Dining

25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 17: Balsamic Grande at Disney Cruise Line’s Palo

by on December 17, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY SEVENTEEN: Balsamic Grand at Palo (Disney Cruise Line)

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Balsamic Grand at Palo. (photo by William Hirsch)

 

There were many aspects of the Disney Cruise that I sailed on earlier this year which gave me a better understanding of why so many people become “addicted” to cruising. One of the areas that stood out to me the most was the overall level of service that guests receive while on the ship, and the pinnacle of that service was at the ship’s upscale Italian restaurant Palo. To summarize: an amazing dining experience, one of the best I have had anywhere, land or sea. The signature cocktail of Palo is the Balsamic Grande, and it is the perfect drink to begin the journey you are about to take within this gorgeous restaurant.  Ingredients: 5 fresh strawberries, divided, 1 1/2 ounces agave nectar, 1/2 ounce balsamic vinegar (aged 8 years), and 5 ounces Grey Goose Vodka Muddle strawberries with agave and balsamic vinegar in a mixing glass. Add vodka and ice; shake and strain into chilled martini glass.

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My Disney World Christmas Vacation Traditions

by on December 17, 2014

The most magical place on earth gets a little more magical around this time of year when the parks and resorts deck the halls with holiday finery and give Disney fans a reason to take one more Walt Disney World vacation! My family and I love to take a trip to Disney World around the holidays, and we have created a few festive traditions over the years. Check out a few of my Disney World Vacation Christmas Traditions.

Downtown Disney's Days of Christmas Store

Downtown Disney’s Days of Christmas Store

Buying a New Ornament

It just wouldn’t be right to leave Disney World around Christmastime without a new ornament to add to our tree. My favorite place to shop for ornaments is the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe at the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square. I love how it feels like we’re walking through an old, colonial home. For a wider variety of Christmas décor, we like to drop by Disney’s Days of Christmas Store at Downtown Disney, where it really does feel like Christmas all year round.

Holidays Around the World

Epcot’s World Showcase is one of my favorite corners of Disney World, and I especially enjoy Holidays Around the World this time of year, where performances educate guests about the different holiday traditions of their respective countries. It’s a lot of fun to hear and see how other countries celebrate the holidays. Our favorites would be Father Christmas at the United Kingdom and the Voices of Liberty Dickens Carolers at the American Adventure. The special holiday treats and the chance to do a little Christmas shopping is pretty great too. After all, there’s no chance that what you’re buying as a gift is something someone already has when you shop at the stores in the Norway or China or Morocco pavilions.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six MORE Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on December 13, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six MORE Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We’re taking a quick break from our end-of-year celebration articles, and returning back to Loews Cabana Bay Beach Resort. You may remember we were at the hotel earlier this year during its grand opening and were blown away as it changed the definition of “value” resort within the theme park universe. Since that time the other half of the resort opened up, including the Americana and Continental wings with a combined 900 standard rooms. So today we are going to revisit Cabana Bay and look at six more surprises the resort offers to guests, starting with…

# 6 -The Fire Pits

There are a total of four fire pits throughout Cabana Bay, all within walking distance of the two pool bars (Atomic Tonic and The Hideaway Bar & Grill.) These pits can make for a great place to relax at night, especially after a late swim. As an added bonus, there are S’mores kits available in the Bayliner Diner (complete with sticks to use for roasting the marshmallows) allowing you to have a very unique experience on property.

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One of the fire pits at Cabana Bay Beach Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

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Newsworthy Notes – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Edition

by on December 12, 2014

We all know that there is a massive amount of refurbishment work taking place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, preparing the theme park to become a full day park and to support the upcoming Avatarland, as well as Rivers of Light. A few updates have come to my attention, so I wanted to make sure to share them with you.

The first is that for those who like experiencing character dining at Tusker House, you’ll now have the option to do so at dinner. You see, beginning on March 8, the restaurant located in the Africa section of the park will introduce the Donald’s Safari Dinner. (For those who don’t know, breakfast and lunch were already character meals.) The dinner option will begin at 4:00 p.m. daily.

Tusker House

©Disney

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: December 11, 2014

by on December 11, 2014

Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! This week we’re visiting the Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and even checking into a Little Mermaid room. Then we’re stopping by Downtown Disney, Disney’s Hollywood StudiosDisney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, and finishing off at the Magic Kingdom. There is oh so much fun this week – so let’s get going! :)

The decorations at Art of Animation might surprise you! I know I wasn’t expecting a white Christmas tree with every color of the rainbow wrapped around it! But the design couldn’t be more fitting for this bright and happy hotel. Want to see more decorations and a Little Mermaid room? Be sure to click to read more below.

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Menu Monday: When It’s Hot, Save Some Dosh at Walt Disney World (Pt 2)

by on December 8, 2014

Well, like Toy Story 4 or Frozen 2 I am back, with a sequel to my previous article on free water at Walt Disney World. I would kindly ask that you read that article first (if you haven’t already) as this will help you understand how my harsh judging system works. It will also enlighten you to the best places go get free water in the Magic Kingdom. In this follow-up, which I hope does not go straight to DVD like Simba’s Pride, I am going to review the free water options in the other three main Disney theme parks. Wish me luck.

As you all know, Christmas is getting nearer so really there is no better time to do a saving money article. Who couldn’t do with saving up to $40 a day on your Disney holiday (vacation)? (Price based on a family of four each drinking four bottles of water each a day at $2.50 a time). Water is a necessity when touring any Disney theme park, but why pay out every day when Disney offers free water?

