Resorts

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by on November 29, 2016

Sapphire FallsVisiting Universal Orlando for Halloween Horror Nights provided the perfect opportunity to stay in the new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Back in July, Dani included a visit to Sapphire Falls in her Best Week Ever series, and I was curious to see if the resort completed most of the last minute touches since then. Here are my first impressions and experiences of Sapphire Falls. To give you a taste of what it’s like to stay at the new resort, we’ll start with ‘great’ and work through ‘good’, ‘average’, and ‘bad’ before finally reaching ‘ugly’.

Great

Staff: When your main competition is Walt Disney World, a company known for its friendly Cast Members, slacking off in the customer service department would be unwise. The Team Members at Sapphire Falls did not disappoint. Every single Team Member, from the luggage service staff to the managers, went out of their way to be friendly, helpful, welcoming, and engaging. Out of all the hotels I’ve visited, including many of the Disney Deluxe resorts, the staff at Sapphire Falls was by far the best I’ve experienced. They genuinely seemed happy to be there.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to Receive New Amenities

by on November 23, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Recently, I shared that the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge was renamed as Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. But that was just the start of the changes.

Boulder Ridge Cove will open in the summer of 2017. This new area will feature an expanded sun deck and a zero-depth-entry pool in an area themed around an abandoned rock quarry. A nearby Boulder Ridge Railway and Mining Co. water tower will serve as the pool area’s landmark. Besides the pool, there will also be a new quick-service location called Geyser Point Bar & Grill. The new areas will include ample outdoor seating.

Stay tuned to the blog for further information about the changes coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

 

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN

by on November 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We LOVE the Walt Disney World SWAN and DOLPHIN. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century and Art of Animation), Moderate (Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs), and Deluxe (The Poly and The Contemporary). Three of the Deluxe resorts are not run by Disney, these include Shades of Green (owned and operated by the US Armed Forces) and the Swan and Dolphin. For over 25 years the Swan and Dolphin has been a part of the Starwood chain of resorts. While Starwood was bought by Marriott in September of this year, the hotels continue to be run under their respective brands (Swan being part of Westin, while the Dolphin part of Sheraton.)

swan_logo

Walt Disney World Swan.

Both the Swan and Dolphin are considered Disney Deluxe Resorts. While neither hotel offers the Disney Magical Express to and from the airport, or participates in the Disney Dining Plan, guests do get the normal WDW on-site ammenities including Extra Magic Hours, Disney transportation, and early access to Fast Pass+. How do the Swan and Dolphin stack up compared to the other on-site resorts?  Well, today we are going to check out our favorite parts of these two incredible hotels, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 –  Todd English’s bluezoo

One of the most underrated restaurants on Disney property is Todd English’s bluezoo located on the ground floor of the Dolphin. The bar area is visually stunning, and sets up the unique food and drink menu perfectly. Recently we did a tongue in cheek look at a Disney Value Resort Bar Crawl, but one thing that stood out at those bars – along with many others on Disney property – is a reliance on the standard Disney bar menu. Todd English’s bluezoo is the complete opposite of that. Whether you get a Burnt Orange that arrives on fire or a Swedish Fish with its infused foam, the drinks served at bluezoo are served with creativity and flair.

The dining room of bluezoo is deceptively large. While the menu is filled with some great items (especially if you’re a seafood fan,) what shocked us was the crispy Asian pork ribs. I didn’t think anyone would come close to touching the quality of Morimoto Asia’s Hoisin sticky spare ribs, but bluezoo’s are somehow better. While many probably wouldn’t think of bluezoo as the first choice to bring your kids, there is actually a part of the menu for kid’s appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The whimsicly named “desserted island” is among the most fun at WDW.

swan_bluezoo_smoke

Smoking Red Sangria. (photo by Brandon Glover)

bluezoo_burtorange_glover

Burnt Orange – “herradura blanco infused with brûléed orange and muddled with agave nectar, grand marnier, and orange juice. topped with a flaming orange.” (photo by Brandon Glover)

swan_bluezoo_ribs

Crispy Asian pork ribs. (photo by  Brandon Glover)

swan_bluezoo_dessertedisland

Desserted Island. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory Will Reopen Soon

by on November 16, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

The Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter will be returning from its refurbishment on November 19! While the interior has been completely redesigned, the resort’s food court will continue to offer New Orleans inspired dishes. This includes things like sweet potato Belgian waffles, crawfish mac and cheese burgers, and yes, the made-to-order beignets are back!

