The Cruise was FANTASTIC!!

Hello there!

I have been gone for a bit and just wanted to pop back in and let you know that our cruise on The Disney Fantasy was from June 21-28, 2014 to the Western Caribbean was an absolute dream come true!  To be cradled by Disney for 7 days was just magical!  The room accommodated all 5 of us with comfort and ROOM!  The split bathroom assure no one waited in line…very nice.  The activities were plentiful, you could do something every minute or you could just do nothing…so cool.  I would recommend you add this to your bucket list…especially if you have kids (of any age!) because my 11 year old was on her own cruise on the same ship!  The kids clubs are safe and secure, staffed with well trained, energetic and happy Disney people!!  She constantly asks me when we are going back – even now, 3 months later!  I have to shout out a big thank you to my Mom for making this possible.  It was truly a major life event for us!

I have so many details that I could write about but as with anything I do when it comes to travel….that one is in the books…what’s next?  :D

Well, what’s next is our trip coming up in a few weeks!!  We are heading to the Tampa Bay area for a few days then off to Walt Disney World for a week!!  It is our annual trip to enjoy the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival…we LOVE this thing!  It is also known as ‘the Fisherman’s Pie from Ireland’ festival.  My goodness, I can eat a hundred of these things!  But anyway…

I have started another blog because I have started Homeschooling {you can check it out here: http://howshelearnshomeschool.wordpress.com/} so Disney and Homeschooling is a whole new focus for me.  I have already learned of their Homeschool days in September (maybe next year), the discounts and work sheets.  So cool.  When we go to Epcot I will have my daughter approach Cast Members in each country with questions for them.  I found some great worksheets that are already printed out.  ;)

Most of the posts will be in my Homeschool blog but I will post here about travel as well.

Thank you for reading!

~K.

 

 

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Free interactive activities at WDW and The Disney Fantasy!

This post started as ‘The Mid Ship Detective Agency…what is this all about?’.  But the more I looked around the more I wanted to explain how Disney offers things for free that many of you may not know about.  So here is the new working title:

FREE interactive offerings from Disney.

Having been to Disney world many times like many families we were seeking other activities for our daughter to do, and Disney delivered.  In Epcot we discovered Kid-Cot stops which were sponsored by Sharpie.

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There are stations set up at each country where she could color with markers (hence Sharpie) a mask (or to channel Jeff Dunham – Duffy on a stick) {this is where we learned that Duffy was Mickey Mouse’s teddy bear}.  It is a paper cut out glued onto what appears to be a ‘paint stirring sized’ stick.  After the coloring was done, you could get it stamped at each country on the stick.  Some of the Cast Members from that country would write her name in their language.  It was pretty cool when she was younger.  We got to sit down in the air conditioning and sip on our beverage of choice while she colored away.

Then in 2009 they added Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure.

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This was a digital scavenger hunt that involved a hand-held flip phone (sponsored by Verizon Wireless).  You would go to different countries and try to find points of interest described on the phone, aim the phone at a target and activate something to happen.  For example, we were inside the Mexican Pavilion and she pointed the phone at the back wall and the ‘bad guy’ shot out of the image of the Volcano that is always there.  It was really cool and the whole family gathered around to see what was next.  Well, with the popularity of Phineas and Ferb in June of 2012 they gave this adventure a make over and now it is called Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure.

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It has some of the old effects and a few new ones added.  Our daughter really enjoys this.  Now that she is older she can go ‘into’ the country and do it herself…very independent!  ;)

Then a few years ago while in Magic Kingdom I saw some kids walking around pointing cards at pictures on the wall … and low and behold I was introduced to Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

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We picked up our set of spell cards and our Sorcerer Key Card at the Fire House at the beginning of Main Street USA and received a tutorial.  This is an interactive game that takes you all around the lands of Magic Kingdom (except Tomorrowland) and you hold up a spell card and get clues to try to fight the villains.  There is a chip in your Sorcerer Key Card that is attached to your park ticket.  It will save the information of where you left off so if you have to complete it another day you can start right where you were.  When you complete a mission at a portal, you are then instructed where to go next land.  In keeping with the Disney magic, the game knows where to send you next based on which one is open – thus keeping the crowds level…genius!

