All posts by Barbara Ryan

Travel agent specializing in Disney vacation planning for Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland, Aulani and Adventures by Disney. Also specializing in Universal Studios, Cruises, and Sandals resorts. The benefits of using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for promotions, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part? It’s totally FREE! I’ll take away the stress and confusion (it's a big place!) of planning a Disney vacation!

Disney Cruise Line Itineraries summer 2018

Open for booking today!

In summer 2018, Disney Cruise Line will sail on new itineraries and to new ports, including first-time visits to destinations in Italy and Ireland. Disney Cruise Line takes Guests on a grand tour of Europe with visits to the Mediterranean, northern Europe, Norway and Iceland. Plus, adventures continue with sailings to Alaska, the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

New sailings from Rome and Barcelona
For the first time, Disney Cruise Line Guests can experience more of the rich culture of Barcelona and inspiring history of Rome in a single cruise. In Rome, Guests can explore the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Vatican, and sample authentic local cuisine. Barcelona offers beautiful beaches, the market streets of La Rambla, the artistic architecture of Gaudi and the famed Sagrada Família church.

On June 16, 2018, the Disney Magic will sail a seven-night cruise from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (Rome). Ports of call include Marseilles and Villefranche, France; and Genoa (Milan), Livorno (Florence, Pisa) and Naples, Italy.

On June 23, 2018, the Disney Magic will sail a seven-night itinerary from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona. Ports visited on this cruise are Naples, Livorno (Florence, Pisa) and Genoa (Milan), Italy; and Cannes and Marseilles, France.

First-time visits to Milan, Italy
Disney Cruise Line will call on Genoa, Italy for the first time in 2018, as part of three special sailings from Barcelona and Civitavecchia (Rome). The historic port town of Genoa, located on the Italian Riviera, is a gateway to the beautiful metropolis of Milan and the picturesque locale of Portofino. Milan is a global capital of fashion and design, featuring top-name designer stores, boutiques, open-air markets and art galleries.

A 10-night Mediterranean itinerary sailing from Barcelona on July 7, 2018, calls on Genoa, as well as other popular ports in Italy, France and Spain.

First-time visit to Cork, Ireland and first seven-night British Isles
The Disney Magic will call on Cork, Ireland for the first time as part of a first-ever seven-night British Isles cruise, departing on September 2, 2018. Additional ports visited on this sailing include Dublin, Ireland; Greenock, Scotland; and Liverpool, England. Cork is home to a vibrant culinary scene and a plethora of pubs, shops and cafes. It invites visitors to connect with Ireland’s ancient past, with historic sites like Blarney Castle, where visitors can kiss the famed Blarney Stone.

Throughout the summer, the Disney Magic will continue to tour Europe with engagements in the Baltic, Norwegian fjords, British Isles and the Mediterranean.

Return to Alaska
In 2018, the newly re-imagined Disney Wonder will return to Alaska for the summer season, opening up a world of breathtaking natural vistas, magnificent glaciers and awe-inspiring wildlife. A variety of five-, seven- and nine-night itineraries will depart from Vancouver, Canada, with stops in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point and Tracy Arm Fjord.

Southern Caribbean Special Sailing
In 2018, the Disney Fantasy will embark on a special 11-night southern Caribbean itinerary departing June 30, visiting tropical destinations renowned for beautiful sun-kissed beaches, including Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, St. Kitts, Puerto Rico and the Disney private island, Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay – More Opportunities to Explore Disney’s Exclusive Private Island
Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, is consistently a top-rated destination. In 2018, the Disney Dream will sail a series of cruises that include two stops at Castaway Cay so Guests can have twice the fun in the sun and enjoy even more of the pristine island paradise.

 

A Beauty of an Offer

You can Play, Stay, Dine and save up to $500* on a 5-night 6-day Walt Disney Travel Company room, ticket and dining plan package for a family of four at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels for stays most nights Jan. 1-March 7, 2017 when booked Oct. 3-Dec. 21, 2016.unnamed

*The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same package for 2 adults, 1 junior, 1 child in the same room. Tickets valid for one Theme Park per day and must be used within 14 days of first use. Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required. Offer excludes campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms.

