Caribbean Beach Resort

Our most recent Disney trip was kind of spur-of-the-moment. There were no DVC studios available, but we managed to get a nice Annual Passholder discount at Caribbean Beach Resort. I’d never before stayed there, and its rooms sleep up to five, so we took the opportunity to do a little recon for you.

First, the Magical Express dropped us off at the Custom House. This building has resort check-in, airline check-in, and that’s about it! For most Disney resorts, other amenities (such as restaurants and shops) are found in the same location as the check-in area, but not at Caribbean Beach.

Custom House

Custom House

Front desk

Custom House interior

So basically, we had to go through a quick registration process (I’d done the online check-in, but hadn’t received our room number via text, so we still had to go to the front desk for this info), and then get on the resort’s internal shuttle to get to our room location. This seemed like a much longer process than what we’ve become accustomed to at Disney resorts.

Our room was in Trinidad North, one of six different sections at Caribbean Beach. It was a great location, very close to Old Port Royale (which is where the restaurants, gift shop, and main pool are located).

Trinidad North

Trinidad North

Our room was quite lovely. Being a corner room, we had lots of natural light, plus a water view.

Our room

Our room

The bench turns into a small Murphy-type bed.

The bench turns into a small Murphy-type bed.

The Murphy bed isn't very big, but I think our 13-year-old would still fit on it.

The Murphy bed isn’t very big, but our 13-year-old would still fit on it.

The bathroom was typically tiny, but the vanity area was plenty spacious for both of us.

The bathroom was typically tiny, but the vanity area was plenty spacious.

Pretty standard "closet" area.

Pretty standard “closet” area.

Having a corner room with two windows made the room feel bigger.

Having a corner room with two windows made the space feel bigger.

The view was quite nice!

The view was quite nice!

One of the mornings of our trip, we decided to walk around the central lake, Barefoot Bay. Here are the sights along the way:

A cute hammock area

A cute hammock area

The feature pool. Each of the six sections had its own "quiet" pool.

The feature pool. In addition to this, each of the six sections had its own “quiet” pool.

A splash area was located right next to the main pool.

A splash area was located right next to the main pool.

We stopped by the Old Port Royale food court for coffee.

We stopped by the Old Port Royale food court for coffee.

Shutters, the table service restaurant, is only open for dinner.

Shutters, the table service restaurant, is only open for dinner.

According to Walt Disney World's website, pirate cruises and fishing excursions leave from this dock.

According to Walt Disney World’s website, pirate cruises and fishing excursions leave from this dock.

This boardwalk was located between the Barbados and Aruba sections. It was lovely!

This boardwalk was located between the Barbados and Aruba sections. It was lovely!

We stopped to rest in this gazebo located on a tiny island between The Aruba/Jamaica sections and Old Port Royale.

We stopped to rest in this gazebo located on a tiny island in Barefoot Bay.

Overall, I liked this resort. The one thing I didn’t like was the bus service. The resort is so sprawling, the necessity of having an internal shuttle made every journey seem to take longer than at other resorts. However, once headed out of Caribbean Beach property and to a park or Disney Springs, the travel time wasn’t too bad. If you stay here, it would be nice to have a car, though it was definitely do-able with Disney transportation.

On a positive note, I’d read about the Murphy-type beds at this resort, and was happy to see them in person. It’s wonderful that Disney World is making more accommodations for big families!

Have you stayed at Caribbean Beach Resort? What was your experience like? Would you stay there again?

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My (updated) Disney Packing List

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote about my Disney packing list. As our family grows and changes, so too does our packing list. One thing that hasn’t changed is that I try to pack as little as possible. I don’t like to lug tons of stuff around “just in case.” I’d rather pick up a random item at an exorbitant Disney price than pack everything we might need under every possible permutation of what could possibly occur while we’re there. Also, the fact that we have become Disney Vacation Club members has impacted what we pack, as you’ll see.

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Disney packing list

Suitcases: Make sure to use Disney’s Magical Express luggage tags!

  • outfits for # of days (Note that we don’t need extra outfits since our 1-bedroom DVC villa has laundry facilities right in it!)
  • pajamas
  • swimsuits
  • flip flops
  • toiletries for each of us, 2 travel-size bottles of shampoo & body wash, 1 travel-size conditioner (DVC doesn’t provide daily housekeeping, so we now bring extra shampoo, etc.)
  • sunscreen
  • ponchos & umbrellas
  • fuelrod
  • air mattress, pump, sheets (Our 1-bedroom villa sleeps up to 5 people in 3 sleeping spaces. My wild-sleeper boys each need their own space!)
  • any special items, such as Halloween costumes

Carry-on: This is for me; the boys each pack their own carry-on.