Now this takes me to the one I have not tried but am in the process of learning about –  The Midship Detective Agency.

This is set up very similar to Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  There is a kiosk that is on Deck 5 midship where you can pick up all the information you need to complete your mission(s).  As of this post there are 3 missions.  The Case of The Plundered Paintings, The Case of the Missing Puppies and the one my daughter is most excited for – The Case of the Stolen Show (staring The Muppets).  The coolest thing about these is that you can play multiple times and since your Detective Badge card is attached to your key/ticket, each ending will be different!  As I said, I have not tried this one so I will report back to let you know what it is like.

So there you have it.  The more I write about this cruise, the more excited I am getting.  Let me know if you have any questions, or you would like to know more about ANYTHING Disney!!  :D

PS…I am trying to add some pictures to the posts…what do you think?

Thank you for reading!

~K.

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Checking in for your Disney Cruise!

Whether you are a first time cruiser or a seasoned professional cruiser – or you are just interested, I have learned so much about the check in process I’d like to share.
When you book your cruise Disney Cruise Line will send you the paperwork via snail mail a few weeks beforehand and it will contain your luggage tags. When you put your luggage tags on your bags and go to the airport you will check your bags like you normally would to fly anywhere else but just like the Magical Express for Walt Disney World you will not see your bags again until they’re in your stateroom on the ship! Pretty cool. If you choose to have a carry-on bag on the flight that bag is going to stay with you the whole time – so if you happen to check in early you’ll be carrying that bag around with you on the cruise ship waiting for your stateroom to be ready, just remember to keep it light or small with wheels.

I believe it is a general rule of thumb to pack light, I’ve learned a lot over the years and I’ve carried my clothes back and forth on vacation many times without wearing them. So, for this adventure I am going to pack light. I have written in earlier blogs are we are having 5 people in our room and that is a lot of luggage. Fortunately for us, Disney Cruise Line has an average of 25 % more space than the industry standard on their cruise ships and their beds sit higher than most beds on cruise ships which allows for all those bags to be stored underneath the bed. Yay!

Now, on to the checking in phase…every single person has to check in at the Disney Cruise Line port terminal. It is just like checking in for an airplane but there are specific pieces of information that you need to know. As we are going on Western Caribbean cruise leaving Port Canaveral we will be checking in at the ‘A’ terminal. If you are a repeat Disney Cruise Line cruiser you can check in at the Castaway Club.

If you have cruised with Disney Cruise Line one or more times you are in the Castaway Club automatically! I have read some neat perks about this club – you get extras (a goody bag) on your bed when you get to your stateroom. The more you cruise the better the gifts.

The boarding time for everyone is 1 o’clock, not a minute earlier. You can check in online 45 days before your cruise and print those papers out and have them signed beforehand. IMPORTANT – your entire party needs to be together for the check in process and the embarking process, so stay together! If you are too early there is plenty of room with lots of seating and even entertainment for the kids like Disney movies on a TV. It is better to be early than risking being late and have to run up the gang-plank trying to jump across like Lucy did. :-) As I said earlier this is like a check in at the airport so you could possibly have to remove your shoes, your belt, your jacket and figure you may need to go through a metal detector as well. Chances are that you flew to get this far so you’re already used to this protocol.

