walt disney world

Caring for Giants Tour, Animal Kingdom

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On my last trip I ticked off another backstage tour at Walt Disney World. This was the Caring for Giants tour. I actually booked and paid for all us 5 adults a Christmas present!

The tour is described on the Disney website as “Get a closer look at the majestic African elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park—and learn what it takes to care for them”.

This is definitely one of the cheaper tours priced at $30 each (prices correct as of June 2018), and a short one at 1 hour long. the groups are quite small, maybe twelve people. It also runs approx. ten times a day, so it’s easier to get a spot when booking. We was also told the money from the tour, went to the charities and conservation funds that Animal Kingdom support.

You check in just by Kilamanjaro Safaris, given a lanyard with a name tag (which is made from recycled elephant poo!) and are taken backstage straight away to a waiting minivan. This then drives you round the property to the back of the safari. You are not allowed to take any photo’s at this point, and the driver is friendly and chatty, and was asking questions.

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Once out of the van, you walk up a new looking ramp to where the tour will take place. Once at the top, and by the fence, you are allowed to take photos. You are now at the elephant place on the ride – So essentially it feels like you are still on Kilamanjaro Safaris – you even see the trucks going past!

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There are two cast members with you, they talk about the elephants, the ones that are in the park at the moment, including baby Stella, where they stay, what they eat etc., and always ask if anyone has questions. The second cast member was from South Africa and worked for years on a national park, she had lots of funny stories about elephants and used her past job to talk about her current role at Disney.

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You are also given the opportunity to have a photo with the elephants in the background – these are taken by the CM’s.

Overall I did like the tour, it wasn’t one of my favourite’s as is so short! But it’s always nice to go backstage and learn more about how everything works. I would recommend if you was a big fan of Animal Kingdom and/or elephants as you do get much better photo ops than from the truck.

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walt disney world

California Grill Brunch, Walt Disney World

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On our last trip, I had one dining request and that was brunch at California Grill. I’m a huge breakfast food fan and brunch is even better!

The only thing is, its Sundays only. So when our ADRs became available to book, I was straight on it – with no luck! We arrived on a Saturday, so we didn’t have too many Sunday’s, and as we was on a cruise, that whole weekend was out also. I left it for a bit (and sulked lets be honest), and a few weeks later tried again. And suddenly an opening had appeared, I grabbed that table pretty quick.

It was the first Sunday, so literally our first morning! As we had the Disney dining plan, it used up 2 credits each. Once you arrive you are given a glass of mimosa (ours didn’t have the orange juice in, it seemed like prosecco with boba balls – and judging by others photo’s, it does seem to change).

We was shown our table, the restaurant itself wasn’t overly packed, there was musicians there, it was sunny, and it was our first Disney morning! Life was good!

We was handed a menu, which was quite big! But the brunch is technically split into 2 parts – one is self serve with all the different sections and the other is the hot food which is bought to you.

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We all chose to walk around the self serve before making any selections, and boy is there a lot of food!

Bakery part with croissants and sweet treats, granola, sushi, charcatueri with meats and cheeses, a bloody mary bar (my sister had a virgin one with all the accompaniments which you choose yourself) a crepe section,(my mum had one and said it was really good) and you can eat as much as you want, and go back and forth! You know when there is loads of food you want to try, and when you get back to the table – you have such a mish mash of food on your plate!

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For the hot food menu, I chose the eggs benedict with salmon , along with another bellini. It was tasty, and I honestly was getting so full.

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They then bought over the dessert plate. This was mostly untouched as everyone was so full! But I did have a nice coffee with cream to round it all up, and nibbled on a few bits.

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During the meal, we wondered outside to admire the views, and it was nice, as I had only been there of an evening.

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I really enjoyed the brunch, and if anyone has done the Palo brunch on a Disney ship, its very very similar to that. It was pricey, but as we was on the DDP, we only paid for the service charge. I think this is a test, and if its popluar they will roll it out elsewhere or offer more than one day a week

If you wanted a special treat, or something different with less rush and kids, honestly I think its worth it! Lots of food, great views, drinks topped up, live music. Go and enjoy!

disney cruise · travel

Disney Cruise Number 3 – Disney Dream

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In the midst of our 15 night stay at Walt Disney World, I had the genius idea of checking to see if there was any Disney Cruises we could do, luck was on my side! There was a 3 night bahamisn cruise from Port Canavral right in the middle of our trip! I proposed the idea to the rest of the family, and it was a go!

