Tag Archives: family

Universal SuperStar Shuttle

Heading to Universal and wondering:

How are we going to get there? Rent a car and pay for parking? Uber or Lyft?

Universal Orlando Resort offers a great transportation option from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) for a very low rate.

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This is a great option if you won’t be needing a car. Superstar Shuttle does need to be booked in advance and can be added to any Universal package booking.

How much does Universal’s SuperStar Shuttle Cost? 

  • Adult: $39, tax inclusive, Roundtrip
  • Child (3-9): $29, tax inclusive, Roundtrip
  • Children 2 & Under: Free

What if I have a child that requires a car seat? Car seats can be brought and used but they will not be provided.

You will receive confirmation in your E-Travel Document with instructions on where to go. The Universal SuperStar Shuttle check-in desk is located across from the Hertz rental car counter on Ground Level 1, head towards Disney’s Magical Express, but it’s well before that. It’s to your left as you pass the Hertz counter and if you pass Starbucks you just went by it.

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At the check-in desk, if you are within normal hours (7:30am-8:30am), they will have your packet with your tickets, coupons, everything you need. If it’s after hours, the packet will be available at the Vacation Planning Desk at your resort the following morning.

The shuttle takes about 30 minutes to get to Universal and may make multiple stops based on where everyone on the shuttle is staying. On a recent trip, we waited less than 10 minutes for the shuttle and were the first stop.

K%atOOt6RjqiENa2kHGXsQYou will be given your return time at check-in as well, which you can have them adjust if you would like. The shuttle picks you up in front of the hotel lobby where you were dropped off.

Superstar Shuttle is an easy peasy way of getting to and from Universal Orlando!

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Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando

Loews Sapphire Falls is a Caribbean themed resort located on the water path at Universal Orlando Resort. It boasts the largest pool on property and a laid back casual Carribean vibe. 

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This resort is beautiful! 

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Cascading waterfalls and views of the water, the lagoon on one side and the spectacular pool on the other really lend to the relaxed vibe at this hotel. The vast lobby houses The New Dutch Trading Co, which is a partial Starbucks and more quick-service type fare. Next to the showcase staircase, a feature of all Loews hotels is Strong Water Tavern. This place is a gem. With over 75 kinds of rum in addition to a regular full bar selection and incredibly tasty tapas and small plates. Service is impeccable!

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A Universal Store with a great selection as well as a Fuel Rod kiosk and of course the Vacation Planning Desk with kiosks where you would print your package tickets.

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Avis is the Universal car rental partner and there is a desk at every hotel. Complimentary WIFI is available throughout the hotel. Valet and self-parking, both for a fee. Room service operates 24 hours a day. A fitness center and game room/arcade is available on the second floor.

Amatista Cookhouse™, a full-service restaurant that offers scenic water views and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Spectacular Pool!

The largest pool at Universal at 16,000 square feet with 2 sand beaches, zero-entry area, a fabulous water slide, and water play area for the littles. Also by the pool are cabanas available for rent for a very special day by the pool. There is also a fire pit, movies by the pool in the evenings and complimentary life jackets.

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The Drhum Club Kantine, a pool bar and grill offers a fresh seafood inspired menu and taste-tempting drinks.

Access to the parks

Easy access to Citywalk and the theme parks via the water taxi. At Universal, you will go through a security checkpoint on the boat dock which means no waiting in a long bag check line at the theme park entrances.

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Exclusive Benefits of Sapphire Falls

  • Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ and select attractions at Volcano Bay™ water theme park, one hour before the theme parks open (valid theme park admission required)
  • Complimentary water taxis or shuttle buses that take you directly to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay and CityWalk™
  • Resort-wide charging privileges with your room key card
  • Complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort to your hotel
  • Complimentary access* to select live entertainment venues at Universal CityWalk™ for the length of stay.
  • Start your day with a wake-up call from one of your favorite Universal Orlando characters
  • Golf Universal Orlando™ program offers an exclusive program for golfers that enables guests to take to the links during their stay. You can reserve a perfect tee time, arrange for complimentary transportation* to and from select courses and more. For more information please contact the Universal Orlando Ticket Center in the hotel lobby.

