Swimming With Nemo’s Friends

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Divequest

During our last visit to Epcot we spent a lot of time exploring the pavilion where The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride is located. We were amazed while viewing the giant aquariums full of some of the stars of the Nemo ride. There is also a  manatee room that showcases Disney’s commitment to the rehabilitation and care of marine life. The entire pavilion gets guests up close to these beautiful creatures and cast members are on hand to answer questions about the residents of the seas.

We are currently planning another trip to Walt Disney World and I was excited to learn that there is a scuba tour of the aquarium that is offered for an additional fee!

The tour lasts 3 hours with 40 minutes of dive time and includes the gear (tanks, mask, etc.) needed for a trip under the “sea”.  During the tour, guests will see a variety of fish, turtles and even sharks!

In order to enjoy the tour, guests must have a valid SCUBA certification. Those with a Padi certification and Annual Passholders enjoy a little discount off the $175.00 price tag.

SCUBA certified guests ages 10 and up are permitted to sign up for the experience. Children between the ages of 10-12 must be accompanied by a paying adult (over 18) who is also SCUBA certified.

I recently booked this experience as a Christmas gift for my husband and was given the following instructions:

  • No jewelry of any kind can be worn during the experience. This includes wedding rings.
  • No photography or videography is permitted while in backstage areas. Photos and video are permitted in non-backstage areas. A video of the experience will be available after the tour for an additional fee if guests choose to make the purchase.
  • Guests should bring their SCUBA certification and check in at the Main Entrance of Epcot 15 minute prior to the tour.
  • Guests who are not going on the tour, are not allowed backstage but can view their friends and family members from the tunnel in the upstairs viewport of the pavilion. You can see your SCUBA diving companions 1 hour after the tour begins. The first hour consists of the divers preparing and getting their suits and gear ready.
  • Diving equipment is provided, however guests must bring their own bathing suit. Guests are also permitted to bring a mask if they do not wish to use the one that Disney supplies.
  • You will forfeit the cost of the tour if you are a no-show or cancel within 2 days of the experience.

Guests must book this experience in advance by calling 407-939-8687. The tour has limited availability so book sooner rather than later. More details regarding the tour can be found here.

I am really looking forward to sharing photos and more details when we experience it first-hand in a few months!

Sparkling Dessert Party at Epcot

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Illuminations

This month Disney introduced the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party at Epcot. The event takes place Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights from 7:45 PM- 9:20 PM.

Admission to the party includes sweets from many of the nations featured in the World Showcase. Enjoy baklava from Morocco, shortbread cookies from the United Kingdom, tiramisu from Italy and a variety of ice cream treats. The party also features sparkling wines as well as standard beverages.

The event area is located across from the Mexico pavilion at the Port of Entry shop that resembles a customs house. The view is stellar…in fact in the past this was my favorite spot for viewing IllumiNations because of the wonderful view of World Showcase.

The cost of this experience is $49 for adults and $29 for children (you also need a valid park admission) and it is recommended that you reserve your spot 180 days prior to your vacation.

Is the Party Worth the Price Tag?

During peak park attendance dates this would be a nice option for families wishing to get a decent view of the fireworks; however there are many locations throughout The World Showcase Lagoon to see IlumiNations.

The party would be the perfect location for a special event celebration like an anniversary or birthday.

The downside is that this experience can be rather costly. If you have a large family, you may want to consider a private fireworks cruise that brings you into the World Showcase Lagoon. You can snuggle under some blankets, sip on provided beverages and enjoy an unobstructed view of IllumiNations.

Other Options

If you would like to see the fireworks from a prime locale, think about making your dinner reservations at a restaurant on the water close to the IllumiNations start time. This way you can enjoy the show and use your Disney Dining Plan to cover the cost!

There are several restaurants with excellent water views of the show. Note: When making your dining reservations you must ask the representative for a seating close to the start of IllumiNations.

The new Spice Road Table in the Morocco Showcase has outdoor café style seating right on the water.

