). Wait until you arrive to buy an autograph book, so that it will be a special treat.
Pressed Pennies – All around The World you will find machines to flatten pennies with unique Disney designs. You only need a penny and 2 quarters for each impression. It can be fun to pick a theme for your collection. Maybe you collect pennies with Donald Duck, thrill rides, countries from Epcot, etc. So, give the kids a few dollars in quarters and find some bright shiny pennies and then set a daily limit (2-4 pennies a day). There are also books that you can buy all over Disney World, to place your pennies in. It keeps each penny in a little clear pocket, and showcases your whole collection!

Transportation Collector Cards - Whether traveling by bus, boat or monorail be sure to ask your driver if they have any of these great collector cards! There are 18 cards in the "Official Walt Disney World Transportation Collector Card" series. There are 3 cards for Walt Disney World's busses, 3 cards for Walt Disney World's boats and 12 cards for Walt Disney World's monorails. Ask your bus, boat or monorail driver if they have any and don't be deterred when you are told no. These collector cards are pretty hard to come by, so just keep asking!

Buttons – If you are celebrating a special event such as a birthday, anniversary, wedding, or anything else. You can get a free celebration button from guest services!

Stickers – Cast members are often found handing out stickers on Main Street USA. You can also ask for them at the shops when you are checking out. A ‘Clean Plate Club’ sticker can also be found at the 50’s Prime Time Café!

Email e-postcards to your friends and family from Epcot. You can find the kiosks in Innoventions, or at the after-show of Mission Space! Don’t forget to send yourself one!

Paper ephemera – If you are a scrapbooker you will be in paper paradise! You can collect everyday paper items like: unused fastpasses, children's menus from restaurants, napkins, resort newsletters, park maps, and much more!

Epcot Kidcot stations offer great souvenirs that your kids make themselves. Make a mask and add charms and decorations in each country. You can also ask the cast member in each country to write your child’s name or a message in their native language.
If you want to buy the traditional souvenirs such as picture frames, jewelry, t-shirts, stuffed animals, snow globes, etc., I suggest saving those for your last day. I know it is hard to convince the kiddos to wait, but go to the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney, where you can find just about everything in one place (ride-specific items are only available in the parks themselves). When you check out, you can ask to have the items sent to your home so you don’t have to lug them on the plane, and as an added bonus you won’t have to pay sales tax if you live outside of Florida. There is also a bonus Discount if you have a Disney Visa Card.

Disney is for Lovebirds: Honeymoons in Walt Disney World

When most people think honeymoons, they think somewhere nice, warm, and relaxing. Walt Disney World offers some amazing and never-to-be-forgotten adventures and memories. Walt Disney World is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations for couples. There is so much to do while on your honeymoon at Walt Disney World, and the amazing Disney cast members go out of their way to make your honeymoon extra special. A recent new feature at Disney World gives bridal couples the ability to register for a Disney honeymoon allowing your guests to contribute toward the cost of your honeymoon as their wedding gift to you! You also don’t have to be married through the Disney Fairytale Weddings program in order to register in the Disney Honeymoon registration.
The biggest thing to remember when you are on a Disney World honeymoon is to enjoy yourselves, and take time to pay attention to all the details that Disney puts into their product. One thing I recommend is to really take time and tour world showcase in Epcot. There is so much so see and do; enjoy yourselves and try new things. You won’t regret it. Here are some tips to making your Disney World honeymoon more enjoyable:The first thing to do when you arrive at Disney World and check in to your resort is ask for your “Just Married” buttons. Make sure you where them everywhere you go, because cast members really go out of their way to congratulate you. Take note: Disney throws in some hidden magic along the way! At every opportunity, let a Disney photographer take your picture. A Disney photo pass is free to everyone, and you’ll have lots of great photos to choose from when your honeymoon is over. Taking advantage of Disney’s photo pass is a great way to remember the memories from your honeymoon. What a great memory maker!
Couple's massages are a great relaxing time to spend with your spouse. Port Orleans-Riverside has romantic horse-drawn carriage rides that are amazing. If you honeymoon during a special event time, such as Flower and Garden Festival, or Food and Wine Festival, there are lots of extras offered, both free and ticketed. These are both great times to be in Disney World. If you are golfers, Disney World has a wide variety of championship golf courses, which allow you a break from the parks. Fireworks can be very romantic at Disney World; one of my favorite spots to watch Wishes is from a hammock on the beach at the Polynesian Resort. My final tip would be to make sure you take advantage of extra magic hours. To be able to use extra magic hours, you have to be a Disney resort guest.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Magic...The Disney Magic!