This resort has 1000 rooms including the most suites of any other Universal resort. A mix of hospitality, Sapphire and Kids suites. Rooms have all the amenities including a refrigerator, Keurig and a magic mirror!

The door that closes off the shower/toilet space is a sliding door and it does lack total privacy as there is a sliver of space left, it doesn’t quite close all the way.

 

We also go an exclusive look at a Kids Suite: A king bedded room with an attached 2 twin bedded room only accessible from inside the suite.

 

Loews Sapphire Falls offers incredible value for the amenities offered at the resort. With water taxi to the theme parks and the ability to walk to Volcano Bay via Cabana Bay across the street, the location cannot be beaten.

Contact me to start planning your Universal Orlando EPIC vacation!

Vanellopes Sweets and Treats

Everyone’s favorite little spitfire from Wreck-It Ralph has her own Sweet Shoppe on the Disney Dream and Fantasy.

This is such a fun spot, colorful with scenes and characters from the movie everywhere.

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Vanellopes’s treats are not included in your cruise price like the soft ice cream right outside. But it’s well worth it for a special treat. Here you will find bulk candy, pastries and of course ice cream, frozen yogurt and best of all, gelato!

Vanellope's Sweets and Treast Menu

The gelato selections will vary. Below is a sampling of what may be available.

  • Red Velvet ’N’ Cookies Gelato
  • Amarena – Cherry Gelato
  • Oreo Cookie ’N’ Cream Gelato
  • Key Lime Pie Gelato
  • Blueberry – Lemon Zest Gelato
  • Tiramisu Gelato
  • Candy Explosion Gelato
  • Strawberry Gelato
  • Cupcake Gelato
  • Cappuccino Gelato
  • Pistachio Variegate Gelato
  • Hazelnut Gelato
  • Mascarpone Cheese and Raspberry Gelato
  • Cherry Chocolate Chip Gelato
  • Mango Swirl Cheesecake Gelato
  • Pina Colada Gelato
  • Candy Cane Gelato
  • Pumpkin Gelato
  • White Chocolate and Roasted Almond Gelato
  • Mixed Berries Gelato

The ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt selections will vary. Below is a sampling of what may be available.

  • Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
  • French Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
  • King Candy Ice Cream
  • Salted Carmel Ice Cream
  • Peaches ’N’ Cream Ice Cream
  • Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream
  • No Sugar Added Vanilla Chocolate Ice Cream
  • Strawberry Cheesecake Chunk Ice Cream
  • Midnight Cookies ’N’ Cream Ice Cream
  • Dulce De Leche Ice Cream
  • Strawberry Cheesecake Chunk Ice Cream
  • Cookie Dough Dynamo Ice Cream
  • Mango Citrus Sorbet
  • Raspberry Sorbet
  • Black Cherry Frozen Yogurt

Bulk Candy Selections

  • Crazy Bananas Candy
  • Hot Tamales
  • M&Ms
  • Milk Chocolate Raisins
  • Mini Jawbreakers
  • Reese’s Pieces
  • Jelly Belly Jelly Beans (49 Assorted Flavor Mix)
  • Cry Baby Tears
  • Licorice Pastels
  • Sour Balls (Assorted)
  • Mike and Ike
  • Dark Chocolate Almonds
  • Tootsie Roll
  • Warheads Extreme Sour Candy
  • Gummy Sea Critters
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Caramel Creams
  • Zotz
  • Mini Dark Chocolate Rainbow Nonpareils
  • Chocolate Double Dipped Peanuts
  • Skittles
  • Salt Water Taffy (Assorted Flavors)
  • Atomic Fireballs
  • Lemon Heads

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The best thing about Vanellopes is you can order a special treat and have it sent to your dining location at dessert time. We tested this out on our recent cruise for my ice cream loving son’s birthday. That afternoon, I went to Vanellopes and ordered a race car sundae choosing the gelato and toppings. They fill out a form and then give you a small card with instructions to hand this card to your server when you sit down for dinner. Your server will then take care of calling up and having them make the treat and deliver it to them and they will bring it out. Worked like a charm!