Excludes alcoholic beverages and gratuities, Children ages 3-9 must order from children’s menu, if available. Some Table-Service restaurants may have limited or no availability at time of package purchase.

Full List of Disney Resort Hotel Exclusions:
Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms, Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.

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Trattoria al Forno Dinner Review

Trattoria al Forno is located on Disney’s Boardwalk outside of Epcot’s International Gateway. Also known as the exit between the U.K. and France pavilions.

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This restaurant replaced Cat Kora’s Kouzzina 2 years ago. Another lesser known restaurant that consistently has excellent food and service. This was our second visit, we visited last year as well.

Trattoria al Forno

Trattoria al Forno

We started with ordering drinks, water for the boys, a Peach Bellini for me and an Italian beer for my husband. Next, we shared an appetizer of Fried Calamari – with Balsamic Agrodolce $11.99. I normally don’t eat more than a bit or two of calamari, not a big fan, but this was very good and I had more than I normally would.

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For entrees I chose the Seasonal Risotto $18.99. I cannot remember everything that was in it, but it was very tasty. The rice was not over-cooked and the sauce was not overpowering.

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Hubby chose the Braised Short Rib Bologonese – with smoked bacon, tagliatelle, and roasted mushrooms $21.99. He was a bit jealous of my short ribs last night at Captain’s Grille. These were just as wonderful, I had a taste. I did not get a picture, but click the dish name and it will bring you to a photo of the dish from All Ears.

The kids are too old for the kid’s menu and Matthew has very much looking forward to the Giant Meatball he had last year. He talked about it for months leading up to the trip asking if we could go eat there again.  It was changed a bit from last year, but he had the Polpetta Gigante – beef meatball, spinach ricotta canneloni and Sunday Gravy $19.99. It was not quite as big, but still pretty large. Spinach and ricotta not being items he would normally eat, but he wanted that giant meatball and ordered it anyways. He said he didn’t even notice the taste of the spinach although you could clearly see it and he liked the ricotta cheese.

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Eric chose a pizza of course, it was quite large, but he finished off the entire pie by himself, including the crust, saying it was very good pizza.

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Service was great and we were seated within minutes of arriving despite being early for our reservation. It was busy, but not completely full and with the open kitchen, it makes for a fun lively atmosphere even though it’s more formal than most.

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This is another one of my favorite restaurants on Disney property.

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Captains Grille Dinner Review

Captain’s Grille is one of the most under-rated restaurants at Disney World in my opinion. Having had breakfast here twice, both excellent, we decided to try it for a “date” dinner one night on our recent trip.

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We arrived without a reservation on a rainy evening and were seating immediately. Our waitress was wonderful, she took our drink order and went over all the specials and then returned to answer any questions we had and make recommendations on things we were considering.

For an appetizer, I had the House-made Potato-Cheese Gnocchi – toasted walnut breadcrumbs, julienne pears and truffle butter $9. It was excellent. I am used to homemade, by my father and mother, gnocchi and they can be difficult to get right. These were perfect. Not too soft, but not hard either. A very nice texture. Hubby had the New England Clam Chowder – creamy chowder with clams, potatoes, and vegetables $8. I didn’t get a picture. He said it was very good though.

Captains Grille

Hubby chose beer and I chose a lovely glass of Riesling.

Next was the entrees. Hubby went for the crab legs as this is something he rarely gets to eat. Snow Crab Legs – New Potatoes and Corn on the Cob $31. They are a lot of work, but he enjoyed them.

Captains Grille

I chose Tagliatelle Pasta – braised short ribs, fennel, cipollini onions, veal jus, shaved parmesan, and seasoned greens $23. The braised short ribs were a menu item on their own as well and came recommended, but after a week of very little pasta when we eat it quite often at home, I was craving a little. The waitress did say they use the same braised ribs in this dish so it was a good choice. This was so good. The ribs were like butter, so soft and the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente.  There was a good amount of short ribs in this dish, they are mostly covered by the pasta in the picture.

