Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's your Disney side?

#DisneySide @Home Celebration Time!

Show Your Disney Side

I am super excited that I was chosen to host a #DisneySide @Home Celebration party. Anyone who knows me knows that I love Disney. Some may even say that I am a little obsessed with that comment I definitely plead the fifth! I absolutely love talking Disney with anyone and everyone, and have been known on multiple occasions to talk to complete strangers about why they should take a family trip to Disney World. My daughter laughs at me, but she has also been known to throw in a few tips along the way, so don't let her fool you :)

If you aren't familiar with the term DisneySide, then let me tell you my interpretation of the term. To me, it is that little child inside of us that comes out when we think about Disney. For some of us, it may cause us to pull out a set of Mickey ears and sing the Mickey Mouse March. For others, it may mean putting on a Tinkerbell shirt and cranking up the Disney music in the car. For others, it may just mean drinking out of a Goofy mug and sitting down at the computer to plan our next trip. We all have our hidden DisneySide that comes out at one time or another. For me, it is all of the above and many many more. Each time I walk down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, my inner child comes out and I have to control my urge to skip to the castle and run to meet Mickey. That's my DisneySide. I would love to hear what yours is as well.

So, what is a #DisneySide @Home Celebration? It is a party that we get to host to share Disney with our friends and family. I applied to host a few months ago, and received an exciting email a few weeks ago stating that I was chosen. I will receive a box in the mail filled with various goodies I will need for my party. Right now no one knows for sure what is in the box, but the boxes from years past have been awesome. They provide party decorations, party ideas, and take home goodies for the guests. This year, they even assigned various themes to different hosts. We were lucky to get a great theme. Ours is a villain theme, geared towards teens and tweens. Needless to say, my little Princess is excited about the opportunity to find our Disney Villain side. We love all things Disney, but truthfully tend to gravitate to the Fab Five or Princesses when we visit the park. It will be exciting to explore our darker, villain side :) We are just beginning the planning stages of this party, but we can't wait to get this party started soon. Stay tuned for more details and ideas.

Stay tuned for more exciting Disney updates from our family!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Port Orleans Riverside. It's a Royal Life!

Wow! It has been a whole year since I last posted. I can't believe it. A whole lot of fun stuff has happened in that year so hopefully I will be able to stay on track and post about all of them. There have been a lot of changes in the World of Disney and I look forward to sharing all of them with you...if I can just remember how to use my blog :)

Our most recent trip was last month and it was amazing as usual. This time we went with extended family which added a whole new dynamic of fun to our vacation. More about that later though. We were also lucky enough to test the new Magic Bands and Fastpass+ system and I definitely have a lot to say about both of those!

Today's post is about Port Orleans Riverside. This was our first time to ever stay at this resort, and we were all super excited to try it out. It constantly gets rave reviews from guests, and I can definitely see why. It was absolutely beautiful and very relaxing after a long day in the park. The grounds were beautiful, the rivers were calming, and the pools were so much fun. Everything we hoped for, and so much more!

We also were lucky enough to try out the Royal Guest Rooms, which were so much fun! I don't know that I would pay extra every time for these rooms, but they were definitely worth doing once. When free dining was announced for our trip, they were the only rooms we could get at Port Orleans Riverside (POR) and we were willing to pay extra just to stay at that resort and get the free dining. Our little princess was turning 10 during our trip, so we knew it wouldn't be long before she felt "too cool" for these rooms. We decided it was a perfect time to try them out. As the trip approached, we were getting more and more excited about the rooms, and they definitely did not disappoint.

The decorations were so pretty and there were so many little details that made the room fun for all of us. I must admit that my favorite part was watching the fireworks on the headboards. I hit the button multiple times while we were there just to watch the 30 second fireworks show :) So much fun!

We were also very lucky to receive a great location for our room. When I did online check in prior to our trip I had requested a corner room on the ground floor. These requests are definitely not guaranteed, but we almost always get what we ask for. Another thing you can do is call the front desk about four days before you arrive (or send a fax) and ask for the room assignment area. If you have a more detailed request to make, such as requesting a specific building, or making sure you have everything you need for a medical issue, this is definitely the way to go. I didn't need to do it for us since there are only two buildings that are royal rooms, but I did do this for my in-laws who were staying at Pop Century and needed to be as close to the main building as possible. Thankfully, their requests were met! Anyway, back to our room assignment. We received a corner room directly behind the fountain in the Oak Manor building. The nightly movie was literally right outside our door and my daughter was able to watch the movie while sitting in our window. Very nice! Plus, our morning walk to the main building for breakfast and the buses was less than five minutes for us. I doubt I could have loved our location more :) Here is a picture looking out our front door.

