Category Archives: Resorts

Walt Disney World Moderate Resorts

Today, I’m moving up the Walt Disney World resort food chain with the moderate resorts.  There are four moderate resorts: Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans, and the Fort Wilderness Cabins and Campground.

Walt Disney World Map #2

In general, these resorts have rooms which are a little bit bigger than the value resorts.  They also have more recreation on the resort property and some even have table-service dining options at the resort.

Caribbean Beach Resort

Located between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.

Caribbean Beach Map
Caribbean Beach Map

The map, here, doesn’t lie.  The resort is BIG.  There are 33 buildings along the 42-acre Barefoot Bay Lake.  The nice thing is buildings are only two-story high so you don’t have worry about a high-rise building blocking the view from the room.  The 33 buildings are connected by a 1.4 mile walking trail just to give some perspective as to the size of the resort.

Everything is centered on the Old Port Royale (also called Centertown).  Guests will find the Market Street Food Court, Shutters, which is a table-service, sit-down restaurant, bicycle and boat rentals, the main Pirate-themed main pool.

Caribbean Beach Pool
Caribbean Beach Pool
Caribbean Beach Pool
Caribbean Beach Pool

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Walt Disney Accommodations – Value Resorts

Today, I’m going to start with the on-property accommodations available at Walt Disney World.  There are a lot of options at a variety of price points available to people.  There are four main classifications: Value Resorts, Moderate Resorts, Deluxe Resorts, and Deluxe Villa Resorts.  Today, I’m going to discuss the five value resorts at Walt Disney World.

I’m going to keep it simple and go in alphabetical order for these five resorts.  Give readers some perspective as to where these five resorts are located in Walt Disney World:

Walt Disney World Map
Walt Disney World Map

Starting with the three All-Star Resorts, they are located down by Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and numbered 26-28.  As a result, guests will need to take a Disney Bus or their own car for transportation to the parks.

All-Star Movies Resorts

The first thing I will say about all of the these resorts is they are huge.  There are a lot of rooms – 1920 of them.  So, I’ll lead off with a map of the resort:

All Star Movies Map
All Star Movies Map

There are 10 buildings with hotel rooms grouped into five “pods.”  101 Dalmatians, Fantasia, and Toy Story are the three “pods” closest to the main Cinema Hall which houses the food court.  The Mighty Ducks and Love Bug “pods” have a further walk to Cinema Hall.

In terms of space, the rooms at the All-Star Resorts and Pop Century are the smallest on Disney property at only 260 square feet putting it on par with a standard hotel room at a national chain.  The rooms sleep four people.  Five people can stay in a All-Star Movie room provided one of the five is under three years old AND sleeps in a crib.

All Star Movies Room
All Star Movies Room

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On Property Accommodations – Part 1 Disneyland

I spent a lot of time talking about places to go and things to do when you are at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  This week, I’m going to focus on something just as important….a place to sleep.  Disneyland and Walt Disney World both provide a variety of on-property accommodations.  Given its vast size, Walt Disney World has a lot more options than Disneyland.  I will focus on Walt Disney World later this week.  Today, I will focus on the three Disneyland on-property accommodations.  I will go from the oldest property to the newest.

For full disclosure, I have not stayed at any of these properties.  My only trip to Disneyland was back in 1984 and I stayed off-property with my family.

Starting with the old Disneyland Park resort hotel, let’s visit

 

Disneyland Hotel

Disneyland hotel and pools

 

Above is a panorama view of the Disneyland Hotel which was originally built by Jack Wrather in 1955.  The hotel was purchased by Disney in 1984 and underwent a massive renovation in 1999 into its present form.

The resort has 990 rooms and the theme is Classic Disney.  Standard rooms can accommodate up to five guests with suites available for larger groups.