The Disney Magic has been our vacation home for the past five years. With its distinctive design and room to accommodate 2,400 passengers, the Disney Magic is one of the most admired and recognizable ocean liners in the world—making hundreds of trips to dozens of exotic international ports every year. The Magic has 10 expansive decks, a total length of 964 feet, a width of 106 feet and a gross tonnage of 83,000. Aboard the ship, 945 Cast and Crew Members are on hand to accommodate the needs of each and every Guest, day and night. Before cruising with Disney, we had been on a few Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises. I always tell people, once you sail on a Disney cruise, there is no going back! Disney’s ships are the cleanest best maintained, most efficient, and by far the best at pampering the guests!
The first event onboard is the Sail Away party. I enjoy the excitement of this event! The first time you hear the ship horn, it is magical. The Disney ships horns play the first seven notes of When You Wish Upon a Star. I get a lump in my throat and goose bumps when I hear it on the ship! My children find the party a bit loud, so I am going to tell you our family secret – but don’t tell everyone! We go to the elevators by Shutters on Deck 4 when the party starts. The characters use these elevators to go up to the party, so this is the first spot to catch them all! They are usually great about waving and giving hugs to the kids on their way up to the party – and we are usually the only ones there, so it is a great opportunity to interact early on without the crowds! After playing with the characters, we go out to the shuffle board area. You can hear the party above, but have the deck to yourself. The kids play shuffle board and I get pictures of them with the life savers. There are two dining rotations, Main and Late. If you are not familiar with dining rotations, it is Disney’s plan for allowing the guests to enjoy all the main dining rooms and keep the same servers from night to night. The benefit of this is personalized service every night. On your first night, the staff gets an idea of what you like, and then after that when you arrive, your favorite drink choice is waiting for you! They also get to know any special needs you may have. When our children were smaller, we would always leave dinner with milk in to-go cups for our room cooler and the servers would end the meal with these. Even if there is someone in your party who has special needs, you can expect the wait staff to pay special attention to their needs. The wait staff is wonderful about remembering needs and preferences to really add that extra service every evening! We have always opted for Main, since we go to bed earlier than most and have younger children, but I just learned about an option that makes the late seating look quite appealing! It is called Dine and Play. Basically, your children (ages 3-12) come with you to dining and are served quickly. The adults have the more leisurely meal with multiple courses and of course dessert! 45 minutes into the meal program, counselors arrive to escort the kids to the Oceaneer Club and Lab! I think this sounds wonderful and am looking forward to trying it! While half the ship eats dinner, the other half enjoys the outstanding show Disney is famous for in the Walt Disney Theatre. The only other assigned dining time is a Character Breakfast in Parrot Cay that is a "don’t miss!" If you prefer not to eat at your assigned times, there are other options. Room service is available 24/7 with some great options, and it is free – unless you order soda or special drinks; we also tip room servers. Soda is free in the dining rooms and on Deck 9. Also on Deck 9 is Topsider’s Buffet, where you can have great meals buffet-style. If a multi-course experience is not your thing, there are Goofy’s Galley, with sandwiches and ice cream, Pluto’s Dog House with hamburgers and hot dogs and hot sandwiches, and Pinocchio’s Pizzeria.
The main rotational dining rooms are:
Lumiere’s (Deck 3) – which offers a wonderful open to everyone table service breakfast and lunch and assigned seating at dinner. It is a more formal dining area with rose encased chandeliers and a large mural of Belle and the Beast dancing.
The Animator’s Palate (Deck 3) - on your first night of rotations is a don’t miss! When you walk in to your table everything is black and white – including the wait staff’s uniforms. During your meal the pictures on the wall become colored along with theme music that sets the mood. At the end of your meal everything is in bright colors – including the wait staff and there is an appearance by your favorite Sorcerers Apprentice, Mickey, leading a parade of guests and servers through the dining room!