Captains Grille

We did not indulge in dessert as we were quite full with all this food, the portions are  just right.

The atmosphere in this restaurant, located just off Disney’s Yacht Club Resort lobby is upscale , but not overly so. Still casual enough to feel comfortable with kids and there were several tables of families as well as couples and a few small groups when we were there.

This was one of my favorite meals at Disney World, ever!

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Spirit of the Swamp Adventure

Our recent trip to Florida included this wonderful first for us.

Air boat adventure on Spirit of the Swamp Air Boats

We drove out to Kissimmee and Lake Tohopekaliga to the address from the website. We were a little worried as it was raining most of the way and a hurricane was bearing down on Florida.  We didn’t know what to expect and we arrived to a park with a playground, a restroom, a dock area with the air boats and the address was a private residence. You check in right at the dock and they use the private house address so your GPS will get you there, it was a tad confusing when we first drove in, but it worked. There appeared to be another air boat company there as well.

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We met Captain Lynne from Spirit of the Swamp and boarded our boat after she put the canopy up since it was sprinkling. It was a small boat and it was just our family, which was really nice. We booked a 1 hour ride. We got on and were told about the headsets, we could hear the Captain and we could all speak as well without pressing anything and we could all hear each other. The boat is quite loud especially when going fast so the headsets are a must. As we were making our way along the canal out to the lake, Captain Lynne told us safety features and how the boat works.

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Once we arrived onto the lake, we immediately started spotting wildlife. Mainly birds, interesting birds everywhere. Vultures and egrets I believe were the first we saw. Captain Lynne was full of information about the birds, the lake and the alligators and she was funny too. We very quickly found our first alligator, it was hatchling season, so there were mama gators guarding their nests and babies in spots and Captain Lynne knew them all. We got to see several nests and the babies are hard to spot, they are so tiny, but at one nest we saw tons of them. Unfortunately, the mother was nowhere to be seen. Captain Lynne said she hadn’t seen her in days and was afraid she had been caught as hunting season had started 2 weeks earlier. It seemed really wrong to us that they would allow hunting of female alligators right during hatchling season. Now those babies will probably not survive much longer without their mother.

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We were not sure what to expect, but we had a really good time on this excursion and am so glad we did it. It sprinkled a bit, on and off, but we were covered and stayed dry.

I had been on an air boat once when I was a child in the everglades, but I barely remember it. I do remember it being a big boat with lots of people. This was so nice because it was just us, we all had a great view, Captain Lynne would turn the boat around so we all got a great view.

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From Disney World, it took about 40 minutes to get there with some traffic. It took us under 30 minutes to get back.

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I highly recommend this “off the beaten path” adventure while in the Orlando area.

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Disney’s Beach Club Villas Review

Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, along with the Beach Club Villas are located in the Epcot Resorts area. Along with the Boardwalk  Resort and Villas and the non-Disney owned Swan and Dolphin. These resorts surround Crescent Lake and are walking distance to Epcot’s International Gateway and a slightly longer walk to Hollywood Studios. Boats are also available to take guests to these parks and from one side of Crescent Lake to the other.

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Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club & Villas share the undisputed best pool in all the “world,” Disney World that is. Stormalong Bay is a 3 acre water playground with the longest slide on property, built into a pirate ship! Additional slides, hot tubs, sand bottom and a lazy river round out this aquatic playground.

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The Villas are in a building behind the main Beach Club building. They have their own lobby with a concierge available to check in with and anything else until 4pm each day. After 4pm, check in is in the main Beach Club lobby. Access to the Villas is through the Beach Club Solarium or doors just by the back entrance to the Marketplace. This path is covered. The Villas have a community room and drawing room with pool table, tv, books, little reading nooks. As well as their own quiet pool.  Villas guests have access to all the amenities at the Yacht and Beach Club.

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The Beach Club Villas are just in the final minutes of a complete refurbishing. A new modern, light, airy feel really brings out the beachy theme with browns an blues and whites.

