trip planning

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: DCL: More than a children's playground at sea

So, you have explored Walt Disney World, you may have even ventured over to the West Coast to where the dreams all began in Disneyland I bet you’re wondering what else you could do that’s Disney but different? Why not try what everyone has been talking about lately, Disney Cruise Line.


Cruising became popular in the 1980’s when air travel became boring and crossing the seas in a luxurious ship become all the rage. What was once though of as a “rich folk only” mode of transportation, cruising has become second nature for many families. So popular in fact that is has grown to a $29.4 billion dollar business. In 1995, Disney created Disney Cruise Lines, commissioning two ships to be created in the same Disney fashion as the theme parks we know and love. The Disney Magic set say July 30th, 1998 and from there, has grown to 4 ships as of March 2012 when the Disney Fantasy will set sail for the adventure seekers. From 2400 passengers to the current 4,000 on the Disney Dream, Disney has truly created a magical experience for their guests. Many different ports of call to choose from, again, it merely requires some investigation and imagination and Disney will certainly take care of the rest.
Of course, choosing your room type and your ports of call is literally the only thing you will need to decide, along with transportation to and from the location if you so chose to travel to someone other than the Port Canaveral region for travel to and from the Florida base which the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy shall remain. As for the Magic and the Wonder, they will be setting sail to both the East & West Coasts respectively.
I highly recommend a 3 day cruise if you are a first timer. This is a lovely way to “get your sea legs’ as one might say and discover if cruising is something you enjoy. With the size of ships coming a very long way, one would be safe to say being sick wouldn’t be so difficult back in the day but it would hard with the stabilizers and the like of today’s modern ships.However, 3 days is a delightful way to get accustom to the surroundings and enjoy a little quiet time. If traveling to say the Bahama’s from Port Canaveral on the Disney Dream, after arriving at MCO (Orlando International Airport) you can certainly enjoy the Disney Cruise’s Lines Express shuttle from the airport to the ship. You will be whisked away, luggage and all and meeting you in your stateroom magically from the airport.

Once checked in by Disney Cast Crew Members, (please bear in mind a passport is required to travel Internationally) you will be given your key packages and your off to explore your new home for 3 glorious and enchanting nights.
Disney has, as they have always become accustom to, creating a wondrous retreat. As an adult with no kids, I was weary as to travel aboard without children as most would assume Disney Cruise Lines is children only. So not the case to my amazing surprise. Many options to choose from including a Concierge Level if this is more to your liking. Coming as a Concierge I was delighted to hear that. Offering staterooms with veranda and even a jetted tub, they have certainly thought of everything. As your friends have once informed you of their cruise to Caribbean many, MANY years ago, the food on cruise ships is beyond your imagination. This is true for Disney Cruise Lines as well.
Disney has created an amazing opportunity to try many different options on your journey and offer a rotation so to offer choices for the guests. With such restaurants as “Animator’s Palate” “Parrot Cay” “Triton’s” and many more, Disney has offered many amazing and truly unique dining possibilities. My favorites of course, may not be yours but I know you will find your own. If room service is something more to your liking, this option is available as well. These dining options are all included in your cost of course, however, alcoholic beverages are of course, an extra fee.
Speaking of, but a wonderful one I highly, HIGHLY recommend is dining at “Palo”. Palo is a finer dining experience but one you will certainly thank me for suggesting. It is an extra cost, but if you can consider $20 per person an exaggerated fee, than by all means stick with your rotation and ignore this next bit of information. Palo can be used as a switch out selection for one of your rotations and most people try for this. It is something you must request and despite perhaps being declined the opportunity due to over booking, please do not fret, you will have another opportunity the day you arrive on-board when you check in and you can ask a cast member for assistance for creating the reservations. Please also be advised that Palo requires a dress code, simply meaning absolutely no jeans. Khaki’s and button down shirts for the men and dress pants and sleeved shirts for the ladies No need for the ball gowns, but one night of dressing up is always a treat. The food in incredible and that is merely all I will give away about that so you can create your own memories but I will merely leave you with this tip: order the CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE when you check in. You will totally thank me later 😉

