Hooray for Pop Century!

05/27/2015 - 4 Responses

Pop Century’s rooms only sleep up to four people. So, why am I recommending it? Well, if you can get two connecting rooms, this is a great option for big families. The theming is fun, the food court has been updated since I was last there, and the bus service is better than some of the more expensive resorts I’ve stayed at. Here’s a quick photo tour:

pop sign

The '50s section

The ’50s section

more of the '50s

more of the ’50s

The '60s section

The ’60s section

The '70s section (where we stayed).

The ’70s section (where we stayed).

The '80s section

The ’80s section

more of the '80s

more of the ’80s

The '90s section

The ’90s section

The room itself was pretty basic, but clean and comfortable.

pop beds

pop dresser and fridge

pop vanity and bath

And here is the door that connects two rooms:

pop connecting door

The combination store/food court is pretty cool. We typically stop at our resort’s store before going to our room so that we can pick up milk and bottled water. Note that in this case, the refrigerated section wasn’t in the store itself, but way in the back corner of the food court area. It took a bit of looking, but we found it :)

pop - store and food court

Please note that, while Disney tries to accommodate requests for connecting rooms, they can’t guarantee it. This may dissuade some big families from choosing Pop Century. If you’re okay with taking a chance on that issue, I think Pop Century is a fantastic resort for big families!

Voices of Liberty

05/20/2015 - 2 Responses

Voices of Liberty, an a cappella group performing in the American Pavilion at Epcot, has long been on my Disney to-do list. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to catch one of their performances. Finally, I recently achieved this goal.

voices of liberty

From the Walt Disney World website: “Enter the halls of The American Adventure for a captivating performance, as sung by a group of a capella singers. Costumed in finery from the 1800s, this exceptionally talented choir of vocalists captures hearts with each stirring performances—all while the rotunda’s acoustically perfect dome amplifies and purifies the sound. You won’t believe your ears!”

Their beautiful voices gave me goosebumps. I highly recommend that you see them!

Flower & Garden Festival: the topiaries

05/13/2015 - 4 Responses

In my last post, I mentioned some of the wonderful gluten-free food at this year’s Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Just as glorious as the food were the topiaries. Here are a few of our favorites:

13 Lady and Tramp topiaries

10 Lion King topiary

14 Woody topiary

18 Beauty and Beast topiaries

19 Peter Pan topiary

20 Minnie and Mickey topiary

21 Mater topiary

22 Lightning topiary

23 Sorcerer Mickey topiary

30 butterflies

The scent of the rose beds was spectacular:

24 pretty flowers

And the floating flowers were just darn cool:

29 floating flowers

Hurry to the Flower & Garden Festival before it ends on 5/17/15!

Gluten-free at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

05/06/2015 - 2 Responses

This year’s Flower & Garden Festival features quite a few gluten-free options at the “outdoor kitchen” food kiosks. They are clearly marked in the festival’s “Garden Passport.” Pick up a free passport and head to the kiosks for some gluten-free deliciousness!

Garden Passport

We didn’t try every single gluten-free item on the list, but got through quite a few of them. Here are some of our favorites:

Kale salad with dried cherries, almonds, goat cheese, and white balsamic vinaigrette.

Kale salad with dried cherries, almonds, goat cheese, and white balsamic vinaigrette.

Watermelon salad with pickled onions, baby arugula, feta, and a balsamic reduction.

Watermelon salad with pickled onions, baby arugula, feta, and a balsamic reduction.

Limoncello Panna Cotta

Limoncello Panna Cotta

Debreziner sausage with house made kraut and mustard.

Debreziner sausage with house-made kraut and mustard.

White corn arepa with braised beef and chayote slaw (top) and cachapa con queso (our favorite of the day).

White corn arepa with braised beef and chayote slaw (top) and cachapa con queso (our favorite of the day).

Confit de canard, strawberry macaron, my Kir Imperial, and my son's lemonade :)

Confit de canard, strawberry macaron, my Kir Imperial, and my son’s lemonade :)

We had a wonderful time strolling around the World Showcase and sampling these magnificent culinary creations. The Flower & Garden Festival runs through 5/17/15 so you still have time to get there for some wonderful gluten-free eating!

Cruising Disney: disembarkation day :(

04/23/2015 - 2 Responses

wonder

For all the cruise newbs out there (like me), here’s a quick run-through of disembarkation procedures on the final day of the cruise. First of all, any luggage that we didn’t want to carry off the ship with us had to be in the hallway outside our stateroom by 10pm on the final night of our cruise. We kept our carry-ons plus one suitcase with us, putting the other four suitcases in the hall. Next, we were given a breakfast time of 8am for the final day. This was perfect, as everyone on the ship had to be out of their staterooms by 8am at the latest. I got up at 6am, we hurried the boys along as best we could, and got out of the room by the stroke of 8. Whew!

Breakfast was in whichever restaurant you’d dined in the night before. For us, this meant Animator’s Palate. It was one last chance to gab with our awesome tablemates and wonderful service team before heading back to reality.

After breakfast, we noticed there was a VERY long line to disembark. We didn’t know how long this would take, so we made a pit stop before hopping in the line. You actually wait onboard until your disembarkation group is called (we were in the Green Tinker Bell group), but by the time we got in the line, all groups had been cleared to disembark.

The line finally started to pick up speed, we got through customs quickly, grabbed our luggage, and headed outside to catch a cab. All that day, I still felt like I was onboard a ship. The world swayed. It was a little disorienting, but kind of cool.

And thus concludes our first Disney Cruise adventure. Let me know if you have any questions!

‘Til We Meet Again

04/20/2015 - 5 Responses

The last night of our Disney cruise, there was a lovely farewell party in the atrium. First, Each character was introduced as they came down the grand staircases.