There are four different areas for Guests to grab a meal or a snack from. They include: the bakery, which is open from 6:00 a.m. until midnight; the grill and burgers, which is open from 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.; the pizza and pasta area, which is open from 7:00 a.m. until midnight; and the soup, salad and sandwich area, which is open from 7:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m.

It will be nice to have this food court open once again for Guests, especially this holiday season.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Five Disney World Resorts to See During Your Vacation

by on November 14, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Resort Hopping is one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World! Visiting the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, and The Polynesian Village Resort are as much on my trip to-do list as Pirates of the Caribbean or devouring a Mickey Premium Bar. That being said, I feel that guests who skip the resorts, or who don’t know they are allowed to visit the resorts, fail to achieve the full Walt Disney World experience. So for those who don’t know, anyone is allowed to visit the Walt Disney World Resorts, even if they’re not a guest of that resort or of any resort on property. But why should you? That’s what I intend to address in my five Disney World Resorts to See During Your Vacation!

© Sarah Graffam

Grand Floridian lobby

The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Let’s start with Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, shall we? The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa boasts a Victorian Florida theme and is Disney’s take on luxury and sophistication. But no need to worry about feeling out of place or having rambunctious kids in tow. While the Grand Floridian Resort is like stepping into an old fashioned postcard, this is a Disney World Resort after all!

How to Get There

If driving your own car or a rental car, the Grand Floridian Resort is located at 4401 Floridian Way in Orlando, Florida, just off Seven Seas Drive.

Free transportation to and from the resort consists of Disney Buses, Ferry Boats, and the most famous mode of Disney transportation of all, the Monorail! A 1 mile walking path between the resort and the Polynesian Village Resort is also provided, offering views of the Seven Seas Lagoon, the Wedding Pavilion, and the Magic Kingdom Park in the distance.

Why You Should Visit

The Lobby

A number of Walt Disney World Resorts boast awe-inspiring lobbies, and the Grand Floridian’s lobby is at the top of the list! In addition to a grand staircase, a cage elevator, and enchanting Disney-inspired tilework under your feet, the Grand Floridian’s 5-story lobby is topped with stained glass domes and massive chandeliers. Tip: For the holidays, a life-size gingerbread house and a towering Victorian Christmas tree occupy the lobby and are must-sees!

summerlace

The Grand Floridian’s women’s boutique

Live Music

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, a live pianist and the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra alternate playing popular turn-of-the-century tunes and Disney songs!

The Shopping

The Grand Floridian Resort offers more shops than any other Walt Disney World Resort, which is why it’s one of my favorite locations to hunt for resort exclusive merch, Disney Dooney and Bourke bags, and that perfect souvenir to take home.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Disney World Swan and Dolphin: A Foodie Paradise

by on November 11, 2016

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is a resort that evokes lots of curiosity. It is unlike any other resort on Disney property because it straddles the line between being a Disney resort and being a Starwood property. Its history is rich and intriguing, but this post is not about the ins and outs of this whimsical resort. Besides the architecture, décor, and infrastructure there is something else that really sets this resort apart from all of its neighbors: the food and beverage.

30644722065_0029ca95a0_k

Photo by Brandon Glover

The quality of their food and beverage operation is not just evident in their variety of restaurants and dining options, but also showcased once a year on a grand scale. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic is an incredible event that puts this resort at its best. I’ll share some of my experience at this magnificent event as well as an overview of the variety of dining options found at this resort.

30344966040_d7aacdd0f0_k

Photo by Brandon Glover

Variety of dining options

In the beginning the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin operated as two separate hotel companies. The Swan is a Westin and the Dolphin is a Sheraton. During the first years of operation these two brands were separate entities, not part of the same parent company like they are now under the Starwood Hotels banner.

Model of the vast resort - photo by Brandon Glover

Model of the vast resort – photo by Brandon Glover

This initial separation between the two hotels helped set the foundation that the Swan and the Dolphin could be complete destinations on their own and thus provide enough dining variety among themselves. Each wing has at least one quick service option, one casual sit down restaurant, and one signature restaurant. Plus there is in-room dining and a personal pantry delivery service, oh and don’t forget the authentic sushi restaurant with a lively late night karaoke scene.

The best dining options

The signature dining at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is bar none the standout experience of the resort. Each restaurant is distinctly different from the next. It’s hard to decide which of the signature restaurants is best for a romantic date night or an impressive night with colleagues.

