Spring Break on the Disney Fantasy – Part 2

Let’s start this off by talking food. As I mentioned in part 1, we’d managed to secure a reservation for brunch at Palo on the first sea day, which was the first full day of the cruise. We’d eaten here last year on our Disney Dream sailing and liked the entire experience so much that booking it again was a no-brainer. If you’ve had the pleasure of brunch here, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

On arrival at the restaurant this time around, we were led to our table by our awesome server Silvio. On the way, he took us over to a round 6 person table with a city-scape in the background. He had us all sit together against the wall and took a few pictures of us with the flash enabled, saying that this booth was designed to really come to life when lit properly. Wow was he right! This is one of my favorite pictures of us from the sailing!

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Once pictures were done, we headed to our table, which was once again by the window, providing an amazing view. Now, I won’t bore anyone by repeating the whole experience here, it was almost identical to last year, so you’re welcome to stop by that post to read up if you’re considering dining at Palo for the first time. Service was once again outstanding, the food was incredible, and we were left quite satisfied. We enjoyed a number of things from the buffet tables as well as the set menu itself, including pizza, lasagna, and that parmesan crusted chicken breast that Bayley loved so much last year. It was all just as good this year.¬†Brunch at Palo is worth every penny in my opinion.

Moving on, our rotational dinner assignments this time around were (in order): Art of Animation, Enchanted Forest, Royal Court, Art of Animation, Enchanted Forest, Enchanted Forest, Royal Court. For those who aren’t familiar with rotational dining, you rotate between the three main dining rooms on board all week, with your servers following you each night, providing a nice change of scenery each night while giving you a consistent service experience. Last year we were a little down on the speed of dinner service, with a couple of nights taking well over two hours. This year we had no issues with MDR service, our team was outstanding and were able to keep things moving so that we didn’t miss any evening activities. Kudos to Ignacio and Severine, they did an amazing job!

The food throughout the ship was excellent all week, I honestly don’t have anything to complain about here. I think the only negative would be the buffet pizza (Palo’s is really good). It’s better than Carnival or Royal’s pizza, but unsurprisingly nowhere near as tasty as MSC’s. That’s a pretty small complaint thought, as Disney’s food game across the board is on point, some of the best we’ve had on any line. I mean come on, can you beat a Disney sundae (or 9)? I think not!

Moving on, let’s talk about the ports! As I mentioned in part 1, we never actually planned on sailing over spring break, it was a very last minute choice. After we found and booked this sailing, we looked around at excursions, but in the end decided we weren’t going to get off the ship anywhere except Castaway Cay. We’ve been to the rest of the stops (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth) multiple times and decided it’d be better to save some money for our summer trip than repeat any past excursions. We did get off the ship in Jamaica to check out the shops, but that was Bayley’s call, since that day was her birthday. Not much to report there, we just walked the shops right there at the port, stayed out maybe an hour, and got back on the ship.

The one stop we did take full advantage of on this trip was Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. After getting off the ship, we decided that instead of riding the tram, we’d just walk from the ship to the beach. Along the way we did a little shopping and even managed to catch a few characters!

Last year we headed over to the adults-only side, Serenity Bay, and camped out on a couple of hammocks most of the day. We’d planned on doing the same this time, but after arriving there, realized it was way too windy, which made it cold, and the beach was almost unusable, being covered in piles of seaweed. No biggie, we headed back over to the family side and found a spot. It was pretty busy by then, so we weren’t right up on the water, but we were still on the beach, and that’s all that matters!

We didn’t really do a lot on the island, some napping on our beach chairs, eating, and wandering. One thing I do want to mention here is that in people’s reviews I’ve seen complaints that lines for lunch can get pretty long on the faily side, but we didn’t see that at all. I ate right as they opened, and with 6 lines at the one I was at, combined with multiple lines at the other food stand, I had no wait at all. Jen and Bayley ate later while things were in full swing, and again, no wait.

We hung around until about 2pm, at which point we headed back early to get a run or three on the AquaDuck before everyone got back on board. Love this waterslide, it’s always a good time!

While it was a fun day on the island, I’d say we enjoyed the previous visit more due to our time on the adults-only side of the island, but couldn’t be helped, the weather was just more condusive to the family side this time.

