Resorts

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto Preview and New Polynesian Lobby Photos

by on March 25, 2015

trader sam's grog grotto preview

Free postcards were available during the Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto preview event at WDW’s Polynesian Village Resort. (Photos by Seth Kubersky

 

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel is one of our favorite places in the entire Disneyland Resort, so it’s an understatement to say we’re excited about the opening of its East Coast outpost. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is about to debut at Walt Disney World’s newly retro-christened Polynesian Village Resort, and on Monday, March 23 the hotel held a cast member-only preview of their new watering hole.

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Photos from Inside a Polynesian Bungalow

by on March 17, 2015

These images happened to fall off a truck while I was walking around Disney World last week. They definitely are not the result of renting a pontoon boat, docking next to a bungalow, and hopping over a fence. Because that would be wrong.

Here’s the living room. I like the furniture choices – lots of natural woods and textured surfaces. Also notice how the couch faces the lagoon view, not the television.

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Here’s the kitchen. Small, but functional enough to cook a light dinner if you wanted. I would have opted for a larger window over the sink instead of that decorative cupboard.

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Mama Della’s: The Best Full-Service Restaurant at Universal Orlando

by on March 9, 2015

There are so many different classifications one can sort a theme park restaurant into – best themed, best ambiance, best location, best food, best price. But what of the best overall venue, the one that most successfully manages to not only balance all of these different considerations, but to also be more than just the sum of its parts? That would surely be a difficult feat to pull off, and the eatery would probably be jam-packed full of people day in and day out.

Mama Della's Ristorante

Image © Universal

With Universal Orlando Resort’s best all-around full-service restaurant, Mama Della’s Ristorante, this is most certainly not the case. Maybe it’s because it’s located at Portofino Bay Hotel, which is tucked away in the corner of the resort. Maybe it’s because it’s overshadowed by a (growing) number of other eateries at the theme parks, from Harry Potter’s wondrous digs to the tasty fast food offerings of Springfield, USA. Maybe it’s just because it’s not Mythos, which has long been considered the best theme park restaurant in the world.

Whatever the reason, Mama Della’s is typically devoid of the long lines and online buzz that is associated with much of the rest of Universal’s lineup, making it a superlative dining experience in nearly every sense – terrific food, atmospherics, and wait times.

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The Demographic Disney Forgot: Best Disney World Resorts for Teen Boys

by on March 4, 2015

The Disney Parks were designed with families in mind, to serve as escapes from the real world where parents and kids can have fun together. But have you ever noticed that a certain element of the family tends to be overlooked? Do you know what it is? It’s the demographic Disney forgot: teen boys. Now I’m not a teenage boy, but I do have a teenage brother who loves Disney World, despite the lack of commercials and ads directed toward his age group; and so, I sat down with him for the scoop on what Disney World has to offer teen boys like himself. Last time, I covered the Best Disney World Restaurants for Teen Boys; but for today, I’m focusing on where to stay in this installment of The Demographic Disney Forgot: Best Disney World Resorts for Teen Boys.

6. Art of Animation Resort

Art of Animation

The Cars Wing of the Art of Animation Resort

Disney World’s newest Value Resort is a celebration of animation and lets guests walk right into the middle of several popular Disney films, such as The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Pixar’s Cars, and Pixar’s Finding Nemo. The Art of Animation Resort is unique in that it offers family suites which accommodate up to six family members, as well as more heavily themed rooms than what you find at other resorts on property.This particular resort may sound like a surprising pick for teen boys; but my teen Disney Bro has loved this resort since the first time he visited and was quick to name it to this list. The Cars wing is by far his favorite. You really do feel like you’ve walked into Radiator Springs with the life-size Cars characters, the Cozy Cone Motel, and other familiar fixtures from the hit film. The resort’s food court, Landscape of Flavors, is also a big hit with my teen Disney Bro. He likes the build-your-own stations where he can tailor dishes to his own tastes; and he thinks the Big Blue Pool is pretty cool as well. This pool is the largest hotel pool at Disney World and has underwater speakers playing Disney tunes! It’s amazing! The Art of Animation is bright, colorful, and packed with Disney characters, so it may not be for all teen boys; but if your teen still smiles at the sight of Nemo and Simba and Mater, or perhaps possesses some artistic talents, this resort may be for them.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

by on February 14, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Each of Walt Disney World’s onsite hotels have their own unique feel, and that rings true from the value end (such as Art of Animation) through the moderates (including Port Orleans French Quarter) and all the way up to the deluxe resorts like The Contemporary. That said, no hotel in Orlando stands more by itself as a one-of-a-kind original experience than Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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Located directly next to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park (and absolutely nothing else,) many guests consider Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) too far out of the way to consider staying at. While the wait for the Disney buses may be a little bit longer than other resorts on property, today’s edition of the SATURDAY SIX is going to count down six reasons we feel everyone should consider staying at AKL as part of their next vacation, starting with…

# 6 – Indian-style Bread Service at Sanaa

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Sanaa bread service. A first ballot hall of famer for Disney food. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Animal Kingdom Lodge is broken up into two parts, the main hotel (Jambo House) and the Disney Vacation Club wing (Kidani Village.) In these two areas there are three of Disney’s best restaurants including Boma and Jiko at Jambo House, and Sanaa at Kidani Village. Unlike many restaurants at WDW that have dumbed themselves down in order to maximize profits as part of Disney’s Dining Plan, AKL’s restaurants deliver an experience that is true destination dining. The standout of these three venues is Sanaa’s bread service. With five different types of Naan bread available and up to nine different accompaniments to go with it, this is a bread service like no other.