There is so much more than I could ever write in a note about Disney Cruise Lines but a few tips and pointers and you will find yourself on your way to magnificent journey’s on the seas. You will spend one day at sea traveling, during this time, trust me, Disney has provided more than enough options to keep yourself occupied. Don’t ever think you’re going to be sitting in your room bored and counting down the minutes until it’s all over, on the contrary, you will be finished before you even blink your eyes and wonder where to time got to.
There are first run movies to watch (meaning if Disney-Pixar’s Brave is out in theatres during your cruise, it’ll be showing at the cruise ships movie theatre- even in 3D if applicable!) clubs to dance the night away to, games, art galleries to view, pools to swim in of course, basketball courts to sweep across, gyms to get your sweat on in, Spa’s to relax in (more later of course ) and theatre’s to watch award-winning Disney productions in. That isn’t even mentioning what there is in-store for the children in your life. Disney has provided this magical thing that you can drop your kids off at a club to be entertained whilst you are given a pager in case your kids want to contact YOU, not the other way around. This way, you can get away to the Spa to get that massage you were dreaming of.
The children’s programs are, of course as you would expect, totally Disney tested and approved by millions of parents around the world. They offer from babies to teens and everyone in between. You can explore, take a cooking class, fight with Pirates and that’s only the toddlers. Ask your reservations agent for my information on the programs available on what ship or you can, as always, go to the amazing Disney website for more details and information.
Now, you have exhausted yourself and your settled in for a restful sleep in your cabin and you’re wondering what’s tomorrow going to bring? CASTAWAY CAY!!
 This well-known Island, or for those of you living under a rock for the last few years with all that has been said about it, Castaway Cay is Disney’s private Island. Yes, you read that right, PRIVATE ISLAND. Registered to Disney Cruise Lines, this Island offers everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE the opportunity to do whatever their heart desires. Parasailing? You fancy that? DCL has you covered, watercraft more your speed, sure they can accommodate that too. Now, you have dreamed of feeding a stingray, well, I can tell you from experience, it is something they can do as well. You see, as the stories go, Wishes do come true. We haven’t even started with the activities on the Island. There is something for families, private Cabana’s if you want to lie in a hammock and have fruity drinks all afternoon in the sunshine.
You want to do some snorkeling and search out a hidden Mickey with the local fish? I have photos I am not going to share because I don’t want to give the location away, but I can tell you that Castaway Cay is truly incredible. Relaxing and fun. Grab a bike and take a wee spin around and explore. Oh, you say you say the Flying Dutchman from the Pirates of The Caribbean movie series, yup….you sure did. It’s parked at the Island and you can certainly take some incredible photos and bring the movies right into your reality. Of course, there are alway many awesome opportunities to spend some quality time with some pretty charming characters during your stop as well. It seems as though Stitch, Captain Hook and even Mickey & Minnie love to getaway as well and get some sun and surf time in as well.
Whew………….like I said, there is way more to do during a Disney Cruise than you may have first anticipated. Excited yet? Well, not to worry, your off again and about to visit the Bahama’s. Nassau Bahama’s is a charming Port offering many things to keep you occupied whilst the ship docks for the day. Atlantis Resort is probably one of the most popular, exploring a Casino, an incredible aquarium and Hotel, Nassau offers so much more than meets the eye. The straw market is certainly a must see. Rows and rows of stalls with merchants offering many different displays of handcrafted products, there are historic harbor tours available, even visiting the Blue Lagoon Beach. Ask your Disney Cast Crew Member for details and options. Enjoy your day in the tropical Island.
Senses Spa is located on the Disney Dream, or Vista Spa offered on the Disney Magic & Wonder and I can certainly say from vast experience, this is a MUST DO when you’re cruising aboard Disney Cruise Lines. Now, of course, with the newer ships comes more space and more amenities, the Disney Dream’s Senses Spa has created an enchanting and relaxing oasis waiting for your arrival.
 Sure, they both offer the usual Spa menu, Mani’s, Pedi’s and massage that will send you into a euphoria, the Senses Spa’s have begun offering some fantasy items. What do you think of when I say a RAIN FOREST ROOM? That’s right, Disney Cruise Lines has created a wet and dry Shangri-La. Looking to chill out for an afternoon whilst your hubby goes to the gym to work off that souffle? Well, might I recommend a trip into the Hamam (Steam Bath) and then a massage out in the private Villa?? Sssshhhhhh, he doesn’t have to know, it will be our little relaxing secret.
As I have confirmed, cruises in the 21st century has become something of a Resort on the open seas. A place where you can do nothing and everything. The possibilities are endless and are only as open as your imagination allows.
The Disney Cruise Line website is where all the information is for these unbelievable offerings, check it out and find something that tickles your fancy and I assure you, your going to want a lot more than a mere 3 days.