  • MagicBands
  • light jacket (I get cold on planes)
  • shorts (if it’s cold here and warm in Florida)
  • my little umbrella (fits in my purse – love it!)
  • 3 each: gallon bags, quart bags, sandwich bags, snack bags, plus bag clips
  • kindle
  • wipes (for wiping down airplane tray tables)
  • quart bag with travel size: sunscreen, hand sanitizer, lotion
  • ziploc bag with any needed meds
  • Magical Express tickets
  • Boarding passes
  • Print-out of our Disney schedule (I create a word document to keep track of things in case the MDE app gives me trouble.)
  • Disney purse containing: earbuds, reading glasses, sunglasses, band-aids, chapstick, oil absorbing sheetspowder mineral sunscreen, ID, credit card, DVC card, Annual Passholder card, Tables in Wonderland card, AAA card, health insurance card, a little cash for tipping, phone & charger.

For cruises, make sure to have:

  • passports
  • magnets to decorate door (no names brands except Disney)
  • fish extender
  • pirate attire
  • fancy attire
  • make sure the bag I carry onto the ship has our swimsuits, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and any needed meds

That’s it! Having a list tailored to your needs makes for simple and easy packing. So, what do you pack? Are you an over-packer or a lean, mean packing machine? And how far ahead to you do it?

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The Rose & Crown Dining Room

We’d been to the Rose & Crown Pub several times, but had never been to the dining room portion of this establishment in Epcot’s UK Pavilion. On a whim, and without a reservation, we decided to give it a try. To our surprise, they were able to seat our party of five with very little wait. It was a wonderful meal!

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Rich and I started with adult beverages:

A Black & Tan and an English Rose.

A Black & Tan and an English Rose.

The boys tried everything from the cheese platter to the fish & chips to the English trifle. Here’s what Rich and I shared:

Scotch egg, loaded Yorkshire pudding, bangers & mash, and mushy peas. Delicious!

Scotch egg, loaded Yorkshire pudding, bangers & mash, and mushy peas. Delicious!

Sticky toffee pudding. Yum!

Sticky toffee pudding. Yum!

Our server, Natalie, was fantastic! This turned out to be one of the most enjoyable meals of our trip. We will definitely be back!

Have you been to the Rose & Crown? Do you prefer the pub or the dining room? And how do you feel about mushy peas?

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Disney Must-Do: Soarin’ Around the World

We were so excited to try out the new version of the classic ride Soarin’ that we ended up riding it three times! Soarin’ Around the World takes you on a “hang-glider” ride all over the world – rather than just over California, as in the previous version. The nice thing about the updated ride (other than the fact that there are no longer “fuzzies” all over the screen) is that they kept the same music (though I heard that it was re-recorded for the new ride). Oh, and Patrick Warburton is still your chief flight attendant. Yay!

Here are a few quick shots that my husband took during the ride:

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soarin-2

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I thought the new Soarin’ was fantastic, though depending on where you are seated in your hang-glider, your view of some of the monuments may be skewed. This was, admittedly, a bit distracting. I didn’t mind it too much, but it seemed to bother my photographer husband. I guess it all depends on your point of view, so to speak.

Have you experienced Soarin’ and/or Soarin’ Around the World? Which version do you prefer?

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California Grill lounge

We absolutely love the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, but didn’t have the foresight to make a reservation there for a recent trip. Never fear! They have a lounge! The California Grill Lounge opens daily at 4:30pm. Seating is first come, first served (we got there right at 4:30). The full California Grill menu is available at the lounge.

Non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiri in the back (all 3 boys had these), Remy Martin XO cognac, and a Santa Monica cider.

Non-alcoholic strawberry daiquiri in the back (all 3 boys had these), Remy Martin XO cognac, and a Santa Monica cider.

The delicious peach salad. This is actually just a half-portion. Rich and I split the salad, and the kitchen was kind enough to plate it separately for us.

The delicious peach salad. This is actually just a half-portion. Rich and I split the salad, and the kitchen was kind enough to plate it separately.

Pork tacos (gluten-free!)

Pork tacos (gluten-free!)

We had so much fun in this lounge! The food, service, and views combine for an experience that absolutely cannot be beat.

Have you tried out the California Grill lounge? What’s your favorite menu item?

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Gluten-free with Chef Mickey!

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This was our first trip to Chef Mickey’s since Cale’s celiac disease diagnosis. I was delightfully surprised by their attention to gluten-free details. First of all, we were given a pamphlet specifying which brunch buffet items were safe for which specific food allergens. (Not that celiac disease is the same as a food allergy, but this resource told us which foods were safe for people who cannot have gluten.)

chef-mickeys-allergy-guide

chef-mickeys-allergy-guide-inside

Secondly, the chef came out to see if Cale had any questions about the menu. He also offered to bring out anything Cale wanted from the kitchen in order to avoid buffet cross-contamination. We gladly took him up on this! He brought out so much food that our server boxed the leftovers up at the end of the meal. We took it back to our room in Bay Lake Tower (just a short walk from Chef Mickey’s), and ate it later in the trip. It’s wonderful to experience Disney’s attentiveness to special dietary restrictions!