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With the one and two bedroom villas, you will have a full kitchen and a washer/dryer making life on vacation so much easier.When booking through Disney paying cash, guests receive normal daily housekeeping services. The Villas are a Disney Vacation Club property and if renting points, staying on points, housekeeping is every 4th day.

These villas speak for themselves. Take a look….

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Disney’s Beach Club Villas offer studios, 1 and 2 bedroom villas over 6 floors. With all that Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club have to offer steps away, it’s a great choice for families that need a little more space to stretch out.

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Welcome Home!

 

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Return to Universal

We recently returned from another fabulous Florida vacation. This time was different from all the previous ones. For one thing, we didn’t do the Disney parks, but we still stayed onsite at Disney of course. Let’s not get too crazy here!

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This trip was Universal and other Orlando attractions we’ve never taken the time to do. Sea World, Discovery Cove and we took an air boat ride through the swamp to see alligators! We also rented a car this time, which we’ve never done. Using Disney and private transportation is great, but with so many different things on the itinerary, a car was really necessary this time. It turned out to be easy peasy too.

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You can read all about our last trip (August 2015)  to Universal here. I just posted all about our amazing day at Discovery Cove here.

This trip we spent more time at Universal, 4 nights total with 3 days of park to park tickets, so we could ride Hogwarts Express! This amount of time was great as it really let us enjoy so much more of the parks and still get lots of down time at the resort pool to relax. We mainly spent half days in the parks, the mornings, and the afternoons and evenings at the pool. A dinner break at City Walk and maybe a short trip into a park for a few rides in the evenings.

We stayed on site at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, we love this place! Read all about it here.

Highlights for this year:

Eric was tall enough for everything, last year he missed out on Hulk and Dragon Challenge, so he was thrilled. Hulk had just re-opened after an almost year long refurbishment just a few weeks prior. Phew!

We missed out on a few things last year that we made sure to not miss again. We rode Hogwarts both ways, enjoying the walk through the wall at Platform 9 3/4. The Simpson’s ride became a new favorite and finally after a 20 year wait, I rode E.T. So cute! I was in line for E.T. 20 some odd years ago on a trip with a friend and after waiting in line 2 hours, the ride broke down and we never got to ride it, we were almost inside!

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The Schenectady sign!

Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen had just opened so while wait times for milk shakes and the restaurant were a bit much for us, I did tour the shop and it was great, so unique!

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Matthew the donut lover got to have the Big Pink Donut from Lard Lads. Heaven for him!

img_7408We ate at several restaurants at City Walk including Margaritavilla, Hard Rock Cafe, NBC Sport Grill and Brew, all wonderful.

Skull Island Reign of Kong had recently opened and just started accepting Express Pass when we arrived, perfect timing.

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We of course rode all our favorites from last year, more than once taking advantage of early park entry for onsite guests on 2 of the 3 days and the invaluable Express Pass included with our stay at Portofino Bay Resort. Even during a not so busy time of year, the last week of August, Express Pass came in handy.

Universal can be done in 1-2 days, but taking a little more time really makes it a much more enjoyable vacation and as the kids get older, they tend to lean more towards this type of entertainment.

Ready to go? Let’s plan a trip!

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La Dolce Vita in Orlando

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is one of my favorite hotels in the world. It is picturesque and looks exactly like the real deal in Italy. Only cleaner. It’s so serene and really does force you to slow down and savor the sweet life.

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Our most recent stay was longer than in the past and much more relaxing as we enjoyed the resort as much as the theme parks. We arrived in the evening and after a lovely check in were in our room in no time.

We stayed Club Level in a Deluxe room and found ourselves in the Villa Wing. Location was great, high floor which I requested and not too far from either the front elevator down to the lobby and club lounge or the back elevator which led right to the pool. We had a lovely view of the Villa pool and Bocce Ball court.

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The deluxe rooms are larger than the already very large Portofino rooms. They are 490 sq ft.  The bathroom had a tub and separate shower and is spacious as is the room.