Now, if you will excuse me, the Pirates IN the Caribbean Party is about to begin and I have to get my Pirates Costume on and get out to the deck because I want a fantastic spot for the FIREWORKS. See ya on the open seas…….

TTFN

Tracey

5 reasons to stay on property at Disney

Your on a budget, I get it. Hey, breaking the bank ain’t tops on my priority list when I think of my vacation either, but let me assure you staying on property is seriously worth all the money your about to fork out. Sure, now your saying to yourself, Tracey your always going to tell us to stay on property because, hey, it’s Disney and you LOVE Disney. Allow me to explain why I recommend staying on property rather than outside the Parks. Here are my 5 reasons you should stay on-site at Walt Disney World:

1. Free transportation

Yes, you certainly can get a budget friendly resort outside and rent a car to get around.  Yes, I agree, you got an AMAZING bargain at the Maingate Magic Castle Motel, a mere 20 minutes outside the Disney property. Here’s a dirty little secret about these off property places: while they claim that they are at the “main gate” of Walt Disney World, they fail to disclose is that they mean the pretty little entrance gates you drive through as you get onto Disney property. Walt Disney World itself does not have a gate, because that’s the name of the whole resort. The 4 parks and 2 water parks have gates.  Meaning while you may be across the highway from the “main gate” to Disney property, it can still take you 15 minutes to drive to the real main gate of the park. Now you have to keep in mind that you can take a cab from the airport to your said AMAZING bargain resort, which from Orlando International could cost you a small child’s college tuition.  Add to that the $14 a DAY for parking at each Park that your going to visit for the next 7 days. Or, you can hop onto Disney’s Magical Express bus service and be whisked away to your hotel. Then, a quick bus or monorail trip and you’re in the parks. You actually check your bags at the airport with the Magical Express, and they put them into your hotel room for you while your out enjoying your vacation. This service is FREE with a Disney Resort stay!
2. Free Dining
Depending upon the time of year you vacation, you could stay at a Disney Resort and be eating on Disney’s dime with the Disney Dining Plan. Simply choose a package that best suits you, we will review this later, and your meals will be included. However I cannot stress enough, just because your saving money by getting free meals, you still have to tip your servers at your restaurants. And while it’s free upfront, it’s really built into the cost of your vacation. But as food is a big expense when on vacation, it’s one less thing to worry about while you’re there.
3. Resort Options for every budget & taste
You probably you already know that Disney has so many choices when it comes to accommodations. The truth is, everybody has different tastes.  From the value conscious to luxury seekers. No matter where you stay, each resort is themed just as well as any of the parks. The details are everywhere, meaning the magic doesn’t end when you leave the parks at the end of the night.

Here’s a quick breakdown of your options for Disney Resorts:

All Star Movies

Pop Century Resort

Value Resorts
These are the ones that the majority of the children stay at. Think about it, if you have more than 1 child now a days, your added dollar signs in front of everything you do. So, the Value Resorts offer you the best value for your money. Please don’t expect to have tons of amenities. Obviously you will have a bed and a bathroom as you would expect, you also have a swimming pool or two, but don’t expect a Spa or fine dining.
Pop Century, All Star Movies, All Star Sports, All Star Music & the soon to open Disney’s Art of Animation Resort fall under these categories. These accommodations offer value, quick service dining and great service as all the Resorts offer just no frills. And yes, yes I have stayed at these locations.  I see no reason to not have just a bed when all I really want to do is head to the Parks. if that sounds appealing, then this is totally your option.
Port Orleans Riverside

Coronado Springs

Moderate Resorts
These just happen to be my favorite types of resorts. They have more amenities than the Value Resorts as previously mentioned and most locations have sit down restaurants or pubs to grab a snack and a beverage after a sweaty day of fun.
Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter are both what some of us like to call our home resorts, meaning it’s were we go to stay on property whenever we come down (which is quite often!) The two just happen to be separated by the Sassaguola River. One offering a Mardi Gras feel (French Quarter) and one offering a Mark Twain Bayou type Resort. Plantation style and French Quarter styled buildings overflow with charm and laid back paces. You could literally just stay here and never go the parks and call it a vacation. Be sure to stop at Boatwrights in Riverside for breakfast.  I can assure you it will fuel you up for a hard day of walking the Parks. There are several other Moderate Resorts to chose from, including Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs and the Cabins at Wilderness Lodge Resort. My favorite Resort pool from any type of Resort has got to be the Coronado Springs.  It is a feast for the senses.
disneys polynesian resort
Polynesian Resort

