Tag Archives: travel

Here Come Mickey and Santa

Join Mickey at this festive winter celebration for live entertainment, spectacular fireworks and an oh-so-jolly holiday parade.

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Here Come Mickey and Santa

Start planning for a marvelous gathering with family, friends and some familiar Disney faces!

When Mickey celebrates the season, Magic Kingdom park lights up with excitement for Guests of all ages. Cinderella Castle shimmers. Joyful music fills the air. Disney Characters don their most festive attire. Favorite attractions take on a holiday theme. And enchanting surprises lie around almost every turn!

Mickey dressed in seasonal holiday clothing dancing in formation between two life-size nutcrackers

Held on select evenings, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is currently scheduled to take place on the following dates in 2016:

  • November 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27 and 29
  • December 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18 and 22

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a Halloween-themed special event held on select dates in Magic Kingdom® Park. Purchase of an additional event admission ticket is required to attend Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.fhufhu736921211

During Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, Guests of all ages are encouraged to dress up in their favorite Halloween costumes. Even better, you can collect delicious candy as you trick-or-treat around Magic Kingdom Park.

In addition to many favorite Disney attractions, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is filled with special entertainment, including:

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

  • “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” – a new Cinderella castle forecourt stage show, will take place exclusively at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party this fall. “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” features the mischievous Sanderson Sisters from Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” as they return to the mortal world for one night during the Halloween season to cast a spell on everyone in the Magic Kingdom Park. The show also includes appearances by the Disney villains, and features dancers, projections and special effects.
  • Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade – including Disney Characters and the stars of the Haunted Mansion attraction. The parade begins with a spook-tacular ride by the Headless Horseman.
  • Happy HalloWishes – a spectacular fireworks show where the Disney Villains go trick-or-treating in the sky.
  • Many favorite Disney Characters and Disney Villains in special Halloween costumes.
  • Special lighting, music and theming effects transforms special areas of Magic Kingdom Park into happy haunted hollows.

The tone of the event is, well, “Not-So-Scary”, and is appropriate for children of all ages.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will return in Fall 2016.

Here is the full list of this year’s dates:

  • September – 2, 8, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 29, 30
  • October – 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31

Tickets will go on sale soon!

 

Save up to 30% on Rooms at Select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels This Summer!

Save up to 30% on Rooms at Select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels This Summer!

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Save up to 30%* on rooms at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels for stays most nights June 12-Aug. 25, 2016 when you book by June 10, 2016.

Awaken Summer MagicBand

Plus,  receive an exclusive “Awaken Summer” graphic MagicBand when you upgrade to a room and Theme Park package with a minimum 2-day Magic Your Way® Ticket. The MagicBand will activate a surprise sound and lighting feature at select touch points throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.**

Booking Window:
March 14-June 10, 2016

Travel Window:
June 12-Aug. 25, 2016

Rooms are limited, contact me soon to book your package for best availability.

Save

Refurbishments 2016

Disney World is constantly making improvements to its parks and resorts, it’s a never-ending process.

Here is what is happening in the coming year.

Magic Kingdom

Splash Mountain
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Liberty Square Riverboat
Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Mad Tea Party
Jan. 10 – 14, 2016
Jan. 18 – Feb. 11, 2016
Jan. 18 – 22, 2016
Jan. 25 – Feb. 3, 2016
Feb. 22 – 26, 2016

EPCOT

Re-Imagination of Maelstrom
Soarin’
Oct. 15, 2014 – Apr. 30, 2016
Jan. 4, 2016 – Summer 2016

Hollywood Studios

Pizza Planet Jan. 11 – Late 2016

Animal Kingdom

Maharajah Jungle Trek
Kali River Rapids
Flights of Wonder
Jan. 4 – 21, 2016
Jan. 4 – Feb. 11, 2016
Jan. 25 – Mar. 17, 2016