La Hacienda de San Angel at the Mexico Showcase has tall windows that overlook the Lagoon. This is the perfect place to enjoy some margaritas and dine on fabulous cuisine.

Tokyo Dining is located on the second floor of a lovely pagoda and has a spectacular view of the fireworks. The window seating is limited; however this is a bucket list quality experience.

Create Your Own Event

Grab a margarita from Mexico or a beer from the UK cart and a treat from one of many little sweet shops in the World Showcase. (Check out the bakery in France)

Scope out a bench by the lagoon and listen to the sounds of the IllumiNations pre-show while enjoying your snack party. During our last trip we found a nice little place between China and Germany that had a bench and nice stone wall to lean on during the show.

Whatever option you choose…you will be sure to have a fabulous time. This show is unlike anything else in the parks and is truly a magical close to your Disney Day.

Spice Road Table At The Morocco Showcase

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The Disney Parks Blog announced yesterday that a new dining experience will be coming soon to Morocco in the World Showcase at Epcot.

Disney stated that Spice Road Table will feature small plates; which I am assuming means a tapas- style restaurant. The menu will be quite eclectic; featuring a variety of food options and cocktails. The restaurant will be located by the World Showcase lagoon and is a perfect spot for viewing Illuminations!

No firm opening date has been announced, and the restaurant is not currently accessible through the Dining Reservation System. Hoping to get some more details soon!

Holiday Shopping at Walt Disney World

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Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

Mickey Mouse figure purchased by my parents on their honeymoon. He is still greatly cherished after all these years.

There is nothing like spending the holiday season at the Disney Parks. The decorations, the music and the SHOPPING! Speaking of shopping…if you are traveling to the Walt Disney World resort prior the holidays, it’s the perfect opportunity to get all of your shopping done for everyone on your list.

Create a Shopping Plan

Just like Santa, you will want to make a list of all the people who you are shopping for and come up with a plan. Make sure to decide in advance a general idea of what you are purchasing, so you are not spending your entire vacation in the retail stores. Also keep in mind that if you are flying, you will want to purchase items that pack and travel well without taking up a lot of space in your bags.

Disney’s website has a search tool for finding the stores that sell the items on your list. Simply type in the item that you are looking for and all of the stores that carry the item will be listed.

Here are some ideas of simple and easy gifts for everyone on your list:

Ornaments

Every one could use one more ornament on the tree, right? This is an item that receivers can use year after year. They are both inexpensive and travel very well, so they are the perfect gift for anyone on your list!

Disney has entire walls dedicated to Christmas decorations in several stores as well as specialty Christmas shops in two locations; Disney’s Days of Christmas in Downtown Disney and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom.

T-Shirts

T-shirts can be found in many stores in the parks. When deciding to buy shirts or any type of clothing, be sure to check on sizes and ask recipients about their favorite Disney characters before your trip. This will simplify your shopping and cut down on those calls back home.

Jewelry

Disney trading pins make excellent gifts for the collectors in your life, and they are really portable. Retail locations throughout the resort also offer necklaces, rings and bracelets adorned with your Disney favorites. Add a little Disney “bling” to someone’s life!

Toys

There are thousands of toy options to choose from at Disney; from light up swords to Legos, you are sure to find the perfect gift. Stuffed animals are wonderful presents and knowing that they came from the resort, makes them even more special.

Mugs

One of the easiest and most cost-effective gifts is a Disney-themed coffee mug. They come in all shapes and sizes and are adorned with almost every Disney character. They are portable and make the packing process a breeze.

Global Treasures

For the world-traveler in your life; think about visiting the shops within the World Showcase at Epcot. Items from each highlighted country can be found in their resident shops. You will find jewelry, art, housewares and even apparel items that are specific to each country. Plan on at least an afternoon exploring each country and their corresponding retail shops.

What About All Those Bags?

While staying on the Disney property, there is an option to have your purchases sent back to your hotel room, so you aren’t walking around the parks lugging bags. If you are staying at an off-site resort, purchases can be sent to a location at the front entrance of the park. You can pick up your merchandise when you leave at the end of the day.