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Vanellopes is well worth the extra splurge!

Disney Dream with Teens

There are a lot of cruise lines to choose from, but Disney offers the best experience for tweens and teens and that might be surprising to some. And let’s face it, parents generally make the decisions on where the family vacation is going to be and teens don’t necessarily get a big say. My kids were excited to go on their first cruise but less than thrilled it was Disney. They love Disney World but thought there would just be too many kids and it would be all about characters. They ended up having a great time and didn’t meet any characters and didn’t stand in any lines, except the AquaDuck once or twice. Sure, there were a lot of kids, but with their own spaces, they hardly had to see them.

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We sailed on the Disney Dream 4 night Bahamas cruise in April 2019. The boys were 13 and 15, turned 16 on our sea day.

Here are 3 reasons I think the #DisneyDifference makes all the difference in a teen’s experience on vacation. 

Exclusive spaces beyond compare…

Disney Cruise Line offers the best teen lounges/clubs on the high seas. Tweens have Edge, which on the Dream is located in the funnel! And teens have Vibe. On the Dream and Fantasy, Vibe has its own sun deck on the front of the ship with its own pool away from all the little ones. Vibe offers games and activities run by counselors and video games and a smoothie bar. Check out my Vibe post and video here. Be sure to visit the teen clubs on the first day to register the kids and check it out. The Navigator App will list the continuous stream of activities available through Vibe. They play “get to know you” games and Heroes vs Villains and do scavenger hunts.

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Freedom…

Parents will feel so comfortable on a Disney Cruise with the incredible service and cast members. It allows them the ability to give teens the freedom to make their own choices on what they want to do and where they want to spend their time. Use the Navigator app to keep in touch with your teens while allowing them some freedom. Set guidelines for meeting up, for dinner for example and a curfew, but then let them fill the space in between. There are sports simulators, basketball court, miniature golf, movie theatre, self serve soft ice cream… Our teens basically did their own thing all day long. They had each other and didn’t really make friends, but they went off to Vibe or up to the sports deck, back to the room. A stop a Cabanas for some food. We barely saw them the entire cruise.

Bonus: This gives you lots of time to use the adult-only areas and do your own thing. 

Unlimited food choices…

If your teens are anything like mine, a lot of time is spent standing in front of the open fridge saying there is nothing to eat. Not a problem on a Disney Cruise. Between the buffet, Cabanas and quick service location on the pool deck, in addition to the main dining room and free room service…teens will never run out of food options.

Don’t underestimate their own comfort level with dining alone either, my tween went up to the buffet on his own for his second or third lunch almost daily, he’s an athlete and eats a lot. And when we scheduled an adult-only dinner at Palo, I offered room service or grab a bite on the pool deck and the boys, a tween and teen, both wanted to go to the main dining room we were scheduled for that night, on their own. They loved our server and wanted to see him. We met them there towards the end of their meal and were greeted by our table neighbors saying what well-behaved and mature children we have. They were well taken care of by our servers, my little athlete had 3 cleaned plates in front of him, a regular occurrence, he ordered 3 meals every night.

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We opted for late seating as there are less little kids at late and early was just too early. It worked out well for us and the kids that were in the dining rooms ate and were whisked away to the kids club quickly so we barely noticed them.

With all the food choices, amazing teen spaces and the comfort at allowing them some freedom, the #DisneyDifference shines bright on cruises with teenagers!

