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Julia’s Best Week Ever, May 19, 2016: Sea World and Artegon

by on May 19, 2016

I can’t say that I spend the most time at Disney of any theme park aficionado. I try to make it to the parks once a week solo for research or live tweeting, and then most weekends we spend some family time at Disney. There are some weekends when Disney just doesn’t feel like the right weekend excursion. So after begging and pleading not to be sent all over Disney in search for Disney Dollars or to rope drop Disney Springs for the chance of blowing my diet with one bite of cupcakes, pastries, or poutine, the weekend plans had me looking outside the Disney bubble. That is truly one joy of living here–it would be almost impossible to run out of things to do for a weekend.

2015-09-06 09.48.14

Sometimes, it’s time to step outside the bubble.

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A Review of Senses Juice Bar on the Disney Dream

by on May 11, 2016

2016-04-30 08.29.14Let me start off by saying I’m about as far removed from an expert on juice blends and green smoothies as one can get. My preferred drinks of choice are water and tea. On my most recent cruise, my goal was to try new things. When I saw that there is now a juice bar on the Dream, I figured that it wouldn’t kill me to try it, right?

The Senses Juice Bar on the Disney Dream is located in the Senses spa area on Deck 11 Forward. It is open from 6 AM to 10 PM most days (but not open on debarkation day as it opens at noon for the next group of cruisers on their embarkation day).

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Universal Orlando Photo Update May 9th, 2016

by on May 10, 2016

Welcome back to the long overdue return of our Universal Orlando photo updates.  Since so much has happened at the resort since our last update, this week’s update will primarily focus on the upcoming 2016 Sapphire Falls Resort, Skull Island Reign of Kong, and re-opening of The Incredible Hulk roller coaster.  We’ll also take a quick look at 2017’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park, as well as the Tonight Show and Fast & Furious attractions.  Let’s get going!

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Vertical construction has really taken off at the Volcano Bay site, now that we’re just one year away from the new theme park’s opening date.

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Walt Disney World FastPass+ Strategy Update

by on May 4, 2016

Kiosks? We don't need no stinkin' kiosks!

Kiosks? We don’t need no stinkin’ kiosks!

Remember a couple of months ago when we released a three part series on Disney’s FastPass+ service at Walt Disney Worldhow to use it, the best strategy for getting the most out of it, and then hacks and tips to make it even better? Well, Disney had to go and enhance the service, rendering some of our advice outdated. Well, consider it outdated no more. Read on to find out how these changes impact the process of making your picks, and the strategy to using the FastPass+ system!

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Let’s Do it Again!!! – Dapper Day at Magic Kingdom

by on May 2, 2016

This piece is a follow up to an introductory article about Spring Dapper Day at the Magic Kingdom.  To read it first please visit the following link:  Spring Dapper Day at Walt Disney World.

 

I am happy to report that we have returned from our short trip “home”, are now well rested, and I am ready to tell you all about the dashing good time we had at Dapper Day.  It was so fun to see everyone else in their dapper attire.  Men, women, children:  people of all ages partook in the fun.  I was very surprised at how many people were dressed up.  It seemed like almost everyone!  I felt sorry for those poor souls who were merely wearing their normal vacation clothes.  We did have a few stop us and ask why everyone was so well dressed;  and some of them said they wished they had know so they could have done it as well.

In my last article I had left you all hanging as to what we were going to wear.  It really was a hard decision.  We debated styles from the 1920’s, the 1950’s, and even theming our outfits based on Disney characters.  My husband’s attire was easier to plan and it sort of just fell into place.  For our anniversary earlier last year I had bought him a Mickey Mouse bowtie (with no clue as to when he would ever wear it), and around Christmas time he began growing out his normally very short cut facial hair.  I had fallen in love with the handlebar moustache look and had convinced him that he needed to have one for Dapper Day.  He lovingly obliged.   Also around Christmas last year, while shopping in Target, I had made him try on a hat which I was convinced he would be super cute in.  He was.  I bought it.

He had first thought he wanted to look like a dapper Walt Disney with knickers and a dress shirt that we had scene in a photograph.  That changed when we had a very hard time locating a vintage styled pair of knickers that were in our “wear it once” budget.   Instead he found a very nice pair of dress pants at a local thrift store that went with the shirt he wanted to wear.  The last part of the outfit was leather suspenders.  That was the third piece to his outfit that I insisted on.  I am really lucky that his taste in clothing is pretty much in sync with mine.

