Tuesday, September 27, 2016

{Disney} Epcot and Via Napoli (or get in my stomach now!)

(Day 7)

This was our last full day at Disney, and Epcot, a convenient five or so minute walk away, was our park of the day.  In order to use your time wisely, I highly recommend not only using the FastPass+ system, but understanding it as well.  At Epcot, rides and attractions are grouped into two tiers and you may only select one FP from Tier 1.  Of course.  And what's included in that first tier?  Soarin', Frozen Ever After and Test Track.  Of course.

Let's discuss Frozen Ever After, the new Frozen ride located in Norway.  Standby wait times ran between 90 and 120 minutes during our visit.  I anticipated this and so the first FP+ selection I made was for Frozen Ever After.  I was able to get the date I wanted and a decent time (11:45-12:45.)  Note that I had logged on to make my FP+ choices a few hours after my window of time started that morning.  Oooops.  From what I've been reading on various Disney blogs and forums, Frozen Ever After FastPasses are hard to come by.  I suppose it depends on when you are visiting but folks who were there when I was had difficulty.

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Rich wanted to arrive at Epcot when the gates opened that morning.  Yeah, so we are most definitely not rope droppers but I agreed that we should try our best.  We left our rooms right about the time gates were opening and as we walked to Epcot, I checked wait times and formulated a plan.  The wait time for Soarin' was immediately at 10 minutes so we made that our first destination.  It is a super long walk from the International Gateway to Soarin' and by the time we arrived, the standby wait had been bumped up to 20 minutes.  In reality, there wasn't a 20 minute wait.  We walked through the queue and waited maybe 5 minutes before we boarded the ride.  Soarin' has been redone and is now called Soarin' Around the World.  We all enjoyed it and the girls jumped at the appropriate parts.

We grabbed some breakfast items to snack on after Soarin' and then the girls asked to ride Living with the Land.  Next up was the Nemo ride, which surprisingly had a line.  It was short (15 minutes or so) but we've never waited in line that long for this ride.  There was a little bit of time to kill before our window of time opened for Frozen Ever After so we went through the Anna and Elsa meet and greet, which has been moved from Magic Kingdom to Norway.  During our visit, wait times averaged 20 minutes or so.  A far cry from the two hour wait two years ago.

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In typical Disney fashion, Frozen Ever After was very detailed and engineered to perfection.  It's a short ride though, in my opinion.  While the girls enjoyed it, they were disgruntled over the fact that Anna and Elsa were singing an Olaf song.  (Note that if you want to attempt photos, it's best to sit on the right side of the boat.)

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We always seem to eat a meal at the quick service place in Mexico.  For lunch, we picked up some nachos and tacos to share.  The girls like what they call the Donald Duck ride in Mexico so we rode that after lunch.  We were happy with how our morning had worked out so we walked back to the Yacht Club to cool off in the pool.

I had made dinner reservations for Via Napoli, located in Italy, of course.  I actually wasn't able to make "dinner" reservations but I snagged the last time for lunch reservations, so close enough.  This was our first time eating here and we would most definitely dine here again.  The food was extremely tasty.  The only negative, in my opinion, was that they did not offer free refills on my diet coke.  Say what?!

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After dinner, we decided to go on one more ride before heading back to the pool.  There was no wait for the Figment ride so that's what we did.  The girls found it amusing.  I personally thought Figment was a bit creepy during parts of it.

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The girls seriously had the best vacation.  There were actual tears that last night at the pool with the realization that we would be packing up and heading home the next morning.  I may or may not have mentioned the potential for a long weekend visit next year.  Or something.

I'll have a few more Disney posts coming up discussing planning tips, thoughts on the resorts we stayed at, etc.

Monday, September 26, 2016

{Disney} Beaches & Cream and downtime

(Day 6, continued)

After our toasty lunch of sandwiches from the bakery over on the Boardwalk, we hung out at the pool for the entire afternoon.  As I mentioned before, scheduling a day without any planned activities or park excursions is highly recommended in my Disney Without Tears program.

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I tried over and over and over again to secure a dinner or even late lunch reservation at Beaches & Cream for this day but there was zero availability.  We had been warned that due to a conference being held at the Yacht Club, dining reservations were at capacity.  So here's a dining tip for Beaches & Cream:  the counter seats are first come, first serve for guests without reservations.  We had overheard folks the night before state that the wait was over an hour.  I came up with a brilliant plan for dinner.  We would put our names in for counter seats really early and continue to swim in the pool until it came close to the end of the estimated wait time.  Then we would head back to our rooms to change.  The plan worked perfectly.  After we changed out of our swimsuits and returned to Beaches & Cream, we waited two minutes.

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Grammy and I shared a sandwich and fries.  This is one of the great benefits to dining at Disney.  There is no additional cost to meal sharing and they'll even split the meal onto two plates for you.

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You can't dine at Beaches & Cream without ordering dessert.

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(She just had to adopt this Duffy because he looked so lonely in the store display.)