disney's animal kingdom lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge

wdw-resorts-grandfloridian
Grand Floridian

Deluxe Resorts
Now, if you are going to spoil yourself rotten and have the means, then I recommend any of the Deluxe Resorts. They can certainly cater to your every whim. From award winning 5 star dining at Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant at the Grand Floridian Resort, to the grass skirts and gentle palm trees swaying at the Polynesian Resort, Walt Disney does luxury like no other.
The Deluxe category also applies to Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club Resort, Boardwalk Resort, The Contemporary Resort, The Yacht Club and Wilderness Lodge Resorts. All have so many incredible things to chose from and you will find your piece of heaven wherever you chose to stay.  Concierge Levels offer unique services and each of these Resorts has the incomparable Disney service that they have famous for.
I am not in any way saying that the Deluxe Resorts offer the only top notch service either, but I am going to say that if your paying to stay at a Deluxe Resort, your expectations are different.
Fort Wilderness Campground
Wait a second, you think I’m done don’t you? I am certainly not, I have one more little surprise. Fort Wilderness is one of the original accommodation choices back in 1971 when Walt Disney World first opened and deserves it’s own category.It is hard to believe that it has stayed as popular as it has. You can pop a tent if that is what vacations mean to you, or you have an RV that you have decided to drive to see the countryside float by, then this is your spot.

4. Free activities & events around every corner

chip & dales campfire singalong dsney
Chip & Dale's Campfire Sing Along

Think nothing is free at Disney? Well, you’re wrong! Many of the resorts offer fun & free activities for kids, families & kids at heart. There are too many here to describe, but my favourite is Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing Along. This gathering is held nightly and starts at 7:30. It’s a great way to get some quality time with characters, sing some great songs and enjoy a relaxed evening. The best part is they also offer a movie by the campfire as well. You can even purchase the ingredients to create smores and who wouldn’t want to have those sitting by a roaring fire?

5. Stress free vacation

Here are a few thing’s you won’t have to worry about if you stay on site, after all what’s a vacation if you’re stressed out?
Package Delivery: No more lugging around all the great souvenirs and presents you purchase, Disney will deliver these to your resort for free.
No Driving: Imagine not having to drive for a whole week! No parking fees, finding a spot, walking to the park, remembering where you parked. Parents, you can even both have a few beverages at EPCOT without having to worry about who will drive. Now that’s a vacation1
Magical Wake-Up Calls: How thrilled will your kids be when Mickey wakes them up in the morning with a friendly phone call? Try that at Super 8!
Extra Magic Hours: You actually get to spend more time in the parks than anyone else!
Plus many, many other options! All part of your Disney Resort stay! Trust me, it’s totally worth it to stay on property
All in all, I have given you a very brief overview, giraffe’s munching leaves from you room, armadillo’s sneaking around your tent, or breakfast on the Sassagoula River, all examples of different ways to enjoy Disney Resorts. There is something for every budget, taste and interest.  All you have to do is decide where and Disney will take care of the rest to have a truly magical vacation!

You will have to excuse me now, I am off to the Grand Floridian Spa for a quick facial and maybe Cinderella will be there so I will catch up with you again soon.

Until next time,
TTFN

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: First Visit Expectations


Your friends have all been, your co-workers go all the time, and it seems like your neighbours are there every week. Take it for someone who knows, your first time at Walt Disney World needs to be an enjoyable one. A trip that will be so amazing, so spectacular, that you’ll want to visit again and again. Both your kids and The Walt Disney Company are looking forward to that! A lot of different things influence how your vacation plays out: budget, who you’re with, weather, ect. Some of these you have control over, and others you don’t. I could literally write a book about Disney Vacation Planning, but here are a few of my favourite tips to start you off on the right foot:

You won’t do it all

Look, first things first, you will not and I repeat, not……see everything on your first visit. Get that idea right out of your head. Say it with me “I will not see everything at Walt Disney World on my trip.” This phrase will come in very handy the day you sleep in, or when Dumbo breaks down. Learn it, love it, Live it. We all know a Becky. Becky went for her first visit with her family and they did EVERYTHING. I’m really happy for Becky, but I can tell you they missed out on more than a few things to do. And that’s ok!

How long should you visit?

