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Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Walt Disney World offer for Disney Visa cardholders!!

NEW Walt Disney World® Resort discount offer released today for Disney Visa cardholders for June 13 - August 14 travel dates! Savings of 15%-30% at select resorts. This offer will be released to the public on April 2 as well.

Upgrade to a package and receive even greater savings when you add minimum 4 day Magic Your Way tickets to your room!

Offer Excludes Art of Animation Little Mermaid Standard rooms, Fort Wilderness Campsites and 3 bedroom villas. Booking dates March 28 through June 14.

Contact us today to be put on the list for your no obligation quote on April 2 or to book today with your Disney Visa card! Don't miss out on these great summer savings!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Day 6 of our WDW/Cruise Adventure-Embarking on our First Disney Cruise

Day 6 of our WDW/ Cruise Adventure- Embarking On Our First Disney Cruise

 This day began and ended with great excitement.  I don't know if I slept so good because of the movement of the ship, (high winds--we will get to that a bit later) or I was just so tired from taking everything in. 

We said good-bye to Walt Disney World and Port Orleans Riverside and rode away via the Disney Cruise Line bus, and were driven to Port Canaveral where our ship was docked waiting for our arrival.  It was about a 70 minute ride.  We really lucked out, as the reps from the cruise line who were there to organize us at the resort were super nice, and made sure the bus before ours stopped at the other resorts so we didn't have to.

As we approached the entrance to the port, we could see our beautiful ship, our home for the next 4 nights.  What a beautiful sight this was!  As this was our first Disney cruise, this was just the beginning of our excitement.  I know many people who have been on numerous Disney cruises and they tell me that each one is as exciting as the last, but the first one you never forget.  Like your first love.  This entire part of the trip was like a dream come true.  Good thing we were booked on the Disney Dream, appropriate, right!?! 

When we got off the bus, we were escorted into the terminal, and the instructed on where to go to check in.  Before that, we had to stop at the big model of the ship in the middle of the terminal.  Minnie Mouse was there to meet some guests, but right when we walked up, they said she had to get on the ship, so we knew we would get to see her a little later.  We took some pictures of the ship model, and headed to check in. 

Check in was very quick, and efficient. No waiting!!  Gotta love that! After this we headed to the Mickey icon gangway entrance, at least that is what I call it. We then had our picture taken, and walked up to the ship entrance.  My heart was beating fast, as the excitement was building.  They asked us our name, and then we heard "Welcome Aboard, the Banas Family!"  Oh my gosh!  How fun that was!   As I feel I walked into the lobby with my mouth hanging open.......I am glad no picture was taken right at that moment.  I had seen picture after picture and videos galore of the ship, but none really did it justice, at least not from what I was seeing with my own two eyes.  BEAUTY!!  What perfection......from the floor to the ceiling.  The chandeliers, the art work, the floor!  Wow........just WOW!
Our first stop for pictures was Admiral Donald!  Since Paul and Donald share a birthday, he had to be first for a picture. 

We made our way to the elevators and went to our stateroom which was 9664-on the starboard side.  Shortly after our arrival, our stateroom hostess came to see us.  She was a lovely lady from Russia.  I am sorry that in all of our excitement we never did get a picture with her, and I really wanted to.  What was also in the stateroom, was a little surprise I got for Paul.  He loves beer, so I got him the six-pack of his favorite, Miller Lite for him to enjoy in the room. He was so excited when he saw that waiting with his name on it!  It did save some money as well.   I also got six-pack of bottled water so we would have that for the duration.
Snapping some pictures in the stateroom, and off of our verandah, we saw the Royal Caribbean ship Freedom of the Seas in port along with us.  They would be heading out to sea just ahead of us.   I was the one to try on the life preserver, and after taking a picture of me getting ready to jump off the verandah (no way!) we headed back out to tour the ship a bit. 

The decor on the vessel, is magnificent.  I have always loved art deco, and this is right up my alley.  Seeing more and more of the ship, I am loving it more and more. 

