Resorts

A Review of Disney World’s Top of the World Lounge

by on May 4, 2015

Disney World’s Top of the World Lounge is an upscale bar combining spectacular views of the sunset followed by spectacular views of Magic Kingdom’s Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks show. Perched high atop Bay Lake Tower, the Disney Vacation Club resort that is the counterpart to Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Top of the World Lounge is close to Magic Kingdom yet a world away from the busy atmosphere of the park.

Bar with monorail mural at Disney World’s Top of the World Lounge (Photos © Sarah Graffam)

My husband and I recently had a chance to visit Top of the World and invite you to come along for a peek at this exclusive Walt Disney World spot. Why exclusive? Because access to Top of the World Lounge is open only to Disney Vacation Club members (and their guests) staying at a Disney resort.

Whether or not a visit to Top of the World Lounge is likely in your future, why not have some fun getting an inside look at one of the best lounges in Disney World.

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Trip Report: Coronado Springs Resort

by on May 1, 2015

Freshly back from my favorite place to vacation, I can’t stop thinking about the clean white sand, the lazy hammocks, the gorgeous Spanish architecture, and the relaxing atmosphere I experienced. This is one of our favorite resorts to visit; and no, it isn’t next to the ocean. It is a Disney resort: Coronado Springs to be exact.

Coronado Springs hidden mickey lobby - Amy FarkasI have several friends that vacation at the beach. When I ask them why, they describe the sand, the waves, and the relaxation. And to them I say: Coronado. Coronado Springs has all of these things plus a gorgeous pool, a 24 hour fitness center, a spa, some wonderful dining venues, and (a plus for me) is on Disney property. After the hustle and crowds of visiting Magic Kingdom, just hop the bus and head back to your serenity zone at the resort.

Our recent stay here was over the Easter holiday. We flew in late Saturday night, arriving at the resort about 10pm, and even at that hour we found the staff to be warm and friendly. One gentleman even pointed out the “hidden Mickey” in the lobby lighting, as he passed by my photographer husband. Check in itself was a breeze and we were soon on our way to our room.

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Extra Hotel Fees and Costs You Need to Budget For

by on April 29, 2015

Going on vacation is such a treat. It’s a fantastic privilege that can pay off in so many ways. But if you don’t factor in all the extra costs and budget appropriately your vacation can go from being refreshing and rejuvenating to frustrating and stressful. I’m a hotelier at heart and I am continually surprised, and saddened, whenever I come across guests who did not anticipate different hotel fees and other extra costs that can pop up when staying at a hotel. So to help you plan and budget, let’s talk about the most common costs.

grand-floridian-resort-and-spa-00-full

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – it may not have a lot of hotel fees, but it carries some of the highest room rates in Orlando. Photo source: Disneyworld.com

 

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Send Your Hotel Room Request to Disney – Automatically!

by on April 27, 2015

Today we’re announcing the launch of our Automatic Room Request feature for Walt Disney World. Starting now, your specific room request can be automatically sent to your Disney resort, a few days before you arrive. This increases your chances of getting exactly the room you want.

Our Automatic Room Request feature works with our Hotel Room Views – our collection of more than 30,000 photos showing the view from every Disney hotel room. (Here’s an example from room 4063 at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.) Once you find the room you want, click the link in the upper right corner to choose it for your trip:

HotelFax-SelectRoom

Finally, add in any special celebrations, such as birthdays or anniversaries, along with your name and reservation number for the fax:

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The Best Dessert and Breakfast at Universal Orlando

by on April 20, 2015

We’ve already taken a look at the best full-service and counter-service restaurants at Universal Orlando Resort. Now it’s time to take a step back from the bigger picture and dive into the scrumptious details, considering some of the best individual meals instead of a holistic dining establishment.

And it just so happens that these best of the best dishes at the ever-expanding resort are probably ones that you’d normally – and tragically – pass by, making this spotlight all the more necessary.

Let’s tuck in.