The first step is to figure out how long you’re going to want to go. There are many, many options awaiting you on a visit to Walt Disney World. Not only do you have 4 full Parks to enjoy, but you also have 2 Water Parks, the shops at Downtown Disney, and a slew of Resorts to meander through. Not to mention the other, non-Disney attractions that surround you. SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens, Gatorland, the brand-spanking-new Legoland, Outlet Shopping, and dare I even mention it, The Holy Land Experience. WHEW!!  Again, never going to see EVERYTHING in one visit.

What should I see?

I really recommend that if you going to do Disney, then keep it strictly Disney. Forget trying to pack it all together in 1 day of Parks and then perhaps renting a car to drive to the beach, you need to focus. I suggest that you take at LEAST 7 days.  Sounds OUTRAGEOUS but if you’re gonna do it, do it right. You have 4 Parks, they are not all the same in size and there will be lots, and I mean lots of walking involved. The Water Parks are so much fun as well, not to mention the 2 mini golf locations on property and Downtown Disney with shops and restaurants and Cirque Du Soleil- La Nouba. You see now what I am talking about. Plan to do 1 Park per day. Yes, it’s great to park hop (the art of visiting more than 1 park in a day), but you may spend more time travelling than you do in the parks. I would perhaps throw in a Water Park or Downtown Disney in-between park days so that you’re not overwhelmed with children (it will happen!) and people and characters and, well……Disney.

Have your parks, and sleep too!

Whichever Park you decide to start with, you have so much to do and only a finite amount of time to do it. You will want to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. If you plan on sleeping in on this vacation, don’t worry, most of the Parks are at least open until 9 or 10 pm. There are also the wonderful days when Disney Resorts offer Extra Magic Hours (or tragic hours for those that work there!). These special hours offer you either an early entry into the Parks prior to the general public, or later hours that extend your fun well into the wee hours. You can grab a guide at your resort when you check-in that details what they are for the week. The best part of Extra Magic Hours is the incredible opportunity to go at your own pace and stretch your time in the parks.

Park Tip

You want a hint, start at the back of the Parks. I know there are those of you that disagree with this comment but if hundreds of guests are crowding the Park at the very same time you decided to go, where is everyone going to start? People with strollers can only move so quickly! So, make yourself look like a seasoned expert and grab a Park map when you get inside the gates and head to the back.
For the love of H2O
Please do yourself and the Disney Paramedics a favour: Keep drinking water to stay hydrated. Florida is generally a hot and humid place. Your going to be moving and sweating, using up your fluids. It’s very easy to get dehydrated when it’s 35 degrees Celsius (that’s 95 for the Americans). Take a water bottle and skip the $3.00 Dasani. There are fountains at every bathroom, and there are tons of bathrooms.
Take these tips and set the right expectations for your vacation before you set off to the airport. You will be skipping your way through each day of your vacation.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have tickets for La Nouba at Downtown Disney and I hear it is REALLY GOOD!!

Until next time,
TTFN

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp: Holidays Disney Style

Is the thought of spending the Christmas Holidays in the sunshine appealing to you?  Flip-flops and shorts instead of boots, wool jackets and mittens attached to strings? Well keep those mittens, you might want to bring them just for show. Welcome to the possibilities of celebrating Christmas at Disney.

Despite my efforts, I have never been able to see everything Walt Disney World offers during the holidays. From the life-sized gingerbread houses at the Resorts to the over-sized Christmas Trees everywhere, Disney truly knows how to ring in a Holiday. Disney pulls out all the stops when it comes to Christmas, and if you’ve never been during this special time, I highly recommend it.

Walt was so enamored with Christmas because of his two daughters; Diane and Sharon, that he made sure it was over the top for all his guests coming into Disneyland. These days, all Disney Parks have taken on that special task of welcoming guests with the very best holiday experience possible. Here are a few of the offerings for this extra magical time, remember it’s just the tip of the Christmas Tree though:

Walt Disney World offers Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom on selected nights from Nov.8 through Dec.18. This is a special ticketed event which means a separate ticket is needed.

Take into consideration that Christmas is the busiest time of year for Walt Disney World, meaning a lot more guests than usual. I do highly recommend visiting at least once during the Christmas season because they put on a great party. Tip: Try to visit after American Thanksgiving and before the week of Christmas if you can. All the decorations and events are happening, with minimal crowds.