We took as walk to the pool area, and went into the the food court to get something to eat as we were getting a little hungry.  We got a snack of some chicken strips from Tow Maters Grill.  They were good!

We can't wait to ride the Aqua Duck, but that will be for another day. 

At this point, it was time to head back to the stateroom to begin the mandatory safety drill.  I was so impressed by the organization of this whole process.  I felt even more safe after this.  This all ran very smoothly, and after was time to have some fun!!

The Sailing Away Party was a blast.

 We spent about 10 minutes watching that, and then headed to starboard side to wave goodbye to those on shore.    As I knew about the web-cam at the Fishlips Waterfront Bar and Grill, I was ready to wave so our friends at home could see us.  And see us they did!  I know I was waving like a crazy person, but we were seen, and that was our goal!

 If you ever want to watch the ships leaving port, the web address is:  It's really a fun thing to do, especially if you know someone who is setting sail.  After our waving (well, mostly me!) we went to the forward section of the ship to see where we were headed.  Beautiful water, beautiful clouds on this fairly clear day.  Windy up there though!

 We stepped away from there and stopped at Currents Bar to have our first cocktail of this voyage! 

We relaxed, drank our cocktail and then headed back to our stateroom to get ready for the evening.  After changing, we headed off to the theater to see The Golden Mickeys.  What a great show!  I was so impressed.  We had second seating for dinner, so we got to see the show first.  So glad we did.  With the winds blowing against the ship as they were, people who had first dining and went to the show after were getting sick in the theater.  UUgh...........not good!!  We both wore the patch, so we were fine.  My problems with the patch came later.  (I will cover that in my last segment of this trip.)

After the show was over, we got some great pictures with characters.  Goofy was first, then came Captain Mickey, Minnie, Donald and our Cruise Director, Clayton, (not saying he is a "character", but he is a character!

Our rotational dining had us in the Royal Palace for the first night.  Wonderful food, great service!!!  The staff knew that we were celebrating Paul's victory over cancer, and they really did treat us like royalty.....on this night, and several events after this.  I will go into that more when this story progresses. 

After dinner we were really tired, so headed back to the stateroom for a good nights sleep. Waiting for us, was a giant lobster on our bed made out of a blanket.  Cuteness!

 Adventures awaited the next day, Nassau!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Walt Disney World with Disabilities and Food Allergies by: guest author Laurie Smith

Walt Disney World with Disabilities and Food Allergies
By: Laurie Smith

I did last year's Food and Wine Festival at Epcot with a lot of disappointing moments as to the food kiosks. At times I would have to have a chef come from half way around the park to talk with me. The staff had a list of items with check marks for the top allergens. Soy lecithin would cause an item to be listed as SOY even though many people can tolerate soy lecithin. There was no way to differentiate between types of nuts added. Things have changed this year with the Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot in WDW. I have tried Japan and the USA booths so far.  I look forward to returning during the Flower & Garden Festival to experience more great food.
There are lovely gardens, demonstrations and seminars, and the best part was the vegetable garden. They have an Oz themed playground and a Cars themed playground. There are three concerts a day in the USA pavilion. I had a great time and for once came home with a full tummy.  The new information is that each kiosk must have a chef on site to approve special dietary request. If not, they must call a chef and if necessary have a chef come out. They do have books but for safety sake they rather have a chef approve anything that could hurt someone with allergies. At least now they have a detailed list of ingredients, which is so comforting.

