Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review: Coral Reef

I must say, the main reason to check out Coral Reef is for the atmosphere.  There's really nothing like dining next to a giant aquarium.  There's a huge turtle and even a shark in there!  It's awesome!  During our meal there, we were seated just one table away from the tank, and that was definitely the focus of the meal.

We arrived a bit late to our reservation due to some extended socializing with JL from the Disney Driven Life (and the fact that we simply had to stay to watch her kids talk to Crush in Turtle Talk!).  That said, once we arrived, we were seated within five or ten minutes in a prime location!

James started with the lobster soup, which he didn't like at all.  I had a caesar salad, which was your everyday salad.  Needless to say, our appetizers weren't stunning, but later our server didn't charge us for the soup, which more than made up for it.  We both had the New York Strip for dinner, and it was good.  Maybe we were spoiled from our New York Strips at Le Cellier the previous day, but we weren't wowed by the food at Coral Reef.  Overall, I'd say the food was consistently good (except James' soup, but the fact that he didn't like it doesn't mean it wasn't good), but it wasn't any special.  Maybe that's what you get for ordering steak at a seafood restaurant.

Regardless of the food, as I said earlier, the real draw of Coral Reef is the fish tank.  While we were eating dinner, some scuba divers came down with video cameras.  I believe some were video taping the sea-life while others were being trained for future scuba diver-y things.  It was so interesting to be seated so close to the tank.  If you or someone in your family is really interested in sea-life, you'd want to check out this restaurant.

I must say, overall my impression of Coral Reef was average.  Nothing was bad about our experience, but nothing really stood out.  We might return one day, but there are certainly many other restaurants I'd want to repeat or try for the first time before our next trip to this one.  Then again, maybe it was just a fluke (get it?!).  The bright side to this restaurant is that it's great to keep kids occupied.  You get a guide with the different types of fish in the tank, and it's fun to try to identify them.  Unfortunately, if you're not seated right by the tank, kids might try to get up close to it, disturbing people at the tables near the tanks.

Have you ever dined at Coral Reef?  What was your opinion on it?  Did you have an average experience like we did, or did yours stand out (good or bad)?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Check it out: InnerMouse

I haven't done a podcast review in a while because I haven't started listening to any new podcasts in a while.  That said, a brand new podcast/vidcast has recently begun, and this one should definitely be on your radar.  It's called InnerMouse, and it's for people striving to lead a Disney Driven Life.

If you're a Disney Driven Life (DDL) reader, then you will naturally love InnerMouse.  If you're not, then you should be.  If you're reading this blog, then you're likely living a Disney driven lifestyle, and you are likely what the DDL likes to call a Neurotic Disney Person (NDP).  So get over to thedisneydrivenlife.com, be counted as an NDP, and then start listening to InnerMouse!

InnerMouse is a weekly vidcast that is streamed live on Tuesday nights, complete with an awesome chat room where you can talk to your fellow viewers.  The time varies from week to week, and next week (October 5) it will be beginning at 8pm.  There is a pre-show that will start at 7:30, and there is also a post-show that goes on past the ending of the official episode.  If you can't make the live streaming, episodes are posted on thedisneydrivenlife.com and will hopefully soon be on iTunes.

The hosts of InnerMouse are what makes it such an awesome podcast.  JL is Neurotic Disney Mom #1 and the creator of the Disney Driven Life, John is a columnist for the Disney Food Blog, Scott is the creator of collectthemouse.com, and Nicole is a Neurotic Disney Individual extraordinaire and - get this - a college student!  If you don't have reason to check out this vidcast now, I don't know what will get you to.  The hosts all have tons of knowledge on living Disney driven lives, and each episode is about Disney in different aspects of everyday life.  Recent episodes talked about Disney in education, food, and social media.  The episodes are about an hour long, and I definitely recommend making time in your busy schedules to watch!

Do you watch InnerMouse?  What do you think of it?  Do you enjoy the live chat room while watching the live streaming as much as I do?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

TripIt in Action

Quite a while ago, I wrote a blog post about a really cool way to organize your travel:  Tripit.  I talked about how you can use TripIt on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry as well as on your computer to organize and view your travel plans.  I also mentioned a really awesome feature called the Itinerator that you email your travel plans to, and it automagically (see what I did there!) inserts the important information into your TripIt trip.  All of that stuff is really cool, and if you're interested in learning about TripIt's features, I suggest you check that post out.  This, on the other hand, is about TripIt in action.

Although you can't edit your trip using the mobile TripIt applications, they're still very useful for viewing plans.  Before I left for Walt Disney World, I added all my important information into TripIt.  I added my flight information, hotel reservation, restaurant confirmation numbers and times, etc.  I also put in all the park hours, parades, and fireworks, so I could have all that information at my fingertips.  This became extremely useful on our trip.