Club Level at Portofino was wonderful. The staff is very helpful, friendly and they keep the food and drink stocked nicely. Club offers you food and beverage options throughout the day. It was easy to stop by the lounge on the way in or out to grab water or a drink.

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In the morning there is breakfast which includes fruit, pastries, cereal, hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes. A coffee station as well as milk and orange juice station round it out.

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During the afternoon, snacks are available, chips cookies and the like. As well as lemonade.

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A drink station is available all day, anytime the lounge is open. Soda and bottled water are available here as well as to go cups.

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During the evening reception, 2 hot dishes are available, usually a pasta dish and something else. As well as a salad bar, cheese, crackers and wine and beer.

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Later, dessert with cakes and cookies.

Potofino Bay Hotel
walking to the parks with my to go cup of vino

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One of our favorite features of this hotel is the pool. The main pool is the Beach Pool. There are fun pool side activities for the kids and adults, the slide is fabulous and great food and drinks can be had at Splendido, the poolside bar. The villa pool is the quiet pool, with cabanas surrounding it and in just a beautiful serene location. There is another small pool called the Hillside in the East Wing of the resort. Pools stay open late, 11pm and the main pool shows a movie at night right there on a screen on the beach in the sand. There is a lovely large hot tub at the Beach Pool as well, with a waterfall feature. Another hot tub and a small children’s splash pad rounds out the area. Music is playing all day and there is lots of activity.

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There are lots of great restaurant choices here, but it’s not far to City Walk or the other hotels either. Bar food at Thirsty Fish, comfort food from Nonna at Mama Dellas or the Trattoria, something quick from Sal’s Deli or upscale Bice. Don’t forget gelato, it’s so good! There is a Starbucks as well. Shopping for art work and unique pieces, a Universal Studios Store and the hotel gift shop with some lovely unique gift ideas.

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The walk to the parks is about 15 minutes via a lovely scenic path that takes you passed Hard Rock Hotel.  Security will be a the end of the path just before arriving at Universal Studios. The boat is quick and easy and you will go through security before boarding the boat.img_7466

A little bit of “la dolce vita” right in the heart of the theme parks!

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Discover Amazing at Discovery Cove

A day at Discovery Cove will be the highlight of your Florida vacation, no question about it. From the moment you drive into the parking lot, you are immersed in a tropical oasis and completely forget the city of Orlando is merely steps away.

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My family recently experienced Discovery Cove for the first time and we absolutely loved it!

What is Discovery Cove?

The best way to describe Discovery Cove is an interactive water experience. It does not have rides and slides as a traditional water park does. You will spend the much of your day in the water, but you’ll be doing things. The park is divided into 3 distinct areas. There is Wind Away River and Serenity Bay just beyond the entrance. The Aviary is also in this area. Then just passed the restaurant is Dolphin Lagoon where the dolphin swim experience happens. Then just past that is the Grand Reef where you snorkel with fish, stingrays and sharks!

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Discovery Cove is an experience that must be reserved in advance. They limit the amount of people per day to keep it from being overly crowded, so when you purchase your tickets, you must select the date you’ll be visiting. You are allowed one change to that date, but just one. The tickets can be bought with or without the dolphin swim, but it’s well worth it if you’ve never done it.

Your day at Discovery Cove is also all-inclusive. This means exactly that. Everything you need for the day is included. Life vests, wet suits, snorkel gear…included. Sunscreen that is animal safe, readily available by all the locker and changing rooms (please don’t wear or bring your own). Towels abundant in the changing rooms. Shampoo, hair dryer, it’s in there. Even plastic bags for your wet clothes. They’ve thought of everything! All your food, breakfast, lunch , snacks, and beverages, including alcohol. It’s included. Lockers are free, the key is hanging inside on a string you can wear around your neck. Your day resort package also includes 14 day unlimited admission to Sea World and Aquatica and you can add Busch Gardens for a minimal add on that also then includes parking. Parking is free at Discovery Cove, but not at the other parks.

img_8424The park opens at 8am, but plan to arrive earlier. They start check in at 7:15am and if you want to get an early dolphin swim time, you’ll need to be there early. Remember, Florida is known for those afternoon thunderstorms that delay the dolphin swims, so getting it done in the morning is recommended. You will receive a lanyard with your photo on it and the time and location of your dolphin swim. It also will be marked with a 21 after they check your ID so you can get alcoholic beverages.