Here are a few highlights of Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party:

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade is simply a wonderland of sites and sounds. Dancing gingerbread men to trumpet playing tin soldiers, there is something for everyone in this charming parade.  You might even see the BIG GUY alittle early to so make sure your letter to Santa is ready and you’ve been a really good girl or boy because he’s always watching.

Cinderella’s Enchanted Castle Dream Light’s is possibly my favorite thing to see.  Dusk is the very best time to see the magic happen.

My Fairy Godmother will make a wee appearance and so will a host of other charming characters and Cinderella invites everyone to her home to watch it sparkle and dance with thousands of beautiful lights.

And when your night is almost over, Holiday Wishes Fireworks will come alive in the Spirit of the Season.  A magical display of colour and sound. I really recommend watching this somewhere near the Partners Statue so you can take in the entire Castle area and I assure you, you will never be disappointed.   You will most likely have to save your viewing spot for at least an hour prior to the show so be prepared to wait a little. Oh, and while your waiting for the night skies to erupt with lights, why not have someone go and get some free hot cocoa and Christmas cookies for the wait? It’s all included in your price.

Character Meet & Greets

There are also many meet & greets with some of your favorite characters throughout the Park, decked out for the holidays. So get out your PhotoPass card and look on your special Park Map for locations.

These events truly do give Disney and their Cast Members the opportunity to show you exactly what they do best. From the hand decorated ornaments, of which there are hundreds of thousands of them, to the hand strung garlands that are everywhere. I can’t forget to mention the parade floats, the costumes, and to give away another secret…….Disney can even make it snow! Despite the fact you hopped on a plane and flew thousands of kilometres to escape it, you will see snow, and it will be glorious!

Take in the spirit of the season

I really suggest that you merely walk and take everything in and not really worry about riding any rides during the Party. If you have the time and the waits aren’t that long, then by all means, enjoy yourself.
However, I really suggest walking around. You will find the magic and charm of Christmas everywhere. Main Street Bakery will tempt your taste buds from the moment you walk onto Main Street USA.  I always recommend taking a step through all the shops along Main street, there are amazing artisans with some unique crafts and goodies. Families traveling from all over to come and witness a Disney Holiday is truly a sight to be seen. Take a break, watch the festivities and be transformed with the Spirit of Christmas.

Now, if you will excuse me, there is a HUGE piece of gingerbread calling my name and the cocoa is getting cold so I could use a refill.

Until next time,
TTFN

Tracey

Big Red's Top 5 Walt Disney World Dining Locations


Please allow me to say first off, planning is something I used to scoff at.  Seriously, sometimes I really just love flying by the seat of my pants when I’m on my vacation. I mean, I worked my keester off for these 10 days and dang it, I want to do and eat what I want, WHEN I want. Now, I’m not talking insane planning, like an Excel spreadsheet my brother creates for Every Single Trip (sorry B I had to include you)……simply put, some restaurants are so good that they take up to 3 months or more to get in. They must be good right? Your taste buds are tickling with anticipation right? Restaurants, in my opinion, are in the top 3 things you are going to spend a lot of time doing at Disney. Every person craves and enjoys different things. Unless you want to eat hot-dogs or hamburgers for 10 days. You can see what I am harping about now right? So, visit Disney.com, ask your friends, or grab some books and do your homework. This very important time will offer you the very best part of your vacation. I swear. If I am wrong, feel free to write me your nastiest notes and I shall retract my statements.  But until then……..
Here are 5 of my favorite locations for dining at Walt Disney World (in no particular order) and I can assure you, I have eaten at the majority of them and I have tried to include the inexpensive, expensive and tasty options.

1. Le Cellier Price Range: $15-$36

Location: EPCOT Canadian Pavilion

I had to include this one as I not only worked there, I still get a kickback from them for the shout outs! Just kidding, I don’t but you think I might after what I might say.) My first recommendation is going to be Lunch! If your watching the purse strings, like everyone in the world is, it’s much less expensive and you can dine pretty quickly then get onto the fun that is EPCOT. Le Cellier has, as of recent months, gone to a Signature Dining status for dinner. This basically means a sit down meal, dress code, longer time inside to eat and it’s more money. The kitchen in this Canadian masterpiece offers diners the Canadian options you have always heard so many fantastic comments about. The cheddar cheese soup is a staple to any order here at Le Cellier. Miss Kitty puts so much love and passion into this soup and people have been returning for years to taste this wondrous creamy goodness. You can even buy a Disney recipe book to recreate it but it doesn’t include the love but you can certainly give it a go.