 So we booked a 3 night  Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream. Winning at life as I hadn’t been on this ship (and one of the reasons I suggested it!). The stops were Nassau, Bahamas and Disney’s Castaway cay.

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We booked two rooms on deck 6 with a verandah. I did try to find adjoining rooms for us all but didn’t find any, but I did see 2 rooms and they was only  one room in the middle so we went with that. I stayed in a room with my sister and family, so I had the pull down bunk bed (which again was new for me). It was actually comfy, and I loved they put it back during the day so you had the space in the room again.

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We drove down to the Port, to save money and not pay for the bus. (Even though we did have to pay to park the car).

Let me tell you, 3 days goes so fast! Blink and you will miss it type situation. I think its a good starting point for cruises, but now because I have done 2 – both at a week each, it felt super short.

We watched the Sailing away Party, and ate in cabanas the first afternoon, and explored the ship. We had night in each restaurant. I think the favourite for everyone was Animator’s Palate.

We saw the shows, including the new one Beauty and the Beast. Some of us did one of my favourite parts – the ship tour! We saw a wedding being set up. We completed one game of the Midship Detective Agency on the last night! I for the first time watched the see ya real soon show. We didn’t actually spend any time in the adults only section which was a shame. The three night cruise also does include the Pirates night.

I loved the new addition to the ship – Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats. The theming is great with plenty of photo ops, and the food! Ice cream, gelatos (and they are very happy to give out samples – I tried 4!), cupcakes, macarons and lots of sweet goodies. It is an upcharge, but not too bad. I got one scoop of gelato (and it was in a tub but it was huge!) and it was $2.95.

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When we was in Nassau, we didn’t book any port Adventures, we just got off the ship and had a small walk (and a fresh coconut) and got back on the ship.

Everyone loved Castaway Cay, and new for me I stayed all day on the family side of the island and ate at Cookies BBQ. We hired bikes and cycled round. It was so hot the day we was there! It was another lovely day, and I’m so grateful that I’m able to say that I have visited Castaway Cay.

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I also realised I prefer the island with the smaller ships, but my favourite ship so far has been the Disney Fantasy.

So that’s another cruise and another ship ticked off the list! I am getting closer to ticking off an item on my Disney Bucket List!! I really didn’t think I would do so many cruises in such a short amount of time. I do feel I need to go back on the Disney Dream to stay and explore and have a sea day to see it all. (although it is very similar to the Fantasy as it is the sister ship!)

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What about you, have you been on a Disney Cruise? Is it on your travel/to do/Disney bucket list? If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

 

travel · walt disney world

Walt Disney World – A Quick Trip Report

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I’m back in the land of the normal living (barely!), as I recently returned from a fifteen night stay at Walt Disney World. I’m not actually sure what number trip this was, as I’ve actually lost count. (how bad is that?!)

We travelled as a group again – 5 adults and 1 toddler, so stayed in a 2 bedroom villa at Saratoga Springs Resort. This works out for us, as we all have our own separate space. This really isn’t my favourite resort, its just too big! Included in our reservation was the free Disney Dining Plan again, this was amazing. This year one alcoholic beverage was included with the meal. The server would say which drinks this was.

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We hit all the parks multiple times (actually Disney Hollywood Studios was only once!) and the family did a water park. (I don’t like them, so I skip that day). We visited Disney Springs a lot, as its so close to our resort.

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We also changed it up a little this year by including a 3 night Disney cruise in the middle (all my idea, and was the first ever cruise for all my family). I will do another blog post on that separately.

Dining wise – we did have quite a few ADR’s booked, but ended up cancelling some and making new ones for on the day! We had no issues getting last minute reservations, sometimes its nice to be more spontaneous and not so rigid in the days plans.

So we tried out Toyko Dining and Garden Grill for the first times. (Pictured below is the bento Box from Tokyo Dining) We also headed over to Fort Wilderness and Trails End for a special meal for the vegans in my family. They had a 7 course meal! The rest of us had the normal buffet and I tried a Moonshine Margarita. My absolute favourite was Brunch at California Grill – again another separate post on that.