Typoon Lagoon

Annual Refurbishment Jan. 4 – Mar. 12, 2016

Blizzard Beach

Annual Refurbishment Oct. 4, 2015 – Jan. 3, 2016

Resort Hotels

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Bay Cove Pool Feb. 1 – March 18, 2016
Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Surfboard Bay Pool Jan. 25 – 28, 2016
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
Jambo House Soft Goods Rehab Jan. 1 – May 20, 2016
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Schoolyard Sprayground Jan. 3 – Mar. 11, 2016
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
Soft Goods Rehab Jan. 22 – Aug. 17, 2016
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Exterior Repair and Painting Aug. 17, 2015 – May 5, 2016
Flying Fish Restaurant Feb. 1 – Sep. 30, 2016
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
Guest Villa Renovations Through Spring 2016
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Old Port Royale – Path of Travel Impacts
Guests in some parts of Martinique and Trinidad North may experience some contruction noise.
Jan. 3 – Feb. 28, 2016
Jamaica Pool Jan. 6 – 8, 2016
Martinique Quiet Pool Jan. 11 – 13, 2016
Fuentes del Morro Pool Jan. 13 – 16, 2016
Trinidad North Quiet Pool Jan. 27 – 29, 2016
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Courtyard Pool Jan. 16 – 19, 2016
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort
Pool Slide Feb. 1 – 17, 2016
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Sandcastle Pool Jan. 4 – 6, 2016
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
General Construction
During this time, Guests will observe construction taking place and certain pathways and buildings may be unavailable.
Through Spring 2016
East Pool
Closed for enhancement. Guests may see or hear work in progress.
Now – Spring 2016
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
Ol’ Man Island Pool Jan. 11 – Feb. 29, 2016
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Grandstand Pool Jan. 20 – 22, 2016
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge & Villas
General Resort Refurbishments
Due to multiple resort refurbishment projects, Guests will notice construction work in various areas. Noise may be overheard while this work is being completed, but construction will not begin until after 9 a.m. Certain pathways, including the nature trail, will be unavailable. The Hidden Springs leisure pool area (the leisure pool at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge), resort beach, playground, Marina and Recreation fire pit will be unavailable.
Through 2017
Cub’s Den (Children’s Activity Center) – unavailable Jan. 3, 2016 – Through 2017
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Stormalong Bay Slide Jan. 11 – 15, 2016

 

Disney Springs Transformation

Welcome to Disney Springs™, an immersive waterfront destination overflowing with sights, sounds and flavors inspired by Florida’s natural charm, all in a beautiful outdoor environment!

Showcasing a one-of-a-kind mix of brand retail and distinct Disney shopping, along with a stunning assortment of incomparable dining offerings, it’s an unforgettable plaworldofdisney_listce the entire family will enjoy—only made possible by the imagination of Disney. So get ready for the largest expansion in Downtown Disney history as Disney Springs transforms the area and doubles its shopping, dining and entertainment options.

New Retail Locations Now Open!:

The Art of Shaving offers premium grooming essentials for the modern man. The location also has a team of shaving specialists who offer advice to Guests on proper grooming techniques. Appointments for a haircut or shave are suggested.

Apex by Sunglass Hut is designed with the athlete, sports and outdoor enthusiast in mind. This shop utilizes innovative technology, such as the Apex Smart Mirror, to help guests find the best choice in sport sunglasses.

Chapel Hats specializes in fashionable hats and headwear for Guests of all ages. The location carries just about any style of hat including fedoras, sun hats, floppy hats, outdoors hats, kid’s hats and more.

Sanuk offers creatively inspired footwear designed with non-traditional materials like yoga-mats.

Havaianas provides the options to “Make Your Own Havaianas” and “Embellish Your Own Havaianas.” This store features a large assortment of Havaianas sandals for women, men and children, plus kids’ rain boots.

Sound Lion has the latest technology in headphones, earbuds, speakers, and other digital sound and music products can be found in this shop. They also provide education in digital music applications that improve the listening lifestyle.

Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC will offer the same unsurpassed core vegan, gluten-free menu as its flagship bakery in New York City, and its sister bakery in Los Angeles. Look for a full selection of award-winning donuts, cupcakes, cookies, bagels (with vegan butter!), and other savory items daily.