Just like at WDW bakeries and confectioneries each kiosk has an ingredient book. I vaguely recall the top allergens being in red.
Japan used the ingredient book, whereas, the chefs at the USA kiosk knew exactly what did not have soy and wheat/gluten. I could not get anything at Japan that did not have soy except the flan which I passed up due to eggs. They use soy sushi paper for the fruit sushi which is made backstage ahead of time. I went to the Smokehouse in USA and immediately heard that I could have both pork dishes. I started with the pulled pork slider with cole slaw. They piled the paper boat with pulled pork that was tender, juicy and flavorful then came the tangy cole slaw. The coleslaw uses a vinegar based dressing and has cabbage, red peppers, and carrots. I could eat 5 more of these. They do not have GF rolls but honestly I think this was better without the bread. The second dish is the Smoked Beef Brisket with collard greens and JalapeƱo cornbread. They gave me a paper boat full of tender moist brisket with lots of fat which I loved. It was savory and reminded me of the roasts I had as a child. They held the corn bread because of my wheat/soy restrictions. I am not a fan of wilted plants but for the sake of review I tried the collard greens. I ate the whole thing because it was full of bacon and flavor even though I still dislike greens. Personally I think the only way you normally could get me to eat collard greens is with a pint of ice cream on the side, yuck.

Some items like the pork slider at Smokehouse in USA are assembled on site. Items made on site sometimes can allow them to hold sauces, components, and garnishes. However some items are made back stage and brought to the kiosks. Those dishes cannot be altered. They cannot serve the cole slaw without carrot or without bell peppers, for example. They do have a team of chefs and managers who for the most part make sure there is no cross contamination and that guests can find something to eat. Still you must use your gut feelings and double check if in doubt. I questioned staff about the cole slaw because most cole slaw uses mayonnaise or other soy based dressings.  I cannot have any gluten/wheat and soy so I go to WDW for safe meals and snacks. I had my first onion rings, scallops, meatloaf, fried chicken, sushi, and penne cotta in a decade all thanks to WDW. At WDW there are very few things I cannot do even though I have a bad back, arthritis, psychological issues, obesity, and a strict diet.

One piece of advice for all guests and especially disabled guests is to watch out for people with tunnel vision who get so focused at the task at hand that they forget about everything around them. It is human nature to not look up or down when walking. Guests will stand in front of a horse drawn trolley while the bell clangs, walk into a light post, and trip over furniture that they do not see. They are oblivious to strollers, wheelchair, children, and other people in the parks. People tend to focus on the task at hand such as getting off of the monorail to the point that they forget about holding the gate open for other guests. They focus so hard on getting in line that they cut in front of other people or leave half of their party behind. The disabled guest must watch out for inattentive guests who might cut in line, walk into a disabled guest, or accidentally knock down a disabled guest. The disabled guest needs to watch for people who will stop abruptly in front of people or will stand in front of a guest at a parade.

Another problem disabled guests gets is the assumptions, stares, and comments of other guests. Never let other people get to you as most people are not rude on purpose. I use a scooter so that I can get out of the house and walk around a grocery store or amusement park. I need my scooter in case I have a food reaction that leaves me weak and tired. Guests will stare at something to try to figure out what they are seeing. I stare at wheelchairs and strollers to see what makes them so special like a man looking at a car. For me it is my visual quirks where I have to take time to access what I am seeing. Most guests have never had to deal with someone with dietary limitations let alone someone with a disability. When I sit on the floor and need to get up it has to be on my own terms with nobody touching me. People do not know that so they help me as best they can. I find that explaining things is the best way to end stares and to make friends. People who prattle on and on about lazy fat people in scooters will shut up if you tell them why you need a scooter. Tell them that that child in the stroller has autism and the prattler will shut up but watch out for the hole they are dragging the embarrassed rumps into. If I am at a door that needs opening and someone walks past me through the door I say "Thank you for holding the door open for me!" loud enough to be heard. That will get the person to realize that they cut in front of me and were rude to not hold the door open. I was taught to hold the door for others even if they are not disabled.

I lectured a lady on an elevator in the Land building at Epcot after she assumed that I was just sitting there waiting for my family. I politely explained that the next time she sees someone by an elevator that she should ask them if they are waiting for an elevator. I find that calling people Stupid, Idiot, and other insults does not work as the person is so used to those names that they assume that that is their given name.