That about covers it for this post, next up, Star Wars Day at Sea!

 

Sailing With Disney – Debark and Final Thoughts

Finishing out my series on our adventure aboard the Disney Dream, I wanted to cover our debarkation experience and look back at what we liked and didn’t like about this sailing. If this is the first post you’ve read in our Dream series, I encourage you to hit this link and check out our previous posts first!

Debarkation was a bit of a whirlwind for us. We’d tagged our bags the night before and put them out at the required time of 10pm, earlier than any other sailing I recall. We’d been given Daisy tags, and assumed they’d be calling the characters in a specific order, similar to numbered debarkation order on most lines. We were wrong.

When we woke up in port Friday morning we started getting ready, and after Jen turned her phone on, she started getting a series of texts letting her know of a bit of a family emergency going on back home. This suddenly meant our plans had changed, and that we needed to get off the ship and back to NC as soon as possible, so we headed to guest services to see if we could get off before our character was called. That was the point at which we found out there is no real debark order, you just get off whenever you want and head down to pick up your luggage from the zone that matches your tag. That was a first, and boy was it fast. We headed right for the exit, and with everything going on, I never had a chance to get any pictures, but one nice touch as we exited was that the Captain was there seeing guests off.

After exiting the ship and finding our luggage, we headed for customs, which was also a breeze, as we didn’t need to fill out and present a declaration form. We simply handed him our passports, he asked if we had fruit, and as soon as we said no we were on our way. It might have been 30 minutes from the time we started walking down the gangway until we arrived at our cars in the hotel parking lot. It was all very smooth, which we really needed at that point. A+ for debarkation, it was nice and smooth.

Moving on, there are a few things that stood out to me over the course of this sailing:

  • It’s all about the Disney product. For example, on other lines, we’re used to the crew being introduced before the show on the last night of a sailing, but that never happened during this trip. Additionally, we’re used to the entertainment team being the face of your trip, but that never seemed to be the case here, it was all about Disney, and they made sure you remembered that. Not saying that’s a bad thing, just something different than what we’ve seen elsewhere. The experience comes first, just like it does in the parks.
  • Anyone that’s been to a Disney property knows how good Disney is at separating parents from their money, and the ships are no different in that regard. Other than the jewelry /purse “sales” on some ships, I rarely see people buying things like shorts, toys, or other line-specific gear, but this is Disney. The shops were busy most of the week, and I admit we even bought DCL shirts among other trinkets, and we never buy cruise line shirts. I’m sure they sold a number of pins on trading night, and a bunch of gear leading in to pirate night, too. I don’t recall a single sailing on any other line where I’ve seen the shops as busy as they were on the Dream.
  • The department heads were out checking on their areas more than on any other sailing I recall. That’s not to say it was in any way a distraction, they stayed out of the way, but it was impressive to see how often they were around making sure everything in their respective area was running smoothly. That alone made it obvious that this is a Disney operation.

So on to our positives and negatives. First up, the positives:

  • First and foremost, we had a great time. While it seemed to be busier than most sailings, mainly due to having a 21 year old that still loves the character meet and greets ;), the sailing was an absolute blast, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.
  • The food was good all week. You can’t always say that about MDR and buffet food, but I can safely make that statement here. I don’t recall a single thing I had that I didn’t like. When you factor in the brunch buffet at Palo, it was some of the best food we’ve had any one sailing.
  • Our cabin service was excellent all week. We did have an issue with a misplaced item of clothing the first day, but it was located and things were good the rest of the week.
  • The shows were very entertaining, and offered sets and casts that overall were better than the vast majority of lines we’ve sailed. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s hard for me to compare the shows themselves to any other line, because Disney has a catalog of popular stories that they don’t have to pay royalties on like other lines would, so it’s not really a fair fight. I will say that the singing and dancing was on point all week, some of the best we’ve seen on any ship.
  • Castaway Cay was awesome. One of our favorite private islands, and frankly I wish we’d have been on one of the sailings where you stop there twice. Having a separate area for adults was outstanding, along with tram service between all points on the island. I’d have easily traded our stop in Nassau for a second day at Castaway Cay.
  • The Aquaduck was probably the best water slide I’ve ridden on a ship to date. I’m a fan of the Aqua Racer on Norwegian’s Escape as you can see in our video, but the Aquaduck was better in my opinion. The night ride didn’t hurt ūüôā
  • Rotating dining rooms almost every night is cool, definitely adds something to the experience on the ship. I just wish our repeat had been Animator’s Palate vs Enchanted Garden.
  • When you want to get away from the kids, there are plenty of adults only areas to give you some relaxation. A couple of different pools, and after 9pm, a whole “district” area at the back of the ship with multiple venues to choose from.
  • Having an on board movie theater with first-run Disney movies is awesome. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 came out a couple of days before we sailed, so getting to watch that on pirate night while sailing in the Caribbean was really cool. Add to that the snack bar (which does cost money) and ability to bring food from the buffet, and it’s definitely a nice touch.
  • We really liked our room, cabin 7004, a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Porthole (OV). It was the first time in a while that we haven’t had a balcony, but I can’t say I ever really noticed. Having so much space (including plenty of storage) along with two bathrooms. Feel free to take a look around with this 360 degree shot!
  • The ship is in excellent condition, well decorated, and was always clean.
  • The entertainment options throughout the day were so much fun. There was so much to do that I don’t think we ever made it to any of the trivia events. The girls especially loved the drawing classes, something they were sad to see removed from Hollywood Studios. Getting to draw Stitch is always a highlight for Bayley!

The negatives, of which there were few:

  • Going in, we heard a lot of “this will ruin cruising for you due to that legendary Disney service” comments. Yea, none of us really agreed. If you’d never sailed before, the whole package (food quality, characters, the Disney experience) might make it hard to sail any other line, but we never really felt like the service lived up to that Disney level they’re famous for in the parks. I’m not saying it was bad (with the exception of my next bullet), as the crew was good all week, and the entertainment team was fun, but we’ve had service that’s been just as good on other lines, so I can’t really say it met those pre-set expectations.
  • The only really bad employee experience was in one of the shops. We wanted to buy a Pandora charm or two, since they have a couple they only sell on the ships, and the woman working the counter seemed less than interested in helping. We did buy one, but only after having to really push to get her to show them to us or tell us anything about them.
  • Something I mentioned in an earlier post, the dining speed. It really seemed like there were too many tables and not enough staff to handle them. That first night was brutal, taking well over 2 hours for the full meal (other tables had the same issue) and causing us to miss one late night activity we wanted to see. No complaints on our dining staff, they were great, they just seemed overworked.
  • The Midship Detective Agency apparently closes at midnight. I get it, most people doing it are likely well asleep, but Bayley was trying to participate one night while we were walking around late, only to find this had shut down a few minutes before we got there.
  • While the mixology class we did on day 2 was fun, we’d hoped that we’d actually be learning to make more drinks. We put together 3 of them, but in reality only truly made like 1 of them. For a couple of them, items that were part of the mix were prepared ahead of time, like some of the mashed fruits.

That’s really it for negatives, and none of them are really worth complaining about in my opinion. Our week on the Dream was excellent, and none of the above items took away from our fun at all.

In closing, I’d have to say that if you’re a Disney fan and have never sailed with them, you’re missing out! We really enjoyed our cruise, and would easily sail Disney again! They’re obviously a very family oriented line that provides a great experience for the kids while giving the grownups a chance to have fun as well. If a Disney cruise isn’t on your list, it should be!

Sailing With Disney – A Day in Nassau

Recapping our first full day on board while docked in Nassau!

Our second day of the cruise saw us docked in Nassau. The original plan had been to stay on board all day, if for nothing else, to allow us to check out the entire ship. Well, the plan changed, as most tend to do.¬†While we were signing up for the brunch in Palo the day before, we were given the basic dress code, which we were mostly prepared for. This is a good time to mention that on Disney ships, the dinner attire requirements are relaxed. Like really relaxed. Shorts and t-shirts relaxed. That made me very happy, as I’m not really one for the pomp and circumstance of dressing up for a meal, and not having to pack that extra clothing was amazing. I did throw in one pair of pants and a casual button down shirt just in case, which was perfect for Palo, but in the shoe department, all I had were sandals and tennis shoes, neither of which were suitable according to what we were told. That meant a short trip off the ship in Nassau to hunt down a cheap pair of shoes that would fit the requirements.