Vivoli Gelateria: Vivoli Gelateria serves expertly crafted gelato made with fresh, seasonal ingredients, panini sandwiches and espresso drinks.

Tea Traders Café by Joffrey’s: Tea Traders Café by Joffrey’s specializes in premium loose-leaf teas (hot, iced, blended) featuring customs blends, accessories and packaged teas from all over the globe; created to go or for a tea experience in the café.

The Ganachery: Located in The Landing, The Ganachery specializes in custom-blended chocolates with the finest beans. Hand-crafted ganachery_detail_01onstage by a chocolatier, the shop features fresh batches daily, including dark (65 percent custom blend), hazelnut, chipotle and a custom blend flavored with the world’s finest spices. Beautiful custom packaging makes elegant take-home gifts. And there may even be some chocolate bars inspired by Disney characters!

New Dining Experiences Now Open!

The BOATHOUSE® – This upscale, waterfront dining experience will immerse Guests both on land and on water with live music, guided tours aboard the Captain’s piloted 40-foot Italian Water Taxi with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries and guided Amphicar rides that launch from land, enter the water, and take guests on a 20-minute tour of the landmarks of Disney Springs. The BOATHOUSE will feature steaks, chops, seafood and a raw bar.

Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar – Tucked in between Paradiso 37 and The BOATHOUSE restaurant, a new Disney owned and operated Food & Beverage offering is now open — an aviation-themed lounge, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.

With a prime location along Lake Buena Vista and seating for 150, the venue features unique cocktails — such as the “Hovito Mojito” with Barsol Quebranta Pisco, fresh lime juice and simple syrup — and small plates such as “Air Pirates Everything Pretzels” with house-made mustard and beer cheese fondue.

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Ardent fans of the “Indiana Jones” films may recognize Jock Lindsey as Indy’s frequent pilot. In the main room, Guests will discover an expansive bar, aviation decor filling the room, vintage travel posters covering the walls and correspondence between Jock, Indy and their fellow adventurers on display. Guests can eat, drink and be merry outside as well, in Jocks’ old steamboat, now in permanent dry dock and aptly named “Reggie;” and in nearby seating on the adjacent deck.

Morimoto Asia – Chef Masaharu Morimoto, known from his appearances on Iron Chef America, has opened a one-of-a-kind dining experience in the heart of Disney Springs. Morimoto Asia is the Japanese master chef’s first-ever pan-Asian restaurant featuring flavors from across the continent. This Disney Springs dining destination includes unique exhibition kitchens showcasing traditions like Peking duck carving, and dim sum.

 

      Also Coming to Disney Springs

Retail Locations
Zara: Owned by the Inditex Group, one of the world’s largest fashion retail groups. Zara is known for its men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories, and how it expertly interprets current fashion and style trends of the season, delivering original designs to the consumer in a matter of weeks.

Tommy Bahama: Iconic island lifestyle brand Tommy Bahama embodies relaxed sophistication. The hallmarks of this casual collection include island-inspired sportswear, denim, and swimwear for men and women in luxuriously soft silks and cottons, richly woven textures and eclectic prints.

Lilly Pulitzer: The authentic American resort wear brand, Lilly Pulitzer, is landing in the heart of Disney and will be offering their clothing and accessories, optimistic outlook, and happy prints to those who’ve loved the brand for years and new Lilly Girls out there.

UNIQLO: Leading global retailer UNIQLO designs, manufactures, and sells casual apparel that comes from the company’s Japanese values of simplicity, quality and longevity. The simplest design hides the most thoughtful details in clothing that is constantly being innovated to bring more warmth and lightness, better design and comfort to people’s lives.

PANDORA: Building on its existing relationship with Disney Parks, the popular jewelry brand offers classic yet modern charm bracelets, along with necklaces, rings and earrings, as well as a line of exclusive Disney-themed jewelry.

UGG: The UGG® brand is recognized as a premium lifestyle brand offering men’s, women’s and kid’s footwear as well as loungewear, outerwear, home products, cold weather accessories and handbags.

