There’s nothing like summer in Disney World…and now you can sweat it out to some savings! For stays most nights June 15 – Aug. 14, 2012:
- Save 15% at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort and Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Save 20% at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Coronado Spring Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, and Disney’s Fort Wildness Resort & Campground Cabins
- Save 25% at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, Disney’s BoardWalk, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard views only), Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Old Key West Resort.
Book April 2nd to June 14th for travel dates June 15th to August 14th * The number of rooms allocated for these offers is limited. Length of stay requirements may apply. Savings based on the non-discounted price for the same room. Additional per adult charges apply if more than two adults per room. Excludes suites and 3-bedroom villas and is not valid at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. No group rates or other discounts apply.
Contact Michele@PixieVacations.com for your free no obligation quote or for more information on this offer!
- The Avengers Monorail Debuts At Walt Disney World (chipandco.com)
If you subscribe to Chip and Co, you’ll hear a lot about dining reservations and dining planning. For most guests, the rich variety and quality of food options available on property are an important part of their vacation, and dedicated planners take advantage of the 180 day reservation window to try to secure their restaurant of choice.
But what if you aren’t one of those planners? What if your plans change? What if you can’t get the Le Cellier reservation you wanted? Is there any hope?
There is if you’re flexible.
Your party can get seated as a walk-up at most Disney dining if you’re willing to arrive just as the restaurant opens. That may mean having your ‘big meal’ at lunch rather than dinner, or heading out to a resort restaurant a bit earlier than usual, but it will allow you to eat almost anywhere you desire. My husband and I have walked into Le Cellier, Artist Point, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Rose & Crown and Sci-Fi Dine In because we arrived when they opened and put our names in for a seat.
There are no guarantees with walk-up seating, particularly during free dining where few tables are held open for walk-up guests, but more often than not, it’s a way to get that dining experience you’ve been craving without a 180 day ADR!
- Is Disney World Character Dining Worth it or is it Overpriced? (chipandco.com)
- Disney World Quick Tips – Advanced Dining Reservation Tips (chipandco.com)
I count myself incredibly honored to have been among the chosen to take part on the Fantasy Inaugural Voyage.
This voyage, though far to brief, was incredible. I’ll admit I didn’t expect the Fantasy to be much different than the Dream. After all, they are sister ships and the time lapse between the building and release of the ships was very brief.
To detail the ship in its entirety would make for an extremely lengthy article and I know you all well enough to know your attention spans won’t last that long.
I’m assuming that the main questions on everyone’s minds revolve around the differences between the Dream and the Fantasy so here we go.
- The decor-obviously the ships are going to be decorated differently; just as the Magic and Wonder are. The Peacock theme on the Fantasy is very well done and is absolutely gorgeous. The colored chandelier in the atrium is beautiful and will take your breath away.
- The layout- The Dream and the Fantasy are set up practically identical, so if you’ve been on the Dream you won’t find the Fantasy hard to navigate.
- The adult clubs-While I truly enjoyed the theming of Evolution (on the Disney Dream) in my opinion The Tube (Disney Fantasy) has it beat hands down in theming. You truly feel transported to the Tube in London. There are even red phone booths, british flag leather booths as well as railings and leather hand straps to hang onto, just as if you were riding the Tube. The bar area is gorgeous and the lighting style is very modern and functional. The glass bulbs can have images illuminated on them, can change color, etc. The dance floor also lights up and can have images projected onto it. There seems to be a much move vast selection of seating especially in seating decor. You’ll find large ornate overstuffed velvet chairs fit for a king as well as super modern circular chairs in red lacquer, large oval booths to accommodate new friends and plush overstuffed couches and chairs. The play on red, black and white really gives a great contrast and the textiles give it a rich feeling that Evolution doesn’t really have. The Tube looks very expensive and well thought out and is immaculately themed. There are now mini remotes for audience participation; so it was fun to vote in the “Match Your Mate” competition it really made you feel like part of a game show audience.