Dessert: Cinnamon Berries

NBA City

Image © Universal

If you would normally eschew NBA City during your rounds at Universal CityWalk, we could hardly blame you. The first location of a proposed chain that never really managed to take off, the restaurant features bland décor and, should current scuttlebutt prove true, an incredibly short lease on life (Universal is currently in the midst of booting all older or under-performing venues from CityWalk and replacing them with more original – and more intriguing – fare).

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Camping 101: Getting around Fort Wilderness

by on April 12, 2015

The third installment in an ongoing series about the ins and outs of camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness, this entry will focus on the different methods of getting around the campground which can be overwhelming due to its size. Please be sure to catch up with Part 1 about RV rentals and Part 2 which was about getting groceries to your campsite.

Now that you have the basics of food and shelter planned out, how about a convenience factor such as how you will get around the campgrounds. Of course you can always opt to just schlep it on foot, but this may be an unwise move. The trading posts, restaurants, and recreational activities are spread throughout the complex. And, although it is camping, hiking everywhere you need to go may just not be feasible.

The most important thing you must know about transportation at Fort Wilderness is that the is no car parking except at your own campsite or cabin, at the front of the resort (the Outpost) for check-in and day guests, and 15 minute parking at the Meadows Trading Post for picking up supplies from the retail outlet there. There is no parking at the Settlement (where you find Hoop Dee Doo and Trail’s End) except for bikes and golf carts.

Options

1) Disney Transportation

Disney's map of Fort Wilderness including bus routes.

Disney’s map of Fort Wilderness including bus routes.

Disney busing is a wonderful amenity to all of the Disney resorts, and the Fort Wilderness campgrounds is no exception. Not only do they have busing that takes you to the parks and Downtown Disney, but they also have internal loops that will take you to the different areas of the campground. Lines are labeled as Orange, Yellow, or Purple. All three begin and end at the Settlement Depot and the Outpost Depot, but take different paths through the campground. It is always best to check the color coded map in the bus depot to see which bus line you need, as things do change, but I will give you a brief primer. Click the map to the right to view full size.

The purple line runs through the 2000-2800 campsite areas and passes a those sites’ sports areas with volleyball, basketball, and quiet pools. The orange line runs through the 600-700 and the 1000-1300 campsite areas. The yellow line runs through the 100-500 and 1400-1900 campsite areas. Both the orange and yellow lines will take you to the Meadows which includes: Chip and Dale’s Campfire Sing A Long, the Bike Barn where you can rent golf carts, bikes, canoes and kayaks, the Meadow recreation area which contains the Meadow swimming pool, snack bar, Daniel Boone’s Wilderness arcade, shuffleboards, and horseshoes,  and the Meadow Trading Post.

There is also bus transportation to the Wilderness Lodge at the Settlement, and boat transportation to Wilderness Lodge, the Contemporary, and Magic Kingdom from the Settlement dock.

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10 Places to Stay the Night before Your Disney Cruise out of Port Canaveral

by on April 10, 2015

So where should you stay the night before your Disney cruise out of Port Canaveral?  My number one answer is – not in your own bed!  Well, unless your bed is within a few hours driving distance of the port that is.  In Port Canaveral, everyone must be onboard the ship by 4 pm, so while for many people there is certainly time to travel in on the day of the cruise, recognize that you are taking a risk!  That ship is sailing with or without you, so any travel delays won’t just make you late for your vacation, they could make you miss your vacation!  On an Alaskan cruise, a one hour flight delay due to wind was enough to make us miss our connection and we couldn’t make it into Vancouver until the next day.  But thankfully the ship wasn’t leaving until the next day!  So we made it.  Another hundred dollars or so for a hotel room within driving distance of the pier is the best insurance you can buy in my opinion.  So here are a few options for you!

