A Magical Celebration: Animal Kingdom and Epcot

Well here we are: the final chapter of my three-part Disney weekend review. Turns out I wrote this a month ago and never published it! NICE!

In my prior installments, I discussed our resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and our rained-out Saturday that took us to Downtown Disney.

Sunday morning we woke up bright and early; no matter how old I get, going to Walt Disney World makes me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. We went down for a quick breakfast at the The Mara. We ate…quickly…because my inner child was doing this the entire time:

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After wolfing down my bacon and eggs, we swiftly walked to the front of the resort and caught the Disney bus to Animal Kingdom. The ride took all of 5 minutes; the park is literally RIGHT NEXT to the resort. We picked up our tickets from will call and in no time flat, we were inside of the park.

This was my first visit to Animal Kingdom, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We grabbed a map and plotted our course. I had also downloaded the My Disney Experience app from iTunes Store, which provides guests with GPS locating, full park maps and well as live wait times throughout all of the Disney parks. It works too! Since we were at the park relatively early (one hour after opening), all of the wait times were brief. My main mission in life was to ride Expedition:Everest, but since it was toward the back of the park, we opted to travel the park in a counter-clockwise direction and get in line once we actually reached the ride.

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A Magical Celebration: Downtown Disney

Our second day at Walt Disney World Resort was dictated by Mother Nature; a cold front had been predicted to make its way through Orlando, with accompanying showers. A 60% chance of rain in Florida is pretty much a sure thing, so we altered our plans and decided to visit the theme parks on Sunday instead of Saturday.

After sitting down for our delicious breakfast buffet at Boma, we decided to take the WDW Bus Transportation over to Downtown Disney. Full of shops, restaurants, and attractions, Downtown Disney offers free parking and no admission charge. It’s a great alternative for non-park goers or for those seeking a day of rest. Downtown Disney features two sections: Westside/Marketplace and Pleasure Island. The bus dropped us off at Marketplace, where we found several Disney character shops, a Ghiradelli store (YUM), a LEGO store, Rainforest Cafe, among other shops. Pleasure Island features more restaurants (Planet Hollywood and Bongo’s Cuban Cafe), attractions such as DisneyQuest and Splitsville, and bars.

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Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam: I came in third!!

Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam: I came in third!!

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A Magical Celebration: Walt Disney World for Grown Ups

The past few weeks have been chock full of good times, travel and excitement, hence my absence from my blog. But never fear: I have enough material from this period of time to write blog posts until the end of the year. I know you’re as excited as I am!

I’m going to start with one of my recent weekend adventures. You see, Mr. B and I celebrated our wedding anniversary in early November and were unable to travel anywhere distant due to our restricted schedules. Fortunately for us, we live a mere hour away from the Happiest Place on Earth, Walt Disney World, so we decided to venture over there for the weekend to stay at an on-site hotel (something I’d never done) and visit the parks. Epcot Center was winding down their annual Food and Wine Festival, so this was the perfect weekend to visit.

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House Lobby

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House Lobby

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Touring the “Disney Dream”

Last year, before becoming a travel agent was anywhere on my life radar, I had the rare opportunity to spend a day aboard a brand new cruise ship, the Disney Dream. One of my childhood friends is employed by Disney and therefore has the ability to invite family and friends aboard the ship, either for a tour (such as we did) or to actually cruise. It’s a pretty wonderful and generous perk provided by Disney Cruise Line!

Disney Dream

Disney Dream

Disney Dream cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida on 3 to 5 day itineraries to the Bahamas. You can combine your cruise vacation with several days at Walt Disney World resort, as they are only an hour apart.

We had to send my friend our credentials (names, birth dates, drivers license numbers, DNA samples) to her prior our tour date. That way, getting through security would be easy peasy.

Oh – and I’m just kidding about the DNA sample.

We arrived to Port Canaveral and were in awe. There’s just something about being in a cruise port and seeing these massive ships en masse – and PC isn’t even one of the busiest ports! (Ever been to Miami?)

Disney Dream is a lovely ship. It’s a LARGE ship. We were welcomed onboard and were instantly in awe with the decor inside the main atrium. It’s elegant. Opulent. Disney truly pays attention to detail.

The Grand Atrium
from avidcruiser.com

She showed us around the public areas of the ship, pointing out the framed photos that actually changed as you stand in front of them. I’m a full-grown adult and was completely mesmerize, so I can only imagine how much a kid would’ve freaked out about this really cool feature. These paintings and photos are strategically placed throughout the ship.

We then headed to Cabanas to grab some lunch. Okay, we already know that cruise ship eating is the LIFE, and Disney did not disappoint! I wish I could tell you what we ate…just know we had plates full of food and stuffed ourselves silly. I want to stretch out and say I had shrimp or crab. All I know is my belly was happy after that meal. And dessert? Don’t even get me started. YUM.

Dessert Bar at Cabanas
from allears.net

Our tour guide tried to take us to some of the other restaurants, but they were closed as people began to arrive on the ship for their vacation. I really wanted to see the Enchanted Forest, which apparently TRANSFORMS as guests dine..but the doors were locked. (insert sad face)
Next she took us to the nightlife area of the ship. Most of the bars and nightclubs are located in close proximity to one another; although this is a Disney cruise, there is PLENTY of adult playtime available too. We were completely blown away by these venues. We checked out the nightclub, Evolution, and wished a DJ was there so we could dance! (The rhythm is always gonna getcha) The champagne bar, Pink, had such an appealing decor that we had trouble leaving the spot; it feels like you’re inside of a champagne bottle. No lie. This led us directly to Skyline, another bar with a backdrop that changes to a different cityscape while you relax. Loved it.

Skyline Bar
from disneycruiseblog.com

At this point it was time to visit the restroom. I wouldn’t normally mention the bathroom, but these public bathrooms were like none I’d ever seen before. They were so different that I had to take a picture. (which I’ll have to find later)

Finally we made it to the Lido Deck and did we REALLY wanted to do: got in line to ride the AquaDuck, Disney’s first at-sea water coaster. We changed into swimsuits and ascended the staircase into the funnel, where boarding for the AquaDuck occurs. There already was quite a line! We climbed into the two man rafts and took off! Chutes of water propel you throughout the ride, over small dips and bumps, around the top of the ship. It wasn’t the most exhilarating ride I’ve ever been on, but it was a lot of fun. Not to mention, we were doing this on a cruise ship!

AquaDuck

From there, we headed over to Senses Spa to check out the Rainforest Room. This included 4 or 5 different “shower pods”, where you could tailor the type of shower you experienced. They had shower options that gave you hot water, cool water, sideways water, water from below…crazy stuff. Naturally, since I was still in my swimsuit I was the guinea pig. Everyone stood around and laughed as I was attacked by water. Glad I could be of service, people…

This was an adventure...

Unfortunately we weren’t able to see any staterooms or suites, as this wasn’t an “official” ship tour. We were able to see crew quarters and man…please don’t ever complain about the size of your cabin again…the crew lives in cubbyholes! Our tour guide was fortunate enough to have her own room, but some folks aren’t so lucky.

One thing that really struck me was the manner in which guests board the ship. As you step off of the gangway onto the ship, your name is read aloud and everyone applauds. You feel like royalty! (advice: don’t cruise Disney Cruise Line if you are trying to be covert..because your name is announced to EVERYONE).

All in all, it was an amazing day aboard a beautiful cruise ship. I would LOVE to sail on Disney Dream one day in the future. There is so much to offer couples or families of any size!

For more information about booking a Disney Cruise, contact Bon Voyage by Barbour!