“The Deals”

If you want to go offsite during your stay, the local Orlando outlets can be a nice place to visit for some deals. The Character Warehouse is Disney’s outlet shop and offers some discounts on clothing, accessories and toys. The stores can be found in one of two Orlando Premium Outlets; International Drive near Universal Studios and Downtown Disney. Something to consider: If you have a car, this may be a way to save some money on merchandise, but when taking a taxi or paying for a shuttle, the cost of the trip may outweigh your savings.

The Disney Store

Souvenir shopping can be effortless if you wish to purchase items before you leave for your Disney vacation. Select Disney Parks Products can be found on the Disney Store.com website. Sales on the site occur often and free shipping options are available for purchases of $75 or more. Have the items shipped to your home and save them for your return. This could save a lot of time in searching for those perfect gifts in the parks.

To “Wrap” This Up

Planning ahead for your Disney souvenir shopping could potentially save a lot of time and money…and allow more time for magical memories.

Do you plan to do your holiday shopping at Disney? Have any tips or tricks?

Saving Those Pennies For Disney

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Our Disney Jar

Our Disney Jar

Since we have already paid the hotel bill in advance for our upcoming Disney Vacation, the focus has shifted to saving for meals and tickets for the parks. In our household, we have introduced the Disney jar. It is proving to be a great way to save money; in fact, it is so successful, that we may need a bigger boat…er, I mean jar.

Your Disney jar can be anything from a simple mason jar, to one of those large empty water cooler jugs. Make decorating your jar into a family event and use paint, stickers or even make a likeness of your favorite Disney character. Let your inner Bob Ross out for the occasion!

Here are some tips for filling that Disney jar:

1. Whenever a family member leaves change or paper bills in the laundry, the money goes directly into the jar.

2. Money saved through couponing or by using a store discount card is usually printed at the bottom of your receipt. As soon as you come home from your shopping trip, visit the jar and deposit an equivalent of the funds you saved.

3. Birthdays and holidays can mean monetary gifts from family. Try to save that money for your trip. (Another tip:  If family members ask for gift suggestions, Disney Gift Cards are an excellent option since they can be used throughout the parks and resorts.)

4. Anytime you see a penny and pick it up, put it in the Disney jar for good luck!

5. Yard sales are a terrific way to earn a little extra cash. Round up some items that you no longer use and have a family yard sale day. All the proceeds can go towards your trip.

6. Make saving into a game. Allow each family member their own jar and give a small prize to the person who saves the most money every week.

7. Make counting your Disney funds into a weekly family celebration. Create a tracking chart so you can see the progress of your efforts. Each week, choose a different family member to be the designated “Disney Jar Captain” who counts the money and writes down the total. Having a visual of the money saved will help to inspire additional contributions to the jar.

The most important part of the saving process…just have fun! Knowing that the end goal is to use that money for a magical vacation should be what drives the saving.

How do you save for your trip?  Do you have any tips that you would like to share?

Disney To Possibly Change Dining Cancellation Policy

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ADR

There are rumors swirling online that as of the end of October, changes will be made to the cancellation policy for all Disney parks and resorts table service establishments. Currently only a select number of restaurants  follow this policy that requires a credit card to hold your reservation. This has not been posted yet to the Disney website, so please take this as just a rumor for now, but something to consider when planning your next trip.

What does this mean for you?

In order to hold your reservation for a table service restaurant, a credit card will be required. If you cancel less than 24 hours before your scheduled Advance Dining Reservation, you will be charged $10 for each member of your party. The reservations for dinner shows will remain the same; you still need to purchase the meal in advance and will be not be eligible for a refund if the cancellation occurs outside the specified timeframe.

There are several ways to cancel your dining reservations:

What is the reason for the policy change?

When guests change their plans once in the parks and miss or disregard a reservation, tables can be tied up that could have gone to guests waiting in line. Without a strict policy in place, guests were free to miss their reservations without a penalty, so there was no reason to cancel the reservation. With the new rule change, the hope is that guests will make the necessary itinerary changes within that 24 hour window to ensure that all guests are seated timely. It may also allow for guests without a reservation to score one of those coveted last minute reservations that become available the same day.