L’Occitane en Provence: L’Occitane en Provence is an international skincare and beauty line celebrating the culture and beauty of Provence, France.

Edward Beiner: A leading eyewear designer, purveyor and retailer, Edward Beiner offers today’s aspiring lifestyle-oriented customer the world’s most original, authentic and innovative designer, fashion and high performance eyewear.

Dining Locations
STK Orlando – The ONE Group Hospitality, Inc. will open STK Orlando in The Landing area of Disney Springs in early 2016. STK wdw_listOrlando will feature a unique ambience that blends the elements of a modern steakhouse with a sleek lounge. At 14,000 square feet, the Disney Springs location will be one of the largest STK locations in the world.

Edison: Inspired by The Edison venue in Los Angeles, this lavish “Industrial Gothic” -style restaurant, bar and nighttime destination is themed to a 1920s-period power plant, recalling an exuberant era of invention and imagination. It will feature exceptionally good classic American food, craft cocktails and live entertainment including cabaret and music.

Sprinkles: The world’s first cupcake bakery, as named by Food Network and others, serves up handcrafted cupcakes, slow churned ice cream and homemade cookies. Their innovative Cupcake ATM satisfies sweet-toothed epicureans 24/7.

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza: Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza is a modern day “pizza joint” known for its custom-built artisanal pizzas, freshly made salads, blood orange lemonade and s’more pies. The fast-casual restaurant features an interactive assembly-line format that allows guests to customize their pizza, choosing from over 40 fresh, artisanal toppings — all for one price. The generously sized, 11-inch pizzas are “fast-fired” in a blazing hot open-flame oven and ready to enjoy in just 180 seconds.

Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine – Celebrity Chef Art Smith is bringing a taste of real Florida to a new restaurant opening in summer 2016. Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine will showcase the cuisine of Chef Smith, who was born and reared in the town of Jasper, Fla., on the Florida-Georgia border. With farm-to-fork cuisine that showcases the bounty of Florida, and design inspired by turn-of-the century Florida architecture of the late 1800s, Homecoming will feature traditional Southern favorites with sophisticated, chef-inspired creations. Inside, the “rustic-chic” restaurant will feature a glass-walled show kitchen and the Southern Shinebar that celebrates an era where characters might have created some homegrown spirits on their homesteads just beyond the springs.

Frontera Fresco: Chef Rick Bayless, a six-time James Beard Foundation winner, will open Frontera Fresco in summer 2016. Frontera Fresco will feature authentic Mexican specialties such as hand-crafted tortas, tacos, fresh-made guacamole and classic Mexican braised meat entrees, all prepared with natural, locally sourced ingredients. The table-service restaurant also will serve an extensive selection of margaritas, cocktails, craft beers and wine. Located in Town Center, the nearly 6,000-square-foot venue will seat 200 Guests.

Universal Orlando Review

On this year’s family vacation to Disney, we added two nights at Universal since our kids (12 and 9) are now old enough to get the most out of these parks. They  are geared to a slightly older kid crowd.

Magical Travels with Barb
No Sharknado visible at this time.

We stayed at the Portofino Bay Hotel, and you can read the hotel review here.

When you arrive from the hotel via the water taxi, you disembark at CityWalk. CityWalk is an entertainment and dining complex located between the two theme parks. Over the bridge to the right is Universal Studios and over the bridge to the left is Islands of Adventure.

Magical Travels with Barb
Boat docks at CityWalk

The big draw at Universal Orlando Resort is of course, their two Harry Potter themed lands. Walking into Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, takes you right into the movie. Universal nailed it! We are not big Harry Potter fans, kids are reading the books now, and we’ve seen and enjoyed the movies, but even we could appreciate the level of detail. Everything you’d expect is there, Ollivander’s, Butterbeer in several varieties, pumpkin juice, snacks, and merchandise.  Wands for sale at various price points, including interactive wands that will activate window dressing throughout the two lands. The Harry Potter attractions are fantastic and even the queues are entertaining enough to make the waits bearable. Escape from Gringotts was our collective favorite, although my oldest might say Dueling Dragons was his.