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Purchasing DVC resale vs. direct: the new math

by on April 29, 2016

For anyone considering a purchase of a Disney Vacation Club contract, a major curveball was thrown when DVC changed the way that contracts bought on the resale market would be treated when it comes to membership perks.

As the email that went out to members read: “Now, effective April 4, 2016, Members who do not
purchase their ownership interest directly from Disney Vacation Club will not have access to other
Membership Extras, such as exclusive Member experiences and discounts. Please know that as a
current Disney Vacation Club Member (regardless of when or where you bought your membership),
your access to Disney Differences and these additional Membership Extras will not be affected by this
policy change.”

©Disney

©Disney

What that means is that anyone purchasing a DVC contract on the resale market will not have access to membership extras such as member parties and access to the Top of The World Lounge or the soon-to-be-open members lounge in Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion. It also means new resale members won’t get the dining, merchandise and, most significantly, annual pass discounts current members enjoy.

So when you’re making the decision whether to purchase resale or direct, you’re going to have to factor in these changes. If you don’t plan on purchasing annual passes, the savings in the resale market are significant enough to continue to tilt in the favor of that option.

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Disney Haiku — Follow-Up

by on April 22, 2016

"Disney Haiku"

“Disney Haiku”

Hi everyone!  You may recall that a few weeks ago, we invited you to come up with Disney haiku.  A few of you posted some great little poems in the comments (thank you!), but there were many, many more posted to Twitter that you might have missed.  With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few of the better ones that I saw that day.  Read on after the jump!

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, April 21, 2016: The Dark Side

by on April 21, 2016

Weeks with runDisney events always seem to get away from my family. Between the Expo, three different events, and recovery from those early morning days, runDisney events take a huge chunk out of our life. Truth told, I don’t really like running that much, but Disney races make it more bearable–for various degrees of bearable. I’ve done a race when it is cold enough that I’ve had to carry a supply of hand warmers. I’ve done a race when it is warm enough that we’ve been handed cooling towels at the finish line. I’ve done a race when it’s been so windy that I wasn’t sure if I’d end up at the finish line or at Oz. I’ve even had the “fun” of “running” in the rain. (It was more like ice skating on the slippery Boardwalk.) With the ever-increasing cost of a runDisney weekend of races, and my general apathy about the running experience at this point, I had decided going into this weekend that this would be my last runDisney event for the foreseeable future. (Unless they bring back the Everest Challenge–I’m totally down for doing that again.)

2016-04-15 05.01.31 HDR

This weekend was the Star Wars Dark Side set of races. For this weekend, I had cut back from my 10K usual to a 5K so that my husband could experience an inaugural 10K. For the kiddo, it was the ever-exciting 200-meter dash.

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Dining Review: Il Mulino New York Trattoria

by on April 15, 2016

If you’ve ever had a craving for Italian food at Walt Disney World, you know there certainly isn’t a lack of choices, particularly in the Crescent Lake Resorts/Epcot corner of the World. Recently, I took a trip to the Swan resort’s Il Mulino signature Italian eatery to see what it had to offer and how it compares to its neighbors.

I’d never been to Il Mulino before (but had always heard rave reviews), so I brought along a friend who had – as it turns out, this was an excellent decision, otherwise I never would’ve found the restaurant! The Swan hotel has two “lobbies” of sorts, so you have to walk through the main hotel lobby to the other central lobby to get to the restaurant. Once you’ve found it, you have to walk through the bar to get to the hostess stand (though I have occasionally seen a hostess outside the restaurant helping direct guests inside). After a few minutes of confusion about where to seat us in the bustling restaurant, we headed to a table in the main dining room. My first impression was that of an upscale modern eatery in a big city – a loud dining room with bare bones décor, filled to the brim with large parties of conventioneers and only a smattering of families. Our server was very quick to greet us (and introduce his serving partner), but then took a bit of time to come back to take our order. We were pretty overwhelmed by all the options on the menu; it’s probably twice as large as most signature dining options, with appetizers, salads, soups, pizzas, pastas, seafood, and meat entrees along with the family style dining section (available for parties with four or more people). Our server didn’t offer up any recommendations at first, but I had no idea what to order – so many options, many of which sounded fantastic. After a little prodding, he recommended a few of the pasta dishes and the steak entrees. We went against the grain and ordered a few items from several sections to try to get a representative sampling of the large menu.