 

Will this new rumored policy change impact your dining reservation plans if it goes into effect?

 

 

2013 Candlelight Processional

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IMG_0202

Summer just started, so why am I talking about the holidays? When the weather is warm, it is sometimes difficult to think about the cooler winter months; however it is the perfect time to start planning a holiday trip to Walt Disney World Resort and getting those Advance Dining Reservations scheduled.

If you have ever been to Epcot during the holidays, you know that the Candlelight Processional is a holiday event not to be missed. You also know that the line to get into the event is generally long, which can result in very lengthy wait times. Even after waiting in the line, you still may not secure a seat for the performance.

Thankfully, Disney offers a Candlelight Processional Dinner Package that can be added to your dining experience and guarantees preferred seating at a performance and an exclusive viewing location for IllumiNations: A Reflection of Earth.

The Candlelight Processional is held nightly at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 PM in Epcot at the America Gardens Theatre. This year’s event will begin on November 29th and run through December 30th.

The Candlelight Processional features a 50-piece orchestra and mass choir accompanying a celebrity narrator who reads the story of the Nativity. The celebrity narrators were announced this morning when the packages became available for purchase.

This year’s Candlelight Processional narrators are:

11/29- 12/1- To be determined
12/2-12/3- To be determined
12/6-12/7- Whoopi Goldberg
12/8-12/10- To be determined
12/11-12/13- Dennis Haysbert
12/14-12/16- James Denton
12/17-12/19- Edward James Olmos
12/20-12/22- Trace Adkins
12/23-12/15- To be determined
12/16-12/28- Blair Underwood
12/29-12/3- Amy Grant

** Narrators are subject to change**

The Candlelight Processional Dinner Package for 2013 went on sale today, and will be offered at the following Epcot restaurants:

 Biergarten Restaurant
 Chefs de France
 Coral Reef Restaurant
 The Garden Grill
 La Hacienda de San Angel
 Nine Dragons Restaurant
 Restaurant Marrakesh
 Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room
 San Angel Inn Restaurante
 Teppan Edo
 Tokyo Dining
 Tutto Italia Ristorante
 Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

The cost for the Candlelight Processional package varies and will include either a three course meal or a buffet; depending on the restaurant you have selected. The cost of admission to Epcot is not included in the package.

Please call 1-407-WDW-DINE for additional details and to make your reservations. Due to the popularity of this experience, it is recommended that you make your reservations as soon as possible.

Is the Candlelight Processional part of your holiday tradition? Please share your special memories and any tips you may have about viewing this performance.

Dining With Remy

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I never thought that the phrase, “A rat stood on our table during our meal,” would ever cross my lips, but after our experience at Chefs de France, I couldn’t stop talking about their resident rodent chef!

Chefs de France can be found in the World Showcase at Epcot and is modeled after a bustling French bistro. While the menu changes with the season, the offerings are diverse and the dinner selections include French onion soup, roast chicken and beef tenderloin. Lunch selections offer soups, sandwiches, salads, ribs and hamburgers. The wine list is quite impressive and guests can order by the glass or bottle. Make sure to leave room for dessert; the crème brûlée is magnifique!

The pinnacle of the dining experience is a visit from the “chef” himself; Remy from the film, “Ratatouille”. Chef Remy visits and interacts with guests from a platter that serves as his stage. A cast member glides Remy along, interacts with him and encourages dialogue from diners. It is a fun experience for kids and grown ups alike! While we were taking pictures of our time with Remy, he happily posed and uttered a “cheese!” I am not sure if I ever smiled so much in my entire life.

One Disney Dining Plan entitlement is required for both lunch and dinner, and the only plan not accepted is the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan.

When making your Advance Dining Reservations, be sure to ask for a seating that will ensure a character experience with Remy. These experiences take place 4 times a day, 6 days per week; but are subject to change. Call Disney Reservations at (407) WDW-DINE for additional details, or to make your reservations.

Bon Appétit!