Before our trip into Nassau, however, we had a couple of things on tap. First up was breakfast in Royal Palace. We didn’t really have any wait at all, and menu in hand, I immediately spotted what I wanted, the waffle sandwich. Two waffles with dulce de leche and whipped cream in between them. Out. Standing. the human body doesn’t retain calories on vacation, right?

We also had a scheduled character meet and greet that morning with 3 princesses. This is one of the ones you have to sign up for in advance due to popularity, and even with as late as we booked, Jen was still able to get tickets for this one and for the Frozen character meet and greet about 5 days prior to sailing. If you don’t see availability when viewing your booking online, keep trying! Anyway, we made our way through the line, taking pictures of Bayley with Belle, Tiana and Rapunzel:

Our morning events done, we headed for the exits.¬†Getting off was pretty quick, and since we were getting off well after debark started, the line was relatively short. It wasn’t as busy as we’ve seen it in port, as there were only 3 ships there, including us. We walked around the shop areas for a bit not really finding anything but sandals shops, until finally we ran across what was basically a shop carrying a bunch of knock-offs. Clothing, jewelry, you name it (check out the “Apple watch” in the shot below). Fine by me, I just want shoes to get me through the upcoming brunch, so I bought a pair of solid black “Vans”, and we headed back to the ship.

Once back on board, we had a fairly busy schedule ahead, starting with our other pre-booked character meet and greet, with Anna and Elsa! This one was held in Animators Palate, and was easily the longest character line we saw all week. Again, this one requires booking in advance, so if your kids are Frozen fans, be sure to keep checking your booking online and grab tickets when they come available!

After our time in the kingdom of Arendelle, we headed back to Royal Palace for lunch. I’m not sure what it was about my appetite that day, but I felt the need to continue my kid-level food binge, and went with the Mexican pizza on the kids menu. I wasn’t super hungry, so as small as this looks, it was the perfect amount of food for me when combined with the molten chocolate cake on the dessert menu:

Our bellies full, we headed up to D Lounge for an animation class. This is one of those activities that the girls always loved at Hollywood Studios, at least until that entire area was replaced with the Star Wars Launch Bay, so they were excited to see it on the schedule . For today’s class, they’d be drawing Donald Duck! If you’ve never attended one of these classes before, it’s worth the time, they’re fun, and the instructors do a good job of walking you through each step.

After drawing Donald, the real fun began. One of the other things we’d done the previous day was to sign up for one of the mixology classes. The only one with availability was the 2pm class, held in Skyline Lounge. The class is $20 per person, and really was a good time. There were somewhere around a dozen people in there, and over the course of the class we learned how 5 different drinks are made, getting to make only two of them ourselves. The drinks included a Bahama Mama, Raspberry Mango Mojito (which was my favorite), a Captain Maitai, a B-52, and a Pomegranate Martini. One additional drink that got slipped in due to one of the participants celebrating a birthday, we all had what amounted to a double shot of Fireball. Like I said, it was a fun time. The only things we wish they’d change: We’d have like to have actually made more drinks. Only making 2 out of 5 was a bit of a let down. That, and one of the two we made wasn’t rally us making it. Some of it was pre-staged (pre-mixed juices, for example), so I wouldn’t truly say that we were learning the art of mixlogy. Good times, though, and we certainly got our money’s worth!

Having some time time left before the show, we decided to give the waterslide a few runs. If you’ve never seen the Aquaduck on the Dream, it’s a pretty long slide that takes you along a good portion of the ship, and it’s an absolute blast. The tube is see-though and totally enclosed for most of the ride, and the rafts you sit on have two seats, allowing you to either go solo or with someone else, and speed-wise, it’s pretty casual. Having those unobstructed views of everything around you makes for an outstanding ride, too. I think we rode it 2 or 3 times before heading back to the room to get ready for the show.