- The Europa District-This cluster of adult areas has upgraded and changed each location as well as the overall layout. The new layout is much better and makes La Piazza a destination as opposed to a walk way as the District Lounge seems to be on the Dream. The adult areas feel a bit more distinguished and each one has its own identity and has to be found, unlike The District where you feel like everything is in one large hallway and you just pick which door; right or left. The transformation between bars is really quite amazing.
- Ooh La La makes you feel like you are in a French Boudoir, with velvet chaise lounges, fantastically ruffled chairs and ornate decor. Ooh La La feels much more European and French influenced than the Champagne bar on the other ship-Pink. I really can’t decide which I like better; I have to admit that the Pink elephant is pretty darn cute on the Disney Dream! Both places have a very different feel to them; while one is modern and bright the other is very French.
- O’ Gills Irish Pub seems a much better solution than 687-the sports bar on the Dream. This seemed to draw a much broader crowd but still serve the purpose of lots of beer and televisions; and let’s be serious….who doesn’t love to pretend they’re Irish?!
- The water features in the adult areas are the best addition to the Fantasy. Deck 12 now has a water feature that’s perfect to sit on the edge and dip your feet, or sit in the shallow water to stay cool in the hot sun. It seems to serve as a sort of watering hole for sun bathers and it’s nice to see folks chatting together during the day. The chair situation on the upper decks also seems to have improved. There seem to be more chairs, and there are also shady areas brought to you by Cabana-esque shelters to the sides of the decks. You’ll find many people here listening to music, writing or on their laptops. This is a perfect spot for folks who want o be outside but can’t take the heat (literally). The top on the “shelter” covers a large area so it’s not like having your own private cabana and I love the open feel of it and the fact that shade dwellers can now intermingle instead of sending a single member of your travel party to bed for an umbrella or place in the shade. This deck is a place everyone (sun worshiper or not) can enjoy together.
- Satellite Falls: I can’t even begin to describe this wonderful invention. This is yet another water feature for adults only (that means PEACE AND QUIET!). This water feature has a water curtain that falls down from around the circumference of the sphere above. You can sit on the edge, dip your feet, climb on it, stay under the water curtain or find a spot inside the water curtain. The tile work is beautiful, and its a great use of location. The concierge level sun deck (which has privacy and key card entry of course) shares this space but it has a very relaxed, almost quaint feel to it. Again you’ll find shady spots here as well as loungers in the sun.
The addition of “Aladdin” and the newest show “Wishes” are the other major changes as well as the changes and upgrades to Animator’s Palate. Overall the ship is beautiful beyond words and I can’t wait to cruise again and stay on for a full seven days to really experience all the Fantasy has to offer!
If you’d like to experience the Disney Fantasy, there are great rates for Guaranteed Rooms with Restrictions available for April sailings! Contact me for your free quote and to check availability! Michele@PixieVacations.com
- Disney Fantasy: The Tube (thepracticalplanner.blogspot.com)
- Disney considers another gourmet lunch option on Fantasy (passporterboards.com)
The 411 on Character Dining
at Walt Disney World are an opportunity for your child to meet some favorite Disney characters up close and personal. The characters are integrated into each meal’s theme. In some cases, the characters’ costuming is designed specifically for the meal’s character (pun intended) and other times the characters themselves are central to the location’s theming. Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo & Stitch at the Polynesian Resort is an example of both. Lilo and Stitch are a natural fit for this South Pacific inspired resort. They are joined by their good friends Pluto and Mickey who rock some trendy Hawaiian shirts.
Most of the character meals are buffets or family style meals with the notable exception of Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table. As a general rule, you can count on meeting four or five Disney characters in about 75 minutes.
How does it all work? Once guests are settled, the Disney characters will stop at each table for a photo op, to sign autograph books, and for some good-natured antics. They may also lead a parade or a little activity such as napkin twirling.
Value is relative, especially at Walt Disney World. In the case of character dining, I look at four main factors: atmosphere (this includes characters and entertainment), food quality, quantity, and of course cost.
