Walt Disney World (FL)

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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Maria & Enzo’s Takes Flight with Fine Fare

by on January 19, 2018

Maria & Enzo's RistoranteWithin the last few weeks, several new Italian eateries have opened their doors at Disney Springs; among them, Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, a table service location situated in The Landing, just adjacent to The Edison and Aerophile (formerly Characters in Flight). The restaurant’s story claims that it’s run by Maria and Enzo, and occupies an abandoned airport terminal from the 1930s, lending theme to the various retro travel posters adorning the walls of the massive main dining room. Every guest gets a dramatic entrance here, with a large sweeping staircase leading down from the lobby and check-in area of the restaurant to the central dining area (and adjacent “private” dining room, with a few tables tucked away in a quiet corner).

Atmosphere

The main dining room of Maria & Enzo'sVisually, the restaurant is colorful and striking – almost too much so, reminiscent at times of the old Wolfgang Puck dining room. The atmosphere is loud, with the open ceilings echoing the comings and goings of the many diners all around. Daylight floods the back of the dining room, full of windows, which offers guests a great view of the Aerophile balloon rising and falling periodically. Overall, it’s a welcoming space for families, but not terribly intimate.

The menu is enormous (both literally and figuratively), populated largely with an extensive wine and cocktail list highlighting Italian specialties like various red wine varietals, sangrias, and an entire section of negronis (a step up from most Disney cocktail offerings). For food, expect to find moderate to upscale Italian staples, not dissimilar from the pasta and entrée menus at Via Napoli or Tutto Italia, priced similarly to Tutto Italia (read: on the higher end of the “acceptable” price range for Italian food).

Appetizers

Bread serviceTo start off our meal, our server brought over the obligatory bread and olive oil service, which was fine, but nothing you wouldn’t find at your local Italian chain eatery. We settled on two appetizers, both recommended by our server, the Arancini di Carne (meat ragu stuffed risotto balls, $14) and the Caciocavallo Fritto (fried Sicilian cheese with spicy Pomodoro sauce, $13). Both arrived in short order, and we were off to the races.

I’m a big fan of the arancini available at Via Napoli, so I had high hopes for these, but ultimately, they disappointed a tad bit. For $14, you receive two golf-ball sized arancini (a small portion, in my opinion, for the price), and while the fry on the exterior was perfectly crisp, the interior was a bit too gummy for my taste, and completely lacking in the promised meat ragu filling. There couldn’t have been more than one piece of ground meat in each arancini, unfortunately. Flavor-wise, they felt a little one note, but the spicy Pomodoro sauce really Caciocavallo Fritta and Arancini di Carnemade for a great accompaniment, lending an acidic and spicy punch to the party without overwhelming the rich and cheesy risotto.

The Caciocavallo Fritto sounds a lot like fried mozzarella on paper, but fair warning, this Sicilian cheese has a completely different flavor and texture than what you would expect. Six small balls, each also perfectly fried, come in one order (again, a bit small for $13, based on my expectations). The cheese inside is tangy and sharp, akin almost to an aged provolone in flavor, but the texture is less stretchy than you’d expect, and more custard-like. The flavor was a surprise, intriguing and new for me, and I enjoyed the few bites I had, but I really did wish for a few more balls to complete the plate.

Pugliese saladSeveral fresh salads also feature on the menu, so I wanted to give one a try to see whether their $12-14 price tags were justified. Ultimately, I decided on the Pugliese, composed of a handful of frisee, tiny bits of crisp pancetta, caciotta cheese, a soft poached egg, and dressed in mustard-white balsamic dressing. This salad is relatively decently sized, slightly larger than a typical side salad, but a bit smaller than what I’d expect from an appetizer (a trend, it seems). Well-dressed and seasoned, the caciotta cheese was really the star of the plate (aside from the oozing poached egg, of course), flavored similarly to the caciocavallo and punchy enough to stand on its own against the zippy dressing. Overall, I’d order this salad again, with only a bit of hesitation because of the price.