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How Two Disney World Vacations That Cost the Same Can Feel Completely Different? or Where’s Goldilocks When You Need Her?

by on February 3, 2015

Len Testa recently did an analysis of the different ways the same party size can choose to allocate the same amount of money on a Walt Disney World vacation, yet arrive at very different trips. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s definitely worth a look.

Staying for four nights at a value resort might feel like a splurge or like an affront, depending on your profile.

Staying for four nights at a value resort might feel like a splurge or like an affront, depending on your profile.

Len examined the quantitative aspects of expenditures on the core costs of food, lodging, and park tickets, noting how choices like deluxe vs. value resort, onsite vs. offsite hotels, and table service vs. counter service meals can change your vacation within a fixed budget. I’m here to look at the qualitative impact of those choices beyond the bottom line, considering how two vacations which cost exactly the same can feel entirely different.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to look at Len’s hypothetical trip for two adults (two people over the age of nine, or two people over the age of nine plus a child under the age of three) which costs $1,500, but you can apply the same principles to any price point or party size. Running the numbers, Len found that two adults can spend $1,500 on core costs in some of the following ways:

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Port Orleans Riverside Royal Room Review

by on February 2, 2015

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Royal Room Letter from Tiana

Of all the Walt Disney World resorts, Port Orleans Riverside is the resort that I have stayed at the most. I first fell in love with the place back when it was originally called Dixie Landings; and while I’m still a little bitter over the name change, this particular resort has continued to charm me year after year. But just when I though I couldn’t love this resort anymore, I had the opportunity to stay in one of its Royal Rooms, special resort rooms themed after popular Disney Royals! So check out my Port Orleans Riverside Royal Room Review to see if this room option might be something you would consider for your next vacation to Disney World!

About Port Orleans Riverside

Port Orleans Riverside is the sister resort to Port Orleans French Quarter. The French Quarter is themed around New Orleans, but Riverside features the elegance of the Old South with white-columned mansions, a bustling river port, and backwoods, bayou charm.

Port Orleans Riverside belongs to the moderate category of Disney World Resorts. Basically, that means it’s not the most expensive and luxurious, but it’s not the cheapest either. However, unlike other Moderate Resorts, Riverside offers two themed sections and three different room styles.

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Menu Monday: A Tribute to the Dole Whip

by on January 19, 2015

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My Dole Whip Float

It’s fresh and creamy, it’s cold and sweet, it’s literally paradise in a cup. It’s a Dole Whip! If you haven’t heard, this treat is as popular as some characters and attractions at Disney World and has the long lines to prove it. For those of you who haven’t sampled this famous Disney treat; and for those of you, like myself, who are craving one right now, check out this Tribute to the Dole Whip!

So what is a Dole Whip? A Dole Whip is pineapple-flavored soft-serve and the perfect blend of sweet and tang; but I must warn you, it’s addictive! In fact, during one of my trips to the Magic Kingdom last year, I waited in a thirty minute line for a Dole Whip and even got a sunburn in the process. But hey, I have no regrets. It was totally worth it!

Unlike other popular sweet treats at Disney World, like Mickey Premium Bars or cupcakes, Dole Whips can’t be found just everywhere. For many years, Captain Cook’s at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Aloha Isle in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom were the only locations where this snack was offered.

Fortunately, it seems that Disney has taken pity on us Dole Whip-crazed guests, and I’m glad to report that there are now more places than ever to enjoy a Dole Whip while at the Walt Disney World Resort. Let’s take a look at a few of the old, as well as the new, shall we?

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks

by on January 10, 2015

This week’s  SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways To Get Your Disney Fix Outside of the Theme Parks. No one loves the Disney theme parks more than us, but sometimes you just can’t get to them no matter how much you want to be there. So today we are going to look at various ways you can get a taste of WDW, without paying the $90-$95 ticket cost to enter the turnstiles. Be forewarned, the more you quench your Disney thirst, the more you are going to want to book your next trip into the parks.

We are going to start off taking the 30,000 foot view (© Jim Hill) and look at things that anyone can enjoy anywhere in the world, while eventually making our way down to things available closer to the actual theme parks in Florida. With that out of the way, let’s being our countdown, starting with…

# 6 – Disney Related Books

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Selection of theme park books. (photo by Tim Grassey)

If you haven’t started already, now is the time to build your Disney library. Reading about Walt Disney World (as well as Disneyland and the Disney Cruise Line) is a great way to stay connected with the theme parks, no matter where you are. Anyone reading the SATURDAY SIX should be well versed on travel planning books, such as the Unofficial Guide to WDW 2015, but that theme park bible is just the tip of the iceberg. There are books on finding Hidden Mickeys, books on Disney Imagineers, and books on Disney attractions. I personally love the Imagineering Field Guides (such as the ones for Animal Kingdom and Epcot) because of their small size, allowing me to take them with me on the go without a hassle.

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Here are the Polynesian DVC room layouts

by on January 8, 2015

The images below fell off the back of a truck. Here’s a set of studio rooms showing their layouts; the extended room shows an ADA-accessible balcony:

Disney Polynesian Resort DVC Studio layout

Here’s the 2-bedroom bungalow layout. Estimates are that these will rent for a bit less than the King Kamehameha Suite – maybe around $2,500 – $3,000 per night – when they’re available.

Disney Polynesian Bungalow Layout

Three grand is a lot of money for one night in a hotel room. I’m not sure I’d sell my first-born for that. I probably wouldn’t even consider a long-term lease.

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