Tonight’s show theme was Villains, and I admit I didn’t recognize many of them, as they appeared to be from newer Disney shows/movies. The performers and sets were outstanding, up to Disney’s usual production level, but not much else to say about it, especially due to the fact I took no pictures or video, adhering to their rules. I will say that the area we sat in, up in the balcony to the far right, 3 rows up, isn’t a spot I’d choose to sit in again. While I had a clear view of the stage, I couldn’t see any of the stuff happening on the right-hand monitor or right-hand box. Again, stage sight lines are pretty good throughout the theater, you just want to be closer to center to be able to see things going on in either of the forward balcony boxes.

After the show, and a little bingo action in Encore, we headed for dinner. As mentioned in my previous post, our dining room schedule had us repeating one location, and as a result, tonight’s location was the first of two scheduled evenings in Enchanted Garden. While I enjoy the decor in this restaurant, that same crowded feeling we had for lunch in here the previous day returned. Couple that with the continuing slow service, and dinner here was just an okay experience. I think we’d have all preferred to be back in Animators Palate, if for nothing other than Crush’s tableside visit. No biggie, the food was still good, and was capped off with another delicious sundae ūüôā

Once we hurriedly finished our desserts, we headed for the one thing left on our schedule, a character meet and greet with Captain Mickey! We got there a few minutes early, and the line wasn’t too bad at that point, so it didn’t take long for our turn to arrive once he came out:

We did make one more stop on our way to the room, at the late night snack table in the lounge area. Just outside the District lounge, on the way to Evolution, there’s a small buffet area open somewhere in the 10pm timeframe. Mostly just finger foods that were okay, nothing special though. Following that quick snack stop, we headed to the room to get some sleep before our arrival in Castaway Cay the following day. We did order room service for the second night in a row, and this is something I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post. One thing available at no charge that isn’t listed on the menu are the Mickey ice cream bars! On the first and second night, we all ordered them. Again, the human body doesn’t absorb calories on vacation, right?

Next up, the day we were looking forward to the most, our stop at Castaway Cay!

Sailing With Disney – Let’s Get This Party Started!

I’ve mentioned before that embarkation day is a love/hate thing for me. Going in to this boarding day, I was excited enough to not care how painful boarding would be, but we still decided that we weren’t going to rush to the port, instead opting for a slightly later arrival in the hopes of avoiding some of the crowds. Well that didn’t really work, as in our excitement we still left a little too early :). Around 11:30, after moving our cars over to the cruise parking area at the hotel we’d stayed at, we grabbed a Lyft and headed to the port. For anyone who’s familiar with the area, it took all of 5 minutes to get from our hotel, the Radisson, to the port. So much for a more relaxed arrival time that would allow us to walk on with little wait!

After passing through security, we headed for check-in. For non-concierge folks, there are two possible lines you end up in, either the first time Disney cruisers line, or the Castaway Club line. Being our first Disney cruise, we obviously landed in the former. It moved pretty quickly, and start to finish I think it might have been 10 minutes before we had our cabin keys are were off to wait for our turn to board. Not too bad! Part of that check-in is getting your boarding group number, which in our case was 25, about 22 from where they currently were. No biggie, we decided to get in line for a picture with Minnie prior to boarding, which definitely killed some time, as they were all the way up to group 17 by the time we finished.

 

After wandering the boarding area for another 20 minutes, our boarding group was called, and it was time to get things rolling. One of the cool things about boarding on Disney is that as you walk on to the ship, you’re welcomed on board by name:

Once on board, we headed for Royal Palace, as we wanted to try and get reservations for the brunch buffet at Palo, and hadn’t been able to prior to sailing. Having boarded at 12:55, we only had 5 minutes before they opened the room to allow passengers to come in and request dining changes like this, so we jumped in a line that was surprisingly short, with only 5 or so groups in front of us. As you’ll see in a later post, we did manage to get the reservation, so that little victory behind us, we headed to lunch. We’d decided ahead of time to eat our first meal in the Dream in Enchanted Garden to avoid the buffet crowd. Not a bad call, other than somewhat slow service. The dining staff were very friendly and quick to respond to whatever you needed, but it seemed like there were too few of them in a space where there are too many tables crammed around each other. The sundae at the end of the meal made up for it, however. Amazing. That proved to be a common theme on the cruise, as their ice cream is delicious!