I want to comment on the extensive pool area shared by the Yacht and Beach Clubs.  We visited during a slower time and therefore, the pool was not overly crowded.  Especially after 5:00 in the evening.  We were always able to find chairs, even though we had to hunt for a few next to each other during the day.  Evenings were no issue at all.  

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We were in bed early, resting up for our last full day at Epcot.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

{Disney} Cape May Cafe, pool time, this and that around the resort

(Day 6)

If you are staying at either the Beach Club or the Yacht Club, I would highly recommend breakfast at Cape May Cafe.  This is a character meal, served buffet style, and the only character meal this restaurant offers.  It is not open for lunch. Dinner here, while also buffet, does not have characters.  The breakfast buffet consisted of a fairly wide selection of food items, similar to Chef Mickey's.

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This meal is technically called Minnie's Beach Bash Breakfast, starring Minnie, Goofy and Donald all dressed in beachy attire.    

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We thoroughly enjoyed our meal here.  The food was tasty, the characters friendly and the restaurant was in a convenient location for us.  After eating we meandered back to our rooms to change into swimsuits as our main agenda item for the day was POOL TIME.  I don't have any pool photos from that morning because I was in the pool myself and I'd left my camera in the room.  This was the one day of our vacation, aside from the day we arrived and the day we were leaving, where we didn't visit one of the parks.  It was a nice break and we all appreciated the time to relax.

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When planning for this vacation, Day 6 was the one day I struggled with where to eat our meals.  Sometimes we do plan to just wing it, but I didn't know how winging it for two meals in a row during a non-park day would work out.  Especially seeing that we had dined at the quick service poolside kiosk the night before.  For lunch, we decided to take a walk over to the Boardwalk and see what they had to offer.  We did come across several dining options and picked up some sandwiches from the bakery next to the new ice cream place.

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Tasty

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Beach Club

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The real feel temperature on this day (and all the others) was 106.  Give or take a degree or two.  Yes, we swam and swam and swam. . .

~ To be continued

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The call of the ocean

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When you realize it's a long way down.

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I know, I know.  Everyone's all about pumpkin this and pumpkin that and apple picking and leaves that have already changed color, but technically it's still summer.  With 90% humidity.  (Confession:  we've picked apples because waiting means mangy leftovers and I've admired the colorful leaves and I don't mind that it's much cooler at night because our central air remains busted.)  At the beginning of the summer, Rich and I committed to exploring and getting out more and I feel like we made that happen.  We're drawn to the ocean with its salty air and lapping waves.  (Trust me, you learn to get over the sand that can never be fully removed from your car.)  This may have been our last beach day of the year.  Beach day defined as wearing swimsuits and actually swimming in the ocean.  Fortunately, for us, the Cape is beautiful year-round.  We'll be back soon.      

Sunday, September 18, 2016

{Disney} Hollywood Studios and an extremely delicious lunch

(Day 5)

Before we could leave our resort rooms for the day, we needed to pack up all of our suitcases and bags, and say good-bye to the Contemporary.  This was probably the one negative of our split stay.  Note that Disney does make it very easy for you to split stay.  Bell Services will come to your room, pick up your luggage and transport it for free (you just need to tip) to the next Disney resort.  After that was all said and done, we headed down to the bus stop.

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Our bus experience was similar to that of the day before.  We didn't have to wait long and the bus was practically empty.

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We kicked our day (or partial day) of fun with Tower of Terror.  Grammy sat that one out.  The girls enjoyed it, after all the screaming.  Anna commented how it felt like she had been flying.  We had just enough time to squeeze in a meet and greet with Olaf (new!) before our lunch reservations.

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This was our first time dining at The Hollywood Brown Derby.  From my research online, including reviews, I was aware that guests should be dressed slightly on the nicer side with men wearing collared shirts, such as a polo shirt.  So I made Rich pack and wear a polo shirt with a real feel temperature of 106 and not one other male guest in that restaurant was wearing a collar.

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The food here was outstanding.  I ordered the Cobb salad and it was one of the best Cobb salads I've ever eaten.  I went with the smaller appetizer size because I had planned to order dessert but then some people wanted dessert and some people wanted to wait for dessert so I didn't end up ordering dessert here.  But here's what they were offering. . .

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We digested as we watched Indiana Jones.

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And then it was time for the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.  OMG.  We hadn't been on this ride before, mainly because the girls have always been too short.  Anna was just over the required height of 48 inches.  Rich and I first rode it with Emily and Anna.  Allie waited with Grammy and after her Expedition Everest experience, said she wasn't sure she wanted to go on this.  Well, she decided she didn't want to miss out so I rode it again with her.  I have to say that it's scarier the second time around knowing exactly what's coming your way. We ended our time at Hollywood Studios watching the Beauty and the Beast stage show.

Instead of walking to the Yacht Club, we rode the boat.  Swimming would have been a quicker option.  We checked into our rooms and headed over to the pools to swim and eat dinner.  The quick service restaurant located by the pool has decent dining options.

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We spent a lot of time in the pool.  The girls loved the water slide.

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