For starters, I was able to use the park information to see what parks were open late and when parades and fireworks shows were.  That way, when we didn't have anything in particular planned for a certain night, we could simply pull our phones out to see if there were nighttime extra magic hours or two parades or Fantasmic.  I used the restaurant information to hold confirmation numbers in case anything went wrong (luckily nothing did) and to remind us of ADR times.  We didn't have to memorize all our ADRs because every now and then, I'd pull my phone out and check if we had anything planned.

I also added little notes here and there in TripIt as reminders of things I may have wanted to try.  For example, I added a "Tangierine Cafe?" note to an Epcot day as a reminder that I wanted to try lunch there.  It wasn't anything definite like an ADR, but it was a nice way to remember I wanted to try something new instead of eating at the Electric Umbrella or something.

Finally, TripIt came through in the clutch when I remembered that I had to check in to my Southwest flight a little later than I should have.  Instead of checking in exactly 24 hours ahead of time, I realized about 20 minutes too late.  TripIt, however, had my confirmation number ready to go, so I could quickly copy it and check in to our flight.  We only got mid-B boarding passes, but it saved tons of time over having to dig through my email looking for my flight confirmation, and when you're getting boarding passes, every second counts.

Overall, TripIt was a huge asset in the parks, from park information to restaurant information to reminders.  Technology is definitely your friend, and I highly recommend this awesome travel website/app to anyone who travels anywhere.  Sign up at tripit.com if you're interested!

Do you use TripIt?  Have you ever used it in the parks?  How did it work out for you?  Let me know your thoughts in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Le Cellier

Le Cellier was one of the places that I was most excited about trying on our recent August trip, though I must admit, I was afraid it would be overrated.  Amongst all the hype about this restaurant was also a lot of mixed reviews.  Whether the bad reviews were people expecting too much or the restaurant having some off days, I must say, our experience was absolutely amazing.

I must admit, checking in at Le Cellier and watching walk-ups get turned away while we waited to be seated for our reservation made me feel very exclusive.  Once we were seated, our hostess explained that each section of the restaurant represented a different province, though I don't remember in which we were seated.  Soon our waiter came, took our orders, and brought us our breads.  Each bread symbolized something, but all I can remember of this speech was staring longingly at the pretzel bread until our waiter walked away, so I could dig in!  The pretzel bread was awesome!  Yum!
Semi-blurry New York Strip picture.

James got the famous cheddar soup as an appetizer, although neither of us really liked it.  Oh well.  Soon, however, our entrees came, which we both loved!  We both got the New York Strip, and it was so good!  James said multiple times that it was the best meal of the trip.  The steak was one of the best I've ever had, and it was cooked perfectly.  It came with a potato gratin that I didn't much care for, but I didn't mind, since it only would have taken up room in my stomach that I had reserved for the steak!  We visited for lunch, and I'm really glad that the New York Strip is on the lunch menu.  I can't say enough good things about it!

For dessert, James had some type of not-so-adventurous ice cream or sorbet, while I had the Chocolate Moose.  This was the best dessert ever!  Adorable AND delicious!  The cookies that made up the ears and tongue were soooo good, and the chocolate mousse was also delicious!  I was very, very pleased with this dessert, though I couldn't finish it because I was so full.

Overall, our meal was fantastic.  So good, in fact, that James and I decided to change an ADR that we had for January and replace it with another Le Cellier lunch ADR.  Before our recent trip, I thought we'd be disappointed with eating lunch instead of dinner there, but we both thought it was very good!  A definite must-try in our opinions!

Have you ever been to Le Cellier?  What did you think of it?  Overrated or delicious?  Let me know in a comment,  a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Twitter!
 
Update:  A second visit to Le Cellier proved equally as fantastic.  The quality is really here, and I would even spend two dining credits on this restaurant.  It's certainly comparable, if not better, than Yachtsman Steakhouse which is already two.
 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vinylmation: I Get It Now

The first Vinylmation I got 
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that back in May, I just didn't get Vinylmation.  But then something happened.  I went to Walt Disney World.  And I saw Vinylmation figures everywhere.  And I bought one.  And I was hooked.  The post I wrote in May about Vinylmation had two main points as to why I didn't understand the phenomenon.  Now I feel I can refute those points, or at least one of them, very well.

First, I didn't like how they were shaped like Mickey.  I didn't understand why they were shaped like him, and it kind of freaked me out.  I don't have any real way of refuting this point other than the fact that the figures just grew on me.  One day I thought they were freaky, the next day I thought they were less freaky, and so on until I decided they were cute!  Especially the Cutesters.  This transformation may have began when my sister bought her first Vinylmation figures.  One was a Cutester, and it was so adorable!  I knew I wanted to buy one of my own.

The second Vinylmation I got
My second point was the blind box.  I didn't like how you were forced to buy a blind box, thereby leaving whether or not you got a figure you wanted to chance.  This was before I knew about trading.  Each store at Walt Disney World has at least one Vinylmation trading station, and trading stations come in two forms.  First, there is blind trading, where you choose a number on a big, black box, and you trade your figure for whichever other figure is in that number square.  Then there's trading from the clear boxes.  Three figures are displayed in a clear plastic box behind the counter of many stores, and if you'd like to trade, you simply ask a cast member to trade as you would with a pin.  Techincally, you can only made one trade per cast member/store, per day, but some would flex the rules.  Regardless of protocol, the fact that you could trade your figures made a world of difference when it came to my approval of Vinylmation.

