Resorts

SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We LOVE Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts

by on January 20, 2018

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century and Art of Animation), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside and Fort Wildnerness), and Deluxe (Wilderness Lodge and BoardWalk). Today we are going to look at two of the Deluxe offerings with Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts.

Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.

# 6 – Beaches & Cream

Everyone who has tried to make an ADR for a Disney World restaurant knows there are several venues that can be extremely challenging to get, especially if you want a specific time or have a large group. Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and Le Cellier are among Disney guests’ hardest to get reservations, but generally provide an experience that makes the effort to make the reservation worthwhile. Beach Club’s Beaches & Cream Soda Shop – thanks to its relatively small amount of seating inside – can also make one pull out hair in frustration when trying to get an ADR, but it’s worth it.

While Beaches & Cream offers a menu with burgers, hotdogs, and fries along with a ton of great ice cream sundaes (the peanut butter loaded No Way Jose is one to die for,) the big draw here is the signature Kitchen Sink. What separates the Kitchen Sink sundae from other outrageous desserts on property is the presentation. Not only is the dessert itself served in a mock kitchen sink – which unfortunately, you can’t keep – (we’ve asked, repeatedly) but the entire Beaches & Cream staff gets in on the action when one is delivered to a table. The overhead lights dim, an alarm light goes off, and your server reads off the list of Kitchen Sink ingredients, with the whole staff joining in with “and a whole can of whipped cream!” Trying the Kitchen Sink is a true Disney experience, and one that should be on every fan’s bucket list.

Beachs & Cream Soda Shop. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The Kitchen Sink.

Kids will LOVE the Kitchen Sink.

Chocolate Lover’s Kitchen Sink. While it doesn’t have the visual flair of the regular Kitchen Sink, for us here at the SATURDAY SIX it is a much more tasty dessert.

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Walt Disney World Children’s Activity Centers to Close

by on January 15, 2018

Children's Activity Centers

©Disney

The three remaining Walt Disney World Children’s Activity Centers are slated to close. The last day of operation will be July 31, 2018. This move is apparently being done because fewer Guests are using these services than in the past.

The three Disney-run Children’s Activity Centers are Simba’s Cubhouse at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Club Lilo at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and the Sandcastle Club at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

Children ages 3 to 12 who visit these activity centers are able to explore imaginative worlds with activities that educate, entertain and enchant, as well as meet some of their favorite Disney friends. Parents are then able to head out for some fun of their own, knowing their kids were having a great evening, too.

As an alternative, Disney recommends in-room babysitting services from a company called Kid’s Nite Out. It also appears that Camp Dolphin at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel (which is on Disney property but not operated by Disney) will continue to be available for Guests to utilize.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort: Part 2 + Video

by on January 2, 2018

Happy New Year TouringPlans.com Friends!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and I wish you all the best for 2018.

Today’s video is Part 2 of my Disney’s Contemporary Resort overview. I’ll be talkin’ pools, dining, recreation and amenities.

Enjoy!

Oh! and here’s Part 1 if you missed that!

I’m just now realizing that I used the EXACT same picture for both video thumbnails. *face palm*

Did you make any Disney resolutions for 2018? Mine is to take more photos. Leave yours below!

Are Disney’s Hotels Going To The Dogs? A Review.

by on January 1, 2018

In October 2017, Disney announced that for the first time ever, four of its hotels on property would have dog-friendly rooms. As with just about every announcement Disney makes, the reaction online tended to skew towards “the sky is falling” mentality. Despite only separated areas at four resorts (Art of Animation, Port Orleans Riverside, the cabins at Fort Wilderness, and the Yacht Club) would accept dogs, you would have thought by the reaction that every Disney hotel at WDW would be turning into a Petco. Even the SATURDAY SIX had a little fun with some of the over-the-top reactions to the announcement.

Fun aside, as a pet owner myself, one of the reasons my family has preferred staying onsite at Universal versus Disney over the years is because most of Universal’s properties are pet friendly (only Cabana Bay doesn’t allow animals.) Our dog Sebastian is now 17, and we prefer not to board him anywhere. We decided to use the on-site Best Friends Pet Care to board Sebastian during a family trip in September. While we were more than satisfied with the location, amenities, and staff on Best Friends, we still didn’t like being away from our smallest family member for so long.

When Disney made the dog-friendly hotel announcement, we knew it was time to book another trip to The World.

