Sailing with Disney – Pirate Night!

Pirate night is one of the busiest nights on a Disney Cruise. What’s it like? Read on!

After a little rest following our fun on Castaway Cay, it was time for pirate night aboard the Disney Dream! This is another part of the cruise we’d been looking forward to, as we’d even picked up some Disney-themed pirate shirts for this night while we were at Downtown Disney a couple weeks earlier. Disney also leaves you Mickey-themed ‘Pirates in the Caribbean’ bandannas to wear as well, as we found out when we got back to our room!

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First on the night’s agenda, pictures with Captain Hook and Mr Smee! These took place down in the little rotunda outside the shops, and there really wasn’t too bad of a line:

We walked the shops a little during that time, and one little tip for those who want to participate but didn’t have a chance to pick up pirate shirts or gear prior to sailing: There’s plenty on-board. Disney knows it’s worth stocking the stores on pirate night, and they had a pretty good selection of shirts, hats, and other pirate garb.

At this point, it should have been show time for us, but based on the schedule, we decided to skip it. It wasn’t a Disney show, it was one with the on-board magician, and while I’m sure we’d have enjoyed the show, we wanted to partake in as much pirate goodness we could. As such, we also decided to skip eating in our assigned dining room (a repeat of Enchanted Garden) and instead headed for the buffet to try and save time. On arriving, we encountered a twist we’d never seen with any other ship’s buffet before: it was table service, and pirate themed at that. The service was outstanding, and while the food was good, I’d have preferred to have had a full buffet selection vs a smaller table service menu. We went to the buffet for a reason, to shorten our dinner time, and table service doesn’t really accomplish that.

After dinner it was time for the first pirate show, so we headed up to deck 12 to get a good spot overlooking the stage. Having decided on a faster dinner, we got a pretty solid spot that gave us a clear view of the entire deck below, and even allowed us to participate in the pre-show fun. They have various cast members dressed in pirate garb walking around  deck 11 playing various games with the guests. In our case, Bayley played ring toss with one of the girls. In addition, there was some pirate ship basketball going on a little farther aft on 11:

The first show, named Mickey’s Pirate Academy, was more targeted at the younger kids, and was a musical show that taught them the necessary steps to be pirates in Mickey’s crew. As you can see from the video, it’s a typical high-energy show Disney that the kids seemed to be enjoying!

Once over, we had a bit of time on our hands before the show that opens the fireworks, so we headed inside and walked around a little before getting in line for pictures with Pirate Stitch. Bayley’s always been a huge Stitch fan, and waiting for this was a no-brainer for her. We got there early enough to only be 78 people back in line, but this line did get and stay pretty long, so if you have plans to get pictures with pirate Stitch, get there early! Right below Stitch was Pirate Minnie, so we ended up getting pictures at both places! Those lower lines had been pretty long at one point as well, so we were happy to at least get shots with Minnie!

Shortly after, we ran in to the cruise director, who in my opinion had the best costume of the night. I’ll add that there were a number of guests in some pretty good costumes, but living on the ship, especially in an entertainment role has its benefits, one of those being that you have a reason to go all out for your theme costumes :).

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After all of our pictures, the time had finally come for the fireworks! We headed outside and found ourselves a spot a little over halfway back in the pool area on deck 11 (which they cover for these shows). In hindsight we probably should have gotten there earlier to get a little closer, or even aimed for the starboard side of deck 12 to keep the water slides out of our view. No matter, the spot still wasn’t bad, and we were able to sit down for the show and fireworks and still see all of it. Note that deck 13 aft was closed for this show, so don’t assume that area will be open if you want to see fireworks from there.

The pre-fireworks show was a Pirates of the Caribbean themed show where Jack battles for possession of some, for lack of a better work, magical wrist guard, which is billed as the ultimate weapon. The show is fine, but went on a little too long in my opinion. Most of it was made up of the bracelet going back and forth between Jack and those trying to get it. A long game of keep-away, basically. We really just wanted to get to the fireworks, so we were happy when they finally began. As you can see, even sitting in the back half of the open area on deck 11, we were able to have a pretty clean view of the show:

Not a bad show, especially on a moving ship at sea! Once again, Disney does not disappoint! That wasn’t the end of the night, either, we still had a couple of things going on, starting with the 10:45 pirate themed buffet! As soon as the fireworks ended, we headed up and grabbed some food, eager to get to our final event of the night. One thing I might not have mentioned yet is that Disney has a pretty large movie theater on-board, equipped with a solid snack bar. They do charge for items on the snack bar, but they also allow you to bring in other food, including stuff from the buffet, so all three of us had loaded buffet plates, including some dessert crepes, tacos, and other goodness.

The nice thing about the theater is that it plays some popular movies from the Disney catalog along with a first-run movie or two, so on pirate night, our goal was to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean while sailing in the Caribbean on pirate night, and by the time we got there, we realized we weren’t the only ones! The theater was pretty full, but we managed to find 3 seats down low and spent a couple of hours enjoying a movie that had only released days earlier while eating our buffet food. All in all, not a bad night!

A successful pirate night behind us, we headed back to the room to get some rest for our last day on the ship, which just happened to be a sea day! Next up, all the fun we had on that final day aboard the Disney Dream!

 

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 HallOkay, 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 Kjøttkake, 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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