Personally, I bought one Cutester, and one Park Series #3 Vinylmation figure.  The owl and Carousel figures above are the two I came home with, but I did not purchase either.  In both cases, I purchased one that I didn't like, and I traded it for the one that I really wanted.  I was very pleased that in both cases, I was able to trade for the figures I wanted the most.  The hunt for the best figures also became a sort of game.  I think I finally "get" Vinylmation.

What do you think of Vinylmation?  Love it?  Hate it?  Had a transformative experience like I did?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Twitter!
 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Around the World on a Segway

On our recent August trip, amongst all of the cool things we did, we got to do something really, really cool:  ride a Segway.  We took the Around the World on a Segway tour around Epcot's World Showcase, and it was amazing!  The tour costs $95 per person, but it was worth every penny.  There are also discounts for Disney Visa cardholders, Annual Passholders, AAA members, and DVC members.  The tour is offered at 7, 8:30, 9, and 9:30 am, and we took the 9 am tour.  The tour can hold a maximum of ten people, and all participants must weigh between 100 and 250 pounds (Segway weight restrictions).  All participants must be at least 16 years old, and people under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  And now that we're past the information stuff, on to the tour!

Our tour met at guest relations, where we met our first tour guide, got our name tags, and signed waivers.  Once our whole group arrived, our second guide came and escorted us to Segway Central in Innoventions West.  We watched a short informational video, and soon we were getting on Segways!  I'm incredibly clumsy, but the Segways weren't at all hard to balance!  They are self balancing systems, after all, and they'll balance themselves with nothing on them for five to ten seconds before they fall.

At first, we just learned how to ride forward and turn both ways, but soon we started our little obstacle course training.  Half of the course was a slalom type course with little cones that you had to weave between.  Also, our guide, James, would jump out at random times to test our stopping.  We were told we had to be prepared for little kids not paying attention or kamikaze squirrels.  The other half of the course was riding up and down and stopping on a small hill.  Once everyone passed, we hit the road for our first task according to our guides:  not hitting the people running to Soarin'.  Luckily, there were no collisions, and after a bathroom break, we headed over to World Showcase!

As you likely know, World Showcase is closed until 11 am, but Mexico and Norway are technically open to the public for people having breakfast at Akershus.  Because of this, we skipped these two countries and started our trip around the world at China.  At each pavilion, we learned some facts about the pavilion, about the cities they were modeled after, and sometimes even saw a hidden Mickey or two!  In most pavilions, there was also a small area to ride around, whether it was weaving around columns or riding through the entire Morocco pavilion.

Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and friendly.  Our Segway guide was named Fran, I believe, and she was there to assist us with Segway questions and problems.  Also, her Segway wasn't on "turtle mode," so she could speed up and help if it was needed.  Our actual guide was James, and he told us that when he doesn't do Segway tours, he's a VIP tour guide.  People pay hundreds of dollars for this guy, and we got him for two hours for $95 per person (less after our AAA discount!).  He had tons of information, and everything that he told us was so interesting.

For example, we learned a lot about the Morocco pavilion being the most authentic of all, largely because the Moroccan ambassador visits every few months to make sure the pavilion is up to the Moroccan king's standards.  The Moroccan king essentially built and paid for the entire pavilion, and he still pays all the salaries of the employees that work at the pavilion!  He also provides them housing and places to pray outside the pavilion.  Apparently this particular pavilion was built because of the longstanding relationship between the US and Morocco, and on display is even a letter George Washington wrote to the king of Morocco, thanking him for recognizing us as a nation.  I thought all of that was pretty amazing.

I could probably spend hours telling you all about the Segway tour, but I wouldn't want to spoil it if you want to go yourself.  Which I highly, HIGHLY recommend, by the way.  It was our first behind-the-scenes tour at Disney, and it definitely made us want to try more tours in the future!  As I said, it's not inexpensive, but it really was worth every penny!  And now I want my own Segway!

Have you ever been on a Segway tour?  Ever been on a tour at all?  What did you think of them?  Let me know your opinions in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook (now at facebook.com/disneycollegeblog)!
 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Decorating Disney at College

The top of my bookshelf.
College isn't always the easiest place to be a Disney fan.  Most of your peers don't understand why you'd rather go to Walt Disney World than Cancun over spring break, and they don't understand why you can't hang out on Sunday evenings because you want to listen to a live podcast.  That said, decorating Disney at college is all about subtlety; no Cinderella comforters or life sized Mickey dolls required.  (But more power to you if you do want those things in your room!)