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Food Favorites from the 2018 Epcot Festival of the Arts

by on January 18, 2018

2018 Epcot International Festival of the ArtsIt’s a new year, which means it’s already time for a new festival full of fun flavors at Walt Disney World. Following the rousing success of last year’s inaugural Epcot Festival of the Arts, 2018’s fest returns with thirteen food booths featuring incredible culinary creations from around the globe. During the festival’s opening weekend, I had a chance to try so many great new and returning dishes, and today, I’ll be sharing a few of my favorites from every booth with you, including a few of the more interesting drinks on offer at the festival. As always, click on each image to see a larger version!

The Painter’s Palate (Odyssey Festival Showplace)

  • Trio of Croissant DonutsTrio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts
    • Whipped Boursin Garlic and Herb Cheese
    • Chicken Salad with Shaved Fennel and Fresh Herbs
    • Spicy Tuna with Wasabi and Seaweed Salad

The return of the savory cronuts brings another killer trio to snack on in the festival center. Who doesn’t like garlicky cheese on a buttery croissant? Bonus: the chicken salad here is really awesome – not too saucy, full of savory and sweet counterpoints from the well-seasoned chicken and the fennel. The spicy tuna cronut seemed like an odd mash-up of cultures before I tried it, but I was sold after one bite.

  • Gallery BitesGallery Bites: A Trio of Hors d’Oeuvres
    • Chilled Shrimp with Cucumber Cream Cheese on a Crostini
    • Traditional Deviled Egg with Candied Bacon
    • Crispy Truffled Risotto Ball with Stone-Ground Mustard

If cronuts aren’t your thing, this snacky trio is a slam-dunk. A good old fashioned deviled egg with a sweet (albeit a bit chewy) piece of bacon, an addictively crispy-chewy truffle arancini with spicy mustard, and a perfectly poached shrimp on toast make for a solid serving of elevated goodness, if you’re in search for a substantial snack.

  • Popcorn and Beer FlightPopcorn and Beer Flight

I did not expect a beer flight to feature as one of my favorite drink picks of the festival, but with individual popcorn pairings, it was too novel to pass up. Alongside a pilsner comes a few bites of sweet and smoky bacon barbecue popcorn; with the IPA, a zippy jalapeno ranch flavor popcorn; and with the brown ale, my favorite, a tangy buffalo blue cheese popcorn.

The Deconstructed Dish (Showcase Plaza)

  • Deconstructed BLTDeconstructed BLT with Crispy Pork Belly, Tomato Jam, and Soft Poached Egg

Though I wouldn’t necessarily say this’ll satisfy a craving for a good ol’ fashioned BLT, this dish is certainly tasty. A sizeable portion of pork belly and a perfectly runny soft poached egg combine with tangy and sweet tomato jam to create an umami bomb of a snack. The herbaceous pesto smeared on the plate is somewhat reminiscent of the “green” flavors of the lettuce in a BLT, and while I do miss the crunch of toasted bread, the richness of the egg and pork belly more than make up for it.

  • Deconstructed CheesecakeDeconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake – Whipped New York-Style Cheesecake with Fresh Florida Strawberries, Sugar Cookies, and Micro-basil

Think of this as cheesecake pudding with toppings – the whipped cheesecake definitely has the tang you’d expect from a typical New York-style cheesecake, but the sugar cookies and strawberry topping donate a bit of sweetness to the party. The addition of the micro basil is a fun and artsy touch, making the plate pop visually and flavor-wise.

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Walt Disney World Preview — Week of January 20, 2018

by on January 18, 2018

We’ve got Broadway Performers, a new bar, and some beautiful weather. Keep reading for your Walt Disney World weekly preview!

Special Events

  • Enzo’s Hideaway is now open at Disney Springs. You’ll find this new bar underneath Maria & Enzo’s Risorante.
  • See Broadway Performers Kevin Massey and Kara Lindsay at Epcot’s America Gardens Theatre from January 19 – 22.
  • Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable will be closing February 3. Check out this Epcot attraction before it’s gone forever!
  • Florida Residents: Discover Disney tickets are available for you to purchase now through June 20. This option allows you to enjoy 3 days at a Walt Disney World theme park for $159 + tax. Note: Tickets can only be used through June 24, 2018.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Testing Cash-Free Payment Options

by on January 17, 2018

cash-free payment at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

©Disney

Well this one is certainly interesting. Beginning Monday, February 12, on the the Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House will participate in a test where all monetary transactions will be handled with cash-free payment options. What does this mean? Well, all purchases and services made at the resort will only be able to do so through payments via MagicBands, credit cards, debit cards, Disney Gift Cards, Disney Rewards Redemption Cards and contactless payments such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay. Cash will not be able to be used.