 

 

Residence Inn Daytona Beach Shores

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I searched long and hard for a place to stay for a few days before our Disney cruise. We were planning on spending 2 full days, 3 nights in Florida before the cruise and decided against Disney or Universal. Our kids had not been to the ocean since they were little when we went to Cape Cod so we decided on a few days at the ocean. In the end, I settled on the Residence Inn Daytona Beach Shores. This could not have been a better choice.

We had a little trouble arriving due to storms and came in a day later than planned losing a full day, but it wasn’t a great weather day so we didn’t miss too much. When we finally arrived, a full 24 later everything was ready for us and we even managed a meal and a little walk on the beach in the dark. The hotel had a restaurant and a bar and the bar opened to the pool outside for drinks during the day. The pool and hot tub overlooked the ocean.

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Sunday was now our only full day to spend there and we rented chairs and an umbrella right from a truck set up on the beach nearby and enjoyed a day at the ocean. The weather was great. We also had a little friendly competition at Pirates Cove Mini Golf. Always fun, even with teenagers.

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The hotel suited us nicely. Free breakfast buffet and a few restaurants right across the street. We had a 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen which we didn’t really need, I wasn’t planning on cooking, but we did get takeout for dinner and the table came in handy. The nicest part was before being crammed into a tiny stateroom on a cruise for 4 days, we had space to spread out and the kids had their own room with 2 queen beds and we had a room with a king bed. Each with their own bathroom. From the balcony, we could see both the ocean and the bay and were looking towards Daytona Beach.

It took a little less than an hour to drive from Daytona Beach Shores to Port Canaveral Monday morning. It was a very easy drive, no traffic at all.

We arrived exactly at our port arrival time and followed the procedure, Disney is very efficient when it comes to organizing crowds. We were walking onto the ship within 45 minutes of arriving, including parking, security, checking in, etc…as soon as we checked in they called our boarding group.

10 Not to Miss Disneyland Experience for this Summer

The Disneyland Resort is filled with plenty of fun this summer. If you are headed to Disney California Adventure Park, here are 10 not-to-miss experiences!

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1. Soarin’ Over California – Due to guest popularity, the epic, aerial adventure Soarin’ Over California has been extended through August 31! This virtual, immersive experience celebrates the beauty and wonder of the Golden State – from San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the crashing waves in Malibu.

2. “Tale of The Lion King” – The beloved characters and music of Disney’s “The Lion King” comes to life with an imaginative new adaptation. This outdoor musical production features a cast of 18 performers who weave this timeless tale through language, song and dance. The festive celebration of “Tale of The Lion King” will be presented for a limited time.

3. Fancy Nancy – Nancy Clancy, the high-spirited young girl from Disney Junior’s hit animated series “Fancy Nancy,” made “une grande entrée” this spring. Meet Fancy Nancy just outside the “Disney Junior Dance Party!” in Hollywood Land.

4. Pixar Pier – Celebrating its one-year anniversary at the end of June, Pixar Pier is a whimsical land where Pixar stories and characters are brought to life in incredible, playful ways. A few newly added experiences include:

  • Jessie’s Critter Carousel, the giant toy carousel starring Jessie, the yodeling cowgirl and a friendly bunch of desert critters inspired by the “Toy Story” films. Hop on and yell “giddyup!” from the saddle of a whimsical snake, armadillo, turtle, bunny or other critters from the world of Woody’s Roundup.
  • Bo Peep, from Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” can be found making special appearances along Pixar Pier. Also, Forky, the adorable disposable spork from the new film, can be spotted near the entrance of the pier.
  • Opening later this month, Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind is a newly reimagined attraction inspired by the film “Inside Out.” Step into the workplace of Riley’s Emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger – and board one of eight Memory Movers for a sense-ational spin.

5. Cars Land – For some free-wheeling fun with Disney and Pixar’s “Cars” crew, head to Radiator Springs, also known as “the cutest little town in Carburetor County.” Be sure to make a pit stop at Radiator Springs Racers, the high-octane adventure that revs through the beautiful mountains of Ornament Valley.