Yacht Club. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Because the dog-friendly policy is so new, I expected there to be a lot of openings at the hotels. In my mind, not many people can adjust their Disney World vacation to include their pet. However, when I went to book the date I wanted, I found out all the dog-friendly rooms were booked. So I tried a different date. Same thing. A third date found the same results. My fourth date option finally had a room available at Disney’s Yacht Club. At Universal, the “pet fee” is $50 a night, but that fee is capped at $150 for length of stay. At Disney, the pet fee for AoA, POR, and the cabins at FW is $50 a night, but at Yacht Club it is $75. I do not believe that the price at Disney is capped at any point.

With the room booked, it was time for a road trip!

Sebastian ready for his first Disney hotel.

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Five Reasons to Visit Walt Disney World in 2018

by on January 1, 2018

As workplace calendars take shape for 2018, attention turns to vacation destinations. For the Walt Disney World addicts among us, it’s not a question of whether we’ll go, but when and for how long. Others may need additional incentives to choose theme parks over the beach or big city.

For those of you with the challenge of convincing your significant other to spend their valuable vacation time armed with MagicBands and Touring Plans, we’ve got you covered. Read on for five reasons you can use to argue that 2018 is the year to visit Disney.

Let’s see Andy’s backyard

New lands don’t come around every year, but for the second straight summer, Walt Disney World will take down the construction walls and invite visitors to a new theme park land.

While not as impressive in scope as Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the new Toy Story Land will bring kid-friendly attractions to a park that badly needs them, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Disney announced an opening of summer 2018 for the land. If it follows the same pattern as Pandora, that would mean soft openings in May.

Two new attractions and a quick-service dining location will be added with the opening of Toy Story Land.

The land, which will include the existing Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction, will be modeled to look like Andy’s back yard. Visitors shrink down to toy size in their surroundings. The two new attractions, the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster and Alien Swirling Saucers, should be kid-friendly, but with enough clever theming to appeal to everyone.

Add a quick-service dining location, Woody’s Lunch Box, and you have enough to bring visitors back to Hollywood Studios, even as a large portion of the park continues to be blocked off by construction walls (more on that later).

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Holidays Around the Parks: Gingerbread Edition

by on December 22, 2017

One of the most well-known traditions of Walt Disney World’s holiday offerings are the gingerbread houses located around the resorts. The oldest of such, the Grand Floridian gingerbread house, has been a staple of the resort’s decorations for nearly twenty years. In the following years, we’ve seen gingerbread creations added to the Contemporary and Beach Club resorts, as well as a location inside Epcot’s American Adventure – which, I believe, is the first such display inside a park. To begin our journey, we will start off with Epcot.

In years past, this was the location for the Hanukkah storyteller during Epcot’s Holidays Around the World celebration. With the story of The Maccabees being told musically at a new outdoor location, we now have this massive gingerbread house, featuring a special appearance by Honest Abe himself. If my math is correct, it would take one person four score to consume this entire gingerbread National Mall.

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Disney’s Contemporary Resort: Part 1 + Video

by on December 19, 2017

Hi everyone!

Let’s take the monorail to Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Today, I’ll be covering the resort’s theme, rooms, room views and transportation.

Enjoy!

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Dinner at Ale & Compass: In Need of Direction

by on December 11, 2017

The interior of Ale & Compass as you first arrive at the restaurant is bathed in muted greys and blues.

Just a few weeks ago, the newly renovated former location of Yacht Club Resort’s Captain’s Grille reopened as the Ale & Compass Restaurant and Lounge. After a few weeks of holiday cheer, and in hopes that the jitters common in new restaurants would be long gone, I dropped in for dinner to see how the new menu and décor measure up to the previous location. Long a staple of resort guests and conventioneers looking for a non-quick-service solution for dinner without much fuss, Captain’s Grille was a fine restaurant with a better-than-average breakfast buffet and a decent lunch and dinner service, but it never particularly wowed me in any larger sense. As a result, I looked forward to dinner at Ale & Compass, hoping for it to be an upgrade in all aspects, especially considering the amount of down time the restaurant underwent during renovations.

The open show kitchen at Ale & CompassAt first glance, the new décor is, in a word, uninspired. It’s fairly generic; very reminiscent of the “upscale modern” look Paddlefish chose for their interior – greys and deep blues accent the very, very dark interior (which I’m sure is better lit during daytime breakfast and lunch service). In short, the atmosphere seems meant to tell you this place is fancy and worthy of a spendy dinner. They even feature an open show kitchen now at the front of the restaurant, complete with a few choice spots available for diners on any given night. The open kitchen is a nice touch, in theory, but it reminds me a bit of the show aspect of Mama Melrose’s kitchen – it’s not there as a perk; more as a reminder, a warning before your meal, that real people are making this food, and that it’s not being taken from a frozen dinner box to the microwave.