Our drinks arrived in due time – I tried the “Piano Piano” ($13), basically an aviation cocktail you’d find at many other restaurants. After sampling this lightly-poured drink, I’d hazard a guess that most of the cocktails here follow suit – meant for conventioneers and tourists who rarely drink, so think light on the liquor, heavy on the sweet fillers. Sangria was recommended by one of our servers, as was the extensive wine list, but at convention prices (think: slightly higher than most Disney signature restaurant wine list), I was reluctant to order selections I’ve seen all around property for a few dollars cheaper per glass. I eventually caved and tried the red sangria, but it was, rather predictably, cloyingly sweet and lacking in any nuance. Along with our drinks, we received the restaurant’s bread service – several slices of crusty Italian bread, a few pieces of tomato herb focaccia, and a plate on the side with a few slices of salami and a healthy portion of eggplant caponata (a pretty standard mix of eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, with a few olive slices here and there). The salami was odd – very little flavor, no spice, no savory twang; but the caponata was excellent – not overly salty, and it brought out the sweetness of the tomato flavor in the focaccia.

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10 Things You May Want to Know About Disney Cruise Staterooms

by on April 4, 2016

Are you wondering what your stateroom will be like on your Disney cruise?  What does it have, what does it not have?  I am here to help!  Here’s 10 things you may want to know.


Disney Magic 2951. Stateroom Size
– They’re small! No two ways about it, if you are comparing a cruise stateroom to the average hotel room, it’s small. Now if you’re comparing them to a standard room on another cruise line, well then they could be huge! The smallest stateroom on a Disney ship will still sleep 3 people with a queen bed and convertible sofa. On many other cruise lines the standard cabin only sleeps 2. Standard rooms on Disney ships are usually around 25% bigger than standard rooms on other lines.  But we are still talking small here. There are some smaller inside rooms that are 169 square feet, with most rooms running between 204 and 241 square feet. Laurel and Len created an excellent visual of how big (or small) Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms are when they taped off the size of Disney rooms in their driveway! Value resort rooms are 260 square feet, so they are bigger than a stateroom onboard. So, remember, your Disney cruise stateroom will be small, but you can feel happy knowing you likely have more room than passengers on other cruise lines. And you should by happy because you are on a Disney ship. And who doesn’t feel happy there!?!?

Disney Magic 3002. Beds – The beds are kind of important, right? Well good news, they’re comfortable! Maybe it’s the gentle sway of the ocean, maybe it’s the $1500 sheets, or the perfect pillows, but I sleep like a baby on a cruise. (Is that really a good analogy? Perhaps not. A baby that sleeps all night. Not a baby that screams every few hours allowing no one else to sleep.) The main bed in all staterooms is a queen bed (they say queen, they feel a little bigger to me) with lots of space underneath for suitcases. Now that the rooms on all four ships have been updated, none of the beds separate into two twins as you find on many other lines. Good news for those that like to sleep in the middle of the bed, bad news for some single travelers. In standard staterooms categories 5-11 on the Wonder and Magic, and 5-7 and 9-11 on the Dream and Fantasy, there is also a couch that converts into a single bed and a single that pulls down from the ceiling in most rooms. Not all rooms have that pull down, so if you are a family of three with a little one that really wants to sleep in the super cool bed that pulls down from the ceiling, make sure you are booked in a stateroom that has one. In categories 8 on the Dream and Fantasy, and 4 on all the ships, there is also a pull down murphy type bed. The couch and pull downs are definitely not as comfortable as the main bed, but I’ve slept in one and they aren’t bad! Concierge staterooms R, S and T have various other configurations sleeping between five and seven people.

3. Bathrooms – Maybe even more important than beds! And I have more good news. The bathrooms are great! They’re small (small rooms remember), but they’re great. On all ships, with the exception of accessible staterooms and category 8A’s on the Dream and Fantasy, everything in categories 4- 10 have split bathrooms. Split bathrooms are genius! A split bathroom means there essentially two bathrooms which is so helpful with multiple people getting ready. One has a sink and toilet, and the other has a sink and tub/shower. You heard me bath loving people, Disney has a tub in their bathrooms. On most other lines, you’ll have to get to the suites before a tub is an option. In categories 8D, 8C, 8B, 4 and V on the Dream and Fantasy, there are actually round tubs! With rainfall shower heads! The V on the Magic and Wonder, and R, S and T on all ships have a whole ‘nother level of bathrooms and tubs. The tub in the 1-bedroom suites on the Dream and Fantasy is more like a small pool.

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