For those who don’t have access to or prefer not to use credit cards, Cast Members at the front desk will be able to help Guests with their hotel charging privileges and a cash deposit can be made at check-in to activate room charging privileges.

What about gratuities that may need to be paid? They can still be paid in cash.

It will be interesting to see how this cash-free payment test goes and if it will get rolled out at other resorts. I’ll make sure to keep you updated.

Back to the Basics: Rider Switch (Swap) at Walt Disney World + Video

by on January 16, 2018

Say you’re at Walt Disney World with your kids and significant other. There’s an attraction both adults REALLY want to experience, but the kids are either too young or don’t meet the height requirement.

What do you do?

Use Rider Switch of course!

Watch the video below to see exactly how to use this feature.

Enjoy!

How have used rider switch? How did it work? Let me know in the comments!

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Debuts New Arena

by on January 15, 2018

ESPN Wide World of Sports

©Rikki Niblett

To help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a brand new area is now open for those who may be heading to a sporting event being held at Walt Disney World. This new area is known as The Arena at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and it is going to be a versatile space will be able to easily host both large and small events.  The new arena is the third indoor competition venue at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and is one of the largest in the country designed specifically with cheer and dance events in mind.

One of the unique features of The Arena is its flexibility. This space can be converted to host more than six regulation-sized basketball and volleyball courts and can be further expanded to host open-floor exhibitions and other major events. There will be 8,000 seats and a separate box office. 

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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.

SATURDAY SIX News Desk: A Look At Recent Stories In the Theme Park World

by on January 13, 2018

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is a special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. It has been a whirlwind of theme park related news lately. Our long national nightmare is over as “millennial pink” MagicBands are finally available, a Disney guest yelled “Lock Him Up!” at a Donald Trump audio-animatronic (to be fair the person who filmed everything in portrait committed the biggest offense of all,) and somehow Disneyland guests now have crazier donuts than us in Orlando. Be fair to Florida!

So – as usual – we took a page out of our old college playbook, chugged down a case of 5 Hour Energy, and pulled an all-nighter. That’s right, we crammed as much information as we could into our tiny brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Monorail Red goes “Suns Out, Guns Out”

You would have had to be living under a rock to miss this story, as news went viral with a video of a monorail running while a door was open. As we covered in a recent SATURDAY SIX, it has been a rough year for the Disney monorails. Actually more like a rough five years, if not a full decade. It’s one thing for the cabs to look dirty, or even for parts to fall off, but a monorail running with a door open seems like a whole bunch of safety features would have had to fail all at once. Walt Disney World has a wide assortment of vehicles available for guests to get to and from resorts, including the new Minnie Van service along with the upcoming gondolas, but it is clear some major TLC is needed to into bringing the monorail service back up to to the level it should be.

Artwork by EPCOT Josh. You can buy a t-shirt of this design by clicking here

Open door of monorail as seen on WESH.com

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Select Walt Disney World Guests Can Purchase Additional FastPass+ Reservations

by on January 11, 2018

FastPass

©Rikki Niblett

Well, it appears that some interesting changes are coming for some Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Guests in regards to FastPass+.

Beginning January 12, Guests staying at select resorts (though rumors are indicating it’s for those staying Club Level at the Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts, at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort’s bungalows, and at the Copper Creek Villa Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge) will have the ability to purchase three more FastPass+ reservations to use on a given day, if they so choose. The additional FastPass+ reservations can be purchased for an extra $50 plus tax per Guest per day. These Guests must have purchased a 3 day or longer theme park ticket or have an annual pass. What is nice though is that if you have the Park Hopper option, you can make your extra three selections in more than one theme park. Also of note, FastPass+ attractions that are chosen cannot be repeated during a single day.

Another perk, these Guests will also receive one per day preferred viewing locations for the Walt Disney World nighttime spectaculars. Guests can choose from Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot, Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Advanced reservation is required and availability of each nighttime spectacular preferred viewing location is limited.

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