While the food court at the hotel isn't huge, it served it's purpose and we were happy with it. Some people complain that there isn't as much variety as some of the other resorts. I can't comment on that as we didn't buy any meals there, but we did have ice cream snacks a few days and they were pretty good. The service was pretty fast and the eating area is very large. We ate our donuts or bagels there every morning and never had a hard time finding a table.

One of my favorite parts of the resort (other than it's beautiful grounds) was the main pool. It had something for everyone. There were fountains spraying water in one part of the pool, while the other part had one of the longest slides on property leading into it. Next to the main pool was a kiddie pool and a hot tub (which in my opinion should have been a lot bigger). Sadly, there were a few times that it was hard to tell the difference between the kiddie pool and hot tub as there were so many kids playing in the hot tub I couldn't get in it. I wish that was better patrolled, but like everything else, it comes down to parents watching their kids and being cognizant of others. That's a topic for a whole different blog! We didn't get to spend as much time as we would have liked at the pool, but then again we paid for the parks, not the pools :) I can swim at home.

There are two other quick things I must add about our resort that made it so unique. Several nights during the week it has a performer named Yee Ha Bob who entertains unlike any other I have ever seen. I doubt anyone can walk by the lobby without stopping a minute to watch the show and sing along. We watched him several times, and loved every minute of it. Also, Port Orleans has a boat service from the resort to Downtown Disney which was a wonderful way to take a relaxing break during the day. It was by far the highlight of one of our days.

So, that in a nutshell is our stay at Port Orleans. The resort was beautiful (though very big), the staff was super friendly, the mousekeeping staff did a phenomenal job, the food court was adequate, the pool was fun, and the buses were very good while we were there. For all of these reasons (and many more) I can't wait to stay at this resort again. Next time I would like to stay in the Alligator Bayou section just to see the complete other theme of the resort (there are two themes at the resort....Mansions and Alligator Bayou). I highly recommend Port Orleans Riverside to anyone! Just make sure you put in a request for a building close to the main building before you leave home :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dining Review of Portobello at Downtown Disney

It's hard to believe that we have been home from Disney for a month already. Time has absolutely flown by. While we were at Disney I had told myself I would come home and write a review for each table service restaurant we ate at as soon as I could so that I would remember the specific details of the meal. Well, with my Grandmother passing away while we were at Disney World, then heading straight to Iowa for the funeral seven hours after returning home, it was a little crazy around here. So, today starts the first of ten reviews over the coming weeks, and I can only hope I remember the details I tried to focus on while we were there :)

Our first meal of the trip was at Portobello in Downtown Disney. We had reservations at 6:30 as we knew we would be driving all day long and were hoping for a nice, relaxing way to kick off our vacation. We had never eaten here, but it had always been high on my list as a new one I wanted to try. This was the first year it was available on the dining plan, so we happily booked this one 180 days before our trip and anxiously looked forward to it all summer long. I only wish the meal itself had lived up to the hype I had created inside my head!

It started off pretty promising. Since we started our trip a little earlier than we had planned, we arrived in Disney around 2:00 pm. Our room was ready at All Star Sports so we were able to get moved in and settled by 3:30. We decided to head on over to Downtown Disney and see if we could get an earlier seating. By the time we got there, it was about 4:30 and there were only a few guests in the restaurant. It was looking good to us. After explaining our situation to the hostess, she said that she could seat us then, and that she would be with us in a moment. We stood in the lobby with another family for what seemed like 10 minutes. I did not time it, but it definitely was a while. She finally came back and took both of our families to our tables. Once we were there we sat, and sat, and sat waiting for our server. Finally, our server arrived and took our drink orders. Then we waited a long time again for them to be brought to us. Finally we placed our order and sat back to enjoy the meal. A few minutes into our wait, they sat a very large family at the table to next to us. The table was so close that we literally had to get up and move our table over into the aisle as they were continually hitting my arm with every little move they made. The bad part was that the restaurant still wasn't that crowded at that time so they could have seated them anywhere in the restaurant. However, we fixed the problem and were ready for our meals.

While we were waiting they brought us a basket of bread. I am a huge bread eater so I was thrilled! However, I was quickly disappointed. One of the breads had a very odd taste to it, and the other was so hard I could barely cut it to spread butter on it. Next came our entrees. I had settled on the Chicken Farfalle (snow peas, asparagus, tomatoes, and parmigiano cream sauce) and my husband had the Ravioli Gigante (handcrafted ricotta and spinach filled pasta, tomato, basil, and toasted garlic). Truthfully, I can't remember what my daughter had, but I am guessing it was pizza as that was her main meal every day. My husband really enjoyed the taste of the ravioli, but the sauce was super thin. It was like a broth. This may be authentic Italian, but he just didn't like the consistency of it. However, he did enjoy the taste as did my daughter who kept stealing bites of it. I wish I could say the same about my Farfalle. I think it would have been really good if I had ordered it without the snow peas. I personally like snow peas, but apparently not on my pasta. The taste was so strong, that I could taste it in every bite I had, whether I actually ate a snow pea or not. It was very garden tasting (I know that is a weird description, but I don't know any other way to express this taste). I only ate about half the meal, and was really looking forward to dessert.