Todd English's bluezoo's creative cocktails - photo by Brandon Glover

Todd English’s bluezoo’s creative cocktails – photo by Brandon Glover

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Holiday Characters at Walt Disney World

by on November 8, 2016

The holidays are a great time to see characters in fun holiday outfits at Walt Disney World, as well as see some special characters that only show up for the holidays. Some characters are only at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, while others you can find in the parks throughout the day. Let’s take a look at who you’ll find at this most magical time of the year. Most characters are out from November 11 to the first week of January, unless noted.

Minnie and Daisy at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Minnie and Daisy at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

First, let’s look at the characters you’ll find this year at the party. Since this is a hard ticket event, there is an extra cost, but you’ll find characters here that you won’t find anywhere else at Walt Disney World.

Characters that you can normally find at the park, such as Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, and the Winnie the Pooh gang, are dressed up in cute Christmas costumes. Then there are the characters that you can only meet at the party, such as the seven dwarfs together, Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws, Captain Jack Sparrow, and, new this year, Nick & Judy from Zootopia. Princess Elena meets at the party, and the princes meet with their princesses, too. You can also see characters that are hard to find together in one meet, such as all the Pooh characters or Mary Poppins with Bert.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Decorating Your Resort Room

by on November 2, 2016

Lights, window clings, and paper mickey decorations for Halloween

Lights, window clings, and paper mickey decorations for Halloween

Whether you’re planning a vacation to celebrate a holiday, birthday, anniversary, first trip, or some other special occasion, sometimes it is fun to prepare a little extra magic. There are plenty of ways to add that extra touch, but one of my own favorites is decorating the resort room. Coming back from the parks at night to a room decked out in lights and other little embellishments is such a wonderful feeling. Decorations can help you find your room at night and really make you feel at home.

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s set some ground rules. First and foremost, safety is the number one priority at any resort. Don’t do anything that puts you or anyone else at risk. And speaking of other people, be mindful of those around you. While that motion activated ghost yelling “Boo!” might be funny the first time or two, your neighbors probably won’t be feeling too neighborly after they hear it for the thirtieth time. Stay away from anything permanent or that leaves damage, and please don’t leave a big mess and expect housekeeping to deal with it. Follow the rules of the resort you’re visiting as well. For example, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has strict rules about hanging things outside your room since animal safety is a priority.

Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about some decoration ideas.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

TouringPlansTV: Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort – Part One + Video

by on November 1, 2016

BoardWalk_mainbuildingWelcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Today, I’m giving you an overview of my FAVORITE resort at Walt Disney World:

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn!

I’ll be delving into the resort’s theme, rooms, room views and transportation.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Sanaa Breakfast: A Solid Addition To Disney Dining

by on October 27, 2016

Hot grab-and-go options are available, in addition to standard cold fare.Recently, Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa added a new breakfast service to supplement their already great lunch and dinner offerings. In a resort without a quick service immediately available for breakfast (at least without taking the shuttle to Jambo House to hit up The Mara), it seems like a smart move. Families in search of something more substantial to eat than what’s available in Johari Treasures’ refrigerated section can now wander just downstairs from their room to sample Sanaa’s options (both hot and cold, grab-and-go or not). It’s rare we see a new addition to resort dining that sticks around for very long, so I wanted to give this meal a shot in case it’s short-lived (though, based on how good it was, I hope it’s here to stay!).

Standard hand fruits and muffins/bagels/toast available for purchaseAll in all, Sanaa breakfast is a pretty simple set-up: once you arrive downstairs to the restaurant (anytime between 7am-10am daily), you’ll be greeted by a Cast Member with a menu of offerings, and led to the front dining room just to the right of the restaurant’s entrance. Here, all of the hot and cold grab and go options are available to peruse and purchase, along with bottled juices, milk, water, and sodas, plus disposable cups for coffee. Once you decide on your items, or choose from the menu, you just let the cashier know, where they’ll ring you up and give you a number to place on your table (painted on a cute wooden animal carving).

A variety of bottled drinks and cereals supplement your meal. When I arrived towards the end of breakfast hours one day recently, the grab and go area wasn’t super well-stocked – a few of the items had run out, but Cast Members refilling items let me know that I could just ask if I wanted anything that was missing. Notable options include a beautiful fresh fruit platter, muffins, hot oatmeal, and slices of bobotie pie (African-style quiche). One other note – I was a little sad that you couldn’t get a fountain drink or cup of water here, like you’d find standard at a normal quick service. Be prepared that if you want water, you’ll have to pay for one of the small bottles that comes with the kid’s meals. Coffee was the only self-serve drink available. I realize this is a result of a restaurant not necessarily equipped for this kind of service, but it was still a little bit of a surprise to me, and different from what you’ll see elsewhere.

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print