Friday, December 26, 2014

Our Trip Review - Day 1

Main Street, USA
Back in November, we traveled down to the World to enjoy some of the Christmas festivities.  This trip was special, not only because it would be our first time ever at the World during the holiday season, but also because my 11-year-old niece, my 8-year-old nephew, and my sister were traveling with us.  My sister has been to the World a couple of times, many years ago, but this was my niece and nephew's first trip ever - and, hopefully, not their last!  

We arrived in Orlando at around 12:00 p.m.  By the time we arrived at our resort, Coronado Springs, checked in, took care of some odds and ends, had lunch, and checked out our rooms, it was almost 4pm, which meant we were running late for entry into Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.  Although the Party officially begins at 7pm, ticket holders for the event are allowed early entry at 4pm.  The party runs until midnight.  

The Haunted Mansion
The Magic Kingdom was very crowded, and we decided to try to do a couple of rides if possible.  First stop - my favorite ride, The Haunted Mansion.  Fastpasses (FPs) are not given out during the Party, but we were able to get into The Haunted Mansion on a 20-minute standby line, which I got to enjoy for the first time since they put in the new queue.  I really liked it and found it very interesting. As I had hoped, my niece and nephew loved this ride, and we got to ride it again a few days later.  

Cinderella's Castle 
Around 6:00 p.m., we made our way over to Cinderella's Castle for the Frozen Holiday Wish show when Queen Elsa (from the movie Frozen) transforms the Castle to look like it's covered in icicles.  It was a really fun show featuring the Frozen characters, and the transformation is breathtaking. Absolutely beautiful (see my post dated November 30, 2014 for full details).

We had a quick bite over at Peco's Bill Tall Tale Cafe and then found a spot in Frontier Land to watch Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.  It was awesome!  Mother Nature really wanted us to be in the moment, so she made sure that the night became progressively colder. It worked...  

Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade 

Anna and Elsa

Olaf made an appearance

The Seven Dwarfs

Cinderella and Her Prince

The Marching Soldiers
Once the parade was over, we walked over towards Main Street to catch Holiday Wishes, a light show on the Castle which was truly amazing.  The Castle was transformed from candy canes to the 25th anniversary cake to everything in between and then melded into the fireworks show.  I've watched the Wishes fireworks quite a few times, but this show was Wishes on steroids and absolutely amazing!  And then, as the show ended and the fireworks began to die out, it began snowing on Main Street.  Yup, you read it correctly.  It was snowing.  It was incredible!

It's Snowing On Main Street

After the fireworks show, a lot of people started to leave the park.  We decided to head the other way and see if we could jump on any of the rides or catch some shows.  We walked onto It's A Small World and into Mickey's Philharmagic without a wait.  We passed by Princess Fairytale Hall to see if we could see meet Anna and Elsa... Not so much!  Every time we stopped by, it was such a long wait that it just wasn't in the cards for that night.  

We didn't close the party down at midnight, but we managed to do some shopping - mostly because it kept getting colder and colder.  Hoodies were definite necessities that night, and I ended up buying a blanket to wrap around me!  I couldn't believe I was in Florida with that weather!  

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was a great experience and a lot of fun.  My favorite part of the night was the snow on Main Street.  In fact, I wrote a blog entitled It's Snowing on Main Street USA? over at, if you want to take a quick peek.  

I'm hoping to go back for the Christmas Party at some point down the road - hopefully on a much warmer night!...

I hope all of you get the opportunity to experience the Christmas festivities down at the World someday.  It's truly not to be missed.

Until next time, remember to keep the Mouse in your house...

~ Monica

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Elsa Ices Cinderella's Castle

So we just returned from a trip down to the World, our first ever during the holiday season.  The Christmas decorations were up, and Main Street in particular looked magical.  

On our first night there, we attended Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, and it was wonderful, although I will say - it was COLD!!!

Although the party officially began at 7:00 p.m., we were allowed in beginning at 4:00 p.m.  We took some time to take pictures in front of Cinderella's castle, then meandered through a little bit of the park, taking in the decorations and getting into the spirit.  

At 6:15 p.m., we made our way over to the Castle, as we knew that Queen Elsa would be freezing it.  We stood over to the left side by the bridge leading to Adventure Land to take it all in.  

It did NOT disappoint in the least! 

Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff make their way to the front of the castle, taking in the decorations, when Anna realizes they have been joined by, as Queen Elsa calls us, the "townsfolk of this lovely land".  Elsa proceeds to welcome everyone and introduces her sister, Princess Anna, who, in turn, introduces us to "her" Kristoff and to Olaf, who is nowhere to be seen.  

But, Olaf, being the star that he is, didn't make us wait too long for him - he quickly appears on the Castle balcony much to everyone's delight.  

It's amazing how that little snowman can make everyone smile...

Elsa invites Olaf to join them, and he quickly (and amusingly) makes his way to the front of the Castle.  They soon start discussing the winter season, when Kristoff points out that there's no snow or ice here, and they lament that it doesn't feel much like winter...

After some prompting from Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf, not to mention the crowd, and chants of "ice and snow", Elsa finally gives in and begins to ice the Castle with everyone's help. 

Elsa spins her magic, and the castle begins to light up, taking on a frozen appearance.  It is nothing short of spectacular, as the musical sequence from "Let It Go" begins to swell and everyone's breath begins to catch as snowflakes flurry across the Castle.  

And then comes the huge sigh from the crowd when the Castle becomes completely frozen, its icicles glistening, and the fireworks exploding overhead.  

It is truly spectacular and breathtaking.  

If you've never been to Disney World during the Christmas season, I strongly encourage you to make plans to do so.  

The Castle transformation alone is worth it!

Until next time, remember to keep the Mouse in your house.


There's a Mouse In Our House! Mickey Visits Our Home For The Christmas Season...

12/24/14 -

Merry Christmas from The Mouse In Our House!

12/23/14 -

I feel you buddy! I need some too!

12/20/14 -

Caught trying to get into the cookie jar.

12/18/14 -

He's helping us count down...

12/17/14 -

So it looks like Mickey was banished to the barn these past several days after

being caught with Barbie...

12/11/14 -

Mickey!!!! could you???? You rat! What about Minnie???

12/11/14 -

So Mickey didn't want to move yesterday either....

12/09/14 -

Move over Anna, looks like Mickey's found the next Disney Princess!

12/09/14 -

On Monday, Mickey refused to leave Minnie...

12/07/14 -

Mickey found his girl...

12/06/14 -

I think he's trying to tell me the stockings are a little empty...

12/05/14 -

Looks like he's still hanging around this morning. He must like that spot.

12/04/14 -

Oh great! Now he thinks he's Tarzan... Hang in there Mickey. You may have too 

stay put another day. That's life!

12/03/14 - 

Hmmm... He's either hamming it up or he's wrangled our Christmas ham...

12/02/14 - 

I think he wants some breakfast!

12/01/14 - 

I think he's trying to tell us something... May be time to decorate the tree?..

11/30/14 - 

All that wine yesterday has Mickey swinging from the chandelier! LOL...

11/29/14 - 

Uh-oh Mickey! Already in need of wine??? I know it's been a rough couple of shopping days...

11/28/14 - 

There's a Mouse In Our House! He must have stowed away in our luggage. 

Now that Thanksgiving's over, he's counting down to Christmas... 

Let's see what mischief he gets himself into...

I guess until Christmas is over, we've got a special houseguest. 

I hope he offers to do the dishes occasionally... Just sayin'...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Favorite Character Meals

One of the most fun and exciting things to do while at Walt Disney World is character dining.  Adults and children alike will delight in visiting with their favorite characters as they stop by their tables for a little one-on-one time. 

So, what is character dining?  There are a number of restaurants around the World that offer character dining.  These are meals which feature particular characters that will visit each table during your meal. 

These can be very exciting for young children, and a time saver for you, since your child will get the opportunity to meet many of their favorite characters and get their autographs which means you won’t have to stand in lines throughout the parks to meet those characters.