The dessert was not that great either. I actually had to look at the website to see the dessert options to remember what I ate. I had the Fragole con Saba e Caramello. Although it sounds really fancy, it was just berry sorbet with marinated strawberries. By berry sorbet they mean the strongest raspberry flavored sorbet you can imagine with super soggy overcooked strawberries. I guess it was a little too fancy for me. Just give me plain ice cream please :). My husband had the Chocolate Paradis, which was Rich chocolate layer cake, chocolate ganache and toffee crunch. He was actually pretty happy with his, though it wasn't the best cake he's ever had. He is a dessert person, but he probably wouldn't go back just for the dessert alone. My daughter loved her dessert. It was a create your own sundae. They brought her ice cream, chocolate sauce, mickey sprinkles, and whipped cream (all in separate bowls) and she was able to mix to her hearts content. She was in heaven.

As soon as we ordered our dessert, we said that we were also ready for our check. We had been there a long time, and were ready to head to Disney Quest for some fun before collapsing in our hotel. However, even after taking our time eating our dessert, we were still waiting on our check. My husband finally had to go looking for someone to get our server so that we could get our check and go. I don't know if our server had too many tables, or was just forgetful, but we had to ask multiple times for refills and various items throughout our meal. Slow would be an understatement to describe our meal.

So, would I go back? Maybe. The food wasn't the greatest, and the service was far from good, but maybe they were having an off night. I definitely would not pay out of pocket for this meal. Our bill came to over $80 for the three of us, and that was just entree, colas, and dessert for each of us. Nothing special. If I had the dining plan (for free) again, and needed one more meal to fill the week I might would try it again in a few years. It is definitely at the bottom of my list though. With so many wonderful restaurants at Disney World, I would definitely choose several others over Portobello!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesday

Another short and sweet one. You're welcome :) As I prepare for my wonderful trip in less than two weeks, I have a million things running through my mind. I also have a list a mile long of things I still need to do, so I am going to give an easy tip today.

Did you know that you can call T-Rex directly for dining reservations? There are a few made available via the Disney World website, but the majority of their reservations are taken directly through the restaurant itself. The phone number is 407-828-TREX (8739). So, if you have a little one who has their heart set on eating there, call the restaurant directly if the website shows no availability. Chances are very good that you can get a seating at the time you want!

On a side note, if you have ever thought about eating here, I highly recommend it. Especially now that the restaurant is on the Disney Dining Plan. We have eaten here many many times and my daughter (who is almost 9) absolutely loves it. It is a little loud, but the fun factor definitely makes up for the noise in my opinion!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesday

Here is a really quick tip. The check in time for Disney resorts is 3:00 pm. However, you should definitely check with the front desk if you arrive in the area early as we have gotten lucky several times and were able to get into our room as early as noon. You can check in at any time during the day, but your room may not be available. If you want to hit the parks as soon as you arrive in Orlando, check with your hotel whenever you arrive. If your room isn't available, you can leave your bags with the baggage area and they will hold them until you return from the parks. We have been lucky enough to have them delivered to our room before, but that doesn't always happen. At least you know your bags are being safely taken care of while you are playing in the parks!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Maximizing the Dining Plan...Part 2

Finally, I have found five minutes to write my follow up to Maximizing the Dining Plan that I started probably a month ago! When are we going to get that extra hour in our day? I keep losing hours out of my days :)

So, you have made the decision to get the dining plan for your Disney World vacation. Maybe you were lucky enough to get it for free and it doesn't really matter where you eat (what a nice treat). However, if you had to pay for the plan and want to figure out how to make the most of it, here are a few tips. My first post talked about the sit down meals, but here are a few tips for quick service. Hope they help!

First of all, make sure you order every item that comes with the plan. For quick service meals, each person gets one entree, one drink, and one dessert. As a side note, most restaurants have combo meals where you also get a side with your entree. One exception to this is the turkey legs. They do not come with anything else, so you will only get the leg, a drink and a dessert. When you order, make sure you get a drink and dessert, even if you don't want it at the time. If you are eating at the hotel and can use your refillable mug for coffee or a soft drink, get a bottled drink and stick it in your bag for later (remember you can always get a free cup of ice at a counter service location so you can have a refreshing drink later if you don't want it with your meal). If you don't want the dessert and the restaurant doesn't have a cookie or rice krispy treat you can stick in your bag for later, see if they will let you have a bag of grapes or carrots instead. Disney is all about healthy eating so they will often let you substitute something from the healthy kids selections as a dessert. Not all will, but it doesn't hurt to ask. This makes a great snack later! Also, always ask for a large size drink. You can get either a medium or large size with the plan, and if you don't specify, they will give you a medium with your meal.