For me, the majority of my Disney stuff is on top of my bookshelf, as seen in the picture above.  I have my Minnie ears, my Disney picture frame (featuring James and I with Belle), my two Vinylmation figures, and the lucky owls I got from Mitsukoshi in the Japan pavilion.  (The turtle is from Jamaica and not related to Disney, but it's still cute!)  This version of decorating Disney is understated and subtle, though any other fan would certainly spot me out as a fellow Disney lover.

On the other hand, the next time I go back to my house (I live in an on campus apartment during school, but I still live at home when school's not in session), I plan on bringing my park maps back to school with me.  I want to put them up on the wall with my other posters, as an homage to the most magical place on earth.  That form of decorating Disney is a bit more obvious, but there's nothing wrong with that. 

In the kitchen, you can decorate Disney with various cookware, silverware, and plates with Mickeys on them, and in the bathroom, you can get Disney-themed towels.  There are also all sorts of collectible figures that you can put anywhere in your home to make the room a little more festive or magical.  With so many ways to decorate Disney, the only real factors are how subtle you want to be and how much money you're willing to spend!

How do you decorate Disney, whether you're a college student or not?  Do you prefer understated or more obvious decor?  Do you not decorate Disney at all, even if you're a big fan?  Let me know in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!
 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review: Beaches and Cream

At the Beach Club, hidden somewhere around Stormalong Bay (or at least hidden if you've never been to the Beach Club before) is an adorable table service restaurant like none other.  Beaches and Cream is a fifties style ice cream shop-type place that also serves lunch and dinner foods, and although it's a table service, they don't take ADRs.  That means if you arrive during peak times, be prepared to wait.  Luck was on our side, however, when we went to try Beaches and Cream, and boy were we glad it was.

Lettuce and tomatoes are for wimps!
We had only heard good things about the burgers, so naturally we both had to try them.  I had a cheeseburger, and James had a double cheeseburger.  Both were very good and extremely filling!  The fries were awesome too.  For dessert, neither of us really had the appetite for a full sundae, so we split an ice cream soda instead!  We got strawberry ice cream with vanilla soda - yum!  Next time I really want to try one of their specialty sundaes, though!

We chose to sit at the counter instead of wait for a table, and while some people may not like that type of seating arrangement, James and I often enjoy sitting at counters at restaurants.  For us, it meant that our waiter walked by often if we needed something, and we got to watch the servers make various ice cream treats!  We were lucky enough to see a family order the Kitchen Sink, and we were lucky enough to see the cast members make it!

I really liked the overall atmosphere of this restaurant.  The pastel colors were adorable, and the decor was nothing like what I was expecting (in a good way!).  I was pleasantly surprised, and the costumes for the servers were adorable!  I was very impressed with Beaches and Cream, and it was especially fun because it was our first meal at Walt Disney World this trip.  I'm hoping to make a meal at Beaches and Cream a tradition for us to kick off every trip from now on!  And maybe one day, we'll be hungry enough for the Kitchen Sink (but probably not!).

Have you ever been to Beaches and Cream?  What do you think of it?  What do you usually have?  Let me know your opinions in a comment, a tweet (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!

This post was featured in the tenth DisMarks.com Disney Blog Carnival.  Click the link to see more great Disney articles!
  

Monday, September 13, 2010

August Trip Report, Day 7

Alas, this is the final installment of my August trip report, since the eighth day essentially consists of waking up, eating breakfast, and leaving.  August 23 was our last full day at Walt Disney World, and it was an amazing trip.  We were going out with a bang, and our last day started with a Segway Tour at Epcot!  This is yet another thing that I will do a full review for at a later (but soon!) date, but I must say now that it was WELL worth the money.  The tours are expensive, but you certainly get your money's worth.

Our Segway tour was scheduled for 9:00, but we arrived at Epcot around 8:30 and were allowed right in.  The tours (at least the Segway tours) meet at guest relations, where you get nametags and sign waivers.  Once your whole group arrives, the tour starts, and you head to Segway Central in Innoventions West.  We watched a short video about Segways, learned a bit of safety information, and soon we were getting on the Segways!  They were much easier to ride than I had thought!  I was nervous because I'm rather clumsy, but the guides said I was a natural.  It may have been because I'm so short, which means I have a lower center of gravity.

We did some training in Segway Central, and soon we were on our way to World Showcase!  We skipped Mexico and Norway since they're open to the public, but once we got to China, we rode around and learned about each country in the showcase.  I have soooo much information from this, but I'll save it for the full review.  Once the tour was coming to a close, the semi-stressful part began: the part where there are lots of people starting to flood the World Showcase, and you have to ride around them.  Overall it was fine, and we got a lot of points and stares from other non-Segwayed guests.  One little girl exclaimed, "They don't have to walk around the park!  How do we get those?"  Upon our return to Segway Central, we got pins to commemorate our experience, and we were sent on our way. 