Have you eaten at a Disney buffet with special dietary restrictions? How was your experience?

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DVC Member Lounge

dvc-member-lounge-interior

The DVC Member Lounge at Epcot’s Imagination Pavilion is a great place to rest and recharge. Featuring complimentary coffee, tea, Coke products (via Coca-Cola Freestyle machines), and munchies (packets of chips, cookies, and candy), we found this to be a fabulous spot to wait out a sudden summer downpour.

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Watching the clouds roll in

The lounge is for DVC members and up to five guests. You check in at the Imagination Pavilion’s gift shop, and must present your DVC card and photo ID. They are open from 10am to 6pm daily. If you aren’t a DVC member and would like to experience this exclusive area, go ahead and make friends with one! *waves hand*

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Disney Must-Do: Frozen After Ever

This photo has nothing to do with the ride. I didn't take any pictures of the ride, or its queue area, and needed something to fill this space. You're welcome.

This photo has nothing to do with the ride. I didn’t take any pictures of the ride, or its queue area, and needed something to fill this space. You’re welcome.

I loved Maelstrom in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion. I really, really enjoyed that ride. When it was closed to make way for a Frozen-based ride, I was skeptical, to say the least. But I did have faith in Disney’s Imagineers. And boy, did they ever come through! If you haven’t yet experienced Frozen Ever After, and don’t want any spoilers, I promise not to give anything away. I’ll simply say that I loved this ride every bit as much as Maelstrom (maybe even – gasp! – a bit more). If, like me, you enjoy watching ride videos before experiencing the ride first-hand, let me refer you to Kenny the Pirate. His excellent site has the best Frozen Ever After ride-through video that I’ve seen. Enjoy!

That time we took Olaf on Maelstrom.

That time we took Olaf on Maelstrom.

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

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For years, I’ve been trying to take my family to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom. Though I kept making plans to go to this special, ticketed event, I was thwarted each time. Finally, it worked out. We went to MNSSHP!!!

Ursula, King Triton, Prince/Prince Eric mash-up, "coral," and Sebastian!

Ursula, King Triton, Prince/Prince Eric mash-up, “coral,” and Sebastian!

We loved wearing costumes into the park, sampling the special food and entertainment, going on rides with no wait whatsoever, trick-or-treating in the Magic Kingdom, and picking up a few collectibles. Though we could have entered as early as 4pm using our party tickets, we spent the bulk of the day at Epcot, went back to our room to change into costume, and arrived at the Magic Kingdom just before the party’s official start time of 7pm. We stayed past the official end time of midnight!

Here are a few highlights from our evening at MNSSHP:

This was a PhotoPass "magic shot" at the park entrance. It has an accompanying video. So cool!

This was a PhotoPass “magic shot” at the park entrance. It has an accompanying video. So cool!

It was fun to see the Magic Kingdom decked out for Halloween!

It was fun to see the Magic Kingdom decked out for Halloween!

Candy corn ice cream

Candy corn ice cream

Visiting Ariel in her grotto

Visiting Ariel in her grotto!

Under the Sea!

Under the Sea!

HalloWishes!

HalloWishes!

The parade!

The parade!

Haunted Mansion!

Haunted Mansion!

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular!

Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular!

Our special MNSSHP pins!

Our special MNSSHP pins!

A treat bag and a party map

A treat bag and a party map

We loved this event! Have you been to MNSSHP? Did you wear a costume? What was it? Would you go again? Any advice for those who haven’t yet been to this party?

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Beaches & Cream

As many of you already know, my son has celiac disease and cannot eat gluten. Walt Disney World is top-notch at accommodating special dietary needs such as his. I’d heard that Beaches & Cream Soda Shop was just as wonderful with special diets as the rest of WDW, so when my son requested this as his birthday dinner spot of choice, I didn’t hesitate to book it.

This was taken on Cale's actual 16th birthday!

This was Cale’s actual 16th birthday!

Now, Cale chose Beaches & Cream for his special day specifically because he wanted to try The Kitchen Sink. I had read that it could be modified to be gluten-free, and made sure to ask our server about this before we ordered anything. She assured me that any gluten-filled toppings would be left on the side, and that only gluten-free toppings would actually be in the “sink.” Well, when it arrived, it had all kinds of gluten toppings all over it!

The gluten-laden Kitchen Sink

The gluten-laden Kitchen Sink

A different cast member came over and told us that it cannot be modified to be gluten-free. I asked her to get some safe ice cream and toppings for my celiac son, and she seemed a bit put out by this, but eventually complied. So, he didn’t get to eat his Kitchen Sink on his birthday, but he did have a nice, big bowl of ice cream.

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Once home, I contacted Disney World’s Special Diets department to let them know about our experience. They very promptly replied, assuring me that my concerns have been taken seriously and that they are reviewing their special diets process at Beaches & Cream.

Have you been to Beaches & Cream? How was your experience?

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