If you are a regular reader of this blog I have explained that everyone who is traveling out of the United States has to have a passport and this cruise ship is no exception. Every person traveling needs a passport period, don’t forget to bring it. During the registration – you will need a valid credit card. This card will be used during your entire trip even for shore excursions. If you plan on splitting the bill with people in your party just make sure everybody keeps track of what they’ve done so that the person whose card it is, is only paying for what they have done. (You can request a second card to be used if more than one family is staying in the room) Just as with Walt Disney World, before the Magic Band’ started the Key to the World card is what is used on a Disney Cruise. I think having the Magic Bands make so much sense on a cruise ship and the technology is already there on the door locks. But as of this post, they are still using the cards. Once everyone in the party is checked in each person receives a card. This will serve as your room key as well as your identification when you get on and off the ship at ports of call. Just a tidbit I have learned … there is a place on the wall when you walk into the room for you to put your Key to the World card that allows control of the lights and air conditioning. If you bring an old Key to the World card from previous Disney trips you can use it without the fear of walking out of the room without the key in your hand.

Once you check in, they will give you a boarding number and after they start letting you on after 1 o’clock they will begin calling those numbers make sure everyone stays together because you all need to get on the ship at the same time.

When you get on board the ship they will take a picture of your group. I just read the tip in the Birnbaum’s Guide to Disney Cruise Line 2014 Edition that says have everybody in your group look exhausted and that will be called the before shot and then when you get off the ship everybody looks refreshing happy and it makes for a funny pre-cruise / post-cruise picture.

Each family is announced by the cast members as you board and that sounds like a pretty magical experience!

Now that you’re on board your magic has begun you can either decide to go to your stateroom and put your carry-on bags in there, change, get the kids ready to swim or whatever you want. You can go grab a bite to eat or you can just drag your bag around with you – it depends on what time you get there because remember that the mandatory safety drill (for every single person on the ship – no exceptions) takes place at 3:45pm.

You are on board, you know where your stateroom is and you have been briefed on all the safety features of the ship and you know what to do in case of emergency. Now it is time to sit back relax and have a magical cruise!! Enjoy.

Thank you for reading!
~K.

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NEWS!! The FastPass+ System has been UPGRADED!!

Big news for those of us that want more options when it comes to our FastPass+. Effective TODAY April 28, 2014 Disney has made an adjustment from the earlier allotted amount of 3 preplanned FastPasses per day to more than that…here are the details. Once you have used the 3 FastPasses you originally get that day, you can go to an in-park Kiosk (only at this point) and get another one. When you use that one, you can get another and so on! Disney is also making it possible for Park Hopper holders to set their FastPasses for the first park, and when they hop to the next park, they would go to an in-park Kiosk and make the selection for that park as well. This news if awesome and I am not surprised. Walt Disney World has always listened to their customers and have always been on the cutting edge of technology. I personally like the bands and the whole RFID system and believe it has cut down on the abuse of the old FastPass system whereas you could not ride your favorite rides unless you sprinted to the ticket booths as soon as they open – or choose to wait for hours in line. Not my cup of tea. Thanks Disney!!
Thank you for reading!
~K.

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Back from WDW…Flower and Garden OPINIONS!! :D

 

Hello and thank you for waiting – welcome back to my blog!
I have taken some time off for my trip to the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.  If you are a regular reader you know that I when I posted about my upcoming Disney Cruise, I wrote about taking wine in a checked bag as a experiment, well let me tell you – it worked!  I will talk more about that later as I plan for the trip in about 60 days from now on our cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy.