At this point, James and I were a little burnt out from the trip, and our feet were killing us with the combination of walking miles and miles every day and standing on a Segway for two hours.  We decided to leisurely tour the World Showcase for the last time of our trip.  We ate lunch at Yakitori House, and I decided I wanted kaki-gori for dessert.  Of course while the ladies were making my kaki-gori, it started to downpour.  James and I ate the whole kaki-gori whilst standing under the little overhang of the kaki-gori stand.  Finally, we finished and decided to make a run for it to Mitsukosi for some shopping.  Eventually the rain let up, and we finished our tour around the World Showcase.  We then returned to the room for a rest before our dinner.

Dinner that night was at Jiko, so we took a bus to Animal Kingdom and then went over to the Lodge.  Spending time at AKL made me want to stay there SO bad, though our finances thought otherwise.  At Jiko, we had the Taste of Africa appetizer, which was very good.  We both ordered the oak-grilled filet as entrees, and mine came out rare when I ordered medium.  I felt bad sending it back, but I really, really don't like rare meat.  Our waiter brought me a small, complimentary appetizer to munch on while I waited for a new steak.  Unfortunately, it came out rare the second time as well, and I sucked it up and tried to eat it.  Although the food was underwhelming, our server was fantastic and offered to send it back a second time even when I told him it was fine.  I've heard so many good things about Jiko, so I'm hoping that this experience was just a fluke.  I'm not discouraged, and I'd love to return one day and hopefully have a better meal.

When we left Animal Kingdom Lodge, the only places open were Magic Kingdom and Downtown Disney, but we decided to wait by a bus dropping people off from Animal Kingdom to see if he would take us back.  Once everyone was off his bus, he closed the doors and exited the bus to talk to those of us outside.  The first family he spoke to, he told to transfer at Downtown Disney.  He then came to us, and I asked if we should do the same.  He said that he'd hate for us to go all the way there to get to All Star Music, so he decided to drive us straight there!  Pixie dust!  It was soooo nice of the driver, and it was amazing not to have to transfer at stops so out of the way.  It was the perfect end to an amazing trip!

Wednesday will bring you a regularly scheduled blog post, but I hope you enjoyed my trip report!  I'll be returning to Walt Disney World in January for our birthdays, and I hope that trip will be as great as this one was!
 

Friday, September 10, 2010

August Trip Report, Day 6

My drawing of Woody!
August 22 was our second to last full day, and we couldn't believe it!  But just because our vacation was coming to a close didn't mean that the fun would stop!  That day was our Hollywood Studios day, and since Toy Story Mania was under refurbishment and I'm a ride wimp, we went to Voyage of the Little Mermaid first thing.  I hadn't seen Voyage of the Little Mermaid since the Studios was MGM, so I was excited, and it didn't disappoint!

After Little Mermaid, I experienced the Art of Disney Animation and the Animation Academy for the first time - so awesome!  James and I were the only people who had never been before, so we drew Woody since it was a character that no one else had drawn.  (There's a snake in my boot!)  After the Animation Academy, we intended to head to Muppetvision, but it was apparently closed.  The CMs that were there told us to "come back in a long time," so we headed over to Star Tours to ride it one last time before it changes.  We never made it to Endor, but maybe we will when it becomes Star Tours 2. 

Matt and I!
Next we explored Tattooine Traders for a while, and then we explored the various other shops in the Studios before lunch time.  For lunch, we met up with Matt Hochberg and ate at the Backlot Express.  Matt was awesome, and after lunch, we collectively decided to go to the Aloha Isle AllEars meet over at the Magic Kingdom.  We separated while Matt went to put his camera back in his car, and we met back up at the Magic Kingdom, this time with Matt's wife, Marissa.

After a minor problem at the turnstiles (Matt's annual pass decided it had seen the end of its days, and we had to wait while the CM went and made him a new one), we made it into the park!  James and I shopped a bit while Matt and Marissa ate at Casey's, and then we headed to Adventureland.  Aside from the fact that it was a bazillion degrees, the meet was awesome!  There were lots of people there, but after a while, it just became too hot.  James and I left the meet and decided to get on Pirates of the Caribbean to cool off.

A photo I took from the TTA!
When we emerged from the depths of the piratey world, it was raining, but it ended pretty soon.  We got on the Railroad and headed to Toontown where we explored Mickey and Minnie's houses, and then we rode the TTA Peoplemover over in Tomorrowland.  We got Buzz Lightyear Fastpasses as souvenirs, and we headed to Epcot to buy a Vinylmation for James.