Magical Travels with Barb

There are now two Harry Potter themed lands with the opening of Diagon Alley  last summer. Hogmeade is inside Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. There is a train, the Hogwarts Express, that connects the two parks, but a park-to-park ticket is required to ride this attraction. The park to park ticket is akin to Disney’s Park Hopper allowing you to hop between the 2 parks on the same day. This is not just a train connecting the parks though, it’s a ride in itself and different in each direction.

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb
Gringotts inside Diagon Alley at Universal Studios
Magical Travels with Barb
Diagon Alley

This is where staying onsite comes in handy. Onsite guests have early entry to one, sometimes both during busy times, of the Harry Potter sections each morning.  For our trip, in late August, is was  Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. Entering early meant little to no wait times on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the ride inside Hogwarts Castle. Also Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff.

Beverage Cart in the queue! This is genius!
Magical Travels with Barb
Several of the longer queues at Universal had these carts set up along the way, selling snacks and drinks, including beer. This was at Hogwarts Castle, Despicable Me also had one.

Staying onsite, we also had Unlimited Express Pass included, which allows you do bypass the main queue in almost all the attractions at both parks (Harry Potter rides not included). Now, this didn’t eliminate the waits completely, but it did shorten them significantly. Despicable Me was probably the longest wait even with Express Pass at about 30 minutes, but it was posted at 80 minutes without. Note that you can buy an Express Pass, but it is not Unlimited, you can only ride each ride once with the regular Express Pass.

Magical Travels with Barb
Wait times for this ride was consistently the longest in both parks, 80 to 100 minutes usually. Most others were less than 30 minutes most of the day.

Being that the parks are both movie themed, all the attractions are obviously movie centered. Comic Book heros,  Minions, Shrek, Transformers, Men in Black, Jurassic Park, a favorite of my boys. There are younger kids areas like Seuss Landing. Many of the attractions are simulator type rides, but with a moving ride vehicle.

Magical Travels with Barb
Love this ride, and it’s one of the few I remember from our trip before kids.

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb
Just outside Diagon Alley

As I said, most of the rides are more suited to tweens and teens or slightly older kid. My youngest is 9, almost 10 . Only 2 rides had a height limit of 54 inches. He missed the cutoff by a 1/2 inch on The Hulk and Dueling Dragons, but was able to do everything else. Several are 52 and 48 inches. There are several water rides as well, a log flume similar to Splash Mountain, a raft ride similar to Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom and the Jurassic Park ride. You WILL GET WET on all these rides. Soaked on two of them. I warned you.

Magical Travels with Barb
Waiting while Dad and Big Brother ride the Hulk, twice. This was an excellent picture spot and I managed to get great pictures and video of them on the ride.

When you’re hungry there is food everywhere. Tons of counter service places and most are quite large with lots of seating. We had lunch in Jurassic Park at The Burger Digs one day. Don’t make the mistake of sitting at the tables just outside, stay inside. We had to move when a crazy squirrel  would not leave us alone, he was jumping on the table and coming right to our tray trying to take our food. No fear for him, I  was terrified!

You don’t have to make reservations 180 days in advance!

We did table service for both dinners. There are not many table service restaurants in the parks, but just outside at CityWalk there are plenty.  You can make reservations for the table service restaurants, most are on Open Table, but it’s not always necessary and you can do it a week or two in advance, or even just early in the day for dinner.  We chose Mythos at Islands of Adventure which is consistently ranked one of the top theme park restaurants and it did not disappoint. Food and service both very good.

Magical Travels with Barb
No idea what was in this, but it was very good. One of the signature drinks and keepsake glass. They give you a clean one already boxed up ready for travel. Made it home no problem.
Magical Travels with Barb
Harissa Fried Shrimp crispy shrimp, spicy harissa sauce, mango – cucumber slaw, served with creamy cumin – cilantro dip $8.99
Magical Travels with Barb
Brown Butter Gnocchi sautéed gnocchi, grilled chicken, and roasted sweet potato tossed in a sage and walnut brown butter sauce $14.99
Magical Travels with Barb
The kids grilled cheese, it was quite a good size and yummy according to my 9 year old.