Disneyland Hotel Room
Disneyland Hotel Room

Continue reading On Property Accommodations – Part 1 Disneyland

2014 Food and Wine Festival Week – Part 2 Sample World Showcase Menus

The next two days are going to cover what foods you can expect at the Food and Wine Festival.  Today is going to cover the World Showcase booths.  Tomorrow will cover the additional countries and booths that are brought in for the festival.  I will give my reviews of the food where applicable.  I’m not food adventurous and there are not a lot of things, at the festival,  which “float my boat” but there is enough to make it a worthwhile experience for me.

At the festival, food portions are on the smaller size more like something you would see as an appetizer than an entree.

Now, with help from our tour guide – we made the trip down to Disney last September for the festival, let’s begin our journey around the world (going counter-clockwise…more on that reasoning later in the week):

Canada

2013 Canada Menu
2013 Canada Menu

Canada brings us three entree selections: “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon, Pan-Seared Rainbow Trout, and Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup also from Canada’s Le Cellier Restaurant.  All three entrees are available for purchase for one Disney Dining Plan snack credit with the best value being the filet mignon.

Tip: Any time a guest can turn something over $5 out of pocket into a Dining Plan snack credit, it’s a good deal.

I’ve had two items from the entree list: the filet which was a bit overdone for my liking but still good and the cheddar cheese soup which is always good even on a hot day like the day when I was there.

There are three wines on the list: Mission Hill Family Estate Syrah, La Face Niege Apple Ice Wine and La Face Niege Sparkling.

I tried the apple wine.  It was very good.  More like a sparkling apple juice taste than a wine.

One beer: Moosehead made the journey down from Canada.

None of the alcoholic beverages are available for a snack credit.

Continuing to move counter-clockwise, we move past the United Kingdom over the bridge and into France to come to our next World Showcase Pavilion….France:

France

2013 France Menu
2013 France Menu

France also delivers three entrees: Escargots Persillade en Brioche, Boeuf Bourguignon, and Creme Brulee au Chocolat du Lait.  Coming off the cheddar cheese sour and ice wine from Canada, I passed on the French selections.  If anything, I would have gone with either the boeuf bourguignon or creme brulee.   All the entrees were available for a dining plan snack credit.

On the wine/alcoholic beverage side, France provides a lot of options.  Three wines: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sparkling Pomegranate Kir (sparkling wine and pomegranate liquor).

One beer comes across the ocean: Kronenbourg Blanc

France also has one specialty drink: Eiffel Sour Cosmo Slush designed by the same people who designed the Grand Mariner Orange Slush and Grey Goose Citron Lemon Slush.

Morocco

Here we have our “Grumpy” tour guide in Morocco.  It was a hot day and someone needed some lemonade to continue to get through the world.

 

2013 Morocco Menu
2013 Morocco Menu

Morocco brings the standard three entree options: Harissa Chicken Roll, Kefta Pocket, Baklava; all of which were available for one snack credit.

They also provide four alcoholic options: Ksar White Wine, Casa Beer, Sangria, and a Minona Royale

Moroccan cuisine isn’t my kind of thing so I passed on the options in Morocco.  My tour guide and I still had a lot of countries to get through and the heat was starting to make both of us a little cranky and we weren’t halfway “around the world” yet.

Japan

A little bit of shade brought some joy back to our tour guide.

2013 Japan Menu
2013 Japan Menu

Japan has four entree options available and all for one snack credit.  Three are varieties of rolls: a Spicy Hand Roll with tuna, salmon, and chili pepper as the main ingredients; a California Roll featuring avocado, cucumber, and crab; and a Teriyaki Chicken Roll with white meat chicken, rice, and teriyaki sauce.  They also had a vegetarian option with a Youki Tofu.

With four entree options, Japan had only had two alcoholic options: a Sake and Sapporo Beer.  However, they also provide one non-alcoholic option with a Green Tea Colada.  None of these options were available for a snack credit.

Another country whose cuisine has a little appeal to me so we kept on moving to keep the tour guide in a good mood.