After checking in, you will walk into the park and have your picture taken. This picture is included with your day resort package and can be picked up at the photo center later in the day.

Next depending on what time your dolphin swim is you can go have breakfast before it gets too busy, or as was our case, go straight to get your vests or wet suits and get ready for your dolphin swim. They have full and short wet suits as well as just a vest. The vests are buoyancy vests so they do keep you afloat, not quite a life jacket, but it’s a help. You do have to wear either the wet suit or the vest anytime you are in the water so the lifeguards can see everyone easier. You also receive a snorkel mask and snorkel. The snorkel is yours to keep if you wish, but the mask must be returned. There are staff everywhere directing you where to go to get suited up and set up in the lockers.

As a hurricane was bearing down Florida and the weather expected to not be great in the afternoon, we arrived early and were scheduled for the very first dolphin swim of the day, 8am. So we skipped breakfast and went straight to get suited up, stow our belongings in a locker and made our way to our assigned dolphin cabana.

The dolphin lagoon has 3 coves with 3 dolphin interactions going on at a time. Groups are about 10-12 people per interaction. Each cove has a cabana that you meet in for instructions before the swim. In our case, we were 9, our family of 4, another mother with her 2 kids and a brother and sister. We were assigned to Starfish cabana and arrived there to sign in, sign release forms for the children and receive instructions. You cannot wear any jewelry other than your rings. Earrings must be removed, which I forgot so made my way to nearby lockers to put those in. The trainer comes and explains what will happen and then leads everyone to the water. The water is salt water and kept at about 73 degrees. It was cold to many people, although being from New York, it was unheated swimming pool temperature for us, it was fine. You have about 30 minutes in the water with the trainer and the dolphin and there are some slippery spots so water shoes are recommended. Most of the time you are in waist deep water. We were able to give signals to the dolphin, our dolphin friend was named Clipper and 19 years old, pet and kiss him, feed him fish or jello if you are like me and don’t want to touch fish and get a ride. For the ride, you swim out to deep water where the trainer is and the dolphin comes to you, she shows you how to hold on and away the dolphin goes bringing you back into shallow water. For those not comfortable with deep water, they do have a shallow option as well, there is a ledge of sorts to stand on. You do get a slightly longer ride if you swim out to the deep water though. Before getting out, we met Soleil, a young dolphin, only 2 years old and still being trained. She didn’t come to close to us, but did some things like spinning and waving. Soleil was born across the street in the Dolphin Nursery at Sea World.

Once your interaction is over, you exit the water and are taken back to the cabana to see your pictures. Cameras are not permitted to be taken into the water. They have a photographer and videographer filming the whole interaction. This is the only item not included in your day resort package. They have several picture package options and will go over everything with you. In our case, because we had skipped breakfast to do the early swim, the photographer told us to go have breakfast and then just go to the photo center and we could pick out the picture package there as breakfast time would be over soon and it was 9am, the busiest time for breakfast.

08-img00101 07-img00065 06-img00063 05-img00053 04-img00050We had breakfast and then headed to the Grand Reef to snorkel. It was quite crowded this morning because everyone had the same idea, get it done before the weather turns. The boys loved petting stingrays and seeing all the fish. There are fish everywhere and tons of stingrays. Then there are sharks as well, but they are behind a glass wall so while it looks like you are swimming next to them, you are safe. This water is also 73 degree salt water like Dolphin Lagoon. Again, water shoes are recommended, the rocks in the reef are slippery and sharp in spots. There are also some deep areas so you’ll want kids who are not strong swimmers to wear life vests in addition to the vest or wet suit.