Mushroom Filet

Now, for the stuff you have been waiting for…………the Mushroom Filet.I can’t stress enough the importance of enjoying this slowly. Medium rare and you’re in heaven. It’s so well crafted and cooked to perfection that I can almost guarantee you will not need a knife. It cuts like butter and will melt in your mouth.  I bet you never thought you would ever hear someone describe a steak like that now did you. You also have your selections of wine and some mouth watering desserts, but go with the Maple Creme Brulee and you will not be disappointed. In all, Le Cellier will offer you an incredible, fun and generally authentic Canadian treat. This is one of the restaurants that has a 3 months wait so might I suggest you definitely put it on your list to see what all the fuss is all aboot.

2. California Grill Price Range: $36-$60 dollars

Location: Contemporary Resort 15th Floor

I realize your looking at the price and having a fit right now, but let me tell you a few things before you judge my recommendation OK? I can’t begin to think of a better place to go and watch the nightly fireworks show presented in the Magic Kingdom, called Wishes. When making reservations, please explain to the agent this is your first visit and you want reservations at a window seat so you can enjoy the fireworks. Or, time it correctly and you can walk outside to the private terrace to watch Wishes. The Resort has graciously included speakers to sync with the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks show so you can have the very best viewing this side of Seven Seas Lagoon. I totally recommend asking your server to enable you to enjoy coffee or your favorite cocktail while you are dazzled by Jiminey Cricket and the magic of Disney pyrotechnics. As my dear friend Brad always says,“pyro makes everything better!”

California Grill Sushi

In the food department, this restaurant showcases California Fusion cooking at it’s finest. My friend, Executive Chef Brian Pisaki and his amazing team of artists create some pretty amazing items. You love sushi? You can sit at the Sushi bar and watch a world class Japanese chef create it in front of your very eyes. Nothing says fresher than that I assure you. The Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli is something I go back year after year for. You see now why reservations and a little planning are so important? You may never remember a lot of most vacations, but when you have incredible food, you remember! This is also a Signature Dining Experience like Le Cellier, so remember to pack some chinos. They will not allow denim here, although don’t panic, you don’t need a suit. A simple button down and some chinos will work.

3. Boma: Flavors of Africa Price Range: $5-$36 dollars

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Are you adventurous? Interested in trying  zebra domes?  Don’t let the usual buffet stigma fool you, this isn’t your usual cheapo buffet. Boma offers something uniquely African and something fun. In addition to the fact my friends work there, I have many reasons to recommend this place. The selection includes familiar fare such as homemade soups, fresh fish and tender beef to the unusual. Regardless of the classification you decide, these are some incredibly tasty creations.

Boma Platters

The selections seem to be endless. There is even a separate section for the younger diners who might not want to explore the Savannah. Chicken fingers and mac & cheese are here to save the day. But for the person who is searching for something different, I really think you should give it a try. It has a fun feeling, you may even see the South Africans break out the drums for a little dinner music. Don’t worry though, your not going to be eating anything like elephant ears or tiger tail, but the zebra domes……I promise that no animals where harmed in the making of this famous dessert. Jambo!

4. La Cantina De San Angel(Quick Service) Price Range: $5-$15 dollars

EPCOT- Mexico Pavilion

Empanadas

Since the recent renovations have been completed, this amazing Epcot location offers authentic Mexican food and not to mention a wicked spot to catch some rays and people watch while enjoying some yummy stuff. I am thinking lunch outside, traditional Margarita in your hand and an Empandas de Queso to snack on. I prefer eating outside to the usual La Hacienda Restraurant that is located inside the Mexican Pavilion.  If you can fend away the many birds trying to share your lunch, I really think this is a fun choice. Ole!

5. Artist Point Price Range: $36-$60

Wilderness Lodge Resort

Salmon, almost as delicious as Bison

Representing the Pacific Northwest, Artist Point delivers a charming experience. I have returned to this location many times over the last 5 years and I have never been disappointed. Now, on the whole, I have never really been the adventurous eater, sticking mostly to the stuff I know and love, but a server challenged me to go outside the box on one of my very first visits to Artist Point and because of his coaxing (and this redhead never tries to pass on a challenge)I was challenged to try the bison. Normally, and I did in fact do it when I was first asked, I scoffed. Ummmmm NO!! There is no way I am willing to stray from my chicken, beef or on a wild and crazy occasion, pork. I asked for a recommendation for something delicious and our server bet me that if I didn’t fall in love with the bison, he in fact would take care of my meal for me. Pretty darn tall order if you as me. So, give it to me, I will prove you wrong buddy.
Wham, with egg on my face, and a tummy that hasn’t ever stopped thanking me, I loved every, last, bite.