You see, the entire trip, James had his eye on a 9-inch Vinylmation that he wasn't sure he wanted.  By that day, he decided that he did, in fact, want it.  But of course we couldn't find it ANYWHERE.  James remembered that he saw it in Mousegear (his absolute favorite store in all of Walt Disney World), so we went there to get it.  Of course, it was absolutely pouring when we got to Epcot, so we spent a while shopping.  After our purchases were made, it was still raining, so we rode Spaceship Earth.  Then we dragged our soggy butts to the bus stop to head over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The ceiling of Boma
My first impression of the Animal Kingdom Lodge was absolute awe, followed by "we have to stay here!"  One day, when we can afford to stay at deluxes, I cannot wait to stay at this resort.  We went down to Boma, which I thought was good.  I looooved all the different types of hummus, and there was food for the picky and the adventurous.  After dinner, we explored the Animal Kingdom Lodge some more, and then we decided to call it a night.  The early mornings and extensive walking were taking a toll on us, so we went back to our resort after a bus transfer at the Studios.  The next day would be our final day at Walt Disney World, but we had a Segway Tour to look forward to!
 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

August Trip Report, Day 5

The inside of Akershus
The fifth day of our trip was, yet again, awesome.  We started the day at Epcot, after a short detour caused by me leaving my wallet (which had my park ticket) in the room.  We arrived before park opening, but since we had an ADR for Akershus, we were let right in.  We walked through a mostly empty Epcot to the Norway pavilion.  Epcot is amazing when it's empty so early.  Once there, we were taken in immediately and first sent to a little photo area where Belle is.  We got our picture taken with her which she later gave to us as a "present."  (Seriously, the CM came over to us with the pictures, and she was like, "This is a gift from Princess Belle.")  Since Belle's my favorite princess, I was actually happy that she was the photo princess.  Though that kind of means that you spend less time with her, she's the only professional (Photopass) photograph we got, since it was complimentary.  The hot food at Akershus was average, but I really liked the cold buffet.  Especially the Lingonberry muffins!  An Akershus review is certainly in the future for this blog, hopefully after I get the princess pictures from James.

After Akershus, it was around 9:30 or 10, and we were really feeling the luxury of time.  We had already touring planned through most of Future World and some of the World Showcase earlier in the week, so we could really do whatever we wanted.  First we watched the little fountain show in the center of Future World, and then we went over to the Epcot Character Spot.  We got our pictures with the Fab Five (in a very assembly line-esque manner, might I add), and then we headed around to Club Cool to try some Beverly. 

The China pavilion
Since it was approaching eleven o'clock, we headed over to Norway to ride Maelstrom (we were off the ride by 11:02), and then proceeded around the World Showcase just exploring.  At China, we met Mulan, and then we watched Reflections of China.  We then proceeded around the World Showcase, and we watched the Fife and Drum Corps, the Voices of Liberty, and the American Adventure show upon reaching the American Adventure pavilion.  We had never really done any of the attractions in the World Showcase, so this was really awesome for us.  The Voices of Liberty were awesome!  At this point, it was pouring rain, and it was approaching lunch time, which meant there was only one logical thing to do:  try to get into Via Napoli!

Via Napoli!
Via Napoli was awesome, and there is definitely a VERY positive review of this restaurant coming in the semi-near future!  I was skeptical because I am not used to paying nearly that much for pizza, but I really think it was worth it.  I had the Margherita, and James had the Quattro Formaggi - both excellent!  We paid for this meal out of our own pockets since we didn't have any dining credits to spare, but it really was well worth it.

Anyway, after Via Napoli, it had stopped raining, so we continued our tour around the World Showcase.  We got Kaki-gori at Japan (another first for me and SO good) and spent some quality time at Mitsukoshi.  James and I spent TONS of time at Mitsukoshi on our trip - we love it there!  Once we made it around the World Showcase (stopping in the UK for pictures with Pooh and Tigger!), we decided it was time to head back to the room for a while to rest our feet.

My new Disney Dooney!
After our rest, we headed over to Downtown Disney where it promptly began to pour.  (Pro tip:  we got ponchos at the Raglan Road gift shop for around two bucks, when the other Disney stores were selling them for seven plus.)  We went over to D-Street, which was cool to look at, but not worth our walk through the pouring rain just so I could buy a 3-inch Cutester.  Then we headed back over to the Marketplace, where all my tweeps convinced me (and rightfully so!) to buy a new Dooney at TrenD.  After the purchase, we had dinner at Earl of Sandwich (my Italian sandwich tasted curiously like a pepperoni pinwheel), and we finished up with a make-your-own treat dessert from Goofy's Candy Co.  I got one of those big Oreos with M&Ms on it - yummmmm!

My Oreo treat!
At that point, we were sick of our wet sneakers, so we headed back to the resort to watch TV and eat my yummy snack.  Hollywood Studios was on the schedule for the following day, along with some hang out time with one of your favorite WDW Today hosts!
  

Monday, September 6, 2010

August Trip Report: Day 4

August 20th was supposed to be an Animal Kingdom day, though that didn't last long.  We got to the park bright and early, and we were front and center for the opening show!  We got lots of pictures, and our adventure began.  First thing, we headed straight to Kiliminjaro Safari.  The giraffes (my favorite animals) were out with a force, and so close to our truck!  I was really happy about that because I looove giraffes!  After the Safari, we did the jungle trail and saw some more animals.  After that, however, we weren't quite sure where to go next, and may I mention, it was Animal Kingdom hot!  There was no Finding Nemo or Festival of the Lion King for at least an hour, we didn't want to go over to Dinoland, and we weren't in the mood to get wet.  Since I'm too big of a ride wimp to ride Everest, our touring plan came to a stand still.  So we made a decision: we'd hit up Camp Minnie-Mickey, get some autographs and pictures, and then head over to Magic Kingdom.  We were at Magic Kingdom before 11.