We’ve enjoyed many of the character dining experiences over the last few years.  Below is a review of just a few:

Princess Storybook Breakfast
Princess Storybook Breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase.  We absolutely love this breakfast experience.  Each time we’ve gone, we’re ushered into the Hall and led directly to meet Belle for a picture (included in the price) which is later presented to us at our table.  Once we are seated, we are brought platters of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and a potato casserole.  We also serve ourselves from a buffet which includes biscuits, cinnamon rolls, pastries, fresh fruit, assorted yogurts, bagels, muffins, and select Norwegian items, along with many other food items.  While we dine, the Princesses mingle among their guests, going from table to table to greet us, pose for pictures, and sign autograph books.  In addition to meeting Belle, we have also always met Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, and Ariel when we’ve dined here on each of our trips.  I’ve also read that Mulan and Mary Poppins have been known to occasionally make an appearance here as well. 
Donald's Safari Breakfast
Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House in Africa at Animal Kingdom.  This is one of our absolute favorites.  When we arrive, Donald Duck is waiting for us in his safari garb for a picture which we later have the option to purchase.  Once we’re led inside, we are greeted with their famous Jungle Juice, which is delicious!  Breakfast is a mix of traditional American and unique dishes with an African influence and includes roasted ham, corn beef hash, scrambled eggs, Mickey waffles, frittatas, bacon, sausage, assorted cereals, breads, yogurts, fruit, pastries, etc.  Donald’s friends, Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, and Goofy make their appearance wearing their safari outfits. 
Tusker House

Hollywood & Vine
Hollywood & Vine on Hollywood Boulevard at Hollywood Studios.  This breakfast is a buffet featuring standard American fare, but it’s good for meeting some of your favorite Disney Junior characters, such as Doc McStuffins, Princess Sofia from “Sofia the First”, Handy Manny, and Jake from “Jake and the Never Land Pirates.  Throughout breakfast, children are invited to participate in some fun with the characters.  The menu includes a selection of fruit, yogurt, pastries, breads, cereals, bacon, sausage, omelets, scrambled eggs, Mickey waffles, pancakes, etc.

Chef Mickey's
Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort.  This buffet breakfast is extremely popular, although I must admit it wasn’t one of my favorites.  However, my daughter absolutely loved meeting the fabulous five in their chef attire – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto – all made an appearance to the delight of their guests, all as the monorail speeds by quietly overhead.  The buffet includes fruit, yogurts, cereal, quiche, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, cheesy potatoes, Goofy’s Vegetable Lasagna, turkey hash, children’s breakfast pizza, pastries, etc.

1900 Park Fare
Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort.  This dinner buffet was wonderfully entertaining.  I loved it!  We’ve only been once, but I’m hoping to return sometime.  Dinner is served daily from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.  Here, you are joined by Cinderella, Prince Charming (who is truly charming!), Lady Tremaine, Drizella, and Anastasia.  The true jewels here are Lady Tremaine and her daughters as they interact with guests in their mean-spirited way they have always treated poor Cinderella.  The food here is good as well and includes a salad bar, carving station featuring smoked beef strip loin and hickory smoked ham, salmon, sushi rolls, pork pot stickers, chicken marsala, ribs, peel and eat shrimp, pizza, chicken nuggets, ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate mousse, etc.  If you can’t get into Cinderella’s Royal Table, this is a wonderful alternative and will not disappoint.

There is no shortage of character dining at the parks and resorts, each offering it’s own characters and dining experience.  Adding at least one character meal to your visit is a wonderful way to add some magic and make special memories.

Until next time, remember to keep the Mouse in your house.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is a Disney Trip Becoming Too Much Work?...

Ummmm…. YES!!!!  

Every time someone tells me they’re thinking about scheduling their first Disney trip and ask me for some pointers, they inevitably get the deer in headlights, overwhelmed look on their faces after just a few minutes.  In fact, some of them have thrown their hands in the air and told me they’re going to put it on the backburner for awhile.  Why?  The answer is always the same.  A Disney trip is a lot of work.  All they had in mind was getting on some rides and having the kids meet Mickey. 
If only it were that simple…

My first few trips to Disney in the 80s and 90s were just that kind of trip.  Simple.  Although, I will admit that I never got to meet Mickey.  But I easily got on the rides and had no problems with dining, even though I did have to wait quite a long time for some of those meals.
By the time I planned a return trip in 2010 with my husband and our daughter, things had changed.  A lot.  We now had to contend with ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations), and FPs (Fastpasses) were now available at the parks.  Luckily, I had my cousin to explain all of it to me, as well as The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Walt Disney World by Doug Ingersoll which was a very enjoyable and informative book.