So without further ado, I will start with Epcot and everyone’s favourite; yes it’s Club Cool. If you have yet to experience this then you really need to. Coca-Cola have (Ed. – note British English uses plural possessives to refer to companies) set up a number of sample stations for their drink products around the world. OK, so it is not technically “water” but it’s free and it is a drink, albeit in mini cups, but they are limitless. I would definitely recommend Italy’s famous Beverly, but if you have already tried this, maybe taste all the different flavoured Fantas. Just remember that there is no limit to how many you can have.

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Menu Monday: Beaches & Cream Soda Shop

by on December 8, 2014

Beaches & Cream Soda Shop

©Disney

Recently my boys and I returned from another fun-filled adventure in Disney World. As with all great Disney vacations, one of the things we strive to include beyond the attractions are some delicious sweets. At home we don’t eat many extravagant desserts, so when we are on vacation the sky is the limit when it comes to tasty treats. One of our favorite stops is Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. When we first tried this restaurant several years ago, we were enticed by stories of mountains of ice cream and the legend of a famous sundae. Now we keep returning, not only for these enchantingly sweet concoctions, but for the ambiance and other delectable dishes that Beaches & Cream continues to offer.

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SATURDAY SIX: In Memoriam – Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2014

by on December 6, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Things We Lost From the Theme Park World in 2014. As theme park fans, we’ve had a lot to be thankful for this year. Unfortunately for us, the theme park business itself seems to be turning into a zero-sum game, where we only get new things if we lose something else. So while it’s fantastic that we’re getting a Frozen attraction, James Cameron’s World of Avatar, and restaurants such as Cowfish, it comes with a sense of sadness as it also means we’re probably saying goodbye to something in the parks and resorts that we have been enjoying. Today we pay our respects to some of those that we lost in the past year, starting with….

 

# 6 – Camp Minnie-Mickey/ Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade (Animal Kingdom)

Regular readers of the SATURDAY SIX know how much we love Animal Kingdom, so it was tough to see two things leave this year: Camp Minnie-Mickey, and Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade. While Camp Minnie-Mickey had no major attractions outside of a stage show and character meet-and-greets, the entire area was wonderfully designed and was delightful to take in while appreciating all the whimsical details. The area of Camp Minnie-Mickey is scheduled to be part of the upcoming Pandora expansion to the park.

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Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Daisy Duck taking a Jr. Woodchuck stroll through Camp Minnie Mickey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Menu Monday: Best Counter Service Restaurants in Animal Kingdom

by on December 1, 2014

This is the second installment in a series on the top counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World. The first article addressed the best and worst counter services of Magic Kingdom, and now we’ll take a walk on the wild side as we review the best counter service restaurants in Animal Kingdom. Keep in mind that to dine at any of these locations, you will need a valid park ticket for admission. Additionally, with some of the construction and updates occurring around Animal Kingdom, not all of these locations may be open or accessible during your planned trip, so be sure to check the Disney Dining website for a full list of open dining options.

To refresh your memory, here is the grading scale I’ve used to determining how each counter service location has earned it’s ranking:

  • Value (portion/cost ratio) = 10 points
  • Flavor = 10 points
  • Originality = 5 points
  • Atmosphere = 5 points
  • Grand total = 30 possible points

So, let’s dive in!

Flame Tree Barbecue – Discovery IslandFTB Sign

Flame Tree Barbecue has long been a popular recommendation among Disney vacationers, and for good reason! It’s got a menu that pleases practically everyone in your group, prices that aren’t so difficult to swallow, and after years of visiting this location, I’ve never been disappointed. The quality has remained consistent and delicious. So, swing by Discovery Island for some finger-licking deliciousness.

Value = 10/10

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Menu Monday: Dining with an Imagineer

by on December 1, 2014

“Why are you going THERE again?” If you get asked this question about your vacations to Disney, you completely understand the frustrations. As veterans to the parks of Walt Disney World, we get asked this about once a year minimum. But, my answer is unequivocally because there is something new to experience every time. Whether it be old standard attractions such as Astro Orbiter (which I will get on one day), or completely new shows or parades that Disney has just introduced, you can never do it all.

The famous Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios.

The famous Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios.

We try to make each repeat trip to the World a new adventure. Yes, we have our favorite “must dos” that are a part of every trip we make, such as Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom, a caramel apple oatmeal cookie from the Karamel Kuche in Epcot’s Germany, or a performance of Mulch Sweat n Shears at Hollywood Studios. But we always try to find new Disney magic as well.

For our last trip to Walt Disney World we decided that meeting an Imagineer was high on our priority list, as we had never done it before. Disney has a great program called Dining with an Imagineer. This experience is a lunchtime event. It is a very intimate setting with only 10-12 guests (aged 10 and older) in attendance, plus the Imagineer. It takes place at the Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios, and comes with a 4 course meal served in the private Bamboo Room. It is not offered every day; only Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Because it is a dining event, you can make reservations for it starting on your 180 day window if you have a resort stay booked.

Needless to say, the morning that our 180 day window opened we were on the computer trying to secure our reservations for the elusive event. Since opportunities and number of seats for this dining event are limited, this was the first priority of that morning. Pixie dust was on our side, and we scored two seats for the day we wanted. Now the long wait began until our trip and this new experience.

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