 

After lunch, we headed to the room. We were booked in cabin 7004, a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Porthole (OV) all the way forward on deck 7. It’s a fairly spacious cabin with plenty of storage with a porthole that overlooks the front of the ship. One thing I really like about the room’s design is the split bathrooms. One bathroom with a sink and toilet, the other with a sink and bathtub/shower combo. Having another bathroom with its own sink separate from the shower allowed more than one person to be getting ready for dinner at the same time. So nice :). My only gripe about the room was the slanted front wall, due to that being the front of the ship. I intentionally chose that side of the bed (power outlet and USB ports in the alarm clock FTW!) and ended up hitting my head more than once. Really, that’s all I’ve got in the complaint department where the room is concerned, I really liked it. Here’s the 360 shot of it, take a look around!

Here are a few more of the room, including the bathrooms, and one of the couch after it’s been turned into a bed:

 

After dropping our stuff in the room, we gave Bayley a tour of the kids club since it would be the only time she’d be able to go in. As expected, Disney’s got a great setup down there. I posted some pics of it during our tour of it back in December, but to recap, some of the highlights include a Star Wars themed section where kids can fly the Millenium Falcon, Andy’s room from Toy Story, and large video enabled floors where games can be held. As we walked through, there was in fact a game going on at one of them, which Jen and Bayley happily took part in. Jen thinks they were frogs, stepping on the screen to throw out its tongue and catch bugs:

 

After a little walking tour of a few areas, we headed up to deck 12 to take in the sail-away party. Having mis-judged the number of people who’d be attending, and getting there as it was starting, our initial spots weren’t that great, so I moved around a little to get a better view:

 

It’s a good time, complete with a number of Disney characters, so if you want a good view, get there a little early and get up against the rails on either side of deck 12, or up front by the stage on deck 11.

After the sail-away party, we explored the ship a little more before heading to the main show. We’d been assigned late dining (8:15), which we normally don’t like (this trip did nothing to change that), so we were in the early show. The first show of the sailing was the Golden Mickeys, an awards-style show geared towards celebrating Disney’s vast catalog of movies. We do like the Dream’s theater, as it’s fairly open throughout, with excellent sight-lines in most places. They do use the forward balcony boxes in the shows, so the closer to center the better, but we sat on the sides a couple of times and had clean views of the stage itself. Couple that with snack bars just outside the theater by each entrance, and it’s up there as one of my favorite theaters on any ship we’ve sailed. Far better than whatever it is that Carnival decided to do with the main theater in the Vista.

The show is where I really started to appreciate Disney’s ability to provide outstanding entertainment regardless of location. Prior to this, MSC held the title of best entertainment at sea in our eyes, but Disney’s on a whole other level. For that very reason, I still categorize MSC as the best in the contemporary non-Disney class when it comes to original shows. When you factor in Disney’s vast catalog of movies and cartoons that they can pull from for the show (without having to pay royalties), there’s really no way for anyone else to compete, as Disney’s in a league of their own. The show itself was outstanding, with excellent performers and vocalists, a theme that held true all week.

The theater is also where I started to notice and appreciate Disney’s enforcement of the rules. Leading in to the show, they’d warned people multiple times that no photos or video recording were allowed in the shows, and as usual, people didn’t listen. What set them apart from other lines is that they actively enforced it. In Cats when we were on the Oasis of the Seas, a woman a few seats over recorded a large chunk of it fairly obviously (the screen on her phone was large and bright), and none of the staff members did a thing even though we were all warned before the show about doing just that. In here, the ushers quickly spotted those with even the dimmest screen, walked over, and told them to stop. It made for a much more enjoyable experience. I admit I did take one picture, but well before the show started so I could show our viewing angle:

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After the show ended, we still had time to kill before our 8:15 dinner seating, so we headed to D Lounge to catch part of the Family Fusion game show. Good stuff, similar to the Match Game. I didn’t stay in there long, I wanted to get some outside shots as the sun was going down, so I headed out to get a few shots while the girls watched the game:

 

After that quick stroll outside, I headed back in to meet up with the girls so we could head to our dining room for dinner. For those that haven’t sailed Disney, they have multiple dining rooms that you switch between each night, with your dining staff following you. For night #1, Animators Palate was on tap. That’s a really fun venue, and probably our favorite MDR of the sailing. Being that we had 4 nights in 3 dining rooms, one was repeated, and I really wish it had been this one. Beyond the cool decor, Crush is jumping between the different screens talking to various guests at their tables while they eat. If you’ve ever been to Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot, it’s very similar, just in a dinner setting.