Once we decided to go in May 2010, we chose our restaurants, and our travel agent made our dining reservations 180 days prior to our travel date.  I did moan and groan a bit about having to choose where to dine so far in advance, but we were ultimately happy with all of our choices.  We never did get around to getting any FPs in the parks, though, but we were fine without them.

Our following trips in 2012 and 2013 were pretty much the same – we never got FPs in the parks, and I made our own dining reservations online 180 days prior to travel.  Again, the process was pretty smooth, and we were happy with our choices.

This upcoming trip, however, is completely different.  And way too much work.

This time around, not only are we dealing with dining reservations 180 days prior to travel, but now Disney has come out with FP+ (Fastpass+).  That means that, 60 days prior to travel, at midnight, you can go online to MDE (My Disney Experience), and pick three FPs per day of your trip.  In my case, that was brutal.  As I’ve written about in previous posts, I wouldn’t have gotten any FPs if it wasn’t for my wonderful travel agent, who was up, above and beyond the call of duty, at 1:00 a.m. to help me. 

As I’ve mentioned before, I HATE FP+!  I really, really hate it!  Don’t believe me?  Ask my agent!  She’ll tell you!!!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, now there’s one more layer to the work – Disney is constantly testing the FP+ system on a weekly basis trying out different things.  A couple of weeks ago, they randomly decided, with no advance notice, that there would be no standby line for Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios, so, if you didn’t have a FP for that ride, you didn’t get to have that experience.  Let’s not even get me started on that…

Last week, it was confirmed that, if you don’t have a FP reservation for lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant (BOG), you’ll be unable to dine there because they removed the standby option.  How do you get a FP for BOG?  The only way to get one of those is to receive an email invitation from Disney between 27-30 days prior to travel.  By 6:00 a.m. that morning, you literally have to jump on that invitation or lose it – first come, first serve. 

Oh, and you have to be a Disney resort guest in order to receive one. 

Well, I’ve been waiting…. and waiting….and waiting. 

And, so, there’s yet another layer of work for this Disney trip. 

Now, I not only have to monitor and babysit my daughter, I also have to monitor and babysit a dining invitation…. Oh, and by the way, after all that waiting, I’m told this morning that resort guests are randomly selected for those invitations, so not everyone will get them… Are you with me?

Remember those people I mentioned earlier who have asked me for first trip advice?  Yeah, their heads would explode just about now.

I’ve never minded figuring out where I might possibly want to eat six months down the road, but this new Disney regime is absolutely ridiculous!
Vacation is supposed to be relaxing and mostly somewhat spontaneous; you should feel free to do as you please.  Okay, so I’ll be the first one to admit that Disney isn’t exactly the most relaxing vacation (that’s probably why I always refer to it as a trip).  There’s lots to do, and we’re usually on the go, but we do take the time to enjoy the pool and take a nap every day.  

But, now, there’s just an incredible amount of work that goes into planning a Disney trip:  Deciding when to go; picking a travel agent (well, that one’s actually easy – just contact me, and I’ve got someone you’ll love); booking your trip; deciding where you want to eat 180 days prior to arrival; book FPs 60 days prior to arrival (and then monitor those in case you can get a FP for a ride or attraction you weren’t able to get at 60 days); and start monitoring 27-30 days prior to arrival to see if you were one of the lucky ones to receive the coveted invitation for a BOG FP.  That certainly is a LOT of time invested into that vacation, all without a guarantee that you’ll get what you’ve been hoping for. 

I can honestly say that I’ve never worked this hard or stressed this much over a Disney trip.  Hopefully, our next trip will be easier.  But, I’ve heard travel agents say that clients who take yearly trips to Disney have actually become turned off to the point of not going this year because it’s just turned into too much work. 

Even I mentioned in a recent post that I was becoming turned off – that says a lot! 

Come on, Disney – get it together!  I know you have a history of listening to your guests and revisiting what they’re unhappy with, so let’s not give that up now.

Let’s get back to the way things were.  Those paper FPs that people got at the parks worked just fine – for them and for those of us that never used them.  So, why fix what wasn’t broken? 

I propose that we reset and go back to what worked really well for everyone involved so that we can go back to enjoying our Disney trips without the need to eat, sleep, and breathe our plans for the 180 days leading up to the actual vacation.     

So, let’s go to it, Disney!

Until next time, remember to keep the Mouse in your house.