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I only did one new tour this trip, which was the Caring for Giants at Animal Kingdom. I managed to ride Flight of Passage another three times! It’s just so clever, and it really has shot into my top rides list.

The Flower and Garden Festival was still on whilst we was there, I love this festival. Epcot is so pretty with all the extra flowers and topiaries. I also enjoyed the Coco exhibit in the Mexico pavilion, and the gods one in Norway.

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I finally saw Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom, and I was so disappointed. It just didn’t feel like it tugged on my emotions like Wishes did. I also feel they tried to shoehorn in too many characters, I get that its nice to highlight others, but was just too many for me! And I watched it more than once, and still didn’t enjoy it.

I did one disneybound this year – I went as Lilo! I took far too many Disney wall photos and made my parents honourary photographers for the trip.

If you want to listen to my trip overview, I actually was on the Disney dream Girls Podcast last week – here is the link! http://disneydreamgirlspodcast.blogspot.com/

If anyone has any questions or needs any tips for future trips – please feel to ask!

 

Outings

Ocean Liner Exhibit, V & A Museum

 

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A few weekends ago I visited the Ocean Liners: Speed and Style exhibit at the V & A Museum, London. The museum website described it as “Experience a unique journey through the design stories of the world’s greatest ocean liners, including the Titanic, Normandie, the Queen Mary and the Canberra, and find out how these impressive vessels helped shape the modern world.” It is running presently until June 17th 2018.

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I wanted to visit the exhibit after going on two cruises, and thought it would be an interesting subject, with lots of history. The exhibit was much quieter and more adult friendly. There was more space, and didn’t feel like you had to rush.

It started off with lots of posters advertising cruises and the ships back in the day, there was also an old black and white video, and models of ships.

The next few rooms were all actual items from past cruises and ships. Doors, furniture, carpets, vases etc. All with the signage next to it, saying the ship and year, with a little information.

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On a cruise, you realise how tasteful everything is, and it was back in the day – maybe even more so. Some of them were so glamorous – and they sold it that way!

On ships, they had the classes broken up into different sections of the ship. The first class lounge had prime location – mid ship, on a higher deck, as if it was bad weather – this is the best place to be.

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There was a room dedicated to the engine and mechanics. This room was dark and painted black so it gave you the feeling of being lower down on a ship.

The best part was the ‘Life on board’ section, there was a big screen showing the sea with a railing to give you the impression you was on the ship! There were mannequins showcasing staff uniforms, and the swimming wear from old times. There was even a deck chair from the titanic!

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They had videos showing, with the room broken into smaller sections – so the cabin rooms, dining, fashion etc. Lots of pieces to look at.

The last room had an actual piece of The Titanic in – and even more surprisingly it was the first time it had been back in Europe since it had set sail! There was also a short video clip with movies/films with ships featured, one was Titanic by James Cameron. It just makes me feel instantly sad!

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Overall, I enjoyed the exhibit and would recommend if you was interested in the good old days of luxury cruise ships and liners, and like learning about the history of them. We went on a Saturday, and I booked the tickets about an hour before going, so it’s not too busy.

 

walt disney world

Pandora – The World of Avatar, Animal Kingdom


 

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Pandora – The World of Avatar is based on the massively huge hit film Avatar. When the new land was announced, the feelings were mixed and oh boy did it take years to build!

I watched the film (not at the cinema), and wasn’t a massive fan. I just didn’t get the hype. How was it the biggest film ever?!

But as a hardcore Walt Disney World fan, nothing was going to stop me from visiting this new part of Animal Kingdom! Pandora has been open nearly a year now, but I only just to experience for the first time in March this year. I waited impatiently for ten months watching what felt like everyone on Facebook and Instagram seeing and marvelling at it all . I did however avoid reviews of Flight of Passage, as I wanted to experience that first hand.

After my cruise, I booked my partner and I a one day ticket to Animal Kingdom. And even more luckily I got us fastpasses for Flight of Passage! Our fastpass wasn’t until the evening, but I wasn’t waiting until then to see it! So we had breakfast at the resort, and didn’t stress – I had seen photos of the morning rush for Pandora and I did not want to be involved in that!