Italy

2013 Italy Menu
2013 Italy Menu

Italy brought guests three entree options for a snack credit (even though our tour guide is blocking that part of the menu).  Ravioli di Formaggio all’Emiliana which is a baked cheese ravioli in a beef sauce with parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Salsiccia e “Papacelli” Napoletani which is grilled sausage with peppers and onions on ciabatta bread.

Lastly, they had a dessert option with a Cannoli al Cioccolato…chocolate cannoli.

Like France, Italy brought five alcoholic options to the table: Pinot Grigio, a Moretti Beer, Prosecco, Chinati Placido, and an Italian Margherita.

I stopped at the Florida Local booth prior to the Italy booth so I passed on the cuisine.  If I were to stop, my top choices would be the grilled sausage and the cannoli.

It wasn’t long before we reached our next stop.

Germany

2013 Germany Menu
2013 Germany Menu

Germany is one of the more popular booths at the Food and Wine Festival.  It’s a cuisine that a lot of people are familiar with and it has a wide variety of both beer and wine available.

Germany only has three entrees available for a snack credit.  Schinkennudeln – a pasta gratin.  A roast bratwurst rolled in a pretzel roll and, lastly, a dessert option in apple strudel.

My tour guide and I stopped in Germany to have a roast bratwurst.  She did not care for the bratwurst and ate mainly the pretzel roll while I got to eat the majority of the bratwurst.  The mustard sauce that goes with the bratwurst is a must.  Then, we split an apple strudel.

The alcohol at the Germany pavilion is expansive and includes both wine and beer.  Two beer options: a Altenmunster Oktoberfest and a BraufactuM Darkon.

J&H Selbach provided two Reislings: a Kabinett and a Auslese

There was also a Selbach-Oster Model Reisling Spatlese and a Weingut Pitthan Dornfelder Dry Barrique Style available as well.

We moved on with fuller bellies to China.  After a stop to meet Mulan, we made our way to the food area.

China

2013 China Menu
2013 China Menu

China, a cuisine like Japan which doesn’t really appeal to me, had four entrees which don’t need much explanation available for a snack credit: Mongolian Beef, Black Pepper Shrimp, Chicken Potstickers, and Silk Ice Cream Ribbon with Coconut.

If I didn’t have my tour guide with me, I would have been tempted to try the ice cream with coconut because I love coconut.

A wide variety of alcohol was available starting with Tsingtao Beer and two Francis Ford Coppola wines: a reisling and a syrah.  China, like France, brought in two specialty drinks: a Kung Fu Punch with vodka and triple sec and a Happy Lychee with tequila and vodka.

Finally, our tour guide and I came to our last World Pavilion showcase stop…Mexico.  She missed this picture for a trip to the washroom.

Mexico

2013 Mexico Menu
2013 Mexico Menu

Mexico kept it simple with its entree options with a steak taco or a shrimp taco.  It had a rice pudding dessert option as well.

The alcoholic selections are, in my opinion, uninspired.  Dos Equis Beer is available for their beer selection.  A sangria to cover the wine selection.  A spicy mango-habanero sounds very spicy.  They also offered a tequila flight.

None of these appealed to either me or my tour guide.  The heat was getting us to the point where we just wanted to finish up our tour and head back to the hotel and the pool.

Some pavilions, but not all, have non-alcoholic selections (lemonade, water, etc.) available.

If you would like to see some in-depth pictures of the entrees and drinks available, I would highly recommend going to the Disney Food Blog at http://www.disneyfoodblog.com.  AJ Wolfe, who runs the blog, also creates an e-book once all the information about the Food and Wine Festival is available.  My wife and I bought the book last year and my wife was lucky enough to eat the Parisian Breakfast with AJ, as well, through random pairing of “Party of 1’s.”

Her 2014 e-book is available for pre-order here: http://dfbminiguides.com/foodandwine

That covers the World Showcase Pavilions.  Tomorrow, we will cover the additional pavilions.

