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Universal Orlando Preview — Week of January 13, 2018

by on January 11, 2018
Filed under: Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort, Weekly Preview

Autobots, roll out.

We are in the middle of winter in North America, but Universal is turning up the heat by announcing an amazing Mardi Gras concert line up. This week we also cover what activities guests can find at resort hotels, The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle coming to Islands of Adventure, and a new character breakfast at Sapphire Falls.

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Epcot Festival of the Arts Food Studios Menus Released

by on January 11, 2018
Filed under: Epcot, Recent News 2 Comments

Epcot Festival of the Arts


Wow! This weekend kicks off the second annual Epcot Festival of the Arts which is returning from January 12 through February 19. This festival really celebrates all things artsy and one of the key components of the Epcot Festival of the Arts is the incredible food and beverage options which can be found a the Food Studios kiosks that are located around the World Showcase promenade. Let me tell you that I am not overselling it when I say that these dishes and beverages really are serious works of art.

Today, I have the different menus of the different Food Studios, as well as the other unique dining options that will be available for Guests throughout the Festival.


The Deconstructed Dish (Showcase Plaza)

Delicious dishes that dazzle


  • Deconstructed Reuben with shredded corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, pickled red cabbage, and a rye curl
  • Deconstructed BLT with crispy pork belly, tomato jam, and a soft poached egg
  • Deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake: Whipped, New York Style Cheesecake with Fresh Florida Strawberries and Sugar Cookies with Micro-basil


  • Deconstructed Breakfast: Twinings Spiced Apple Chai Tea Shake with Maple Bourbon Cream, a Waffle Crisp and Candied Bacon
  • Deconstructed Breakfast: Twinings Spiced Apple Chai Tea Shake with Maple Syrup, a Waffle Crisp and Candied Bacon (non-alcoholic)
  • Intrinsic Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington
  • Pop-Artsicle: Red, White and Blue Frozen Slushy (non-alcoholic)


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Julia’s Best Week Ever, January 11, 2018: New Year’s Magic

by on January 11, 2018
Filed under: Best Week Ever, Disney Cruise Line 1 Comment

Last year, my family set an interesting bucket list item–to sail on all four Disney Cruise Line ships within a calendar year. We sailed on the Wonder in February, the Fantasy in June, the Dream in September, and now it was time to get on board the Magic in December for a New Year’s cruise. Part of the reason we wanted to book this cruise, aside from our first time seeing the Magic, was that this cruise made a stop in Key West, a place we’ve always wanted to visit. The challenge for us is that it sailed out of Miami. We got a hotel for the night before (out of fears of traffic going from the Orlando area to Miami), and on a beautifully clear morning, headed to the port. A word of warning–if you’re used to the ease of getting around Port Canaveral, the Port of Miami is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. The way we were directed in by GPS meant that we didn’t have any signs telling us which dock the Magic was at, and there’s parking scattered everywhere. We ended up spotting the ship, pulling in the next available parking lot, and walking about 1/4 of a mile with our luggage to find a porter. In the end, there was a closer parking area, but it fills up much faster than Port Canaveral, so take parking where you can find it. Also note that the terminal where you leave may not be the terminal you return to. We left from terminal F, but returned to terminal G. Just some background about how “getting there is not half the fun”. I can’t say I’ll never sail from Miami again, but I can say that I love Port Canaveral all the more now.


But enough about travel fun. Once in the terminal, it was all Disney experience. Check-in was quick and efficient, security was brief, and even the wait time for our boarding number to be called went quickly in a much more comfortable setting than Port Canaveral. Time flew by very quickly between getting on board, doing a bit of exploring, and then time for sail away. And what a view! Here’s where sailing out of Miami beats the pants off of Port Canaveral. Sailing from a big city is amazing!

In one brief article, it wouldn’t be possible to write about everything that we experienced on the cruise–Key West, Pirate Night, New Year’s parties, exploring new places, and so on–so I figured I’d just give some snapshots from the cruise experience and snippets of details about what we did.

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Select Walt Disney World Guests Can Purchase Additional FastPass+ Reservations

by on January 11, 2018
Filed under: FastPass+, Recent News, Walt Disney World (FL) 26 Comments


©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. Read the rest of this entry »

Walt Disney World Preview — Week of January 13, 2018

by on January 11, 2018
Filed under: Walt Disney World (FL), Weekly Preview

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts begins January 12 (learn more here). Keep reading to see what else is new this week at Walt Disney World!

Special Events

  • The Edison, located at Disney Springs, will start taking reservations January 15. For more information about this restaurant and how to make reservations, check out Rikki’s article.
  • 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.
  • Friendly Reminder: Disney’s Magical Express will pick guests up 3 hours prior to their scheduled domestic flight. International flights will still pick up 4 hours before departure time.