Most plans offer enough credits for two meals a day (either one table service and one quick service on the Regular Dining Plan, or two quick service meals on the Quick Service Plan). So, what do you do for the other meal? Bring your own breakfast! You get the most value money wise out of a quick service meal at lunch and dinner. These meals simply cost more. Besides, it is a whole lot cheaper to bring donuts, or bagels, pop tarts, and bread to toast in the food court than it is to pack your own sandwiches for lunch or dinner. We only use a quick service meal at breakfast when we have extra meals.

How do you get extra meals if you only are allotted enough for two a day? We share meals in a few of the restaurants where the food portions are extra large. I have written a separate blog on this in the past, but a few of the ones we share at are Yak and Yeti counter service in Animal Kingdom (sweet and sour chicken and rice), Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios (pizza with a salad), Cosmic Rays at Magic Kingdom (BBQ chicken and rib plate) and Sunshine Seasons at Epcot (cashew chicken and rice). Sometimes we get one adult meal and one child meal, or just two adult meals. The quick service credits are lumped into one big pot, and are not broken down into a set amount of child and adult meals. Some counter service restaurants do not offer a kids meal, so they have to order off of the adult menu. We don't share every meal, but usually do two or three over the course of ten days. This allows us to get two or three meals at breakfast to break up our monotony of donuts and bagels!

So, there you have it. A few suggestions for making the most of the counter service meals. If you always order a dessert and a large drink, you will maximize your money. Also, instead of wasting food you are too stuffed to eat, get something to save for a snack later in the day. Then you can save your snack credit for a super yummy snack instead of a drink...maybe a Butterfinger cupcake at Starring Rolls in Hollywood Studios, a homemade ice cream sandwich or cinnamon roll at the Main Street Bakery in Magic Kingdom, or a truly unique treat from one of the countries of World Showcase at Epcot!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Travel Tip Tuesday

I stink at keeping up! Now that school is back in, this will be better! Anyway, today's travel tip is for all of you have someone with food allergies in your family. If someone has an allergy, or special diet that they must follow, then Disney is the vacation to take with your family. All of the chefs at Disney are wonderful and trained to deal with a plethora of dietary restrictions. Many of the menus already include vegan options, while some even have gluten free or sugar free options as well. If you don't see something on the menu that you feel comfortable with, or if your food needs to be created in a nut free zone, they can probably accomodate you. All you have to do is ask to speak to the chef and tell them you have food allergies. The chef will come to your table and work with you to create a meal that your special eater can fully enjoy.

On a side note though, Disney takes food allergies very very seriously. If you have a slight one and want to chance eating what is on the menu, don't mention the word allergy around your server. Case is point, my daughter has a slight milk allergy. In her case, her face breaks out after she is exposed to a lot of dairy. Seeing as my daughter lives on pizza and Mac and cheese at Disney, this often happens towards the end of our trip. She doesn't get sick, doesn't go into anaphylactic shock, and the spots don't bother her. They are just blemishes on her face. I have the same issue if I drink too much milk. So, a few years ago we were eating at the super expensive Cinderella castle as her special birthday meal. This was a big deal to her. As we were going over the menu and she was saying she wanted macaroni and cheese, I asked my husband if we should let her have it since she had spots on her face. The waiter walked up just as I mentioned the milk allergy. He said he would get the chef, even though I was not talking to him. I told him not to worry about it, it wasn't a big deal. He insisted that he had to get him since I "mentioned the word allergy". The chef comes out and refuses to allow her to have the macaroni. He then spent at least ten minutes at our table trying to come up with something my super picky then five year old would eat. We finally settled on plain pasta with sauce on the side. When it was time for dessert, he again said no to the birthday cupcake as it has a small amount of milk in it. I tried to explain that her allergy is not affected by milk baked into objects, only pure milk or dairy products and that she could have the cupcake. He still refused, but sent out some sorbet that I told him she wouldn't eat. My daughter was devastated and wanted the cupcake, but he wouldn't give in. While I completely understand that he was doing his job and trying to keep an allergy reaction from occurring, I wish he would have stopped when I told him about how the reaction is limited to straight dairy. At least let her have the cupcake! It was a very emotionally draining meal, and definitely not worth the price that night (we have eaten there before and totally loved it though so this was an isolated incident strictly linked to the allergy issue). I will never mention the word allergy again at Disney in regards to my daughter's milk allergy.

I told the story not to bash Disney or that Chef, but to illustrate the extreme seriousness the Chefs have in regard to food allergies. Just keep it in mind if you have someone with a milder allergy!