I have so many sweet memories of my mother and me at Disneyland. Mom was diabetic, nearly bald, and was in a wheelchair. It did not help that she had a tendency to curl up when stressed so that she looked like a frail old lady. I checked into the Grand Californian and had to leave my mother aside to wait. When I checked on her she was happy as she chatted away with a cast member. Over and over again people talked with her, were nice to her, and tried hard to make her day special. There was the balloon given to her during breakfast at the Plaza Inn where she was hugged by many characters. Cast members chatted with Mom while carefully loading her on rides. She loved the Aladdin show at DCA and every show one of the camels would walk up to her. During parades the performers would wave to her and characters would stop to wave to her. At Steakhouse 55 the waiter remembered to put the coffee cup on the left side and bring out bread immediately. Mom was left handed so she preferred her cup on the left and the bread was needed NOW, because of her low sugar levels.

 A year ago I buried her with the shoes, Disneyland t-shirt and the Disneyland sweatshirt she wore in the parks. She enjoyed 50 years of Disneyland.

 Here is my mother at Plaza Inn for breakfast with Minnie and friends. The yellow balloon is the one they give kids and that is the Fairy Godmother who was very nice to Mom.

We must not dwell on the bad times but instead savor those memories of happy times. I moved to Florida because of the way we were  treated in Disneyland. At WDW there are people who hold doors open for the disable, who make room on the parade route for a disabled child, who carry the tray for a disabled guest at restaurants, who give a kid a sticker, and who chat with strangers as if they were neighbor. There are the kind people, who ask how you are doing, who pick up dropped items, and make room for others at parades and shows.  I savor the memories of disabled kids participating in the Lion King show at Animal Kingdom.

Thank you to Laurie for her candid, and frank story about dealing with allergies and disabilities in the parks.  Those of us to don't have to deal with this, and are sometimes clueless about what others endure.

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UPDATED! Walt Disney World® Resort closings and refurbishments!

UPDATED! Walt Disney World® Resort closings and refurbishments!
Information supplied by It's All About the Mouse Travel

Main Street Bakery: 01/12/13 - 06/18/13
Mad Tea Party: 04/10/13 - 05/21/13
Cinderella's Royal Table: 05/13/13 - 05/16/13
Prince Charming's Regal Carrousel: 05/28/13 - 06/10/13
Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress: 05/13/13 - 05/15/13

Epcot Character Spot: 10/21/12 - 03/29/13
Fountainview Ice Cream Shop - Closed for Starbucks conversion: 04/08/13 - Fall
American Adventure Guest Restrooms - New guest restrooms between American Adventure and Japan: 03/08/13 - Fall
France Ice Cream Shop - Conversion of former bakery location to ice cream shop: 02/25/13 - June

Disney's All Star Movies Resort
Mighty Ducks Pond Pool - Pool will be closed. Guests may continue to enjoy the Fantasia Pool during this time: 04/01/13 - 04/12/13

Disney's Boardwalk Inn
BoardWalk Bakery expansion - BoardWalk Bakery will be closed during this work. A coffee cart will be available on the boardwalk area during this time: 01/06/13 - 04/26/13

Disney's Contemporary Resort
California Grill: 02/02/13 - Late Summer 2013
Olympiad Fitness Center - Guests may use Grand Republic A in the Resort's conventions center where a temporary fitness center has been set up: 03/18/13 - 04/04/13

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Beach Pool - The Courtyard Pool will remain open during this time: 05/30/13 - 06/01/13

Beach Pool Slide - The Courtyard Pool will remain open during this time: 05/27/13 - 06/01/13

Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort
The Spa at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort - Guests may be referred to Senses - A Disney Spa at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort for spa services: 01/16/13 - Summer 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 5 of our WDW/Cruise Adventure! Animal Kingdom!

Day  5 of our WDW/Cruise Adventure! Animal Kingdom

We started our day very early as we had reservations for Wild Africa Trek at 9am.  This was one of the most thrilling things I have ever done.  Follow the link below to the story I wrote for the Disney by the Numb3es blog.

After the Trek was over, we made our way over to our second favorite attraction at Walt Disney World, Expedition Everest.  Stopping along the way to take some Tree of Life pictures from the other side.  I really find it to be a great view making your way to Asia.

