Resorts

Disney’s All-Star Music Resort Food Court To See Lengthy Refurbishment

by on June 9, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

The Intermission Food Court at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort will see an extremely extensive refurbishment from August 1 until December 20, reopening on December 21.

During the refurbishment work, guests staying at the resort will have a few dining alternatives. First, the Note-able Games arcade, found in Melody Hall, will be converted into a grab-and-go area, featuring sandwiches, salads, desserts, and bakery items. A Rapid Fill refillable mug refill station will be available there, as well. Guests may also choose to visit the Singing Spirits pool bar, which will serve select menu offerings. In addition, in-room pizza delivery will also be available from 3:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.

For guests looking for a substantial meal, Disney will provide transportation to Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, where guests can visit the End Zone Food Court,as well as to Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, where the World Premiere Food Court is available for guests. Guests can also choose to walk to either resort. (Walking to All-Star Sports will typically be the closest option.)

The refurb work that will take place at Intermission Food Court will be similar to what happened last fall at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, which concluded in a completely updated seating area, as well as renovated meal stations, featuring many create-your-own meal options.

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Yacht and Beach Club’s Ship Shape Salon – A Pedicure Review

by on May 6, 2014

Ship Shape

Just about right there under the blue pointer.

A couple of weeks ago during a stay at Yacht and Beach Club, I looked down and was slightly aghast at the state of my toenail polish. A few days in a sand-bottomed pool can do some damage. I have been to the Senses Spa at Saratoga Springs, and, while the treatment I got there was amazing, upwards of $80 for a pedicure is a little much. I considered Mandara Spa at the Swan & Dolphin, but, again, at prices starting at $65, it was more than I wanted to commit to just being presentable. Just after a great burger at Beaches & Cream, I walked past the Ship Shape Fitness Center and realized there was an extra door there.

As it turns out, Yacht and Beach Club has a lovely little spa and salon right next to the fitness center that offers a wide range of services at much more reasonable prices. My pedicure was listed at $55, which was inclusive of gratuity, but after my Annual Passholder discount, it was just under $50. While that’s more than I normally pay for a pedicure, I was able to get a same-day appointment for less than any other location on property.

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort: April 26, 2014 (Margaritaville, New Merchandise, Royal Pacific Resort)

by on April 30, 2014

Last week intrepid Potter reporter Seth Kubersky scoured both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure for the latest updates to his running series of PotterWatch articles. There were several big changes in the WWOHP world, including the arrival of the Knight Bus and the Wiseacre’s Wizarding Supplies storefront in Hogsmeade Village being converted into Madame Puddifoot’s Tea Shop. Crack photographer Brandon Glover and myself hit the parks later in the week to see what else was going on at Universal. Here’s what we found…

RPR

When your walk to the park looks like this, who wants to take a shuttle or boat?

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In the Parks with Morgan – Respite at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch

by on April 21, 2014

DSC_0107While I will always be a huge fan of the parks, there are times that even I need a break from the crowds and the noise (the 5th of July and January 2 come to mind). There are several places on property that I’ve found that get me back to zen, and I thought I’d share one of my favorites. Just past Pioneer Hall (that place where they do the Hoop De Doo Musical Revue) at Fort Wilderness (not the Wilderness Lodge) there’s a series of barns and paddocks that make up the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. The ranch is home to the horses of Walt Disney World including the Main Street Trolley horses, all the horses that pull the various carriages and wagons around property, and even the Cinderella Carriage ponies. And, in a happy turn of events, you can visit these gorgeous animals free of charge daily from 8 a.m. to around dusk. The ranch officially closes at 3:30 p.m., but there are often ranch hands in the open barns until well after that caring for the animals.

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2014 Grand Floridian Easter Eggs

by on April 18, 2014

One of the things I love most about writing for Touring Plans is that it encourages me to go out and see things I would have skipped in the past. If you can believe it this is the third annual Easter Egg display at the Grand Floridian, but the first year I’ve stopped by for a visit. I have each and every one of you to thank, because the display is incredible! I couldn’t think of a better way to wish everyone a happy Easter and to share some photos! First the lovely Briar Rose:

IMG_2039

And on the reverse side of the princess is her Prince Phillip. Can you believe each of these eggs is between 16 – 20 inches tall and weighs over 9 pounds even though they are hollow? Also, in frame you can see a non-Disney themed egg. There are eighteen eggs on display this year so I couldn’t feature all of them. Though I focused on the Disney eggs there are others that are more traditional or themed after famous works of art. They are all exquisite!

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Universal’s Cabana Bay Transportation Guide

by on April 16, 2014

Cabana Bay transportation guide

When you get tired of relaxing by Cabana Bay’s pool, use this transportation guide to get to Universal’s theme parks (photos by Seth Kubersky).

Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the newest Loews-operated on-site hotel at Universal Orlando, only opened at the end of March, but if you’ve been following our coverage – from my mega-sized photo gallery from opening day to Derek Burgan’s Saturday Six devoted to the property – you may feel like you’ve already stayed there. One aspect of Universal’s first moderately priced hotel that many readers have asked for more information about is the transportation options available to guests of Cabana Bay. As you may have heard, Cabana Bay does NOT offer water taxi service like Universal’s original 3 luxury properties. So I spent a recent sunny afternoon testing various methods of getting from the hotel to the parks (and vice versa), in order to bring you this comprehensive Cabana Bay transportation guide.

