Resorts

Dani’s Best Week Ever December 29, 2016: Disney Vacation Club Members without park tickets

by on December 29, 2016

The new year is practically here and many of us have already encountered expenses going up in 2017 – the way of the world, especially Walt Disney World. This past year we saw all major theme parks toy with their ticket and pricing structure. This has led to some families changing the way they do things, including some Disney Vacation Club Members opting to not purchase theme park tickets even when they are staying on Walt Disney World property using their vacation points.


Such is the case with my parents. They craved a visit to the Merriest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, and booked a short stay to gather family together in a three bedroom grand villa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge before Christmas craziness took over. However, because of tiered pricing and annual pass blackouts they decided not to purchase any theme park tickets and just enjoy WDW without the parks. We dined at some of the underrated, but oh-so-good restaurants on Disney property. We enjoyed some of the best Disney Vacation Club resorts. And it turned into one of our best stays ever!

Enjoying being a Disney Vacation Club member at Kidani Village

My parents and aunt and uncle are all retired so while I worked they checked into Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and had the pleasure of walking into the three bedroom grand villa when it was ready in the early afternoon. My workday couldn’t wrap up fast enough. The moment I arrived a sense of peace and contentment washed over me: “welcome home.”

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TouringPlansTV – Part 2 Review: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels + Video

by on December 20, 2016

Time for my Part 2 Review!

To check out the dining options, recreation and amenities at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, click below.

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TouringPlansTV: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels + Video

by on December 13, 2016

The Dolphin at Walt Disney World

Welcome back to TouringPlansTV!

Ever heard of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels? Well, you’re about to!

To find out more about the theme, rooms, transportation and pools, click below.

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TouringPlansTV: BoardWalk Inn – Dining and Amenities + Video

by on December 6, 2016

I’m finally here with part 2 of my BoardWalk Inn review!

Here, I delve into the dining options, pools, recreation and amenities.

You’ve all been so patient, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

Check it out below!

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Highway In The Sky Dine-Around: A Memorable Monorail Meal

by on December 6, 2016

Private fireworks viewing overlooking Magic Kingdom ends the Highway In The Sky dinner.

Private fireworks viewing overlooking Magic Kingdom ends the Highway In The Sky dinner.

Last week, Disney announced a new upscale special dining event modeled after the popular “monorail crawl” many Disney fans love, called the Highway In The Sky Dine-Around progressive dinner. Offered Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (with a short break for the holiday season), this event highlights dining offerings at Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian Resorts in a four hour experience priced at $150 plus tax per person (gratuity included, no discounts of any kind offered).

I was lucky enough to book a spot for the first night of this event last Friday on a whim. As it turns out, there really was a bit of luck involved here, as the event is already nearly sold out through the initial booking period currently running through March 2017 (sporadic parties of 1 and 2 are available on select dates as of the date of this article)! Here, I’ll walk you through the logistics and food/beverage I enjoyed during the event, which I’m sure will change over time as this event settles into permanent status, but it will give you a good idea of how it all works and whether it would fit your dining preferences.

Booking and Arrival

First, a few notes about booking: Many guests attending Friday’s dinner noted that some Cast Members assisting in booking by phone had no clue what the event was (which can sometimes happen with new events). I was able to book online directly through the Disney site without hassle (by searching for the Highway in the Sky event page). On Thursday, I received a call from a Cast Member confirming my attendance and checking if I had any food allergies or accessibility concerns, as the event includes a set menu and several sets of stairs and standing throughout. I was also reminded that valet parking was included at the Contemporary Resort. All of these items were touches I’d expect of any upscale dining experience, so I was happy to see they hadn’t been lost in the shuffle of it being a new event.

I was told to check in to the podium at The Wave… restaurant around 6:30 PM (event start times will vary based on the time of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks on any given night). Several Cast Members were around to welcome me, and once all the business was settled, I was led into the lounge area in The Wave’s lobby, where one of the blue alien-spaceshippy trippy rooms had been reserved for our group. If you’re acquainted with these lounge areas, you’ll know they aren’t particularly huge, so I was curious to see how big our dining party would actually be. As everyone filtered in, the group grew to about 25 guests – a reasonable size that seemed intimate but not so small that you couldn’t socialize with lots of different people.

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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.

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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.

 

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.)

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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)

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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.

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!

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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.

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