We decided to take Magic Kingdom slow, one of the awesome things about having the luxury of time.  We rode the TTA Peoplemover and the Carousel of Progress before deciding it was time for lunch.  On our way to the front of the park, we stopped for the Main Street Trolley Parade.  It was my first time ever seeing the show in person, but I already knew the music well.  Then we walked right down the middle of Main Street USA to take the monorail to the Poly for lunch at Captain Cook's!

At Captain Cook's, I had a turkey club and (of course) a Dole Whip for dessert - self serve!  (Sorry Rikki, neither of us had the adult grilled cheese.  I wasn't crazy about the bleu cheese inside.)  We explored the Poly a bit (I'd love to stay there some day!), and then we decided to head to James' favorite resort, the Contemporary.  We explored there a bit, and suddenly we hit a wall.  We were just exhausted, and we almost fell asleep on a couch on the conference floor of the resort.  James decided that we needed to get up, so we headed over to Epcot, where we would have a tweet-up later on that day.  We rode Ellen's Energy Adventure, and James promptly fell asleep.  Later he asked me, "So what happens after the dinosaur room?"

We met Disney_Alli!
After Ellen's Energy Adventure, we went to the Seas pavilion for our tweet up!  First we met Alli, Jess, Marc, and Marc's son, but Jess, Marc, and his son soon had to leave for other obligations.  Soon after they left, JL from the Disney Driven Life arrived with her three kids, and the kids decided they wanted to ride Sum of All Thrills.  Alli, James, and I had never tried it, so we agreed!  Alli rode with JL's oldest daughter, Margeaux; James rode with JL's son, Miller; and I rode by myself because I wanted to make mine the wimpiest.  Unfortunately, JL's youngest daughter, Elle, wasn't quite tall enough to ride, so JL stayed behind with her.  I must say, Sum of All Thrills was fun and interesting, but it was a very short ride considering the amount of time you spend waiting, training, and making your ride.

At that point, Alli had to leave for dinner at the California Grill (lucky!), so we snapped a picture before she left.  The rest of our group went back to the Seas to see Turtle Talk before James and I had to leave for dinner.  Elle and Miller both got to talk to Crush, and they were adorably excited.  Then we snapped another picture, and James and I went over to Coral Reef!  A Coral Reef review is to come, but I must say that the food was good, and the atmosphere was awesome.  We were right near the tank, and we loved it!  At one point, a bunch of scuba divers came down, so we were watching them swim all around with the fish.

After Coral Reef, we found out that JL and her crew were still in the park, and they were thinking of heading over to Magic Kingdom like we were.  We met back up, and we drove over there, listening to the very beginnings of Inner Mouse.  Upon arriving, Magic Kingdom was PACKED, and we were actually escorted around Main Street (meaning back stage!) to get to Tomorrowland.  While back there, James had his first Neurotic Disney Moment, exclaiming "this is epic!" as we walked through.  When we reached Tomorrowland, JL's kids almost convinced little, wimpy me to get on Space Mountain, but luckily the 70 minute wait saved me.

James and Elle, JL's youngest
Lines said the wait for Thunder Mountain was short, but by the time we got over there, Wishes had ended, and the line was too long to justify.  We decided to go on Pirates of the Caribbean instead (waiting 20 minutes at 10:30 pm - you tell me how crowded the park was that night!), and we had a blast riding with JL and her kids.  After the ride, we met back up with Marc and his son to see the Main Street Electrical Parade.  It was very fun to see, as usual, and then we decided to ride Haunted Mansion (my favorite!).  I rode with Margeaux, and she told me that she didn't like the graveyard scene.  I also don't like that part, but, of course, the ride stopped during that exact part.  Luckily, we both held it together, and the ride was moving again in no time!

After Haunted Mansion, Marc mentioned that he'd never been on the Carousel.  Of course that meant we simply had to ride, so we did!  At this point, it was midnight, but the crowds were still surprisingly large for the Extra Magic Hours that were to come.  We didn't go on any more rides after that, but we stayed for a while longer, meeting some Mom's Panelists.  At around 1:30 am, we were all dragging, and JL drove us back to our resort.  Thanks again, JL, considering we may never have gotten back if we'd have had to take a bus.  The kids were pretty much sleeping by the time we got out of JL's car, so we said our goodbyes and headed back to our room for a much needed sleep.  After all, we had a breakfast ADR for the next morning!
 

Friday, September 3, 2010

August Trip Report: Day 3

Our third day at Walt Disney World was our first full day at my favorite park: Epcot!  After a minor bus issue (someone threw up on the bus we were supposed to take, so they had to dispatch a different bus, which took forever), we made it to the park, albeit not as early as I'd have liked.  It ended up working out, however, as we got seats front and center on Soarin'!