 

Dinner itself was delicious. From the top left, moving clockwise, I had the Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes, Baked Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup, Ginger Teriaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin, and the Cookies and Cream Sundae. Like the sundae at lunch, it was outstanding. I could have eaten sundaes all week and been perfectly happy :).

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Our only complaint with dinner was how long it took. Felt like we were never going to get out of there, taking just over 2 hours from the time we were seated until we were done with dessert. One of the reasons we prefer early dining is that they actually have a set schedule to keep, needing to get people out quickly so they can clean up for the next seating, a deadline that’s just not there with late seating. Our wait staff was great, it just seemed like another case of too many tables for too few staff. It took so long that we missed one activity that started around 10pm or so. Might have been a character meet and greet, but I forgot to note it unfortunately.

Our dinner finally over, we headed to the Quest game show, which was followed by their version of the marriage show. Normally we like to play along during Quest, but getting there so late and being completely full from dinner, I really wasn’t up for it. There weren’t any really convenient seats for running up to the host, either, so we just watched this round. The host for both of these events, Chris, was outstanding. I highly recommend attending the late night stuff he hosts if you’re looking for fun without the kids :). In case anyone from our sailing happens to read this, I’ll close this post out with some shots from those games, including a picture of the marriage show couples. Couple #1 was one of the funniest pairs I’ve ever seen in this type of show, for reasons that should stay on the ship ūüėČ

 

At this point we’d only been on-board for half a day, but were having an absolute blast, and for the most part our Disney cruise was living up to the hype. Next up, the ship makes its first stop. Did we get off in Nassau? Stay tuned! In the meantime, enjoy a few more pics from day 1:

 

Disney Dining – Round 2

With everything going on the past couple of months, I haven’t had time to cover our Thanksgiving trip to Disney World, so it’s time to fix that. First up, our experience with the Plus Dining Plan, which gives each person on the plan¬†1 table service meal,¬†1 quick service meal, and¬†1 snack for each night of your stay.

This is our second time using the dining plan, but the first using one that included table service. As mentioned in my June post, I was iffy on getting the dining plan again, as I felt that I ended up eating a lot more unhealthy food than I would have without the plan, but the decision was made to go with the higher level plan this time around to see what we could get out of the table service meals.

We did a lot of planning for this, and I mean a lot. Jen was on the dining site nightly for several weeks trying to get our table service schedule just right, and in the end it paid off. We ended up with several character meals, including one for Thanksgiving dinner! Here’s a quick look at where we used the table service credits:

Be Our Guest: This was actually done as a quick service meal, but it was so much better than the first time that I wanted to include it. We were scheduled for an 8:00am breakfast here on our first day, the same time the Magic Kingdom opened. The nice thing about making dining reservations for that early is that you end up in the park before everyone else. There’s a separate line for those with dining reservations, and if I recall, we got in to the park about 7:50am to make our way back to the restaurant. They do have cast members along the way keeping an eye to be sure no one’s headed in a direction they shouldn’t be, but getting in the park that early is awesome. Here are a few shots of the (mostly) empty park I took along the way to the restaurant:

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Additionally, we were second in line at BoG, so we got through ordering pretty quick and were able to easily get a table in the West Wing near the rose. The food was decent, too. I had the croissant doughnut, which was very tasty.