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Once in the park, we did have a fatspass for Everest, it then started raining so we ran to Finding Nemo: The Musical and then we did make our way to Pandora, and there was no queue to get in to the land. So we took our time, strolled round and took it all in.

The first thing that struck me was the background noises, it was like a jungle! There’s lots of photo opportunities, and not ones that need people and posing, but just the landscapes and the plants and the floating mountains! The imaginers have clearly put a lot of time and effort into this.

We decided to try lunch at Satu’li Canteen, this was the first time we tried Mobile ordering (the CM suggested we did as the queue was huge!). We both tried a bowl, I had the chicken and my partner had the beef. I like the fact you then choose the base and the sauce, so there is a lot of options! I also chose the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse as I had seen photos and it looked so interesting. The lunch was nice, and I would recommend it.

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Then directly outside is Pongu Pongu – Pandora’s lounge/bar. These drinks looked so instgrambbale! I chose the Mo’ara Margarita and my boyfriend had the Rum Blossom, he also got the Pongu Lumpia (which is Pineapple Cream Cheese Spring Roll) – I didn’t even try that as it didn’t look nice! Now I love a cocktail, and margaritas are my favourite. But it was just so sweet, and I couldn’t finish it. The same with the rum blossom.

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We then decided to queue for the Na’vi river Journey, as you can get fastpasses for both attractions in Pandora.  The queue had died down, and we queued for about an hour. This attraction lasted less than five minutes, it was so short – we was in shock! It was clever, cute and everything but just too short for the amount of time waiting.

We then came back later in the day for our Flight of Passage. I don’t want to say too much, as I know lots of people still haven’t rode it. This attraction is genuinely amazing, and very clever. The technology they have used is quite something and gives a glimpse into the future star wars rides. We wanted to ride it again straightway but the queue was 135 minutes at 7pm!

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It was certainly different of a night, so you do need to visit the land twice. My photos on the iPhone didn’t come out great, but I’m sure the proper photographers with the cameras get better ones! It’s all lit up and the strange plants are glowing – as is the floor!

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Overall, its a completely immersive experience and you don’t feel like you are in Walt Disney World anymore. So take time out of your next Animal Kingdom day and venture into Pandora. (I know obviously you would do this anyway!!) Have you visited Pandora yet? What were your thought’s? If not yet – Is it on your list?!

 

Outings

Winnie the Pooh Exhibit, V & A Museum

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A few weekends ago I visited the Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic exhibit at the V & A Museum, London. The museum website described it as “This multi-sensory and playful exhibition explores the magical world of Winnie-the-Pooh – one of the most adored fictional characters of all time”. It ran from 9 December 2017 to 8 April 2018, so sadly if reading this you have now missed it!

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I had seen the exhibit advertised last year on the website, and knew straightaway I wanted to visit.  I had my Winnie the pooh phase when I was at High School and my favourite was Tigger.

I went on a weekend, so unfortunately it was too busy and full of kids for my liking! But it was a charming exhibit, and I learnt quite a bit.

The exhibit started off with a glass case full of old and unique memorabilia. The next part was all about the history of the authors past and family. This part was set up within a bedroom, and then a house. All white walls with decorations and the exhibits framed with lights on them so you could see the drawings clearly. There was even a bed set up with books to read to the kids.

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And the original drawing/sketch of 100 Acre Wood!

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There was a small door for kids to walk through which then led to the setting being outside. More original sketches and drawings nicely displayed, with just the right amount of information next to it. There was a also a short film type with a reading, so you watched the words overhead.

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Everyone loved the photo opportunity on the bridge playing pooh sticks. There was a coat rack with rain macs and umbrellas to borrow and wear, but as they were kids sizes – I couldn’t do it! This was the main noisy section, with a table full of paper and pencils for the kids.

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Around the corner, was more drawings broken into different sections along the wall, movement, character expressions etc.

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At the end was another glass case with first edition books of Winnie the Pooh.

I did enjoy the exhibit, and it really was such a good price for a cute little hour out! Any fans of Winnie the Pooh, young and old must have enjoyed it too.

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