Parking at Cabana Bay

Cabana Bay doesn’t offer valet parking, but that deficit is offset by a $10 daily self-parking rate for hotel guests, which is significantly cheaper than parking at the other Universal hotels. Parking lots ring the hotel, so you can park right alongside your room. Unfortunately, high parking rates for non-guests ($8 for 5 to 30 minutes, $20 for 30 minutes to 24 hours) make it expensive for locals to drop in and knock down some pins at the Galaxy bowling alley.

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Fireworks & Fun at Fort Wilderness Campground

by on April 11, 2014

IMG_1752I recently got an SOS call from a friend visiting Walt Disney World from out of state. He’d had it with the crazy spring break crowds but he’d promised his kids a fun night and a view of the fireworks. Without hesitation I knew it was time to let him in on one of the best kept secrets on all of Disney property. I told him to walk out of the Magic Kingdom and hop the boat to Fort Wilderness Campground. No, I wasn’t suggesting that he go camping! But I did think his kids would enjoy all the fun (and affordable) recreation options. Not to mention the empty front row viewing for the fireworks! So now I’ll let you in on the same tips I gave him just in case you find yourself in a pinch.

The most important topic to cover at the Campground is transportation. It can be a little daunting at first glance, but it’s actually really simple! The campground has its own internal bus system to take you to various sites. So if you bus in from anywhere on property you’ll end up at their internal bus stop and have to catch another bus to get to the activities. At this bus stop there’s a map with color coded routes. I’ve included the color information below, but it’s always good to double check it as things change. If you take a boat from the Magic Kingdom, it will drop you off at The Settlement, which happens to be where you can find most of the fun.

The Settlement (Route Yellow and Purple at the time of writing) will likely be your main destination when visiting the campgrounds. You can find all the activities listed below there and even more listed here. It’s important to bring cash or your Disney World Resort room key for charging as credit and debit cards are widely not accepted here. Also, more than any other place at Disney schedules seem to change at the Wilderness Campground frequently. If there is any experience you have your heart set on, it’s best to call in advance to verify times and availability. That’s enough business – let’s get to the fun!

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

by on April 5, 2014

SS_dayThis week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Surprises of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. When Universal broke ground in January of 2013 for its first ever value resort, not too much was known about what guests would get. There were pieces of concept art, but in the theme park world those have to be taken with a grain of salt as they can often be more of an artistic interpretation than reality. For example, I’m relatively confident the Disney Springs we end up getting won’t exactly look like the one we were promised. However, at a fan meet for the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast last year I was in the audience for a presentation by Russ Dagon, the project director for Cabana Bay. Russ talked about the new things Cabana Bay would be bringing to the Universal family of hotels (including a lower price point and the first ever family suites) but stressed that the concept art we were looking at was pretty much photo realistic. Turns out he was right. Everything in the concept art was there when I walked into Cabana Bay on its grand opening (Monday, March 31, 2014): the outrageously large lobby area, the gigantic representation of an old style diving platform (which houses a water slide in the pool area), and even the ’50s and ’60s era cars outside the front of the resort for photo ops. After walking around Cabana Bay, it became apparent there were a lot of things this resort brought with it that we weren’t told about ahead of time. Today we present six of these surprises…

# 6 – Sonic Fill

SS_SonicFill

Walt Disney World took a lot of criticism last year when it replaced its old refillable mug program with Rapid Fill. Using an RFID chip inside the mug (or paper cup), Rapid Fill only dispenses soda on days that guests have paid for. Universal hotels have never had a refillable mug program, so it was definitely a surprise to see the debut of Sonic Fill at Cabana Bay. Sonic Fill works exactly like Rapid Fill: you pay for the amount of time you want (from $8.99 for one day up to $17.99 for length of stay), and you can use the mug to fill up at any drink station in Bayliner Diner. The great surprise is that not only does Cabana Bay have the regular Coke soda stations we are used to seeing at Disney resorts, but it has 8 Coke Freestyle machines in the Bayliner Diner and 2 more upstairs at Galaxy Bowl. These Coke Freestyle machines can be used with Sonic Fill and promise over 100 drink choices.

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Photo Gallery: First look at Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

by on April 1, 2014

Welcome to 1962! The first phase of Cabana Bay Beach Resort opened on March 31, and we are bringing you a photographic peek at Universal Orlando Resort’s first moderately priced hotel. As you can see, the new resort is inspired by the mid-century modern motor lodges from Wildwood, New Jersey, to Miami Beach, which once defined the American family vacation. We’ll be back in the near future with a fully detailed review of the resort, but for now enjoy this pictorial guide to the newly launched property.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort Exterior

 

Universal Cabana Bay Beach Resort photos

Photos by Seth Kubersky

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Photo Update: Universal Orlando’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge Construction

by on March 14, 2014

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge is under construction (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Bridge is under construction (photos by Seth Kubersky)

Last month, I brought you pre-construction photos of the pedestrian path that guests of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort will use to walk from Universal Orlando‘s newest hotel to CityWalk and the theme parks. Since then, I’ve received exciting new details on designs for the Cabana Bay Beach Resort Garden Walk, which will eventually supercede the existing sidewalks in the area.

The walking path on the north (westbound) side of Hollywood Way will have to serve temporarily for guests unwilling to take the provided shuttles buses during the hotel’s initial opening phase. The walk, which I documented in a video, is entirely navigable at this time with the exception of a crosswalk and traffic signal at the final intersection, which could be easily added before Cabana Bay’s first guests arrive at the end of March.

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