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Donald’s Dining Safari Thanksgiving Lunch at Tusker House Restaurant: This was (obviously) our Thanksgiving lunch, scheduled for 2:45pm. We’d had an awesome day already at Animal Kingdom, having done the Wild Africa Trek first thing that morning (I’ll cover that in my next post). We got to Tusker House around 2:30 and checked in, and maybe waited 5-10 minutes to be seated. The buffet itself did have some changes to it, with traditional Thanksgiving items laid out in addition to some of the normal menu items. One note here: the dessert table isn’t well placed, as it always seemed to have a line, and that line runs in front of the table that holds things like the¬†South African preserves, Tabbouleh, and Hummus, which my wife was disappointed to discover only after she was full since she never saw those items until she went for dessert. Still, it was a fun Thanksgiving¬†lunch, complete with Donald Duck and Friends!

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Fairytale Dining Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table: Yea we did, and you should too! This isn’t an easy reservation to get, but Jen’s perseverance with the Disney Dining site paid off. Also note that this counts as¬†two table service credits per person. We had a 9:05am reservation, and checked in slightly before that. After a short wait outside, were taken in to the lower waiting area where you meet and have your picture taken with Cinderella. After another wait for your name to be called, you’re taken upstairs to your table. The entire place is well done, with attention to detail in every aspect of it. Just like every other character meal, as you eat, the various princesses make their way around the dining area and stop at each table for pictures and autographs.

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Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare: We did this the same day we did Cinderella’s Royal Table, so it was a princess-heavy day. We were second in line at 1900 Park Fare when it opened for dinner, and for those with little ones, I highly recommend being there for the dinner opening. The little girl in front of us got to help them open the doors. Here, that means saying the magic words, and having Cinderella and Prince Charming open the doors, welcome her in, and lead her and her family to their table. I can only imagine how much that meant to her, so for other parents who want a shot at this for their kids, opt for the 4pm reservation and be there early!

Food-wise, it was the best buffet we had. The meat¬†on the carving station was perfectly cooked, and everything else I had, including the mashed potatoes, was excellent. As we ate, Cinderella, Prince Charming, the step sisters, and the wicked stepmother made their way around. The sisters and mother were hilarious, too, as they were perfectly sarcastic to everyone they talked to. Case in point: when the red-headed step sister came over, she took one look at Bayley’s red hair and said: “Look at your hair color, it’s like we’re better than everyone else!”. At one point, one of the step sisters passed a crying baby a couple of tables over and loudly said: “Stop crying, you’re fine!”. Really funny stuff, everyone we saw was eating it up!

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Princess Storybook Dining Lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall:¬†Okay, maybe we went a bit overboard on the princess-themed character dining, but we really wanted to try Akershus. It’s similar to Cinderella’s Royal Table in that after you check in and have your name called, you have your picture taken with a princess, which in this case was Belle. After being seated, it’s the typical “eat while characters come by” setup. The food was pretty good, too. The appetizer portion of the menu is buffet style, with it being a “Taste of Norway” setup with meats, cheeses and seafood, among other items. There are two sides to the buffet table, with both sides being identical. This isn’t clear at first, and results in people walking the whole thing, slowing down the line as they cut in to see what’s on the opposite end. Somewhat annoying, but oh well. From the entree menu, I had the¬†Traditional Kj√łttkake, which is Norwegian meatballs on mashed potatoes. D-e-licious!

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All of the table service meals were great, as was the Be Our Guest breakfast using quick service credits. Our other quick service meals were at places we ate last time, including Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs (still the best value for quick service, imo), Pizza Planet, and Contempo Cafe. All good stuff, I just didn’t feel the need to cover¬†them again. We were disappointed in the specialty cupcake selection this time, as Pizza Planet only had a Thanksgiving-themed pumpkin spice cupcake (left pic), which was just okay. Contempo did have a few more options, including the creme filled cupcake I got (the chocolate one below). Mmmmmm.

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In the end, I felt the same way about this dining plan as I did in May with the Quick Service plan, that it’s not something I feel it necessary for us, but it may very well be a good option for a larger family. After everything was calculated, we’d saved close to $300 total by getting the dining plan (vs paying for each place we went¬†outright), but then again, it’s highly unlikely we’d have done this many character and¬†quick service meals, or even gotten as many snacks as the plan offers, so who knows if we would have even spent as much on food as the dining plan cost.¬†I’d say that in both cases, the dining plans just “enabled” us to eat at more of the park options than we would have otherwise. I did enjoy it more this time, due in large part to the table service choices we made.

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