Walt Disney World

1. Walt Disney World Resort – The most obviously fun place to stay would be any resort at Walt Disney World! Walt Disney World is a little over an hour away from Port Canaveral and has a lot of options and price points. Who wouldn’t want to visit Disney World for a night (or six) before you sail away? If you would like to take Disney transfers to the port, they cost $70 per person roundtrip and will pick you up from any Disney resort. Be aware, if you are in a hurry to get to the port for the earliest possible boarding, transfers from Disney World won’t usually get you there until noon at the earliest. Your hotel will give you a pick up time the night before. If you are desperate to be there earlier and want to stick with Disney transfers, you can also take Disney Magical Express back to the airport and catch a transfer from there. It’s a little more time consuming, of course, but you could be on one of the earliest transfers if that’s your goal! The transfers from the airport usually start leaving a little after nine and those first busses are the first people in the terminal.

2. Shades of Green – If you are eligible, Shades of Green is a great place to stay on property. Located within walking distance of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Shades of Green is owned and operated by the U.S. Armed Forces. It’s open to all active duty U.S. military personnel, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, retired military, employees of the U.S. Public Health Service and the Department of Defense, foreign military personnel attached to U.S. units, and some civilian contractors. The rooms are some of the largest on property, and rates are determined by rank. Disney Cruise Line transfers will not pick up at Shades of Green, but if you wish to take Disney transfers, you can walk over to the Polynesian and catch them there. Shades is a beautiful, peaceful resort and I’d recommend it to anyone eligible to stay there.

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Camping 101: A Fort Wilderness camper’s gotta eat!

by on April 5, 2015

Part Two of a series. Be sure to catch Part One, RV rentals, in order to get the skinny on renting an RV for your stay at Fort Wilderness, and the soon to post Part Three which focuses on transportation methods within the campgrounds.

So, you’ve chosen an RV rental company, made all your arrangements and are just counting down the days. Anything else you need to keep in mind? Food of course. If you plan on utilizing the full potential of the RV and cooking meals or just having beverages in the fridge, you will need groceries.

©istockphoto.com

©istockphoto.com

While Moore’s will stock the camper with groceries based on your grocery list for a small fee, you will need to find some way of getting your supplies to your camper if not booking through them.

  1. Carry on / checked luggage

If you like to be in control and possession of your groceries at all times, this may be an option for you. Depending on the length of your stay and the amount of cooking you intend on doing at the RV, you may be able to pack a few essentials in a carry on and call it a day. However, if you are thinking of a more authentic camping experience, you may consider an extra checked suitcase. Of course, this will only work for non-perishables such as boxed and canned goods, such as a bag of marshmallows, boxes of cereal, or small cans of coffee. Gallons of milk, packages of hot dogs, and other items that need to be kept cold will be better purchased once in Orlando. And, airline luggage fees would need to be considered. As an example, if you fly Southwest you are charged nothing for up to two carry ons and two checked bags. The third checked bag, however, will cost $75. The benefit, however, is there is a pretty good chance your groceries will arrive with the rest of your luggage.

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Camping 101: Fort Wilderness RV rentals

by on March 29, 2015

Author’s note:  This is Part One of a Series on the ins and outs Disney’s Fort Wilderness.  Part One focuses on Fort Wilderness RV rentals.  Part Two will focus on how to get groceries and supplies to the RV when you will be flying into Orlando, and Part Three will explain transportation within the vast campgrounds.

Some of the best vacation memories I have from my childhood involve some element of nature and camping. Whether it was a weekend at a family member’s cabin in the woods or staying with my grandparents in an RV at the lake, I cherish each memory. Into adulthood I have wanted to experience the closeness of nature again. I’ve fantasized about cashing it all in, buying an RV, and traveling the country, working odd jobs (or blogging more steadily) as I go. Nothing but me, my husband, the fur kids, and nature in my day. Sounds peaceful, but delusional, I know.

Instead of camping, most of my adult vacations have been spent in Disney World. These vacation memories are just as cherished as those nature themed ones of my youth. I have often thought that combining the two would make for one amazing trip, but quickly dismissed the thought because we do live out of state and don’t own that coveted RV yet.

Courtesy John Scanlan

Courtesy John Scanlan

Yes, we could stay at one of the Cabins at Fort Wilderness, but the thought of shlepping all the camping essentials in my luggage, just doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather just show up, clothes and toiletries in tow, and plop myself into the experience.

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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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