Now – back to the recent Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival trip.  As always the flowers and topiaries were beautiful – the crowds were low and the planning was great.  The best part for me is the ‘Outdoor Kitchens’ and I’m going to discuss my favorites and my opinions on ones that maybe we’re not so my favorites.
The first outdoor kitchen that we tried was in France, there was a pulled duck confit with garlic and parsley potatoes, I have never tried duck before and it was listed on the menu as gluten free. {If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I have been wheat free since the beginning of March it is still going well.  I was also able to maintain that diet around ‘Outdoor Kitchens’ of this festival.}  My opinion of this dish was – I have always heard that duck was greasy and although this was – it was good!  Now, the potatoes (written as ‘garlic and parsley) I would have pictured them to be like those little red new potatoes … well they were not – they were more like old potatoes.  { ;) } They were more like soggy potato chips floating in the grease. That being said, I did like the taste of the duck, though this was my first time – it will not be my last.
The next one I would like to review is the Smokehouse Barbeque and Brews located in the American Adventure area.  The items on the menu that I decided to get is listed as smoked turkey ribs and it’s also listed as gluten free. They appeared to be turkey wings that were split in half, so they were long and a little dry. They did have an ample supply of sweet barbecue sauce and hot barbecue sauce so I mix those together and dipped the turkey meat in them – it was very good. Now, my mom went with me and she got what is listed as Smoked Beef Brisket with Collard Greens and Jalapeno Cornbread.  I have to comment on the appearance of this meal – although I did not taste it there was a pretty good amount of food.  That little boat had the best value for your money.  From what I saw eating my way around the World Showcase, this was closest to a complete meal. They also have what is listed as a “Piggylicious” Bacon Cupcake with Maple Frosting and a Pretzel Crunch ~ featuring Nueske’s(r) applewood smoked bacon.  Now, before this whole wheat free journey that I’m on I saw a picture of it and I thought this just sounds delicious, a lot of my absolute favorite things only one cupcake – but I did not partake.  I did buy it for my daughter and she ate it…her review is – it’s just a good cupcake!

My next review would be the Primavera kitchen, which is located outside of Italy and again since this is a three cheese manicotti, I did not partake, I do wanna comment that it was a lot of food and a little cup and my daughter ate the whole thing.  If you know kids – if its good its gone.

The next stop was Florida Fresh and I tried Watermelon Salad with pickled onions, BW Farm Baby Arugula, Feta Cheese and Balsamick Reduction.  This is listed as Gluten Free.  It was delicious.  There was so much going on with the watermelon the pickled onions the peppery arugula the feta cheese and balsamic … every piece of this this was fantastic.  On a second trip around the World Showcase I also tried Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Sweet Corm, Tomatoes and Cilantro.  This is listed as Gluten Free.  This was very good.  The sausage was tasty and all of this together made a very nice snack.
The next one is Jardin de Fiestas located in front of the Mexico Pavilion. I tried what is listed as corn tortilla filled with Achiote marinated pork garnished with grilled diced pineapple, onions and cilantro.  This item is listed as gluten free.  With the pineapple it was surprisingly interesting and very good.

I have saved my absolute favorite for last. I want to jump in and comment that when we go to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in the fall of the year, they have a dish in Ireland called Fisherman’s Pie and I must eat that thing 6 or 8 times when I’m there, I have found another thing at this festival that I ate at least 5 times this trip, it is listed as land grown eggplant “scallop” with Romesco Sauce and spaghetti squash – this is also listed as gluten free. I have never had eggplant before but after trying this I loved it!  It was so tasty!  I’ve always liked spaghetti squash but mixing this eggplant scallop along with that sauce was so good!

So there you have my review on the outdoor kitchens that I tried and my honest assessments.
If you are planning a trip to go to the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival it runs from March 4th thru May 17th 2014.

Some other highlights that we saw when we were there:  a playground that was located between Future World and World Showcase on the Imagination Pavilion side, it is new this year it’s called Mike and Sulley’s Monstrous Garden.  There is a side for little kids and another one for older kids.  It’s a good place for them to climb and run and play.  The ground is very soft and they can let off a little energy while you digest.
Another thing we saw was Tinkerbell’s Butterfly House.  It was located in front of The World Showcase exit side of the Coca Cola’s Club Cool area.  The entrances were covered with beads that hang down so people could get in the butterflies could not get out.  There were flowers that obviously attracted the butterflies, it was kind of neat but the one thing that I did notice is all the butterflies knew where the exit was.  They looked like they were gathered and plotting their escape.  There was also a display that showed the different stages of a butterfly which was very interesting.

We did catch a show at the Flower Power concert series located in the American Garden Theatre in the American Adventure area.  We saw Paul Revere and the Raiders and it was a very entertaining show!