TWMA princesses

Then, all of the characters mingled. You could chat with, hug, and have your picture taken with all your favorites.

TWMA Peter Pan

Finally, they returned to the staircase area for one last wave goodbye.

TWMA wave

This was capped off by a burst of Mickey-shaped pixie dust. On the way back to our stateroom, I noticed one of the small Mickeys clinging to my arm. I kept it safe for the journey home, and it now resides in my jewelry box. My own little piece of the magic. :)

TWMA pixie dust

Have you been to the ‘Til We Meet Again party? What was your favorite part?

Cruising Disney: buy the book

04/16/2015 - Leave a Response

cruise photo book 1

There’s no shortage of photo ops on a Disney cruise. Photographers are all over the place, characters meets are plentiful, and the scenery is amazing. I made a habit of stopping by Shutters (the onboard photo store) frequently. I’d look through our Disney cruise photos to mentally keep track of everything, all the while weighing my options on what to buy (if any). You see, they’re expensive. Prices vary, but I believe our options were: $20 per print, $150 for 10 digital downloads, or $150 for a photo book containing up to 34 pictures. Since the photo book was clearly the best value, and since I couldn’t bear to part with ALL the cruise pics (there were several that didn’t make the cut), and since purchasing digital downloads would mean waiting for my photographer husband to retouch them all before I could do anything with them, I bought the book. I’m so glad I did!

cruise photo book 2

If you’re going to order the Disney cruise photo book, do so on the last night of your cruise. That way, you’ll have all of your pictures to choose from. Shutters has odd hours, and they reopened at 9:30 pm on the final night of our cruise. I left dinner a tad early and got to Shutters at 9:25. This turned out to be a great decision, as a line quickly formed while I used one of the kiosks to put my photo book together.

Have you purchased any Disney cruise photos? What do you think is the best way to go?

Cruising Disney: Dress Up Night!

04/14/2015 - 2 Responses

My everyday outfit consists of yoga pants, a tunic T-shirt, and maybe a fleece. So boring! When I heard that Disney Cruise Line has a Dress Up Night, I was so excited! I even went out and bought myself a brand new fancy dress. :)

The evening was super fun! Before dinner, Mickey and Minnie were available in fancy attire for meeting and greeting and picture-taking.

dress up night 1

We even got to have our picture taken with Captain Fabian!

dress up night 2

(The above pictures are from our DCL photo book. More on that in my next post.)

Now, Dress Up Night is “optional,” but pretty much everyone participated to some degree. Do you enjoy dressing up for dinner?

A small fire and some Cubans

04/09/2015 - 4 Responses

Disney strives for perfection, which I fully appreciate. Some things are beyond their control, however. We saw this firsthand on our Disney cruise. The calm, professional, and compassionate way in which the crew handled a couple of very unusual situations further secured my love of Disney.

Day four was an “at sea” day. We took full advantage of all the great activities offered onboard. At one point, we decided to go up to Deck 9 for a character meet-and-greet. While standing in the short line, awaiting our turn, about a dozen crew members in full fire-fighting gear ran past us. It was a quiet, orderly run – almost a jog. There was no yelling or other commotion. They quickly assembled at Pinocchio’s Pizzeria and focused intently on, well, whatever it was they were doing. There was a total lack of drama, so we thought it was just a drill. Shortly after they dispersed, the captain came over the PA system to explain that there had been a “small fire” in the pizzeria and that everything was fine. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing Disney Cruise Line had such an awesome protocol in place for an event like that.

This is one of the pictures I took during the "small fire" emergency. The entire crew was so calm, we had no idea it was more than a drill.

This is one of the pictures I took during the “small fire” emergency. The entire crew was so calm, we had no idea it was more than a drill.

Later that day, my husband and I indulged in a couples massage. (Highly recommended!) Afterwards, as I passed an incoming guest in the changing room, she said to me, “I hope we get moving again soon.”

“Pardon?”

“I heard the Coast Guard is coming, so we should be moving again once they get here.”

I had no idea what she meant, so I explained that I’d just come from a 50-minute massage, and she explained that we’d come across a small boat full of Cuban refugees while I’d been off the grid. Our ship had come to a stop to wait with them until the Coast Guard arrived. I rushed out of the spa, leaving my poor husband behind, to check on our boys. I was concerned that the situation might scare them. Fortunately, they weren’t scared, but they were very concerned about the refugees. Our ship stayed with the small boat for about 1 1/2 hours until the Coast Guard arrived to lead them away. During that time, our ship’s crew members gave them food, water, and extra clothing. While they couldn’t allow them onto the Wonder, they did everything they could to help. And, just like with the pizza fire, it was done with calm professionalism and a complete lack of drama.

photo credit: Weston Brainerd

photo credit: Weston Brainerd

photo credit: Weston Brainerd

photo credit: Weston Brainerd

My highest regards go to Captain Fabian and his crew for the outstanding way in which they handled two emergencies in one day at sea.

Animation class: Pluto

04/06/2015 - 2 Responses

I’ve always wanted to go to the Animation Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The problem is, no one else in my family has any interest in this drawing class. When I realized that drawing classes would be held during our cruise, I made it a point to go to one. On day four, while everyone else was busy with their own activities, I slipped away to the Animator’s Palate to learn to draw Pluto.

To start, each person was given a paper like this:

I particularly like the Walt Disney quote. (click to enlarge)

I particularly like the Walt Disney quote (click to see it more clearly).

The instructor took us through the drawing step by step. She had a great sense of humor and made the class really fun! It was a big group, so I couldn’t see her all that well. I watched one of the screens instead:

pluto 2

I’m so not an artist, but was pleased with my final result:

pluto 3

Have you ever taken a Disney animation class? If not, I’d recommend it!

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