We got in line for Everest, and it was about a 35 minute wait, which to me was great.  It gave us the opportunity to take some pictures in the queue area.  There are so many small details here that you can miss when you rush through, or don't really pay attention.

As we were waiting, we chatted with a young woman who was in town for business.  She works for Radio Disney, and she was very nice, and told us a lot about the station that I didn't know.  She was thrilled to be at Walt Disney World, as she lives in southern California, and goes to Disneyland quite often, but had never been to Florida before.  She sat behind us in the ride and I could hear her laughing and having a great time.  She said she was nervous before as she had heard things about the going backwards, but I assured her she had nothing to worry about.  She told me after we got out of the cars that she loved it, and was getting back in line to go again!

After we left Everest, we headed over to Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama.  We did not go there last trip, and I wanted to show Paul what it was all about.

 We then made our way to Dinosaur!, but there was a long line to get in, so we got our fast-pass and went back about an hour later.  We were pretty hungry at this point, so we decided to have lunch at Flame Tree BBQ.

 Gotta love that place!!  Great food, great views in outside seating. 

Before heading back to Dinosaur!, we took a tour over at Restaurantosaurus.  I find this eatery fascinating.  There is so much to look at here.  If you have never been, do yourself a favor, and either eat there so you can enjoy all this interesting things you will find here, or at least walk through it.  Make sure to read the bulletin never know what those quirky Paleontology students are going to post on there.....and take a look at the roof!

We went back to Dinosaur! to use our fast passes.  I really love this attraction as well.  Paul totally forgot what it was like from not being there since 2010 (poor guy had so much to take in on that last trip.)

After we left there, it was time for dessert!  We split a Mickey Ice Cream Bar before we walked over to the Winnie the Pooh and friends character greeting area.  Now, those of you who know me well, know that I am totally one of the biggest fans of Eeyore that there ever was.  As we walked up the past to the meet & greet area, who was behind us, but my one and only, darling Eeyore!  I held my camera backwards over my head, and took this adorable picture.

We then went over to It's Tough to be a Bug.  This attraction is so much fun.  And, you get to sit down and rest at the same time.  Just beware, if you have never been.......get ready to smell something not so good during the show, and what you are sitting on, may be more than it seems!  ;-)

 The Stage Bills are all so funny!

The last thing we did, we Camp Minnie-Mickey.  I had to get some character pictures before we ended our day at Animal Kingdom.  We got pictures with Baloo and King Louie, Minnie, Mickey, Donald, and Pocahontas.

We then made our way out of the park, and headed to our bus bidding Animal Kingdom good-bye for this trip.  All in all, it was a fabulous day.  We learned so much on the Trek in the morning, I over came my fear of heights enough to cross the rope bridges....and first of the group (as you will see from my link above,) and we had a great deal of fun the rest of our day.

Our evening plans were dress up.  We had dinner reservations at California Grill at 7pm.  We took our bus from the resort over to Magic Kingdom, and then took the monorail over to The Contemporary Resort.
My favorite restaurant is, and always will be California Grill.  This time, as they knew what we were celebrating, they went WAY above and beyond for us.  The table was decorated with Mickey confetti, and were were seated right by the window and we were able to watch the Wishes fireworks during our dessert.
Not only that, but we had a couple get engaged at the table next to us during that time.  How totally romantic, and the sap that I am, of course I cried.  What a wonderful moment it was.

We started our dinner with the Dragon sushi roll.   Spectacular presentation, and out of this world taste.
We are big sushi lovers so this was a delight!!

 We both had steak for dinner, which was very delicious!

My dessert was the chocolate sampler, and deliciousness!  Paul had a bananas foster selection, and again, his was also wonderful.  We loved the chocolate cards that were on each plate "Congratulations from the California Grill".  What a nice touch.

We took the orange monorail back to Magic Kingdom and then headed back to our room to pack.

We had a big day ahead of us, leaving on our cruise aboard the Disney Dream!

Day 6, and the first day of our cruise to come soon!!