The last thing I want to say is that my daughter did participate in the Phineas & Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure as well as the MBI: Muppets Most Wanted scavenger hunt/spy adventure.  This was great for kids to stay focused on what they enjoy while we read, walked and ate.  Fun-fun-fun for everyone!
I would like to thank you for reading if you have any questions feel free to comment below thank you again and I will be back writing more as we jump head first into planning mode for our Disney cruise.

~K.

 

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg ~ so beautiful.

I wanted to throw a quick post up to give you my 2¢ on what is new at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  We are Season Pass holders and had the opportunity to go on the ‘Pass Holder Only’ day on March 15th.  It was really crowded!  I had no idea that there were so many pass holders.  As always the park was beautiful and I noticed a few things I thought I would tell you about.

The first ride we need to ride is Loch Ness Monster – not because it is close to the entrance, not because it is a great ride but our daughter has let us know that we need to ride it because it has ‘2 hoops and is yellow’.  Anyway, it is one of our favorites so we headed there first.  I noticed that all the cars were newly refinished and painted and all the rubber padding, that holds you into the car, was brand new!  It has been a busy off-season for the maintenance department – but its good to see that they are keeping up the park.  Our next stop was down the stairs and across the ‘decking’ along the Rhine River.  Well, this is the main reason I wanted to post this blog.  The decking is brand new!  It is much wider and has 4 new ‘bump-outs’ for looking at the water or taking pictures of the 3 major roller coasters all in one spot.  During the summer they have Illuminights which includes fireworks and I bet this deck will be a fantastic viewing point for that!  There are port-hole lights and a decorative rope that accents it.  Very nice.  If you usually avoid this area because of the steps on one side and the steep hill on the other side I recommend you take a peek and grab a ride on the Rhine River cruise while you are down there…I had forgotten how peaceful it is.

One more stop that we must do are the 2 arcades.  One in Germany and one in Italy.  They both have a new machine.  It is a claw type machine with little rubber duckies inside.  The best part is you get 2 plays and both are ‘play until you win’!  So you WILL walk away with at least 2 ducks.  They are so cute, some are regular, some are dressed up like different occupations and some are miniature.  After we played with these machines I heard, “Mom, can you hold these?” — needless to say I rode a few rides that day with rubber duckies in my pockets!

Around the rest of the park, the flowers and ornamental accents were really pretty.  As I go more and more this year I will post anything new and interesting I find.  I just wanted to toss this one out for anyone who is interested.

Have a fantastic day!!

Thank you for reading.

~K.

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Epcot Flower & Garden Festival … less than a week to go!!

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Hi there!

I am getting ready for our trip by organizing, list making and packing.  Also, I check my rental car every single day and have gotten it down from $554.46 to $316.68 for 12 days!!  Just by checking I saved $237.78 – that pays for a bunch more fun in Disney World!  :D  UPDATE:  I published this post and went on to check the car again and guess what!!!  It went down again.  I now have the same car (Full Size) for the same amount of time and the total is $258.06.  I am doing the happy dance!!!

As I have talked about in prior posts, I use Alamo for my rental cars.  I started with them because they accept Debit cards and do not charge a deposit.  I have stayed with them over the years because they always have excellent cars.  We can walk up and down the line and pick the one we want.  This is especially helpful because my husband is 6’4″ – so we want him comfortable.  ;)

I have also discussed in prior posts that I have begun the Wheat Belly diet and have given up wheat.  This is my 14th day and I feel great!!  I have so much energy, I do not feel ‘puffy’ or full after meals and my appetite is not there anymore.  It used to be that I couldn’t go an hour without raiding the refrigerator for something, now hours go by and I realize I haven’t eaten yet.  Also, my clothes fit better.  I will continue to post how things are going in this area and I just know that walking around Disney World for miles and miles is going to help a lot!

The weather for our trip is the low 80’s – I am so ready to leave this ‘slow to go’ winter behind and enjoy some sunshine.  I will be posting updates, pictures and maybe even some videos from the festival.  If there is something you would like to see, or have a question while I am there – feel free to ask!!  You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter … my links are right over there on the right margin!

Thank you for reading and have a fantastic day!!

~K.

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