It’s all about the characters. After all, that’s why you frantically began dialing at 6:55 a.m. (sans coffee) 180 days out to get hold of a coveted Advanced Dining Reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table, isn’t it? There are two types of characters at the character meals – face characters like the princesses and costumed characters like Winnie the Pooh. For me, face characters have an advantage over their costumed friends. Face characters can speak and really engage their guests through conversation while costumed characters are limited to gestures as they do not have a voice. So, if you’re looking for the most value, I say go for character dining with face characters such as the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast or Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare or Princess Storybook Dining in the Norway Pavilion. You’re kids will get more than a quick picture, a hug, and an autograph. That being said, if your child is Handy Manny’s number #1 fan, there’s no doubt meeting him at Playhouse Disney’s Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood & Vine will b e a highlight of the trip, even if he doesn’t speak.
Let’s talk about venue next. Some are truly special such as Akershus Royal Banquet Hall or Cinderella’s Royal Table while others are run-of-the mill. Yes, Playhouse Disney Play ‘n Dine, I’m talking about you. If your food tastes better in pretty surroundings, then book a princess meal which take place in some of the prettier character dining restaurants. Something that is hard to put a value on is taking photographs inside an empty theme park. For a photograph of your kids alone in front of Cinderella Castle, book a breakfast character dining experience before the park opens; you’ll be able to enter early and get those special pictures.
Most Disney World character meals are buffets and I would rate the overall food quality to be mediocre – you’re really paying for the character interaction. Though it may be just average, there is a lot of variety and the food is plentiful. These buffets have kid-centric stations that are sure to please little ones. One of my favorite character dining experiences from both an atmosphere and food quality perspective is Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. To sum it up, if you weigh food quality heavily when judging value, then you’ll probably think character dining is overpriced.
There’s no shortage of food at the buffets and family style meals. The problem is my family usually doesn’t eat our money’s worth. My kids are bouncing out of their seats waiting for their favorite character to stop by so it can be an exercise in futility to get them to eat their food. I’m so busy taking pictures and filling plates at the buffet that all-you-can eat often translates into all-you-have-the-chance-to-eat. This is compounded by long lines at some of the buffets since multiple groups are often seated around the same time. Where’s the best value? For my money, family style meals win out. The platters are brought directly to the table and mom and dad don’t spend a lot of time taking turns at the buffet filling plates.
If you’re paying out-of-pocket and compare restaurants based on price and food quality, you’ll pay more at most character dining. But really, you’re paying for your little ones to have a guaranteed opportunity to meet their favorite Disney friend one-on-one. Guests on the dining plan have the advantage of meeting characters for one table-service credit (with the exception of Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table), the same as other table-service restaurants. That’s a good deal.
What I don’t like is feeling obligated to purchase a photograph on top of the sometimes steep cost of the meal. At locations like Ohana’s a photographer will take your group’s picture before breakfast and then will give you the option to purchase it for about $30.
What’s the verdict?
As a mom, atmosphere (i.e., meeting the characters) is the most heavily weighted factor when I judge value. That means if my little guys have a favorite character or two, a couple of character meals are worth the money especially if the character is not so easy to find in the park. In fact, a character meal often means more time for the attractions since I don’t have to arrange our touring schedule to find and meet an elusive character.
What do you think? Is character dining worth the money?
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You call follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/DisneyExplorer.
- Disney World Quick Tips – Avoid Morning RUSH (chipandco.com)
- Disney World Quick Tips – Get a free Autographed Postcard from the Disney Characters! (chipandco.com)
The early bird gets the worm right? This Disney World Quick tip is for all those non morning people out there. (Like Me)
In the evening when you arrive back at your resort from a long day in the parks, stop into the snack shop and pick up a muffin, granola bar, pop tart or pastry and bring it back to your room (many of these count as snacks on the Disney Dining Plan). Since all resorts have refrigerators you can even grab some milk and cereal and stash it in your room. We like to use Garden Grocer for all of our grocery needs.
When you wake up the next morning you have your breakfast ready to go, no muss, no fuss and no morning rush!
- Disney World Quick Tips – Travel Bag Must Haves (chipandco.com)
- Disney World Quick Tips – Room Upgrades is it worth it? (chipandco.com)
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