6. “Mickey’s PhilharMagic” – The spectacular magic of Disney animation comes to life in this 3D movie musical. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other favorite Disney characters now take the stage in this 3D fantasy adventure in the Sunset Showcase Theater in Hollywood Land.

7. Animation Academy – A guest favorite, Animation Academy hosts drawing classes every 30 minutes. Receive step-by-step instruction on how to illustrate some favorite Disney characters under the guidance of a Disney artist. All ages and experience levels are welcome!

8. Super Heroes – In Hollywood Land, encounter some of the most admired Super Heroes in the universe, including Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Captain America and Black Panther. Suit up and head to Hollywood Land. Afterwards, hop aboard Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!and help rescue Rocket’s fellow Guardians all while jamming out to Star-Lord’s classic mixtapes.

9. “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” – Stay cool indoors and enjoy a theatrical adaptation based on Disney’s animated blockbuster film, “Frozen.” Performed daily at the Hyperion Theater, the impressive stage show immerses Guests in the beloved world of Anna and Elsa, with all of the excitement of live theater. The elaborate costumes and sets, stunning special effects, and show-stopping production numbers are not to be missed.

10. “World of Color” – This breathtaking nighttime extravaganza tells Disney and Pixar stories vividly projected on a screen created by more than 1,200 fountains spraying 19,000 square feet of water. Watch in wonder as water, fire, light and music weave together to celebrate the magic of Disney storytelling.

What are you waiting for, let’s plan a quick trip this summer, message me today!

Palo Dinner Disney Dream

As is typical on most cruise lines today, Disney offers choices beyond their Main Dining rooms. Already not typical with rotational dining and 3 main dining rooms, Disney offers Palo and Remy. Palo is Northern Italian cuisine on all 4 Disney ships. Remy is French cuisine on the Dream and Fantasy only. Both are adult-exclusive.

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Upcharges and dress codes apply to both restaurants, but Palo is a little less restrictive than Remy. For Palo dinner, the charge was $40 per person.

Dress to Impress

To preserve the elegant ambiance of this restaurant, you are asked to adhere to a dress code when dining at Palo. We recommend dress pants or slacks and a collared shirt for men, and a dress, skirt or pants and a blouse for women. Jeans may also be worn if in good condition (no holes). Please no tank tops, swimsuits, swimsuit cover-ups, shorts, hats, cut-offs, torn clothing, t-shirts with offensive language and/or graphics, flip-flops or tennis shoes.

On our recent cruise, we had dinner at Palo on pirate night, which was the 3rd night of our 4 night cruise and our Castaway Cay day. We weren’t terribly interested in pirate festivities, our children are teenagers and we would be done in plenty of time to see the fireworks. On the Dream Palo and Remy are next to each other on the top deck in the front of the ship with the Meridian Bar in between. When you arrive you are escorted into the bar to wait for your escort into the restaurant.  We had a drink here and then were escorted to our table. All tables have a wonderful view of the ocean.

The service is nothing short of outstanding! We ordered wine, and then Mircea our server brought the bread service and then the antipasto cart and we watched as our server prepared a plate of “a little bit of everything” to try.

 

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We ordered several Primi to try and share, Calamari Fritti, Gnocchi and the Wild Mushroom Risotto. So so good. Even the gnocchi, which are usually not great in restaurants when you are used to my father’s homemade version, was wonderful.

 

Next, was a palette cleanser…

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Then the main course, Rack of Lamb for me and Osso Buco for my husband. Cooked to perfection.

 

The dessert course was next. When you order your main course they will ask you if you will be ordering the chocolate souffle, their signature dessert because it does take some time to make. I knew about this in advance and was definitely getting it. There are no words, it was heavenly.

 

And there was other stuff, including a Happy Anniversary plate.