Magical Servers

This is another reason I Love Disney. The servers. I cannot ever stress this enough, the servers are what makes an incredible and dare I say, magical visit to Disney. These charming individuals go through immense training. No jokes. We go to Disney University (another story perhaps at a later time) we go through one on one time training shadowing another seasoned server and oh, did I mention we have to know EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT OF EACH ITEM ON OUR MENUS?? That’s right. This is what sets Disney apart from other resort destinations in the world. We are trained to know everything so we can personally offer recommendations to our guests and knowing what is inside something often makes it so much easier to suggest items. With this being said, and I promise to finish my rant here, please tip your servers. These people may not have the high paying office job that you do, but they are busting their chops to create a wonderful experience for you and go through a lotto ensure a hopefully seamless visit to your Disney restaurant. Appreciate them and I promise you will be rewarded with a…..wait for it…..MAGICAL experience.

Cast Members: We make the magic!

In conclusion, these are my recommendations. These are pretty much for the childless couples. I will do a complete family friendly version soon. So, until then, please let me stress the importance of doing a little planning and it will offer you the most enjoyable experiences of your trip. For detailed information, there are many resources for you. I suggest taking a look at the Disney Dining & Reservations Website. You can do your research and make your reservations. Or call a real Cast Member at 407-WDW-DINE.
Agents are standing by to offer their assistance as well but book WELL IN ADVANCE so you can not eat french fries for 10 days. EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

Until next week folks- TTFN

Tracey

Big Red's Disney Bootcamp

I’d like to introduce a very good friend of mine who will be contributing her passion and love for Disney here at Theme Park Canuck. There isn’t a better qualified person on this planet who can help guide you through all the magic of the Disney Parks. Here’s an introduction from Tracey:

Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start….
When I was a very young girl, and for those that know me, it was a WHILE ago, Sunday night’s were very special to me.  My parents would take my kid brother and I over to my grandparents. A normal Sunday activity for a lot of families, but for me, it instilled in me what I wanted to be when I finally grew up. Ok, I didn’t want to be that saucy fairy who flew around all over the screen. Although…..

But I digress, it was where I wanted to be.
Uncle Walt presented the Wonderful World of Disney.  This TV show aired until 1979 and we were introduced to so many incredible things.

The enchanting fairy tales Disney was so well known for, but also of Pirates, the Wild West and many other beautiful things. There were animals, fantastic tales and different people featured from all over the world. Fast forward to my 20’s: with all the excitement and adventure I remembered from those Sunday night’s with Uncle Walt. With all that magic, mystery and excitement firing inside of me, I traveled to Walt Disney World for the very first time in 1995.  Late bloomer I guess, but it was truly as magical as any 7 or 8-year-old would have experienced. The best part: I will remember MY visit for the rest of my life instead of only through photos and stories my mom and dad tell me.
Since then, not only did I WORK there, yes Virginia, it is possible to work at Walt Disney World! I have also traveled back to my happy place at least twice a year ever since.  Heck, I even lived in sunny Orlando again for 6 months just so I could be closer.  I have also traveled to where the magic all began, Disneyland in Anaheim, California and been on several cruises with Disney Cruise Lines, despite having a Concierge Manager’s position that keeps me pretty busy. I haven’t been able to visit the other Disney locations throughout the world, but my step brothers have and I have many more tips & tricks for the overseas parks like Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney.
I don’t have any children, although I am old enough to have a few, but it is truly amazing that one man created a place where both children and adults alike can come together and have remarkable experiences.  I return over and over again because I have a totally different experience every single time. Sure, I see the same things, but it is truly the people that create a different experience each and every time I visit. These people keep me, and millions of others, coming back for more time and time again. I want you to have the most fantastic experience when you visit the Wonderful World of Disney, that’s why I’ll be sharing my tips & tricks for you to have a magical visit and help plan your Disney vacation.
Now, if you don’t mind, I am off to the France Pavilion at EPCOT to enjoy an orange slushy and find some inspiration for you.
TTFN (Ta Ta for now!),

Tracey

Make sure to check back next Friday for the first session of Big Red’s Disney Bootcamp: Tips & Tricks & Advice from a former Disney Castmember!