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Character Meet and Greets

In continuing with the theme of the “basics” of a Walt Disney World vacation, today’s topic is Character Meet and Greets.  Disney has a lot of characters and a lot of visitors want to meet those characters.  In my opinion, Disney has developed three ways for guests to meet their favorite characters:

1) Character Meals: Table-service meals where Disney characters rotate through the dining hall for pictures with the guests.

2) Formal In-Park Meet and Greets: Pre-established areas, with set design, where guests can go and meet the characters.

3) Informal In-Park Meet and Greets: These are spontaneous or known areas where guest can go and meet the characters.

Each type of meet-and-greet has its own pluses and minuses.

Character Meals:

At Walt Disney World, there are plenty of opportunities to get a meal and autographs/pictures with your favorite characters.

In the four parks:

Animal Kingdom: Donald’s Dining Safari at Tusker House (breakfast and lunch only) – Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy

EPCOT: Chip N’ Dale’s Harvest Feast at Garden Grill (dinner only) – Chip N’ Dale, Pluto, Mickey

Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Banquet Hall (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel, Mary Poppins

Note about this meal: All characters listed are not guaranteed to appear at your meal.  They rotate based on the day and meal.

Guests also receive a professional photo package which includes: 4 prints (4″x6″) and 1 6″x8″ print with one of the princesses.  The package is delivered to the table during the meal.

Hollywood Studios: Disney’s Play N’ Dine at Hollywood and Vine (breakfast and lunch only) – Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Handy Mandy, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates

Magic Kingdom: A Buffet with Character at The Crystal Palace (breakfast, lunch and dinner) – Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger

Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) – Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Snow White; The Fairy Godmother appears at dinner.  This is a TWO table-credit dining experience.

Guests also receive a professional photo package which includes: 4 prints (4″x6″), 1 6″x8″ print, 1 6″x8″ print of Cinderella’s Castle, and a Cinderella Themed Photo Folder

Children (ages 3-9) also receive a special gift: a princess wand for girls and prince’s sword for boys

Meals at the Resorts:

Contemporary Resort: Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Buffet at Chef Mickey’s (breakfast and dinner only) – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Pluto

Grand Floridan Resort and Spa: Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare (breakfast only) – Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and The Mad Hatter

Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare (dinner only) – Cinderella and Prince Charming, The Fairy Godmother, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella,  Some characters may only be seen in the lobby for pictures.

Polynesian Resort: ‘Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast featuring Lilo and Stitch (breakfast only) – Lilo and Stitch.  Often Mickey Mouse and Pluto appear but are not guaranteed.

Yacht and Beach Club Resort: Beach Club Breakfast Buffet at Cape May Cafe (breakfast only) – Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy

 

My family has gone to every character meal on this list except the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare.  We love going to character meals.  It has many advantages.   First, a guest can meet a lot of characters in a short period of time since most of the meals take about 60 to 90 minutes.  Second, a guest can see the characters in “non-traditional” attire.  For example, Mickey Mouse is dressed as Farmer Mickey at Garden Grill, Safari Mickey at Tusker House and Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey’s.  Third, it gives the guest a chance to relax, sit down in an air-conditioned environment while the characters come to them as opposed to the other way around.

The major drawback to the character meals, guests are taking away time in the parks to spend time at a meal.  Another drawback is if a guest is not on the Disney Dining Plan, these meals can be a bit pricey.  Most of them are buffets and not true sit down meals.

That being said, you can get some great pictures and some quality character interaction.

My daughter at Chef Mickey's with Minnie Mouse
My daughter at Chef Mickey’s with Minnie Mouse
And with Donald Duck at Chef Mickey's
And with Donald Duck at Chef Mickey’s
Daughter with Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare
Daughter with Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare

Sometimes if you get seated at the right place, you can get some good panoramic pictures of the resort.

View from our table at Chef Mickey's
View from our table at Chef Mickey’s

Formal In-Park Meet and Greets:

This group of meet and greets is set only in the parks.  When Disney, first opened, almost all the meet and greets were informal.  If you saw a character walking through the resort, you could stop and take pictures.  As more and more people wanted to meet the characters, Disney made the meet and greet more formalized.  They set up permanent locations where people can go and meet the characters.  There are many locations where guests can do this.  Another way to determine if a meet and greet is formal or informal is to ask this question: Is there a wait time listed for the meet and greet?  If the answer is yes, then it’s a formal meet and greet.