 

The dinner was well paced and lasted about 2 hours, but didn’t feel long at all. The restaurant was quiet, there were several tables around us, but it wasn’t full by any means.

Palo is well worth the upcharge and can be prebooked in your cruise account when your activities window opens.

Have you eaten there? I would go back in a heartbeat and next time will try the brunch too, I hear it’s phenomenal.

Whispering Canyon Café launches a new menu

Today, Whispering Canyon Café at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge launched a new menu, offering skillets galore! The fun-filled restaurant is known for its sassy cast members, Old Western games, and fine frontier fare, which now includes a whole new array of all-you-care-to-enjoy signature skillets for lunch and dinner (starting today), as well as breakfast skillets (starting March 26). And while you chow down on these signature skillets, the rowdy canyon townsfolk are there to serve them, and their boisterous goings-on aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Do the hokey pokey, ring the dinner bell, and even ask for ketchup (at your own risk, of course).

Starting with a hearty lunch option, the Signature Lunch Skillet comes with maple-chipotle BBQ slow-smoked pork ribs, barbecued pulled pork, and citrus-herb chicken.

On the dinner menu, you can try the Traditional Dinner Skillet with oak-smoked mustard BBQ beef brisket, maple-chipotle BBQ pork ribs, slow-smoked pulled pork, and citrus-herb chicken. Or pig out on The “Pig” Dinner Skillet with heaping helpings of braised pork belly, maple-chipotle BBQ pork ribs, slow-smoked pulled pork, and mustard BBQ “piggy wings.” Both of these particular skillets come with western-style sausage as well.

Sea-farers can order the Land and Sea Dinner Skillet, which comes with house-smoked salmon, citrus herb chicken, vegan sausage, and charred portabellas.

You can also feast on the Vegan Dinner Skillet – filled with maple-chipotle BBQ jackfruit, spicy vegan sausage, mustard-glazed beefless tips, and herb-brushed trick’n chick’n.

In addition, each one of these hearty all-you-care-to-enjoy skillets comes with a different assortment of sides that may include coleslaw, sautéed green beans, buttered corn, oven-roasted carrots, charred peppers, BBQ cauliflower, Yukon mashed potatoes, or roasted potatoes. Plus, chow down on freshly-baked cornbread served with delicious honey butter with every dinner skillet.

For dessert, order the Apple Pie. This mouth-watering slice of pie comes dusted with powdered sugar and is served with a big ol’ scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Thirsty cowpokes will also enjoy a selection of newly-themed cocktails such as the Bourbon Cowboy, which comes garnished with apple slices and pairs great with any lunch and dinner skillet. Selections of wines and draft beers are also available.

In addition, starting on March 26, you will also be able to feast on an array of breakfast skillets. Rise and shine to a delicious chuck wagon breakfast with the Heritage Skillet or the Carnivore Skillet. The Heritage Skillet comes with country potatoes, hickory-smoked bacon, and pork sausage links. For the meat-lovers, the Carnivore Skillet comes loaded with house-smoked ham, hickory-smoked bacon, pork sausage links, and oak-smoked beef brisket. Both of these skillets come with house-made buttermilk-cheddar biscuits, scrambled eggs, and Mickey Waffles.

For those looking for a lighter start to their morning, the Lighter Side Breakfast Skillet is a great option. It comes with Bircher Muesli (Swiss oatmeal), egg white spinach frittata, turkey bacon and turkey sausage, country potatoes, fresh fruit, yogurt, and of course, more Mickey waffles!

Review: Hotel Kraft

I scoured long and hard to find the perfect hotel in Florence for our family trip. There are tons of choices, but triple or quad rooms can be difficult. We had a little gem of a place on our last trip 15 years ago, but it has since closed.

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Hotel Kraft turned out to be another absolute gem! The icing on the cake was a rooftop pool, there are only a handful of hotels in Florence with a pool, let alone a rooftop one with a view of the Duomo!