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World of Disney at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland to See Updates

by on January 10, 2018
Filed under: Disney Springs, Downtown Disney, Recent News

World of Disney


Do you love shopping at World of Disney as much as I do? The large Disney-centric stores which are found in both Disney Springs at Walt Disney World and at Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort offer tons of souvenirs and I almost always end up taking something home when I visit. But soon, both of these locations will be receiving some love beginning mid-February 2018.

Work on the stores will be done in phases and the stores on both coasts will remain open during construction. When work on the interior is done, Guests will a dynamic and distinctly Disney retail environment.

A few shops will offer select merchandise while construction takes place. In Town Center at Disney Springs, Ever After Jewelry Co. and The Disney Corner, which opens in mid-February, will carry select merchandise while World of Disney undergoes renovations.

Over at Disneyland, at the Downtown Disney District, Guests can find some items in the recently opened Dream Boutique, as well as the Disney Home store which is opening in February in the former D-Street location.

I’m excited to share more details about what we Guests can experience once the refurbishment work is completed, so make sure to stay tuned to the blog for more!

New Restaurants Now Open at Disney Springs

by on January 10, 2018
Filed under: Disney Springs, Recent News

It’s official! Three new restaurants have made their debut at Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs! Maria & Enzo’s, Pizza Ponte, and The Edison all officially debuted this past weekend. (The remaining dining establishment in this complex, Enzo’s Hideaway, has not yet opened.)

©Rikki Niblett


While The Edison had their official grand opening on New Year’s Eve with a fun party, the restaurant didn’t officially open to Guests until this past weekend. The feel of the restaurant is definitely an industrial one. Steampunk design fills the table service location. Guests should be comfortable coming here for a meal, or even enjoying a drink, as there are wonderful couches and chairs scattered throughout.  Read the rest of this entry »

Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable to Close at Epcot

by on January 10, 2018
Filed under: Epcot, Recent News 3 Comments

Circle of Life

©Rikki Niblett

Well, it’s time we say goodbye to the Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable film that is shown at The Land Pavilion in Epcot. The attraction will close after over 20 years on February 3.

The film, for those who haven’t seen it, is an edutainment offering that stars Simba, Pumbaa, and Timon, from The Lion King. The film spotlights the environmental inter-dependency of all creatures and demonstrates just how easily the ecological balance can be upset. The 20 minute show is certainly an enlightening one, although also a little be sobering too. (And the many who napped there will also miss the dark respite.)

There is no word on what exactly what will be replacing the film. For the temporary time being, it appears that the theater will be used by Disney Performing Arts  to host student workshops and performances.

Ask It: Best Non-WDW Disney Vacation Club Resort?

by on January 10, 2018
Filed under: DVC, Just For Fun 4 Comments

Staying at a DVC resort at Walt Disney World is a wonderful experience. Whether you’re watching animals from your balcony at Animal Kingdom Lodge, or closing the nights with fireworks from Bay Lake Tower, or walking to Epcot from your room at Beach Club, or staying at the other Walt Disney World DVC resorts, there’s so many different experiences you can have. It can be easy to forget that there are DVC resorts that are not at Walt Disney World that also offer amazing experiences. Which one is the best? This week we’re asking you:

Which non-Walt Disney World Disney Vacation Club resort is the best?

  • Aulani (53%, 81 Votes)
  • Grand Californian (24%, 36 Votes)
  • Hilton Head (16%, 25 Votes)
  • Vero Beach (7%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 152

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Voting is live here and on Twitter. We’ll have your results next week. Got a favorite? Let us know why you chose what you did in the comments.

Ask It Results: Disney Cruise without Castaway Cay?

by on January 10, 2018
Filed under: Disney Cruise Line, Just For Fun

They say that the best way to get over the withdrawal after coming back from a cruise is to write a blog post about a survey on cruises, right? Okay, I’m pretty sure no one actually says that, but at least writing about this gives me a chance to look at photos of Castaway Cay and daydream about my next Disney cruise. One of the key differences that Disney stresses about their cruises is time on the private island of Castaway Cay. Everyone knows that Disney cruises are more expensive than many other lines, and part of the value added is that special stop. For many people, saving money on a Disney cruise is highly desirable, but is it worth it to skip Castaway Cay if you got a discount? Last week, we asked you:

If you could book a Caribbean/Bahamas Disney cruise at a discount of 20-30% off, but that cruise did NOT include a stop at Castaway Cay, would you book that cruise?

Here’s your results:

Yes (525 votes, 51%)

As you can see, it was a fairly clean split.

For almost everyone, Castaway Cay is a highlight of the cruise. But a savings is a savings, and for some people a 20-30% discount might be the choice between going for a 4-night cruise instead of a 3-night cruise, or going on a cruise versus not going on a cruise. There are also people who aren’t big fans of beaches. For my family, we tend to spend a couple hours on the island and then the rest of the day on the ship. Having an extra sea day instead of Castaway Cay day wouldn’t be the end of the world for us, especially with lots of activities on board ship. For some people, it’s a decent tradeoff, especially when you know that certain times of year the weather can be less than ideal, and it is possible the ship may not be able to dock during high winds anyhow, or it may be rainy all day.


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