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When it’s crowded it is hard to keep track of your group. This is really the only negative thing I can say about the entire experience. Everyone looks the same in the vests and masks! It wasn’t an issue for me because luckily my kids are good swimmers, with my youngest being a competitive swimmer so I was probably the least skilled of the bunch. I just let them go and took care of myself. I’d choose a less crowded time next time and especially if I needed to keep close tabs on my kids. When we came back for our things on the chairs in the early afternoon, the reef was much less crowded.

Also in the Grand Reef is Sea Venture which is SNUBA, SCUBA but with those full helmets. We did not try this, it is available at an additional cost and you walk along the bottom of the Grand Reef in a section people are not in I believe and it also is said to have the best view of the sharks.

When we had had enough of that, we made our way to Wind Away River. This lazy river is anything but lazy! Deep spots, hidden treasures, caverns and waterfalls. There are deep spots in the river so swimming it all can be tiring. They do have pool noodles in Serenity Bay at the entrance to the river, grab one for a more leisurely journey. It took awhile to make the full circuit, close to 30 minutes I think. After this we visited the marmosets and otters and then the Aviary, which the river actually goes through and you can get out in the Aviary if you choose to. The birds were not terribly hungry already, but the food is free. They give you little cups of food and you try and get the birds to land on you and eat. After this, the kids went for another river  tour while my husband and I had an adult beverage or two sitting in the water. In the shade. Heavenly.

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mango cocktail and seating in the water

6-img_8160 4-100_0959 stock-photo-15 stock-photo-02Next up is lunch time, there were lots of choices at the buffet, self serve drink station and plenty of shaded seating. The birds are on alert here, dive bombing for food left unattended, so don’t leave your food or you’ll have to start all over again at the buffet.

There is tons of seating, lounge chairs everywhere and there seemed to always be availability of them. We didn’t really ever end up sitting on them, but if you like lounging in the sun there is plenty of that available as well. People would drop towels and shoes off on chairs in the morning to “reserve” them. There are so many though it’s not really necessary unless you really want a certain spot.

stock-photo-26 stock-photo-25There are also private cabanas available, at an additional cost. These come with a locker right inside and a fridge stocked with whatever you would like. An attendant will bring you snacks and drinks. These can be reserved 3 weeks in advance and there aren’t many so they sell out. These can come with the photo package which may be a better deal.

Before lunch we went to the photo center to pick out our pictures. I purchased a package that did not include the video, there are several options available and if you change your mind, you have 30 days to still call and be able to get whatever you want. They keep the photos and video for 30 days. The photo center becomes very busy around 4-5pm when everyone is leaving and stops there on the way out so going earlier is better if you haven’t already taken care of it right after your dolphin swim. Most of the packages include printed photos, so you have to choose them and then wait a few minutes for them to be printed. Without a wait, there was nobody there when I went, it took about 15 minutes.

We had a late lunch and then left as the clouds were rolling in, but it turned out better than  the forecast predicted and the weather held out longer than we thought it would.

stock-photo-22All in all, Discovery Cove was an amazing relaxing day and well worth it. I highly recommend this day to recover from the grueling theme park days that usually encompass a Florida vacation.

Contact me to plan a trip, Discovery Cove can be added to your Disney or Universal vacation.

*All photos are my own or from Discovery Cove photographers and stock images included with photo package.

**All opinions are my own. I was not compensated in any way by Discovery Cove and paid full price for our adventure.

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Royal Pacific Paradise

Staying onsite at Universal Orlando Resort has many benefits and staying at one of the 3 deluxe resorts  includes the best benefit of all, included Unlimited Express Pass.

HOTEL GUESTS ENJOY EXCLUSIVE THEME PARK BENEFITS
  • SKIP THE REGULAR LINES with Universal Express SM Unlimited ride access* in both theme parks – a FREE benefit worth up to $89 per person, per day^
    (valid theme park admission required)
  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, one hour before the theme park opens (valid theme park admission required)

Loews Royal Pacific offers the lowest cost option of the deluxe resorts and is an absolutely gorgeous resort. Easy walking distance to both parks and boat service as well.