We also ate at Finnegan’s at Universal Studios which was great as well.  Authentic Irish pub food and live entertainment, although at first the songs were decidedly classic rock, but eventually he broke into some classic Irish tunes like Irish Rover.

Magical Travels with Barb
Dingle Seafood Pie Fresh salmon, cod, and shrimp in a light cream sauce crowned with mashed potatoes and baked until golden brown and topped with aged Cheddar cheese. Root cellar vegetables $14.99

Both Universal parks are fairly small in comparison to the Disney parks, think more along the lines of Hollywood Studios size. We had half a day, the day we arrived and then a full day the next and were able to see everything we wanted to. Now, if you are big Harry Potter fans, you’ll need a bit more time as we didn’t spend too much time exploring those areas other than doing the rides and wandering a bit during the early entry hour before it got crowded. We also took afternoon breaks to return to the resort and swim, which was super convenient being just a 15 minute walk or short boat ride away.

Next time we might do 3 nights just to have a little more time to spend more time in certain areas and still have the afternoon swim breaks, maybe explore some of the other resorts as well since pool hopping is permitted at Universal.

Overall it was a very enjoyable add-on and change from our usual and I do believe it will now be a MUST DO for all future trips.

I can help plan your trip to Universal Orlando Resort, just contact me and we’ll get started.  🙂

Portofino Bay Hotel Review

My family recently ventured to the “dark side” and added a 2 night stay at Universal Orlando Resort to our traditional Disney vacation.

Perfect add-on for families with older kids, tweens and teens!

Planning a Universal Orlando Resort trip is not quite as overwhelming as a Disney trip can be, but there is still a little planning to be done. I can help you with this too 🙂 This wasn’t my first stay at Universal, but it was our first trip as a family and with the kids . We will be back!

Magical Travel with Barb

We chose the Portofino Bay Hotel as our home  base for our 2 night stay. This hotel is simply stunning. It’s is a replica of the Italian coastal town of Portofino, right down to the little fishing boats in the harbor and vespa’s lining the piazza!

Magical Travels with Barb

The hotel complex is sprawling, made up of 3 main areas. The lobby facing the main harbor piazza and then the East and West Wings. A Villas Wing extends off of the West Wing.

Magical Travels with Barb

The West Wing offers the best proximity to the boat dock and walking path to the theme parks and the feature pool.

Magical Travels with Barb

Rooms at Portofino Bay are spacious and well -appointed, starting at a generous 450 sq feet for a standard room Garden or Bay view. Deluxe rooms, suites and club level services are also available.

Rooms have all the standard amenities and beds are queen sized.

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Portofino Bay features  Despicable Me suites in the East Wing. 

There are numerous restaurants, all Italian, including a Gelateria and Starbucks. Splendido Bar & Grill is right by the main pool with lounge chair service. Three pools are scattered throughout, the Beach Pool being the feature pool with the Roman aqueduct themed water slide, zero entry, sandy beach, waterfalls and a small grotto. Even when busy, we were always able to find a few lounge chairs available.

Magical Travels with Barb
Beach Pool
Magical Travels with Barb
View of activity center and Splendido at Beach Pool.

Recreation includes poolside activities, bocce ball, a game room, fitness center, a spa and much more.  Be sure to catch the daily Musica della Notte show in the harbor piazza, and enjoy the sounds Italy.

Magical Travels with Barb
The spotlight on the building is where the opera singer is entertaining.

Transportation to/from the parks is so easy! There are boats running constantly from early morning till the wee hours of the night. Every 20 minutes or so. The ride is less than 10 minutes. The walking path is just past the boat dock and takes about 15 minutes at  a leisurely pace, 10 minutes if you are really trying to make it back before a downpour…we made it. 🙂 The path brings you past the Hard Rock Hotel and right to the Universal Studios entrance. They also have bicycle jitneys going back and forth if you choose.