Animal Kingdom: Currently there are no formal meet and greets anymore.  Disney is in the process of creating Avatar Land which is scheduled to open in 2017.  In the process of creating this land, they had to eliminate the Camp Minnie-Mickey.  Camp Minnie-Mickey was a place was guests could meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and a rotating set of characters.  There were also informal meet and greets that would spring up when the lines for the other characters go too long.  My daughter got the chance to meet Thumper and Miss Bunny at one of the informal meet and greets.

EPCOT: The EPCOT Character Spot – Mickey, Pluto, and Minnie Mouse

EPCOT is also the best place for informal in-park meet and greets.

Hollywood Studios: Hollywood Studios doesn’t have a meet and greets which meet the “wait time listed” criteria.  However, they do have four meet and greets where guests can meet characters in a formal setting with themed backdrops:

Outside of Disney Junior Live – Disney Junior Characters on a rotating basis

Phineas and Ferb Meet and Greet outside of Muppetvision

Monsters University in Pixar Place

The Animation Courtyard – Typically Sorcerer Mickey, Winnie the Pooh, and characters from non-princess Movies

Magic Kingdom: Magic Kingdom has the most formal character meet and greets.

Ariel’s Grotto – Ariel as a mermaid

Pete’s Silly Sideshow (2 queues) – Donald Duck and Goofy in one queue; Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse in the other.

Princess Hall (2 queues) – Cinderella and Rapunzel  in one queue; Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen in the other.

Note: the wait times for Anna and Elsa can approach the four hour range.  As I’m writing, the listed expected wait time is 300 minutes (5 hours).  Two tips: either get in line right away or use a Fastpass+ experience for this.  The Fastpass+ should cut the wait time down to “only” 30 minutes.

Tinker Bell’s Nook – Tinker Bell and the other Disney Fairies

Town Square Mickey – Magician Mickey Mouse

These meet and greets are a good way to meet characters but have the drawback of potentially long wait times to meet one, maybe, two characters and waiting, for a portion of the time, outside.  Still the pictures can be good:

The family with Phineas and Ferb
The family with Phineas and Ferb

 

My daughter with Mike and Sulley from Monsters University
My daughter with Mike and Sulley from Monsters University
My daughter meeting Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation Studio.
My daughter meeting Sorcerer Mickey in the Animation Studio.

Informal In-Park Meet and Greets:

These meet and greets vary in location and/or time of day.  There is no set schedule when this type of meet and greet takes place.  The best thing to do is to ask a Cast Member or Guest Relations when a guest arrives at the park.  Some of the same meet and greets take place every day (for example: Princesses like Snow White and Mulan in EPCOT have a set schedule) , however, not all of them do which is why it is best to ask upon arrival.  This is also a good chance to see rarely seen characters.  Typically, the lines for this type of meet and greet is shorter than the formal meet and greet given there is no set schedule.

Meeting Minnie Mouse at EPCOT
Meeting Minnie Mouse at EPCOT

This is a rarity – meeting one of the “Big Five” characters at an informal meet and greet.  My daughter and I were walking through EPCOT during the Food and Wine Festival, last year, as I was taking her picture in front of every booth and Minnie came walking out.  We, immediately, stopped her for a picture before a line could form.  She came out with this guy:

My daughter with King Louie from Jungle Book
My daughter with King Louie from Jungle Book

As we continued to walk through the World Showcase, we passed into China and Mulan was out for pictures and autographs.  This was the first time we had seen Mulan in our travels.  As a result, she was one of the few princesses that daughter didn’t have her picture taken with.  So, we stopped for a picture.

My daughter with Mulan in the China Pavilion.
My daughter with Mulan in the China Pavilion.

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