Hotel Kraft was a short easy walk from Santa Maria Novella train station and we walked it with our luggage no problem. I had booked 2 triple rooms here, my parents with 1 kid and us with the other. They were right across the hall from one another so that was convenient. The rooms were nice and large with high ceilings and a good size modern bathroom.

 

The best part of this hotel though apart from great service, was the rooftop terrace/restaurant/lounge/pool. Just incredible! You can see for miles around and all the key points of Florence, the famous hills beyond the city, the Duomo and the bell tower of the Palazzo Medici. We spent evenings sipping Bellini’s and Perroni’s and enjoyed breakfast each morning al fresco. The last night we had a front row seat for the view of the sun setting on Florence. We only used the pool one day, but it was very enjoyable to have some downtime on a busy sightseeing trip like Italy is. It’s well worth it to take an afternoon to re-charge. And for our competitive swimmer son to get some laps in. We snuck out for a walk into town and shopping (had to go back and get Christmas presents for the boys they had seen earlier), but my parents and kids enjoyed the pool all afternoon. It was never too crowded

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The hotel was just off the main center of Florence, but only a 10-15 minute walk to the Ponte Vecchio or Duomo. and just 2 blocks up from the Arno River. We strolled it many times. Walking being a bit difficult for my father, they easily jumped in a cab for a short few minutes ride back and forth when they needed to. We always walked. We visited the Accademia Museum and saw the real David. Then the replicas up at Piazzale Michelangelo and out in front of Palazzo Medici. We shopped on the Ponte Vecchio.

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Around the corner from the hotel was our favorite gelateria, B.Ice. This became an afternoon treat and after dinner dessert daily. Within a block there were numerous restaurants, trattorias, etc… you simply cannot go wrong. Starving our first night we tucked into the first one we saw and it turned out to be phenomenal. The hotel recommended another place we went to the next night, also wonderful. The hotel’s restaurant itself was very good as well.

Florence is an incredible city, my favorite city in Italy! Not to be missed on a first time trip to Italy and a great base for day trips to the surrounding splendors of Tuscany.

Italia Series Part 5 Last Days

We returned from Venice on Thursday and only had that afternoon and Friday left.

We visited some relatives and had a fun and delicious dinner at my aunt’s country house. Her 4 kids, my cousins, were all there with their families. My boys got to meet my cousins kids, a few who spoke a bit of English. They went from ignoring each other to not wanting to leave a few hours later.

Before that, we visited my uncle who is a master cheese maker. He travels the world helping cheese makers perfect their cheese recipes. A Belgian company just put his face on their latest cheese calling it, Nonno’s Cheese. We sampled some delicious mozzarella at his house.

While we were in Venice, the kids had a good time with their Nonni. They visited some family, got to swim in a cousin’s pool and jump on their trampoline. They also hiked up Nonno’s beloved mountain. Nonno couldn’t handle the 30 minute hike so waited at the church where you can drive the car to, and my uncle Carlo took the boys up to the top where there is a pretty interesting looking  Jesus on a cross.

Friday we did a little local sightseeing. We went to the birthplace of grappa, Bassano del Grappa and stopped in Marostica as well.

Marostica is known for having a human chess game they play a few times a year. The chess board is in the middle of the main piazza. It has a cool castle up on the hill which makes up part of the wall around the small city. They were setting up for the event.

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Bassano is famous not only for grappa, but for the covered bridge that leads into the historical center of the town. The covered bridge, which needs some tender loving care at the moment, was designed by Palladio.

Friday night we went out to dinner with as many of my cousins as were available, and not away on their summer holidays.

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And that’s all she wrote. Saturday morning we packed up and waited for our taxi transfer to the airport. The Venice airport was a little crazy. By the time we made it to our gate it was just about time to board the plane. This airport traffic  is growing too quickly and the building is having trouble keeping up.