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

The major benefit of staying on-site at Universal is this:

  • 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)

That’s right, staying at one of the 3 deluxe onsite hotels, Portofino Bay, Hard Rock or the Royal Pacific, entitles you to the above benefits. With the popularity of Harry Potter, that extra hour is much needed! And Express Pass really helps with the rest of the parks , the only place it is not accepted is for the Harry Potter rides.

We made the most of both the parks and the resort by splitting up our day with a pool break in the afternoon each day and with Express Pass and having early entry one day, we were able to see and do everything we wanted to in less than 2 full days, but would probably stay longer next time to really make the most of everything offered.

Universal offers some great packages including a Wizarding World of Harry Potter package and Stay More Save More deals. Contact me for a free no obligation quote.

 

 

Magic Kingdom Park Special Event Dates Announced

Magic Kingdom Park Special Event Dates Announced – Tickets on Sale in April!

Your favorite fall events at the Walt Disney World® Resort have been announced! Dates have been announced for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. And, tickets for both events will go on sale in April.

During these specially-ticketed events the Magic Kingdom® Park comes alive with holiday decorations, special entertainment and tons of fun!

mnspThis year, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will be held 25 nights throughout the months of September, October and November. And, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will be held 20 nights in November and December.

Dates for 2015 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party are:

Sept. 15, 18, 20, 22, 25, 27
Oct. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31
Nov. 1

Dates for 2015 Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are:

Nov. 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 29
Dec.1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, 18

 

Tickets for both events will go on sale in April.

Land of Frozen Coming to Disney Cruise Line

In summer 2015, Disney Cruise Line Guests can immerse themselves in the animated hit “Frozen” with brand-new experiences inspired by the film, including a spectacular deck party, a three-song stage show production number, new character meet and greets, storybook adventures ashore and more.

Debuting this summer, on select Disney Magic and Disney Wonder sailings to Europe and Alaska, you will be transported to the land of “Frozen” when the ship is transformed into a winter wonderland for one day of frozen fun.

Experience family fun throughout the day with all-new meet and greets and themed experiences, including:

  • Memorable moments with Anna, Elsa, and for the first time in forever, Kristoff and Olaf
  • “Anna’s Chase for the Chocolate” scavenger hunt for those who share Anna’s sense of adventure, with a special surprise for finishing the game
  • “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” activity where kids take on Elsa’s magical powers to make snow and ice
  • “The Maypole Swirl and Twirl” for families to learn a traditional Scandinavian dance spinning and braiding giant ribbons
  • “Frozen” themed dining experience, including a menu inspired by traditional Nordic fare and special dishes inspired by the film
  •  “Freezing the Night Away with Anna, Elsa and Friends,” a family-friendly interactive deck party featuring the famous royal sisters of Arendelle and their fun-loving Nordic companions.

Also on the Disney Magic this summer, friends from “Frozen” will make their stage show debut at sea in the Walt Disney Theatre aboard the Disney Magic. In the Disney Cruise Line original production, “Disney Dreams … An Enchanted Classic,” Anna, Elsa and Olaf join the line up of beloved Disney characters who together teach a young girl the power of her dreams.

Guests who travel aboard the Disney Magic to Norway will have the opportunity to join exciting new Port Adventures that bring the fairytale setting of Arendelle to life. One signature adventure ashore in Ålesund, Norway, created exclusively for Disney Cruise Line, will immerse Guests in the splendor and charm of Norway, with the help of Anna and Elsa, in an enchanting storybook village.

On the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy this summer, Olaf will be giving warm hugs when he joins Anna and Elsa on their royal tour of the Disney Cruise Line ships. Guests should check their Personal Navigator on the first day of their cruise for special Meet & Greet ticket distribution locations.

And, with the help of everyone’s favorite snowman, Disney Cruise Line is cooling down Disney Castaway Cay with the addition of Olaf’s Summertime Freeze bar. Serving non-alcoholic specialty frozen drinks, Olaf’s Summertime Freeze opens summer 2015 near the Pelican Point tram stop by Disney Castaway Cay Family Beach.

So much Frozen Fun this summer. Don’t miss it! Contact me for a no obligation Disney Cruise Line quote today.