After Soarin', we used a touring plan that I sort of made up on my own, and we went over to Test Track.  The line was already 20 minutes long, so we did single rider and literally walked right through the entire queue.  We even walked through the preshow without watching it!  After Test Track, I rode Mission Space for the first time (green side of course).  I enjoyed it, but I doubt I'd ride the orange side, since I have a tendency to faint. 

After Mission Space, we went over to the Seas pavilion, which we ended up spending a lot of time in on our trip.  We rode the Nemo ride, and we watched a dolphin presentation.  We skipped over Turtle Talk to watch at a later date, and we continued on.  We rode Living with the Land (another first for me!), watched Captain EO (so awesome!), and rode Journey into Imagination.  I know lots of people hate Imagination, but I have a soft spot for it.  After Imagination, it was time for lunch at Le Cellier!

Le Cellier was absolutely amazing.  Neither James nor I had been, and we loved it so much that we booked an ADR for January there.  James tried the cheddar soup, but he didn't like it.  We both loved the pretzel bread of course.  And we both had the New York Strip, which was absolutely fantastic.  Our server was fantastic as well.  Everything was fantastic!  For dessert, I had the chocolate moose - so cute!  After lunch, we rode Spaceship Earth, and then we returned to the resort for a nap.

After our nap, we decided to visit Port Orleans French Quarter.  We were thinking about staying there on our next trip.  It was quaint and quiet, but I actually didn't like the quietness of it.  We did try the beignets, which reminded me of a puffy funnel cake.  After our visit to French Quarter, we took a bus back to Epcot, which is when we learned something that bothered us about Port Orleans:  if you stay in French Quarter, your bus may go through four stops in Riverside before heading to your destination.  We didn't like that, but we dealt with it for the time, and we eventually made it to Epcot!

We explored the countries in World Showcase a bit, and we ate dinner at the Tangierine Cafe.  I loved the pita bread with the hummus, but I wasn't a huge fan of whatever was on the chicken.  Then again, I'm not a very adventurous eater.  After dinner, we wandered around a bit, and then got a spot for IllumiNations.  It was drizzling a bit, and there was lots of lightning, but my Twitter friends assured me that IllumiNations would go on, and it did!  It's my favorite nighttime spectacular at Disney, and I loved it as usual!

Epcot had Extra Magic Hour evenings that night, so we stayed until around 10:30, simply walking around the World Showcase.  And we rode the Gran Fiesta Tour, of course.  We love the Three Caballeros!  Finally, we decided to call it a night; we would be back at Epcot the next day anyway.
 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

August Trip Report: Day 2

August 18th was our first full day at Walt Disney World, so, naturally, it was our Magic Kingdom day.  We started our day with a light breakfast at the resort, and soon we headed off to the park, touring plan in hand.  The touring plan worked beautifully, as usual, and we rode everything we wanted before lunch time.  Since I'm too much of a ride wimp to go on Space Mountain, our first ride of the day was Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, a favorite of James and I.  We laughed as we waited with a huge group for Tomorrowland to officially open, and we went to Buzz as almost the entire rest of the group went to Space.

After Buzz, we did most of Fantasyland, and I rode Peter Pan's Flight for the first time!  It was as amazing as everyone says - I loved it!  We hit my favorite, the Haunted Mansion, on our way to Frontierland, where I rode Splash Mountain for the first time!  I really liked it, except for the one part in the dark where you go down and up really quickly (which is why I don't want to try Space Mountain).  The big drop was only scary for a few seconds, and I didn't get too wet sitting in the back row.

Next up were some other favorites: Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean.  After Jungle Cruise (our skipper was one of many CMs earning their ears on our trip), I had my first Dole Whip float!  It was very good, but I ended up preferring the Dole Whip without the float.  James had the orange and vanilla swirl, but I love the pineapple!  After the Dole Whip, we saw Hall of Presidents for the first time (and didn't fall asleep!), and then we circled back to Mickey's PhilharMagic (love that show!) before lunch.  For lunch, we ate at Pecos Bill's.  James had the barbecue sandwich, and I had the taco salad - yum!  We love the hot cheese there!

After lunch, we headed back for a nap before dinner at Epcot!  Dinner was at Tokyo Dining, one of James' favorites.  He had sushi, and I had chicken teriyaki, since it seemed they took the beef teriyaki off the menu.  I'm not always a huge fan of chicken over beef, but both the chicken and the teriyaki sauce at Tokyo Dining were delicious.  It was one of our best meals of the trip, in my opinion.

Once we were done with dinner, we went back to the Magic Kingdom for the parade and fireworks.  It was our first time seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade, and we both really liked it.  That said, I do prefer SpectroMagic, and I wish it would come back soon.  After the parade, we watched Wishes from a great spot in the hub, and headed back to the resort to call it a night.  Our next day would be at Epcot.