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Dine on exceptional cuisine; delight in the impeccable service; and soak in the breathtaking splendor of lush tropical surroundings at a white sandy beach of the lagoon-style swimming pool; all while enjoying the latest in modern conveniences.

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Royal Pacific offers several room categories, from standard, water view, suites and their fun kid’s suites…Jurassic Park themed!

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Guest Room Amenities

  • 1,000 guest rooms including 51 suites; rooms start at 335 sq. ft
  • Flat panel television with HD channels and On Demand® in-room movies (fees apply)
  • iHome clock radio and docking station
  • Keurig coffee maker featuring Emeril’s Gourmet Coffee and assorted teas
  • Refrigerator
  • Cotton signature bathrobes
  • Nightly turndown service (upon request)
  • Iron, ironing board, hairdryer and in-room safe
  • Complimentary* wireless internet access in each guest room and most common areas of the hotel
  • Upgrade to Premium Plus^ wireless internet access for optimal entertainment and business needs
  • 2 telephones (1 cordless) with dual voice lines, data port and voicemail
  • Club Level rooms feature complimentary continental breakfast, access to the fitness center, and more

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Hotel Amenities

Whether it’s relaxing in the serene lagoon-style pool, the sights and sounds of our weekly luau, or a workout in the fitness center, Loews Royal Pacific Resort has something for everyone.

Pools

One of the most impressive features of this resort is the lagoon-style swimming pool and sandy beach. Sink your toes into the sand and ease your body into your lounge chair. Lagoon style swimming pool featuring a white sand beach and the following:

  • Two (2) hot tubs
  • Beach volleyball court
  • Private cabanas for rent

Mandara Spa® & Fitness Center

Visit the full service Mandara Spa® next door at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Mandara Spa® offers comprehensive wellness services, a de-stressing zone where you can work out, or tune out with a delicious spa treatment.

Supervised Kids Camp

When Mom and Dad want to enjoy a night on the town, drop the kids off at the supervised children’s activity center.

Kids will enjoy an arts & crafts table, storybook corner, computer desks, a movie room, and more. Counselors are trained to supervise toilet-trained children ages 4-14 only. One counselor for every 8-10 children.

COST: $15 per hour, per child / $15 per meal

HOURS: Open from 5:00 pm to 11:30 pm, Sunday through Thursday and from 5:00 pm to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. * Times are subject to change.

Restaurants

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop

In both atmosphere and menu, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop offers diners a unique and exotic journey through the Pacific Seas, a perfect complement for the Loews Royal Pacific Resort, complete with bamboo, waterfalls, sculpted gardens and giant woks in full view.

Islands Dining Room

Enjoy savory chef-inspired creations featuring noodle bar dishes, rice bowls, wok and hibachi specialties. At breakfast, join us for traditional favorites, along with several Polynesian-influenced morning specialties.

Jake’s American Bar

Jake’s American Bar is the perfect place to meet for drinks and lively conversation after your day’s adventures.

Wantilan Luau

Sit back and experience an evening of authentic Polynesian food and entertainment at the enchanting Wantilan Luau, a weekly Hawaiian dinner show featuring an all-you-can-eat buffet of Polynesian specialties, live Hawaiian music and traditional hula dancing. Hula and fire dancers delight the audience and entice a few to even learn the hula! (Fees apply; reservations required)

Orchid Court Lounge & Sushi Bar

Enjoy a continental breakfast or a tropical cocktail at the Orchid Court Lounge, which overlooks a serene orchid garden. The Orchid Court Sushi Bar features modern, inventive sushi and sashimi presentations along with Asian-inspired desserts and South Seas martinis.

Bula Bar & Grille

Bula means “welcome” in Fijian, and you’ll definitely feel right at home at this poolside eatery serving up food and beverages with a tropical flair.

THE LONGER YOU STAY THE MORE YOU SAVE!

Stay more nights and save up to 35%!

Contact me to get starting planning your EPIC vacation at Universal Orlando!