The view from a typical table at Ale & CompassThis all may sound a bit harsh, but if I’m honest, I expected a bit better atmosphere with all the time spent renovating this restaurant. The impression given by the hoity host who sat me was that this place was all business, top to bottom. The menu, though, isn’t reflective of this: overall, it’s not much different than the standard non-signature menu from dinner at Captain’s Grille. New dishes are featured, to be sure, but overall, it tends towards the same style of simple selections vaguely inspired by New England lighthouse cuisine. The disconnect between the atmosphere (trying to be a bit more upscale than before) and the same kind of menu (with slightly higher prices), then, is a bit of an odd first impression.

The wine list is greatly expanded now, thanks in part to the larger lounge next door. Several craft beers appear on the menu now as well, and a few signature cocktails dot the menu here and there. I decided The Purple Marinerto stick to the light end of the beverage menu and sample the Tom Collins and Aviation-inspired “Purple Mariner”, an $11.25 concoction of Hendrick’s Gin, crème de violette, fresh lemon, simple syrup, and soda water. As it turns out, “purple” really means “the same color as everything else in the restaurant’s décor”, as you can tell by my photo of the drink. I had hopes this would be light, in the Aviation and Collins tradition, but the only thing I could taste was the crème de violette (very sweet and floral), with a slight hint of lemon. The gin was an afterthought here, which is a shame, but not terribly surprising, unfortunately. I’m open to trying a few of the bourbon-forward cocktails featured in the lounge in future visits, and hopeful they’ll be a bit more worth the price.

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New Details About Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

by on December 6, 2017

As we all know, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is undergoing a massive refurbishment. Today, Disney shared some great new details about what we can expect to experience when the resort’s enhancements debut in the summer of 2018.

First, Old Port Royale will be reimagined as the port of entry where guests will check in. This centralized location will offer resort guests more convenient access to services, amenities and dining. This includes the all-new quick service location known as Centertown Market, an all-new Shutters restaurant that will include waterfront dining and will be adjacent to the new Banana Cabana outdoor bar and lounge. For Guests looking to do some shopping, look no further than Calypso Trading Post which will offer shoppers Disney merchandise and other vacation essentials.

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Swan & Dolphin’s Food & Wine Classic vs Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival

by on November 13, 2017

The causeway at the Swan & Dolphin Food & Wine ClassicAs we round the corner towards the end of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, right next door, the Swan and Dolphin hotels recently celebrated their eighth annual Food & Wine Classic. I attended the event this year for the second time, and thought I’d help others see why I think it’s the hidden gem of the Food & Wine season. Here, I’ll tell you about how the event usually works and compare it to the familiar festival at Epcot, so you can see if this is a must-do to add to your agenda for next year. After all, I know you’re all planning ahead for next Food & Wine season already!

How the Food & Wine Classic Works

Live entertainment adds to an even livelier atmosphereThink of the Swan & Dolphin Food & Wine Classic as a mash-up between the regular Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and Epcot’s Party for the Senses. Held outdoors along the causeway between the Swan and Dolphin hotels, the event lasts about 5 hours on a given Friday and Saturday night in late October or early November. The Classic features dozens of booths serving wines from around the world and food samples representative of the Swan & Dolphin’s 17 restaurants. Similar to Party for the Senses, live music accents a lively atmosphere, with seated and standing tables available for guests to use whilst enjoying all their samples.

For the 2017 Food & Wine Classic, a la carte tickets, allowing you to sample a few items from all offerings, ran $50 for 25 tickets (each item is 2-6 tickets). This is a great way to sample options on a fixed budget, but depending on your tastes, you may run out of tickets quickly. The most common choice, and the best deal, is a causeway ticket, which cost $108.26 (tax inclusive). This allows unlimited sampling at every standard booth in the event for that particular night (causeway tickets are purchased for either Friday or Saturday, though many guests attend both nights).

For a few dollars more, you can upgrade your causeway ticket to allow access to the Beer Garden, a separate section featuring craft beer booths and a few more food selections. Prices have increased a bit in recent years, but, as I’ll describe a bit later, I still find this to be a heck of a value if you typically go wild at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Other upgrades include several beverage seminars and specialty events, like a champagne brunch, each season. Seminar tickets are sold separately, and each seminar takes place the hour before the regular event kicks off for the evening – a nice touch, as it doesn’t cut into your causeway sampling time.

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