Parrot Cay (Deck 3) – is a Caribbean styled dining room serving grill-inspired menu. When you first enter Parrot Cay you may think birds have invaded the ship! There are sounds of parrots and parrot chandeliers. We prefer the Magic, because we want the longest cruise possible! It is so much fun for the children when Mickey, Minnie, and all the other characters get to know them throughout the week! They become a part of your family! I always feel so rushed with character time at the parks! The cruise experience is so much more face time than even a character meal. My kids have started a dance party with Mickey and Minnie – they loved getting my son to sing and dance for them - and spotted him approaching, played Wendy Says – like Simon Says, only Wendy calls the shots, had tickle fights with Chip and Dale, had Goofy steal my son’s car slippers and play with them on the floor, just to name a few unplanned, magical memories. The best time for more character interaction is late in the evening! There is a boat full of characters: We have met all the princesses, Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Dopey, Jiminy Cricket, Alice and the Queen of Hearts, Mickey and all his friends, Timon, Jo-Jo the Clown, Capitan Hook, Mr. Smee, and Capitan Jack Sparrow. The program counselors also become a part of our family for the week We love spending time with our kids in the clubs! Our kids really enjoy the clubs and we enjoy some couple time on our vacation. Where else can you go and feel good about your date time, knowing the kids are having just as much fun on vacation as you are?
One of our favorite date times was a couple’s massage. I thought the Cabana Massages on Castaway Cay were heaven, until they built the Spa Villas! We love to have a couple’s massage in the villas which includes a hot tub overlooking the ocean, hot tea and fresh fruit, we usually order a bottle of wine, a day bed on the balcony, and a massage for you both – we like the stone massages! It is INCREDIBLE and you will feel so pampered! We also book Palo every chance we get! My husband and I are foodies and love Italian cuisine. Palo offers amazing food and over-the-top service! All the dining there is wonderful, and each meal has its own reason for booking. Brunch has a great buffet with fresh seafood and wonderful pizzas. Dinner has the chocolate scuffle that you can’t imagine having room for, until you taste it! I would go on the cruise just to eat at Palo!
There are always plenty of activities on the ship. You can stay very active, or take it easy – it is up to you! We enjoy all the character meets and parties, catching up on our Disney movies – in 3D, swimming while watching movies, the theatre shows (which are the only time I ever see my children sit quietly enthralled), and so many other events; I could go on for days! Every evening there is a Navigator placed in your stateroom, which will outline the next day’s activities – and there are pages of them! Some of the activities include bingo, yoga, Heffalump hunts, story time with Snow White, pajama parties, art auctions, pin trading, wine tasting, galley tours.
Usually the final stop for the Magic is Castaway Cay! This is a blog article in itself! Disney’s private island is AMAZING! Beautiful beaches, characters, free food and activities on the island, and incredible experiences! It is a must-visit paradise! Although all my experiences on the Disney Magic have been as a mom with small children, I have met many people over the years who do not fit into this category, that love cruising with Disney. My Mother-in-law is a single lady, and they have activities planned for singles. She has attended singles receptions, and gotten to know a few other single travelers this way. I have also met honeymooning couples and childless couples who prefer Disney cruises. They enjoy the absence of casinos and the shows. As a parent, and I know the childless travelers feel the same way, I love the fact Disney is strict with the adults-only areas! There is a section of Castaway Cay dedicated to adults only, and many areas on the ship for quiet, childless relaxation. I have seen crew members several times, stop children from entering the sacred areas.
I would highly recommend a Disney cruise to anyone! I do believe the name Magic is true! My experiences aboard the Disney Magic have been very magical and the best vacations I have ever experienced!